For CNN’s Jake Tapper, Palestinian violence may well be the pinnacle of international belligerence. It’s his go-to reference point for modern-day horror, outstripping even the white supremacist massacre in El Paso.
Last week, two organizations challenged him on his “anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bigotry.”
The groups were alarmed by Tapper’s comments following the killing of 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month. Tapper sought to tie that white supremacist violence to language from Palestinian leaders.
In bringing up long-subjugated Palestinians out of the blue, Tapper chose to ignore much greater violence elsewhere, including – he might have said – incitement by Israeli political and religious leaders and routine deadly force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians.
“You hear conservatives all the time – rightly so in my opinion – talk about the tone set by people in the Arab world,” said Tapper.
“Palestinian leaders and the way they talk about Israelis, justifying – in the same way you’re doing, no direct link necessarily between what the leader says and the violence against some poor Israeli girl in a pizzeria – but the idea that you’re validating this hatred.”
The strained connection elicited significant social media pushback, followed by the petition.
Tapper “twisted himself into a mental pretzel to try and create a false analogy,” Hanan Ashrawi, an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said.
Tapper, however, has not apologized for dragging Palestinians into the El Paso massacre.
His choice of words reveals his bias. He could have accurately described it as a movement calling for Palestinian freedom and equal rights. But his framing is akin to calling the South African anti-apartheid movement’s similar nonviolent tactics “anti-white.”
Tlaib pushed back by saying BDS is “criticizing the racist policies of Israel.”
A less contentious exchange could have provided space for sharing with viewers the three principal goals of the BDS movement: end the occupation, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
But as is so often the case with mainstream journalists, they are adversarial – or most adversarial – only with members of disenfranchised communities and in defense of the status quo.
Tapper freezes out Palestinian American leader
Since 2016 I have wrestled with what to do with email correspondence with Tapper.
In those messages, Tapper made clear to me that he is freezing out a prominent East Coast Palestinian American leader, one of the few Palestinian Americans given an occasional mainstream media platform.
Distressingly, Tapper dismissed this person as “a troll and a liar” in an email to me.
“I muted X long ago.” Tapper pointed to a link to back up his contention that the Palestinian American is a “liar.”
That is a severe stretch not supported by the linked item, which I can’t disclose as it names the person in question.
In a second email, Tapper declared: “Stop pitching X to me.”
That person does not want to be named.
I believe their caution arises, at least in part, out of the unknown repercussions for a Palestinian American in pushing back against a prominent mainstream journalist and the uncertain reaction of other journalists.
Would leveling the charge and a public spat lead to even fewer media invitations? Is the movement for Palestinian rights strong enough to take this risk and win?
Tapper’s freezing out of this individual is egregious enough that it warrants attention even if the affected person is not named. It is not as if CNN is inviting on a host of other Palestinian voices; they remain too rare.
CNN executives should ask Tapper why he is excluding this Palestinian American while misrepresenting the Palestinian movement for freedom and equal rights, when he should be offering a range of views.
For their part, MPower Change and JVP are calling for “CNN to issue a formal condemnation of Jake Tapper’s comments and widely recognized bias against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.”