The unique, pervasive, and one-sided nature of CNN’s convoluted linguistic formulations about the Israeli military occupation compel any reasonable observer to conclude political bias


“Israel Defense Forces said it mobilized tanks and armored vehicles to the West Bank area on Tuesday after mortar attacks were fired in Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood just outside Jerusalem…The Israelis consider [Gilo settlement] a Jerusalem suburb and Palestinians consider it occupied territory…The Palestinians blame Israel, saying the Israelis are occupying what they think should rightfully be Palestinian territory.”

Full source text available below.



We first must note that CNN’s reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not all bad. On several critical points, however, the network has adopted a unique, bizarre, and indefensible position on what is otherwise universally understood to be Israel’s status in the Occupied Territories as well as the legal status of Jewish settlements in these areas.

With the exception of Israel (whose government represents 5,842,454 people) and Micronesia (whose government represents 133,144 people), the governments representing the other 6 billion people living on Earth (and the international bodies through which they collectively express international opinion), consider Israel’s presence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to be a military occupation. Similarly, all Israeli settlements within the 1967 borders of these areas are also universally considered illegal.

For whatever reason, CNN has chosen to adopt the Israeli and Micronesian position on these matters by describing the Israeli occupation and its associated illegal settlements as a mere Palestinian perception. While it is true that Israel’s status as occupier is indeed the Palestinian position, it is misleading to suggest — as these all-too-common linguistic formulations do — that it is solely the Palestinian position instead of a long-established, legally codified, and international accepted fact.

If CNN wants to play this bizarre linguistic game while simultaneously maintaining accuracy and credibility, it would be more appropriate for it to offer formulations such as the following:

Israel considers the area to be a Jerusalem suburb. The governments representing the remaining six billion people on Earth consider it to be occupied territory.

Clearly CNN is unlikely to adopt language like this because it would correctly be recognised as an unnecessary and convoluted way of expressing the much simpler fact that:

According to international law, Gilo is an illegal settlement built on occupied territory.

As they stand, CNN’s formulations mislead. In the Introduction to Media Coverage found on this site, we note that the widespread failure of much of the international media to regularly remind its audience that there is a military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is tantamount to reporting on South Africa in the 1980s without mentioning the crucial context of Apartheid.

CNN’s bizarre linguistic convolutions are far more insidious, as they communicate a false impression that the Israeli military occupation might not in fact be an established international fact, that perhaps only the Palestinians see it this way. This is no different than reporting about “what Black South Africans consider to be apartheid”. CNN’s disingenuous formulations border on racism and depict Israel’s 34-year-old state-legislated system of dispossession and repression:

  • as if it were something that could not be plainly noted from the presence of Israeli tanks around Palestinian towns;
  • as if the opinion of the entire international community is meaningless;
  • as if there were actual credibility to the pariah viewpoint held by Israel,
  • during a period in which an increasing number of human rights bodies —including Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross — have clearly described Israel’s actions in the occupied territories as “war crimes.”

    The Electronic Intifada previously drew attention to this troubling aspect of CNN reporting on 12 April 2001, with no discernable result in CNN’s subsequent reporting. Instead, there have been several further examples of CNN’s linguistic contortionism in order to avoid stating facts plainly. Currently, such bizarre formulations are virtually daily staples of CNN reporting.

    Mike Hanna, CNN’s Jerusalem bureau chief, has accepted the point presented above. It is therefore fair to conclude that the problem stems not from CNN’s reporters or editors on the ground, but rather from CNN’s management. Protests should therefore be directed at CNN’s management.


    Write to CNN CEO, Tom Johnson, and CNN senior writer Dan Williams via and

    1. Citing the report, Palestinians, Israelis trade attacks; Tanks sent to West Bank, from 17 July 2001, Web posted at 6:04 PM EDT (2204 GMT) and “many others”.

    2. Citing international law, in particular:

    • UN resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 on which the “peace process” is supposedly based, which explicitly refers to “territories occupied in the recent conflict”
    • UN Security Council resolution 1322 of 7 October 2000, the most recent in a long history of UN resolutions to affirm that Israel is an “occupying power”. UNSCR 1322 called for Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention which is specifically applicable to occupied territories.

  • Demanding that CNN desist from obscuring the international status of Israel’s presence on Palestinian land during a period in which Israeli actions are being increasingly recognised to be “war crimes.”

  • Demanding that CNN include in every report a reminder to its audience that the events being reported are taking place under military occupation.

  • Please write an original letter and do not simply copy & paste the information above. As always, be brief, polite, quote accurately, and include your name, address, and telephone number (which most publications require to ensure publication). Send copies of any responses or printing of your letter (including the original, if it was edited) to Please forward a copy of any letter you send to


    18 July 2001

    HEADLINE: Palestinians, Israelis trade attacks; tanks sent to West Bank

    JERUSALEM (CNN) — Israel Defense Forces said it mobilized tanks and armored vehicles to the West Bank area on Tuesday after mortar attacks were fired in Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood just outside Jerusalem.

    “At this point, the IDF is mobilizing infantry and armed vehicles to the West Bank area in light of today’s flagrant violation,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a written statement. It cited street fires and the “launching of two mortar bombs toward the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.”

    The move was the latest in an intensified but familiar cycle of attack and response that has characterized a month in which a cease-fire between the two sides was supposedly in place.

    No one was hurt in the two mortar attacks, launched from the Palestinian village of Beit Jalla, but it was the first time the Palestinians had launched mortar fire from the West Bank.

    The Israelis consider the area a Jerusalem suburb and Palestinians consider it occupied territory.

    A gun battle followed the first mortar bomb, which landed in the back yard of a building under construction.

    The bomb followed by a few hours a fatal Israeli helicopter attack in Bethlehem. The Israelis destroyed a site they believed was hosting a cell of Hamas activists planning an attack for the end of the Maccabiah Games now under way in Israel.

    At least four Palestinians were killed and eight others were injured — a Palestinian source said that one of the dead men was Osama Saada, a man the Israelis say is a Hamas leader.

    In a statement, the Palestinian Authority called the attack “an act of war perpetrated by the Israeli government against the unarmed and innocent Palestinian population.”

    “It’s just a war that is systematic, that is daily, that is incremental, that is indeed debilitating, that is destroying the very fabric of Palestinian reality and infrastructure,” Palestinian Cabinet Minister Hanan Ashrawi told CNN.

    But Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that Israel is showing remarkable restraint as the nearly 10-month-long uprising approaches its one-year anniversary.

    “We impose on ourselves a policy of self-restraint in order to try and end this 10-month stretch of violence that is leading both sides to nowhere,” Gissin said. “Therefore there is a possibility to make a decision here … to go to the negotiating table, not on the battlefield. I can tell you we are willing to make painful compromises for that.”

    Israelis blame the violence on the Palestinians, and say that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat could end it. The Palestinians blame Israel, saying the Israelis are occupying what they think should rightfully be Palestinian territory.

    Tuesday’s helicopter attack came a day after a suicide bombing in Binyamina on Monday that killed two Israeli soldiers, 19-year-old Cpl. Hanit Arami and 20-year-old Staff Sgt. Avi Ben-Haroush. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, and identified the bomber as Nidal Shadouf, 20, from the West Bank town of Jenin. Shadouf also died in the blast.

    The Israeli army followed the suicide bombing with tank attacks on four Palestinian military posts: one south of the city of Jenin and three others near Tulkarem in the West Bank, according to Israeli military sources.


    The Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing, and Arafat reportedly warned Islamic Jihad and Hamas to cease their attacks on Israel or he would ban their activities.

    Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Service in the West Bank, told the Voice of Palestine Radio that the attacks should cease because they are “against Palestinian interests.”

    The militant movements have ignored previous calls by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to stop their attacks, and they also defy the actions of the Israeli military.

    “From our side we are not afraid of any threats by Israel because what can the enemy do?” said Islamic Jihad leader Abdullah Shami. “They have tried everything and they’ve failed and we have nothing else to lose.”


    U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned Sharon on Tuesday, urging continued restraint and pledging continued American support for the Mitchell report, which outlined steps to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

    But neither side seemed ready to stand down — later on Tuesday, Israeli forces in East Jerusalem dispersed Palestinians who had gathered for a memorial service for Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini, who died of a heart attack 40 days ago.

    Israeli authorities claimed the service was “provocative,” but Palestinians protested that they were not allowed to hold a simple funeral.

    CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna and State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel contributed to this report