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To: The New York Times, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, and all national news media
National news must end its anti-Palestinian bias
When reporting on Palestine/Israel, the mainstream American media consistently centers Israeli voices, as it has for decades. In omitting Palestinian voices, histories, and stories—while uncritically repeating the Israeli government’s narratives and propoganda—the U.S. media is complicit in Israel’s ongoing campaign of violence and apartheid. The reporting on Israel’s latest assault on Gaza—which used passive language to discuss the the Israeli military’s murder of Palestinian civilians, including children, and repeated Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talking points—made the danger of this one-sided coverage clear. It must end now.
The media should not be a mouthpiece for ANY government, much less one charged with apartheid. We demand the following from national news media:
- Stop using the passive voice when describing violence by the Israeli government, which deflects Israel’s accountability for killing or harming Palestinians;
- Include proper context when reporting on Palestine and Israel. Thic could entail citing the history of Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians, the ongoing violations of international law, the violence Palestinians face on a daily basis—beyond the horrific bombings that most frequently capture media attention—and the clear imbalance of powe and resources; and
- Center Palestinian narratives and ensure that reporters are speaking to Palestinians to share their own stories.
Why is this important?
The U.S. government’s unconditional support for the state of Israel has informed how the American news media reports—or fails to report— on the Israeli government’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights. But during Israel’s assault on Gaza this May, Palestinians shared their experiences on social media, enabling the American public to get a clearer understanding of the violence that Palestinians face. As a result, the news media’s lopsided stories that privileged the narrative of the Israeli government began to fracture.
American news media has played a significant role in promoting the false understanding that this is a conflict between two equal parties, not a struggle between an occupying force violating international law and a people fighting for the safety of their families and the basic human rights they are routinely denied. U.S. mainstream news regularly creates a false equivalency between the power of the Israeli government and Hamas and fails to provide historical and present day context, including information about the Nakba, the blockade on Gaza, and the imbalance of resources and power between Israelis and Palestinians. Moreover, mainstream news frequently only interviews Israelis and far too regularly uses the passive voice to avoid holding the the Israeli government accountable for its own horrific violence (an example from the New York times: “Just minutes after the war between Israel and Hamas broke out, Baraa al-Gharabli, 5, was killed in Gaza”).
The Arab and Middle East Journalists Association issued clear guidelines for responsible reporting on Palestine / Israel. It's time for major news media outlets to balance the narrative and center the voices and experiences of Palestinians by using the active voice in describing Israeli violence, interviewing Palestinians, and including proper context in describing history, sources of conflict, and the disparity in power and resources.