Dozens of journalists – working in vehicles such as the Washington Post, New Yorker and New York Times – published this Wednesday (9) an open letter criticizing the coverage of the American press in Israel and Palestine. “We have an obligation – which is sacred – to tell the story correctly. Every time we fail to report the truth, we fail our public, our mission and the Palestinian people,” says the letter, which was signed by dozens of professionals.
One of the harshest criticisms in the manifesto is that the press does not satisfactorily contextualize the news reported in that region of the world. It is not clear, the text says, the fact that Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank since 1967. Human rights organizations accuse the country of crimes against humanity, apartheid and ethnic supremacy, concepts that rarely appear in the media.
The letter also criticizes, in this sense, the terms journalists use in covering events in Israel and Palestine, such as the recent cycle of violence in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The press echoed the Israeli narrative that the crisis in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah was a property dispute, the text says — when in reality it was a forced eviction of residents, in violation of international law. Another word condemned by the signatories is “conflict”, because it does not show the disparity of forces between the actors. It was not a conflict, they say, when Israeli forces attacked protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. It was an attack.
The publication of the letter is part of a broader context of review of public attitudes towards Israel and Palestine. Palestinians have resorted to social media to criticize the way the press tells their stories. Renowned politicians and celebrities around the world have taken a stand, in an abrupt change of attitude.
In the tweet below, an Associated Press reporter reinforces the uniqueness of this week’s text. “I’ve never seen a letter like this before,” he says. In particular, because signatories are aware of the personal and professional cost of putting their names on the manifest.
I have never seen a letter like this before, signed by a range of journalists who are well aware of how explosive this is personally and professionally
“From journalists, to journalists: Why reporting on Palestine has to change.”
– Aya Batrawy (@ayaelb) June 9, 2021