Over 250 journalists working for some of the world’s top media outlets have signed an open letter calling on the news industry to stop “obscuring Israeli occupation and the systemic oppression of Palestinians” in the media.
The letter, “written by and for journalists” and published on Wednesday, accuses the mainstream media of “failing” its audience with a “decades-long journalistic malpractice” that has misinformed the public on the reality of Israel’s occupation.
“Finding truth and holding the powerful to account are core principles of journalism,” the letter reads.
“Yet for decades, our news industry has abandoned those values in coverage of Israel and Palestine. We have failed our audiences with a narrative that obscures the most fundamental aspects of the story: Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid.”
The letter calls on journalists and news outlets to meet their “duty” and “change course immediately” in terms of coverage on Israel and Palestine.
“For the sake of our readers and viewers — and the truth — we have a duty to change course immediately and end this decades-long journalistic malpractice. The evidence of Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians is overwhelming and must no longer be sanitized,” the letter says.
Journalists from the Washington Post; the Wall Street Journal; The Daily Beast; The Texas Observer; Vice News; The Intercept; Jewish Currents; The Los Angeles Times; Condé Nast and others signed on to the letter.
The letter adds, “In April, Human Rights Watch released a 213-page report that documented Israeli authorities committing “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” Leading Israeli human rights group B’tselem characterized the region as governed by a regime of ethnic supremacy.”
“These terms — apartheid, persecution, ethnic supremacy — are increasingly gaining institutional recognition after years of Palestinian advocacy, and we, as journalists, need to examine whether our coverage reflects that reality.”
“Take, for example, the language used in the recent coverage of East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah. Media outlets often refer to forced displacement of Palestinians living there — illegal under international law and potentially a war crime — as “evictions.””
“This term misleadingly implies a real estate “dispute” between tenant and landlord, an inaccurate depiction of the state of affairs. The United Nations considers East Jerusalem occupied Palestinian territory, meaning Israel’s territorial claims there are not recognized.”
“More importantly, using the term ignores the well-documented aim of the Israeli government to establish and maintain ethnic dominance over Palestinians.”
The journalists said that the asymmetry in context does not just extend to the language the journalists use; “stories tend to disproportionately amplify Israeli narratives while suppressing Palestinian ones.”
“Too often, media outlets uncritically repeat Israeli military claims about its assault on Gaza without asking for evidence or proof, despite clear examples where Israeli officials spread false information. Journalists reported the claim from Israeli forces that they had launched a ground invasion — that was false,” the letter states.
The journalists said they are entrusted with a “profoundly important mission in a free and democratic society, the power to inform the people and guide the national conversation, from the family dinner table to Capitol Hill.”
The journalists finally called on other journalists to tell the “full, contextualized truth without fear or favor, to recognize that obfuscating Israel’s oppression of Palestinians fails this industry’s own objectivity standards.”
“We have an obligation — a sacred one — to get the story right. Every time we fail to report the truth, we fail our audiences, our purpose and, ultimately, the Palestinian people.”