Press For The Rest: Reshaping a loaded term for the media


The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and de facto control over Gaza (maintaining control over borders, airspace, and water space) is possibly the most covered and misrepresented issue in the mainstream Western press.

The major press corps has consistently distorted the realities of the occupation – language is a powerful shaping force. A clear example of this has been the change in definition of the conflict by Western media sources like CNN. These organizations actively distort the reality and mislead the public by adopting terms like “disputed,” rather than “occupied,” when referring to Israeli control of the occupied territory.

This results in an inaccurate description of the power dynamics in the conflict where one force has been brutally occupying another for 38 years. Western press corps further distort the conflict by misrepresenting Palestinian deaths by Israeli forces and by demonizing the Palestinian people.

Luckily we have access to alternative media sites which provide a counterweight to the general misinformation distributed by mainstream press, especially in Canada and the United States.

Possibly the best source for finding news and information on the daily effects of Israeli occupation, interpretation of major events happening in the Middle East, and establishment of context for the conflict is alternative media source Electronic Intifada (EI). The term “intifada” is Arabic for “popular uprising,” and the intent of EI is to provide a Palestinian voice of the experience under occupation.

When I spoke with EI founder Ali Abunimah, he explained that the name EI came out of the 1990s when Palestinian people from around the world started to use the internet as a tool of self-expression and a response to the mainstream press’s distortion of the conflict. He discussed how the term intifada has been misrepresented as being associated with terrorism. The name of the site is an attempt to reclaim the term and apply it to its actual meaning.

“[Electronic Intifada] is an opportunity to reclaim the term ‘intifada’ from the mainstream press, which associates it with violence,” said Abunimah.

The purpose of EI is to provide a context and understanding of the demand for human rights, dignity, and the Palestinian people’s right to a just peace. It is intended to be an educational tool that people can use to understand the conflict and demand change.

“We think an educated public will make good decisions and we’ve had so many decades of misinformation,” said Abunimah.

The site provides daily news of events going on in the occupied territories, Israel, and the Palestinian Diaspora. The information on the site is provided by independent journalists on the ground, non-governmental organization and aid workers, diaries and personal accounts of the occupation, and syndicated articles from journalists and media outlets. The site also provides literary and cultural content.

Electronic Intifada is based in Chicago and geared towards educating a mostly Western audience, publishing in English and having its major reader bases in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The information on the site does an incredible job of providing context and an understanding of power relations under occupation as well as detailed explanations of why and how events unfold.

The website’s holistic presentation of the politics and history of the conflict provides an impeccable grasp and understanding of the situation. The discussion of Palestinian culture, art, and literature does an excellent job of challenging the mainstream press’ generally dehumanizing presentation of the Palestinian people by discussing all aspects of Palestinian life and how the invasiveness of the Israeli occupation has permeated them.

Related Links

  • The McGill Daily