Media malpractice: Blacking out genocide and disenfranchising Palestinian pain

American media’s Israel bias and censoring journalists.

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Image Credit: Abbey Craine / Mohammed Dahman for AP

America’s corporate media serves as a key cog in the machinery of genocide.

Rather than providing the kind of objective, fact-based reporting integral to an informed citizenry, our mainstream press bombards us with explicit and implicit biases, false narratives, dehumanization, and misdirection, serving to stifle public dissent and justify, rationalize, and conceal the systematic oppression and extermination of the people of Gaza.

As dependable propaganda tools for Israel’s aggression, our news censors truth not only by what they choose to cover and how they spin it—but what they deliberately omit. This orchestrated disinformation campaign helps ensure the ongoing and unconditional support of the U.S. government and its continued role as Israel’s dutiful genocidal benefactors

How does a Palestinian-American with family in the region reconcile the disconnect between “reality” and the “story” our press is “telling”?

Consider a day in the life in Gaza. Palestinian schools, hospitals, universitiesplaces of worship, and heritage sites are being systematically destroyed. Civilians, nearly half children, are being murdered on a mass scale  (Over 30,000 dead, nearly half children). The calculated deprivation of food and water is literally starving families to death. Babies are being born into a living hell, with screams of terror and the painful moans of their parents among the first sounds they hear. The electricity powering the oxygen machines keeping sick patients alive cut off, leaving them to struggle to gulp each of their final breaths. The amputations of children’s limbs without anesthesia using barbed wire have become routine. Broken, but alive, Palestinian bodies riddled with shrapnel require each piece to be pulled from their flesh. Hungry children are found dead with single Israeli sniper shots to the head. The deliberate decimation of Gaza’s telecommunications infrastructure has left families unable to communicate with one another, or with the world, allowing daily atrocities to become increasingly invisible and unreported. 

For those fighting for survival in Gaza, there is nowhere left to run and nowhere to turn. This isn’t war. It’s mass murder. But this isn’t what most Americans are watching, reading and hearing on the news.

American media’s Israel bias and censoring journalists

Quantitative analyses conducted by The Intercept, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and an independent collective of U.S. journalists, writers, and media makers of coverage in The York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lay bare our news media’s dramatic pro-Israel bias. The litany of press failings are disturbing in their sheer scope and intention. Findings included the systematic undermining of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim perspectives and the invocation of inflammatory language that reinforces Islamophobic and racist tropes. Misinformation spread by Israeli officials is commonly printed along with consistent failures to scrutinize Israel’s indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza. Israeli deaths are disproportionately emphasized, and more humanizing language is used to describe them than Palestinians. This is to name just a few.

Case-in-point: In what’s now being called the Flour Massacre, at least 112 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and hundreds more injured after Israeli forces opened fire on civilians while waiting for food from desperately needed aid trucks. Leading news media descriptions described the slaughter as “food aid deaths”, “food aid-related deaths”, “chaotic incident”, and “reported killed in crowd near Gaza aid convoy”. 

Do these headlines properly convey the massacre of starving civilians?

New York Times: “As Hungry Gazans Crowd a Convoy, a Crush of Bodies, Israeli Gunshots and a Deadly Toll

The Washington Post.Chaotic aid delivery turns deadly as Israeli, Gazan officials trade blame

The Guardian: “Biden says Gaza food aid-related deaths complicate ceasefire talks”

BBC: “More than 100 killed as crowd waits for aid, Hamas-run health ministry says

Sadly, censored journalists who speak out are paying the price. The Los Angeles Times recently banned 38 journalists from covering Gaza for at least three months after they signed an open letter criticizing Western newsrooms for their biased reporting on Israel and their role in dehumanizing rhetoric that has served to justify ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. 

But it’s not just print that is to blame. The Guardian reported the accounts of six CNN staffers from multiple newsrooms, including more than a dozen internal memos and emails, finding that daily news decisions are shaped by a flow of directives from the CNN headquarters in Atlanta that have set strict pro-Israel guidelines on coverage. Every story on the conflict must be cleared by the Jerusalem bureau—which has close ties with Israel’s military—before broadcast or publication.

In light of these exposes, it’s no wonder then, that after four months of some of the most indiscriminate and brutal attacks on civilians in human history, a global public outcry, and overwhelming support for a ceasefire in the United Nations, the U.S. continues to fund the slaughter and block international efforts to end it.

Holding media accountable, supporting journalists, and promoting independent news

There is no shortage of ways people can help bring this nightmare to an end. Among them should include pressure campaigns on the corporate media to commit to journalistic integrity and truth. Outlets like CNN and the New York Times have a unique opportunity to educate millions by providing rigorous, evidence-based reporting that could serve to end the ongoing genocide—rather than enable it. 

Petitions to hold CNN and the New York Times accountable deserve support. But petitions aren’t enough. Direct actions (including protests, boycotts, and sit-ins) and strategies that target these institution’s advertisers, revenues, and reputational interests are also required. 

Over 122 journalists, more than any war in history, have been killed in Gaza. Journalists seeking to put their own lives at risk to report the truth must be protected. And journalists who have stories to tell about the censorship they have endured must be encouraged to tell them, anonymously if necessary.

Finally, independent, non-corporate news serves as dependable sources of fact-based information and a powerful check on the official narratives of their corporate counterparts. Now more than ever, Americans deserve objective, diverse, trustworthy, and contextualized coverage of Gaza. Thankfully, these alternatives exist, and need our support, from Pacifica radio to a long list of independent news sites.

Israel’s ongoing genocidal annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza will be reviled by history—rendering the once solemn rallying cry “Never again!” cruelly hollow. “Never again” is not meant to be a phrase of remembrance, but a call to action. Let’s not let the corporate media forget it.

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