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Dear American media, I’m asking you to simply tell what’s happening in Gaza

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Front page headline, Washington Post, Sunday July 20, 2014

Front page headline, Washington Post, Sunday July 20, 2014

Dear American Media,

I’d like to say first that I understand this is difficult for you. You’ve been told one story about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict your entire lives; but unless you’ve tuned out entirely, you’ve probably begun to notice that the most recent developments don’t really line up with that story. You know that criticizing Israeli government policies can be damaging in American politics, and you are probably struggling with your own questions about Israel’s justification for its current bombing of Gaza. Still, with a few exceptions, you’ve chosen not to rock the boat, to put aside your challenging questions, and to continue reporting this conflict the way you always have.

“This is a foreign conflict,” you may say, “why bother stirring controversy when our coverage has no impact on what happens over there?” That’s true to some degree: the actions of Israelis and Palestinians have far greater impact on what happens on the ground. In this case, however, the United States plays the role of supposed intermediary, assuring the world that it need not (read: better not) get involved, because the US alone will help Israelis and Palestinians solve this problem.

The, truth, however, is that the US has facilitated an atmosphere in which the Israeli government does not see an incentive to find a just peace, but is content to keep building settlements and brutally beating back Hamas and whatever Palestinian civilians stand in the way. We have not only promoted the false narrative that Israel is a nation under existential threat, but also provided the unmatched resources with which to “defend” itself from this threat. The United States and Israel are so deeply intertwined politically and economically at this point that a climate has developed to stifle criticism of Israel within the US even more than within Israel itself, and American politicians can’t hope to question the unconditional nature of US support to Israel without seriously risking their careers. US public opinion may just be the only hope for changing the status quo, and you inform the opinion of a huge sector of the American population. Your complicity in this conflict is clear.

You watched this play out. You watched a heinous murder of Israeli teens, and you saw no evidence presented that this was an action sanctioned by the Hamas organization. You watched as Israel demolished houses, arrested hundreds, and killed civilians in clashes, all in a supposed attempt to find the killers and punish them, and with no attempt at due process. You watched as Palestinians were targeted by Israelis in racist attacks, and you watched as Israeli police abused an American teen, the visible representative of the invisible masses of Palestinian teens who undergo the same and worse. You watched as Hamas said it would not tolerate collective punishment of Palestinians, and you watched as violence between Israel and Gaza followed.

You watched, but you chose to tell Americans that Hamas simply began firing rockets at Israel with no clear rationale, and that Israel had no choice but to defend itself. You chose to give Americans a picture that portrayed an oppressed, impoverished, and desperate people as a violent, insane aggressor, and Israel, a nation with one of the world’s most advanced militaries, as a victim that must defend itself by bombing Gaza.

But this time, something happened when you told the same old tale you’ve been persuaded to tell by Israel’s sophisticated public relations campaigns. The narrative didn’t fit the facts, and this time people noticed. As you struggled to tell the story you’re accustomed to telling even though the facts didn’t match, you sometimes ended up inversing those facts, with Diane Sawyer telling her audience that pictures of Gaza devastation were from Israel, and CNN claiming the “death toll is rising in Israel” when there were still no Israeli casualties. Other times, like when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a press conference that he would never accept a fully sovereign Palestinian state, you simply did not report on it at all. The Washington Post front page declared on July 20 that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting, without mentioning until the eleventh paragraph that dozens of Palestinian children died as well.

Shortly after Slate’s Will Saletan wrote an article criticizing Israel’s demolitions of the homes of Palestinian suspects, he followed with another claiming that the Israeli government’s efforts to avoid civilian casualties are “exemplary.”  Shortly after NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported in a humanizing manner the deaths of Palestinian children, and shared the State Department’s deflection of Israeli responsibility for the attack, NBC removed him from Gaza (they later reinstated him following public pressure). The New York Times, too, was apparently uncomfortable with a humanized framing of its story on the boys’ deaths, and changed its headline to a more sterilized version. And a CNN reporter tweeted then deleted the threats she received from Israelis near Sderot who were seemingly demanding sympathetic coverage for the bombing of Gaza. The reasons these outlets seem to be backtracking from criticism of Israel are unclear, but the possibilities range from sheer cowardice to more insidious censorship.

As support for Israel’s occupation and systematic abuse of Palestinians becomes increasingly partisan, it would be naïve to expect Fox News to challenge the dominant narrative on the conflict. But those of you who consider yourselves liberal pride yourselves on being the partisans of fact over dogma and reason over prejudice. With this latest iteration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you have exposed yourselves as frauds. You were presented with facts, and you could not accept them. You committed exactly the same offense you accuse conservatives of repeating on climate change, women’s rights, civil rights, and immigration; namely, ignoring the facts that don’t fit their preconceived narratives.

Above all, those of you who call yourselves progressives take pride in being on the right side of history. While it’s true that the Israel-Palestine story is unlike any other and that despite resemblances, Israel does not constitute an exact replica of South African apartheid, this must not obfuscate the lessons of history. Oppressed peoples in South Africa, in Algeria, in the United States, and in countless other conflicts have at times resorted to violence, and history remains consistent – it places the blame for perpetuating conflict always on the strong oppressor, and never on the weak oppressed. Here, you are not on the right side of history. Here, you are providing cover for the side committing oppression.

Even the mainstream American media does not control the political and economic inner workings of the US-Israel relationship, but you do influence the education of your viewers. You do shape the still-mighty arena of public opinion, and you do play a role in affecting the electoral fate of a political candidate who stands up against unchecked US support of Israel’s military. When members of European parliaments are holding contentious debates on responses to Israel’s actions, while the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution giving its full support to the assault on Gaza, we must recognize that we’re still startlingly far from an open conversation on the US relationship with Israel.

You are very good at criticizing America’s many flaws, and yet we know that you love America. So, too, can you continue to love Israel while you give Palestinian suffering the same weight as Israeli suffering, and report all the facts and the entire story. I’m not asking you to “spin” anything, to tell anyone’s narrative, or minimize the wrongdoings of either side. I’m asking you to simply tell America what’s happening, all of it, without reducing Palestinians to dehumanized numbers and crude stereotypes, as have oppressors throughout history.

Perhaps you will decide it is still in your best interest to give a one-sided account of this conflict, but you cannot continue to look on Palestinian suffering as part of just one in a long list of foreign tragedies a world away from home. You hold true power here, and only you can decide to what end you’ll exercise that power.


Emily Manna

Emily Manna
About Emily Manna

Emily Manna is a graduate student at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy. Follow her on Twitter: @EmilyManna.

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20 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid on July 21, 2014, 3:43 pm

    “First, although anxious, we use statistics to help prevent us from truly fearing for our daughter’s safety. So far, more than 1,000 missiles have been fired into Israel with relatively few casualties. “The odds of actually being hit by one of these rockets is like winning the lottery,” our Israeli friend says. “Except you have a better chance of winning the lottery”

    Self defence my ass

    “Staying the course, our daughter will understand on a whole new level what it means to be part of a society that has to fight for its freedom and democracy”

    Freedom and democracy my ass

    • joer
      joer on July 21, 2014, 4:08 pm

      As far as I can tell, the rockets from Gaza amount to little more than a nuisance most of the time. People have to interrupt their shopping spree to spend a few minutes in a shelter, or they have to pull over and get out of their car. Occasionally, the effects of the rockets might reach the level of vandalism when a shed is hit-or even arson, when a building burns down-and then there is the rare “lottery” winner…..but no sane person could equate this with families being incinerated in their sleep, hospitals being shelled, and…oh well, everyone here knows what is happening in Gaza.

      • lysias
        lysias on July 21, 2014, 5:09 pm

        Given how little damage those rockets do, I wonder if the most rational policy for a person might not be just to ignore them. Do you have much more chance of being killed by one of them than you do of being struck dead by lightning? I assume the risk of dying in a traffic accident must be much greater.

      • seafoid
        seafoid on July 21, 2014, 5:11 pm

        10,000 Israelis die every year from smoking related illnesses.
        But the IDF needs money so the butchery of the Palestinians continues. It is always about incentives.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on July 21, 2014, 7:41 pm

        lysias- If one lives near Gaza, it is not sensible to ignore them. Many people return to their living rooms to inspect the lethal damage had they not sought shelter. If one lives in Tel Aviv with Iron Dome protecting him, as an individual it might be sensible to ignore them. There is no way that a government can just ignore them.

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia on July 21, 2014, 9:00 pm

        Israel allows enough non lethal material to build rocket. Israel needs reaction after provocation. Otherwise how the sheep could be told repeatedly to stay inside the closed tents of Zionism and how otherwise the gravy train from US congress will keep on rolling down to Tel Aviv? The safe war of choice against the most humiliated with so little to lose and so much to gain will not fade away from the daily list of things to do by the Zionist .

  2. James Canning
    James Canning on July 21, 2014, 3:56 pm

    Perhaps UN news media will notice at some point, that the US Congress has foolishly in effect encouraged Israel to continue its illegal colonisation of the West Bank with “settlements” of Jews.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24 on July 21, 2014, 4:44 pm

    Ben Wiedeman CNN, A hosptal was bombed, and he mentioned the IDF claimed there was a cache of weapons NEARBY, Ben says he does not understand why the 3rd floor of the hospital was bombed killing a patient. He also says this does not seem like pinpoint bombing, and that these deaths are questionable in many ways (not his exact words).
    No one can question these reports, when they come straight from brave reporters within Gaza who see the massacre, and the blood shed.

  4. Donald
    Donald on July 21, 2014, 5:24 pm

    There’s actually some moderately good news about the American press–it’s doing a better than expected job at the moment. IMO, at least. Here’s an example of what I mean–

    Jodi Rudoren’s piece

    Rudoren gives the substance of Hamas’s demands, and any fairminded person can see that they are just asking for basic human rights for Gazans. Here’s the quote–

    “Ismail Haniya, until recently the Hamas prime minister, said in a speech broadcast from Gaza that the fighting would continue unless an agreement met the movement’s demands: opening crossings; lifting restrictions on fishing, farming, import and export; and releasing prisoners who were freed in a 2011 exchange for an abducted Israeli soldier and recently rearrested.

    “We’ll never go back to the period before the aggression, we’ll never go back to the slow death,” Mr. Haniya said in an address laden with Quranic verses. “Gaza will be the graveyard for the invaders, as it always was in the history.”


    Of course, judging from many in the NYT comments, the appeal to basic decency passed right over the heads of the Israel boosters.

    • Donald
      Donald on July 21, 2014, 10:53 pm

      Okay, I take it back. I just returned to the link I posted above and they have modified what they wrote about Hamas’s demands. Now it reads like this–

      “Ismail Haniya, until recently the Hamas prime minister, said in a speech Monday that fighting would continue until the movement’s demands were met, including the release of prisoners freed in a 2011 exchange for an abducted Israeli soldier and who were recently rearrested — something most experts find it hard to imagine Israel would consider.”

      This is disgusting. Right now I feel like typing a string of curse words. There is no excuse for this–rather than inform their readers of what Hamas wants, which happens to be what all Gazans would want, the NYT instead panders to the notion that Hamas is mainly interested in freeing prisoners and centering the story on what Israel would or would not expect.

  5. michelle
    michelle on July 21, 2014, 6:24 pm

    Israel has intact hospitals with empty beds
    staff supplies and transport
    why aren’t they helping with the injured
    ah thats right they lack the much needed ‘heart’
    G-d Bless

    • hophmi
      hophmi on July 21, 2014, 11:53 pm

      They are, all the time.

      You just don’t have your facts straight.

      • michelle
        michelle on July 22, 2014, 2:20 am

        i often make mistakes
        there are times when i hope i was mistaken
        there are times when i’m glad i was mistaken
        and there are times that i pray to G-d that i am mistaken
        if Israel would treat the people of Gaza as they treat
        themselves many ‘mistakes’ would be/have been avoided
        there is enough manna for everyone
        G-d Bless

  6. MRW
    MRW on July 21, 2014, 6:52 pm

    Send it to the NYT, Emily. Letter to the Editor.

  7. traintosiberia
    traintosiberia on July 21, 2014, 8:48 pm

    Katherine Fung in – today

    MSNBC Contributor Accuses Network Of ‘Biased’ Coverage Toward Israel

    She named the names. She mentioned AIPAC, Sheldon,Money,and she named the journalist.

    She did . She has done more than anybody in recent history to shame the corrupted system.
    I hope she is not forced to renege . But she is in trouble now. The dogs could be at any time barking at her apt door . But I hope the neighborhood has woken up and will chase the attack dogs away.

  8. RepresentativePress
    RepresentativePress on July 21, 2014, 9:03 pm

    They should but the media is so biased it won’t even report basics like that Israel is illegally expanding into the occupied territories. Speaking of media bias fro Israel, see my latest video: Reporter Breaks Down while Reporting on Israeli Killing of Palestinian Children ‪ ‬ (please share that video)
    The U.S. media’s won’t even go as far in honestly telling the public about the situation as has White House Coordinator Philip Gordon: “We consider settlements illegitimate and an impediment to progress on peace negotiations. … Unilateral annexation of West Bank territories populated by Israelis is wrong, illegal, and a recipe for Israel’s isolation.”

  9. Taxi
    Taxi on July 22, 2014, 1:22 am

    Trying to reason with American zionist media is like p*ssing in the wind. Cuz they’re not REAL journalists, they’re paid, craven propagandists – evidently! Every editor-in-chief of the American zio rags deserves a turd pie in their face, not a thoughtful letter and an invitation to reason.

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