US media make Israeli occupation disappear

US President Donald Trump at the Western Wall, in occupied East Jerusalem, 22 May. It is one of several sites in the occupied West Bank that media outlets misrepresented as being in Israel.

Dan Hansen White House Photo

A New York Times graphic of 19 May, explaining the itinerary for President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe, appeared to place East Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, as well as the entire city of Bethlehem, in “Israel.”

But the graphic was altered over the weekend to include the West Bank without acknowledgment of the original error.

Then, Monday, after an inquiry from The Electronic Intifada, this correction was added by the Times: “An earlier version of this article omitted labels for two places on Mr. Trump’s itinerary. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, and Vatican City is separate from Italy.”

The New York Times was only one of several major outlets to make Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory virtually disappear.

Being coy about facts

The correction makes clear that The New York Times recognizes the fact that Bethlehem is indeed in the occupied West Bank.

Less clear is the newspaper’s stance on East Jerusalem. The correction does not make explicit that the newspaper is willing to admit that East Jerusalem is also part of the West Bank.

This is strange, given that the role of a newspaper is to report. As a matter of incontestable fact, East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and al-Aqsa mosque, are part of the West Bank that was militarily occupied by Israel in 1967.

The UN Security Council has repeatedly affirmed that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel nearly a half century ago.

The Western Wall plaza that Trump visited was created by Israel’s destruction of Jerusalem’s Moroccan Quarter, including the demolition of a 12th century mosque.

The newspaper is at best being coy: it uses a sub-heading of “Israel and the West Bank” to refer to Trump’s itinerary taking him from Tel Aviv to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.

The New York Times acknowledges – at least indirectly – that these holy places are in the West Bank and not within Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries.

But a newspaper that in the era of Trump postures as a righteous defender of fact against the president’s lies, ought to say things directly, including when issuing a correction.

The foreign desk and public editor did not respond to two requests for comment.

Others omit occupation, Palestinians

On air, National Public Radio repeatedly referred to Trump’s trip to Israel.

The West Bank aspect was often omitted, particularly in regard to East Jerusalem.

An NPR article, “Trump arrives in Israel for second leg of international trip,” left readers with the distinct impression that Bethlehem and the Western Wall are in Israel.

To this point only having mentioned Israel, and not the West Bank, the article declares: “The president’s visit will include a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center, Bethlehem and the Western Wall.”

Politico also misrepresented the geography, stating that: “Trump prepares to travel Monday from Saudi Arabia to Israel – where he will visit the Western Wall, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, and meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.”

Several hours of reporting Monday morning by CNN included just one reference to “occupation” heard by this reporter.

In that case, correspondent Oren Liebermann reduced a 50-year military occupation merely to a Palestinian perspective. The term “disputed,” preferred by Israel and its lobby to muddy the legal waters, was more frequently used by CNN.

Regurgitating Israeli mythology

Anchor John Berman advanced Israeli propaganda when he commented on a tree that he said had been planted in honor of Trump.

“Obviously, when you plant trees in Israel, it’s of even greater significance, the planting of trees and making the desert green over the last 100 years is something that’s been very important to the Israeli people.”

Berman was repeating verbatim Zionist mythology which omits the reality that Israel’s founding entailed the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of vast areas of their cultivated land.

This destruction is ongoing. Since 1967, Israel has destroyed an estimated 800,000 olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Even though it is one of the most contentious issues, CNN seems to have resolved the status of Jerusalem – in Israel’s favor. Anchor Jake Tapper stated, “President Trump making history in Israel by visiting the Western Wall.”

Similarly, anchor John King declared that there had already been a “packed day of diplomacy in Israel” and “already in Israel a bit of history, Mr. Trump, the first sitting president to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.”

Palestinians invisible

The ongoing hunger strike by more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – now more than a month old – was not mentioned over several hours of viewing CNN on Monday, and no Palestinian or Palestinian American voices were included during that time.

The network’s statement on journalistic integrity notes that CNN aims for “comprehensive journalism.”

This means striving to “present the whole story, fairly and completely, so that readers and viewers may come to their own conclusions” based on receiving “a range of viewpoints.”

But it would appear that the only line CNN toes when it comes to Jerusalem is that of Israel’s government.

If CNN believes its anchors spoke in error, or if the anchors believe they did, then corrections should be issued.




Poor reporting will not hide truth. The Palestine position is still to be resolved. Israel has stolen land from the Palestinians and Syria to name but two. Proclaimed illegal by UN and many around the world. If they are indeed 'the chosen people' then I want nothing to do with that god. They experienced ethnic cleansing mainly in 2nd World War and shamefully have learned nothing as they are inflicting the same on Palestinians. We stayed in Ramallah this month and the people are wonderful under horrible treatment from Israelis. Nearly every day Palestinians are shot dead apparently 'carrying knives'. One 16 year old girl shot 16 times outside a gate to Jerusalem. Yes..carrying a knife. Illegal settlers carry rifles whilst shopping in supermarkets. The list of inhumanity is endless. I will never ceased to be shocked as Palestinians are treated worse than animals. But the religious Jews continue to be proud. And as for Trump. Where are the moves to resolve the land share? And we await the inevitable deaths of hunger strikers. Israelis lit a barbecue outside a prison when the strike began. All they are asking for is improved conditions and better visiting rights. Oh and not to mention the prisoners arrested for nothing and with no trial or idea of how long they will be held. The god of the chosen people must be proud. Didn't Hitler think the Aryan race was the chosen one. I pray for the restoration of Palestine. When prisoners start to die will it be reported by CNN, The New York Times or anyone? I have only scraped the surface. I live in England and thank my not so important God every day for my privileged life. I cannot ever complain.

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.