'Choose your words carefully': international media reports 'failing Palestine'

'Choose your words carefully': Palestine activists decry international media's 'failing' coverage of Gaza, Sheikh Jarrah
3 min read
12 May, 2021
Newspapers and websites across the world have been lambasted online for their 'biased' coverage of events in East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Words like clashes are not appropriate terminology [Getty]
International media's coverage of Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem has come under criticism for the terminology and language used in reports. 

Palestinian activists have accused leading media of distorting recent events - such as the planned expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah - through their choice of language.

They have called on journalists to be more mindful of their language when covering Israeli violence, prompting a wider debate about media coverage of police brutality in occupied East Jerusalem and the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Social media users took umbrage with US publication The New York Times. 

"Evictions in Jerusalem Become Focus of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" read a headline published on 7 May.

It prompted historian Assal Rad to make some corrections on a screenshot posted on Twitter, rewording the headline: "Forced expulsions in Jerusalem become focus of Palestinian struggle".

"If you're not writing the truth about crimes against humanity, you're culpable in them," Rad added.

The choice of language used by both media outlets and public figures discussing Palestine has come under close scrutiny by activists. 

Speaking to CNN, Mohamed El-Kurd, one of the Palestinians who is facing expulsion from her home in Sheikh Jarrah,  took no time to correct the anchor when he said she faces "eviction".

"It's not really an eviction. It's a forced ethnic displacement, to be accurate. Because, eviction implies legal authority, while the Israeli occupation has no legitimate jurisdiction over the eastern parts of occupied Jerusalem, under international law," he explained. 

Much of the international coverage framed the firing of tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinian worshippers and protesters at Al-Aqsa Mosque as "clashes". 

"Violent clashes, rocket fire shake Jerusalem" read The Washington Post’s frontpage headline on Tuesday. 

"New Clashes in Jerusalem Spark Fears of Wider Conflict" printed The Wall Street Journal on its front page, also Tuesday. 

"Israel strikes a Gaza after day of clashes" ran leading UK paper The Daily Telegraph.

While a photo caption on the front page of The Times read "Palestinians clashing with Israeli security forces who stormed a compound at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem."

Read more: Fighting Israel's erasure of Palestinian identity in Jerusalem

While the term "clashes" has became ubiquitous media coverage of Jerusalem, some have argued this does not truthfully portray events, which might be more accurately described as an imbalanced struggle against an occupying power. 

"Dear mainstream media, this is the so-called 'power differential' you love to talk about. It's not a 'clash' if one side has guns and advanced weaponry and the other side is armed with stones," wrote journalist Kareem Shaheen on Twitter

"It's amazing how the same media outlets that managed to stir up outrage in themselves and readers of every day whenever Trump farted are too scared to say 'Israel kills children in airstrikes' or are so craven they call being beaten and shot at by occupation soldiers 'clashes'," he added.

The uneven nature of some media outlet's coverage proved to be fruitful material for satirists. 

"BREAKING: Missile clashes with house," tweeted satirical news outlet Walking Eagle News.

"Both missile and house urged to ease tensions," they added.

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