No Children in Palestine

On January 4, NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep noted that Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas had described Israel as the "Zionist enemy." But the NPR anchor didn't tell listeners the context of Abbas' remark: Seven Palestinian children working in their families' strawberry fields had just been killed by Israeli forces. Abbas referred to the children as "martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy in Beit Lahiya." NPR reported Abbas’ comment, but did not report on the killings themselves. Media critic Ali Abunimah of the website Electronic Intifada wrote to NPR about the piece, and […]


Euphemisms for Israeli Settlements Confuse Coverage

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported in May (5/31/02) that the Israel Broadcasting Authority, at the behest of a member of the Israeli cabinet, has directed its editorial departments not to use the terms "settlers" or "settlements" on radio or TV. According to Ha'aretz, "it is not clear if the editors will obey the order." What does seem clear is that settlements--housing built on land illegally seized by Israel after the 1967 war--are such a contentious issue within Israel that the Israeli government would like to stop reporters from even saying the word. Nonetheless, the opinion pages of an Israeli paper […]


The Myth of the Generous Offer

Distorting the Camp David negotiations

The seemingly endless volleys of attack and retaliation in the Middle East leave many people wondering why the two sides can't reach an agreement. The answer is simple, according to numerous commentators: At the Camp David meeting in July 2000, Israel "offered extraordinary concessions" (Michael Kelly, Washington Post, 3/13/02), "far-reaching concessions" (Boston Globe, 12/30/01), "unprecedented concessions" (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, 12/4/01). Israel’s "generous peace terms" (L.A. Times editorial, 3/15/02) constituted "the most far-reaching offer ever" (Chicago Tribune editorial, 6/6/01) to create a Palestinian state. In short, Camp David was "an unprecedented concession" to the Palestinians (Time, 12/25/00). But due to […]


Children of War

The Israeli-Palestinian war has a profound effect on the children of the region. As NBC's Tom Brokaw put it on the April 11 Nightly News, "All of this is making the children of war, on both sides, grow old before their time." The piece that followed, however, concerned only children on one side. Correspondent Keith Miller profiled Israeli children at a school with bulletproof glass, and others who must learn how to wear a gas mask. Viewers learned of a cancelled scout trip and heard one young person say that he can't go out to the discotheque or the mall. […]


Uprising Without Explanation

"The Palestinians began the latest protests with old-style demonstrations. Then they started shooting at Israeli towns. Now they are attacking settlements. It's not at all clear what the next step will be, but every step seems to get bloodier." -- "Into the War Zone," Time (12/4/00) In war--especially the kind of war that has now broken out between Israel and the Palestinians--each side has its reasons. Not all reasons are equally valid, but in journalism both sides must be told, context and balance provided, and ultimately the audience should decide. When Israel is asked to explain the 300 Palestinians (compared […]


Muffled Coverage of U.N. Vote

Media ignore broad Mideast consensus

U.S. media have been ignoring or downplaying an important dimension of the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. On October 7, the United Nations Security Council voted 14 to 0 for a resolution condemning Israel's "excessive use of force against Palestinians" and deploring the "provocation" of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's September 28 visit to the Temple Mount. The United States was the only Security Council member to abstain from the vote, which it did after trying to soften the language of the resolution. The outcome was generally interpreted as assigning most of the responsibility for the violence to Israel. […]


What's in a Name?

In Jerusalem story, terminology takes sides

"The forces of terrorism are in a coalition, engaged in an information warfare campaign against Israel, a campaign in which the American news media is serving as the witting or unwitting ally of Arafat." So House speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) told the cheering audience at AIPAC's (American-Israeli Political Action Committee) national convention (C-SPAN, 4/8/97). Democrats like Vice President Al Gore and House minority leader Richard Gephardt (D.-Mo.) had both given pro-Israeli convention speeches, but it was Gingrich who thrilled the crowd with his attack on the media. Virtually the only example given by Gingrich with any basis in reality was […]