Recently, the broadcaster provided yet another example of how it freezes out Palestinian voices: Daniel Estrin’s 12 January coverage of the decision by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem to call Israel an “apartheid regime” that upholds “Jewish supremacy” between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.
No Palestinian viewpoint was included in his report.
As the Biden administration takes office – with (expected) incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken committed to maintaining the Trump administration’s key pro-Israel policies – this is an indicator that major national outlets remain as unwilling as ever to challenge the anti-Palestinian consensus in Washington.
Matt Duss – foreign policy adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders and an admirer of Blinken – asserted that NPR’s coverage was “poorly done.” Duss, despite moving toward the Democratic establishment, asked his Twitter followers to “Imagine a report on South African apartheid that didn’t bother talking to any Black people.”He has a strong point.
Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, told The Electronic Intifada that “censoring Palestinian voices is simply racist.”
“The failure to include Palestinian voices in reporting on the realities of Palestinian daily life under the Israeli government’s discriminatory and racist military occupation is shocking,” Emily Kaplan, legislative and electoral grassroots organizer at Jewish Voice for Peace Action, told The Electronic Intifada.
“When journalists exclude the perspectives of those most directly impacted, they help perpetuate the oppression of Palestinians.”
Compounding the exclusion of Palestinian voices was Estrin’s determination to find Israeli voices to undercut Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s director, with whom Estrin did speak.
Estrin stated, “Many Israelis firmly reject the comparison” to apartheid South Africa.
“They boast of a vibrant Israeli democracy, say Palestinians have representation in their own semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority, and justify restrictions on Palestinians as necessary security measures in the absence of peace,” he added.
This is not reporting but apologia masked in the language of false neutrality. This becomes patently clear if the same sentence is rewritten in the context of, say, 1985 South Africa:
“They boast of a vibrant democracy in South Africa, say that Blacks have representation in their own semi-autonomous Bantustans, and justify restrictions on Blacks as necessary security measures in the absence of peace.”
Who but an apologist for apartheid would write something like that?
Meanwhile, Estrin ignores the views and experiences of Palestinian citizens of Israel who comprise more than 20 percent of Israel’s population.
Indeed, Estrin’s report is outright false, when he claims it’s a “commonly held notion” that the country’s “Palestinian Arab minority shares equal citizenship and rights with its Jewish majority.”
In fact, Palestinian citizens of Israel live under dozens of laws that discriminate against them in virtually every area of life just because they are not Jewish.
This grossly unequal treatment is further entrenched in Israel’s Nation-State law passed in 2018.
Good times and remarkable media reach for those trying to excuse the horrors of flattening Palestinian lives under apartheid.
But Palestinians who have been making the case for decades that Israel’s regime constitutes apartheid were nowhere to be found in Estrin’s coverage.Barghouti welcomed the B’Tselem report because it is “what the Indigenous Palestinians have been experiencing, documenting and sharing for seven decades.”
He hoped that the report would help people around the world finally to “recognize that Israel was built on the ruins of Palestinian society” and that “it has always been an apartheid state, not just a settler-colony.”
Yet for Estrin, the veracity of the apartheid claim can only be determined by Israel’s Jewish community.
Too many reporters for US media have a similar implicit bias that favors Jewish voices over Palestinian voices.
This bias makes these journalists complicit in what B’Tselem describes in its report as “a process that has gradually grown more institutionalized and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy.”
Not challenging and exposing this Jewish supremacy – just as not challenging and exposing other forms of racism – is acquiescence.
When Estrin excludes Palestinian voices, falsely claims that equality exists and exclusively consults Jewish speakers on the subject of Israeli apartheid, it reveals a profound problem of racism against Palestinians at NPR that the network has for decades failed to confront.
Yet even the biased reporting of NPR is probably preferable to the manner in which The New York Times covered the B’Tselem report.
Antony Blinken, expected to be the next US secretary of state, faced Israel-related questions Tuesday from US senators during his confirmation hearing.
He denied that Israel is a “racist state” when asked by US Senator Lindsey Graham. Blinken also applauded the normalization deals several countries recently made with Israel, unsurprisingly overlooking the problematic nature of agreements with an apartheid state.Earlier in the day, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib stated that “Israel is a racist state” and an “apartheid state” during an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.
The battles over Israel in the Democratic Party are likely to become more contentious over the next four years.
But Blinken’s closeness to President Joe Biden indicates that the White House remains in denial over Israel’s apartheid reality.
Indeed, Blinken made clear to US Senator Ted Cruz – recently seen trying to overturn the democratic will of American voters – that the Biden administration will stand by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The US embassy will also remain in the city.The most racist and anti-Palestinian president in recent memory got his way and the Democrats will apparently do nothing to reverse it, plainly suggesting that they support Donald Trump’s anti-Palestinian racism.
That racism, so obvious in today’s Republican Party, also infuses much of the Democratic Party.
The fight to root out this bigotry among Democrats could start at noon on Wednesday with Biden’s swearing-in.
But that would require grassroots Democrats to refuse to assume – as many did in 2009 with President Barack Obama – that all is fine with someone from their own party back in the White House.
- Daniel Estrin
- israeli apartheid
- Antony Blinken
- Matt Duss
- Bernie Sanders
- Joe Biden
- Omar Barghouti
- Emily Kaplan
- Jewish Voice for Peace Action
- Hagai El-Ad
- Palestinian Authority
- apartheid South Africa
- Palestinian citizens of Israel
- Nation-State law
- Gerald Steinberg
- NGO Monitor
- Eugene Kontorovich
- Kohelet Policy Forum
- structural geographic bias
- The New York Times
- Ted Cruz
- Lindsey Graham
- Rashida Tlaib
- Democracy Now!
- Amy Goodman
- Barack Obama
- Donald Trump