Sunday, May 19, 2024

Palestine/Israel scholars urge U.S. media to stop ‘inflammatory and dehumanizing coverage’ of violence

Pro-Palestinian groups staged a protest in front of The Washington Post and projected the message “Complicit in Genocide” on its building in response to biased reporting.

In an open letter to U.S. media organizations, scholars with expertise in Palestine and Israel express deep concern regarding the coverage of ongoing violence currently prevalent in the majority of U.S. print and broadcast media.

The letter questioned why there hadn’t been prior coverage or condemnation of Israel’s long history of violence against Palestinians, why there appeared to be a scarcity of reporters in Gaza to document the ongoing suffering, and why there seemed to be reluctance to give Palestinians a voice to share their experiences and perspectives with the audience.

“Where is your skepticism today, when we need it most? Why are we seeing virtually no journalistic pushback nor probing questioning of Israeli officials propagating lurid and unsubstantiated claims being used to justify war crimes in Gaza?” read the letter.

Western media have been criticized for making a blind case for massacres on Gaza and peddling the narrative in favour of the US-UK backed Israel state.

The scholars urged the media to apply the same level of skepticism and hard questioning to Israeli officials as they would to U.S. and other officials, and not to merely echo their unverified claims or biased narratives.

They also stressed the importance of including the critical context of Israel’s over 50-year-long military occupation of Gaza and the 16-year-long suffocating siege, which the UN and human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced as collective punishment and illegal.

“Include Palestinian voices in all of your reporting,” they demanded.

“When you do host Palestinian guests, many of whom are grieving lost family members, stop using the majority of your air time to insist on denunciations of “terrorism” or Hamas as a virtual precondition of discussion; many Palestinians disapprove of both but frame the issues differently, and your viewers/readers will never truly benefit from Palestinian perspectives if they never, effectively, have the chance to hear them,” the letter said.

Read the full text of letter here:

As scholars who have devoted our professional lives to studying Palestine/Israel and to enlightening both students and the general public about the region, we are deeply troubled by the coverage that we are witnessing in most U.S. print and broadcast media.

From CNN’s theme “Israel at War,” which openly adopts Israel’s perspective and omits Gaza from the frame, to the widespread repetition of unfounded allegations of rapes of Israeli women or beheadings of Israeli babies, we have not witnessed such uncritical and irresponsible journalism since the aftermath of 9/11 and the build up to the invasion of Iraq. 

From that experience alone, not to mention common sense and basic professional integrity, we should understand just how dangerous such inflammatory and dehumanizing coverage can be.

We hope you share our belief that, at its finest, journalism is unflinchingly critical and skeptical, especially of the powerful and especially in times of war. That is when journalism fulfills its vital democratic role as the Fourth Estate, enabling us to make intelligent policy choices based on sound knowledge and reasoned perspective.

You have the knowledge and resources to report responsibly on this issue. Many of you investigated the 2022 murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli army, and know how untruthful Israeli military and other government officials can be. 

Where is your skepticism today, when we need it most? Why are we seeing virtually no journalistic pushback nor probing questioning of Israeli officials propagating lurid and unsubstantiated claims being used to justify war crimes in Gaza?

It is quite apparent to us that the Israeli government is attempting to condition Western public opinion to accept an onslaught against the Gaza Strip that has already killed more than 2,750 Palestinians, including at minimum 1,030 children. 

The unquestioning premise that Palestinians have been “unprovoked” – when in fact Israel had killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 47 children, in 2023 alone – contributes to the dehumanization that allows war crimes against civilians to proceed.

There will be ample time to probe why you have not reported nor denounced Israel’s decades of violence and destruction of Palestinian lives before last Saturday, why you seem to have few or no reporters on the ground in Gaza to document the suffering there, and why you seem unwilling to find space for Palestinians to share their experiences and perspectives with your audiences.

But the urgent imperative now is to quiet the drums of what threatens to be a catastrophic war for all involved, not to amplify them. Eleven of your Palestinian journalist colleagues have already been killed by Israel since October 7, and many more Palestinian voices will be silenced forever in the coming days. 

We urge you now to stop your uncritical reporting of Israeli violence against the Palestinian people and to do your jobs now and not simply rue your complicity in mass killings of Palestinians a decade hence. Here are four concrete steps we ask that you take immediately:

  • Bring the same skepticism and hard questions to Israeli officials as you would of U.S. and other officials and refuse to parrot their unsubstantiated allegations or tendentious framings
  • Include the critical context of Israel’s more than 50-year-long military occupation of Gaza and 16 years of Israel’s suffocating siege – which has been repeatedly condemned by the UN and human rights groups as collective punishment and illegal
  • Include Palestinian voices in all of your reporting
  • When you do host Palestinian guests, many of whom are grieving lost family members, stop using the majority of your air time to insist on denunciations of “terrorism” or Hamas as a virtual precondition of discussion; many Palestinians disapprove of both but frame the issues differently, and your viewers/readers will never truly benefit from Palestinian perspectives if they never, effectively, have the chance to hear them

We neither overlook nor fail to appreciate the occasional insightful reporting and analysis you and your organizations have provided. We need you to be better more consistently, and we offer our cooperation and support in helping you reach this goal – for the sake of your American audiences, and for the sake of the peoples of Palestine/Israel.

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