Media Watch 20 January 2021
Palestine activists have long criticized National Public Radio (NPR) as No Palestinians Radio.
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.
Estrin did, however, quote notorious anti-Palestinian think tankers Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor and Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum criticizing the B’Tselem report.
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.
There is a structural geographic bias that comes from the fact that many Western journalists are deeply embedded in Israeli Jewish society and identify with it.
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.
The newspaper of record, with its famous motto “all the news that’s fit to print,” decided B’Tselem’s highlighting of Israeli apartheid from the river to the sea wasn’t fit to print at all.
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
Thanks for adding voice to Palestinians
Permalink Jeff Monkman replied on
Your article helps to continue the exposure of the US coverage bias. Thomson Reuters, among others, is another with this bias. When they add voice to Palestinians, it is usually a photo showing reaction to soldier aggression, rarely the events that preceded it. Even non-lethal rock throwing can lead soldiers to lethal shootings.
Hope is that a new administration will add more voice to Palestinians, though appointees are repeat individuals of past policies.
as a matter of fact
Permalink tom hall replied on
It's interesting that you mentioned Reuters. Ali Abunimah recently raised the issue of their relationship to the CIA. Here's some information on their Government Global Business Director. She's a career CIA official.
Thanks for the link
Permalink Jeff Monkman replied on
Wasn’t aware, but fits right in with their coverage.
Permalink Anne Norton replied on
NPR is, without question, hostile to Palestinians and discriminatory in its coverage. I have noticed this especially with Terry Gross, but like the author I think it is a pervasive problem.
prepare yourselves for another round of HOPE
Permalink tom hall replied on
Yet again a Democratic administration arrives on the scene flying a full set of Zionist colors, and yet again we're encouraged to set aside all we know about the party, its donor class, its zealous devotion to Israel, and the U.S.' long history of duplicity while posing as the fabled "honest broker". We have been here before, and in this instance there really isn't a pretense that Palestinian voices will be heard in the White House. In fact, the Biden campaign chose as its closest ally among American Muslims a particularly dodgy outfit backed by Israel, called Emgage.
Little effort was made to reach out to the broader Muslim community, and none when it came to Palestinians. The hope that a Biden administration will now perform an about-face and begin to take steps on behalf of Palestinian rights is wholly misdirected. Ask yourself this- what do the Palestinians have to offer Washington? The answer is all too plain. Any progress on behalf of Palestine will have to come from outside the formal structures of power in the U.S. and Europe. That means above all, redoubled support for the BDS campaign, which has shown a unique ability to build coalitions and inform the public while overturning restrictions on free speech.
As for the willfully dishonest coverage by U.S. media institutions, this has been a constant since the foundation of the state of Israel. In the case of NPR, staffing and funding sources explain much when assessing the perspective. They've loyally held the line through every administration, and as for reform, the company's not going to replace a set of soothing, beloved mouthpieces in order to educate listeners on a subject so much energy has been expended for the purposes of keeping them in blinkered ignorance.
Permalink Jeff Monkman replied on
It also started earlier than the Balfour Pact in the late 1800s. In 1891 Russian writer Asher Ginsberg wrote and presaged the acquisition of Palestinian land by force, though still from a Zionist perspective - all that is tillable has been tilled. Buy, steal, oppress, expulsion continues and increases.
“ From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth, it is not so. In the entire land, it is hard to find tillable land that is not already tilled … If the time comes when the life of our people in Eretz Israel develops to the point of encroaching upon the native population, they will not easily yield their place”
I agree, our established political structure won’t address this beyond political pandering. Hopefully our youth who are witnessing oppression, racism and violence here may see that we enable and support this elsewhere with far worse consequences.
Permalink Leatrice Fung replied on
I returned back from Asia to the US in 1988. During my first few years here there were many of stories of Palestinian discrimination, mistreatment, and abuse. A few years later, these stories evaporated. For the past couple of decades there have been no such stories ever that I can recall. That's why I support the Electronic Intifada. I want the truth. Public TV is not any better. Lea Fung
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