U.S. Media Outlets Smear Palestinians as Inherently Violent in January Coverage
April 26 2023
blog Series: 

Editor's Note: This article is part of the Press on Palestine series, an initiative by Palestine Square. It includes selections from January 2023. Press on Palestine highlights bias in mainstream American reporting on Palestinian and Arab-Israeli affairs. 

    1. The Washington Post- January 29th, 2023 
Israeli settlers attack Palestinians across West Bank as escalation looms by Shira Rubin and William Booth 

The demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank is framed as retaliation to a shooting near a synagogue. Shira Rubin does this to legitimize illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory. 

Rubin and William Booth go on to describe the West Bank as “...the occupied territory that Palestinians envision as part of their future state.” This framing sets readers up to believe that Palestinian claim to the West Bank is questionable and something that is “envisioned,” instead of noting the historical truth: that the West Bank is part of Occupied Palestine. This effectively undermines Palestinian claims to their land and territory altogether. This framing is beyond concerning — it is an outright lie, a blatant attempt to whitewash violent and illegal Israeli settler expansion. 

The article goes on to reference a statement by the Israeli 'national security' minister, who insists that, for every Israeli killed, a settlement should be built. This alarming statement goes unquestioned. Not once does the The Washington Post challenge the existence of settlements, their expansion, or their legality. Instead, readers are left to believe that settlements are lawful and that the violence and killing of Palestinians to create and maintain them is a justifiable method to redress the deaths of Israelis, instead of collective punishment used to suppress rightful resistance to the Occupation.

The Washington Post mentions a UN report that cites 2022 as the deadliest year for Palestinians in the past two decades, and that there was an increase of IOF raids into the West Bank. They mention that US officials have been “... warning of an escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” yet they do not contextualize who is actually escalating acts of violence and why. By failing to do so, the violent rhetoric of the fascist Israeli apartheid regime goes unquestioned, while the loss of Palestinian lives and land is exonerated. 

     2. The New York Times- January 29th, 2023
As Israelis Grieve, Some Palestinians Exult, and Some Fear What’s Next by Patrick Kingsley 

The article of this title deploys a longstanding trope of framing Palestinian resistance as a hedonistic celebration of Israeli suffering. This trope— pushed by Kingsley, a notorious Zionist — has existed in the western imagination for decades now and was heavily wielded in mainstream media following the 9/11 attacks. It categorizes Arabs and Muslims — and, by extension, Palestinians — as inherently violent people who desire nothing but destruction of “the west.” This trope allows viewers to dehumanize Palestinians and see their grief, sorrow, and rage as innately violent and unjustified. It also allows the constant Israeli celebration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to go unaddressed. 

Kingsley goes on to use phrases such as “a spasm of violence” to describe the escalation of settler expansion and killing of Palestinians. “Spasm” implies sudden muscular movement that is involuntarily, suggesting that the violence the Israeli regime is subjecting Palestinians to is both natural and unavoidable —  language that obscures the apartheid state’s culpability. 

Kingsley portrays Palestinians as animalistic in their “revenge.” Referring to Palestinians “desire of revenge…” and “appetite for a renewed wave of violence…” claiming that Palestinians who attack Israelis are “lionized.” The New York Times intentionally warps Palestinian mourning as proof of innately violent people, while ignoring the fact that the Palestinians’ living conditions are deliberately made impossible by countless Israeli policies of destruction and theft. Not once does Kingsley question why a Palestinian child would risk their life in the way the “13-year-old gunman” did. 

Palestinians are not only pressured to defer to the Occupation because of the brutal retaliation their families are subjected to — their response to surviving such subjugation is policed as well. 

     3. The Wall Street Journal - January 29th, 2023 
Israel, Palestinians Caught in Escalating Cycle of Violence in Jerusalem and West Bank by Dov Lieber 

“Cycle of violence,” “spiral of violence,” “spasm of violence” — these are a few of the ways mainstream publications are choosing to describe the brutal crackdown on Palestinians by the IOF over the past six months. As though said violence is occurring spontaneously and indeliberately, rather than as part of a calculated push to seize more Palestinian land and violently assert the ethnic hierarchy and legitimacy of the apartheid state of Israel. 

The Wall Street Journal goes on to quote a senior Israeli IOF commander, who claims that maintaining a policy of murdering more Palestinians curbs “terrorism.” His horrific statement goes unchallenged. Instead, another former IOF official is quoted, asserting that the operation has kept violence in the region “low.” Low for whom? These statements assert that killing Palestinians is justifiable.These claims reinforce the idea that Palestinian life has no value. 

The conflation between Palestinian combatants and civilians is threaded throughout the article. The IOF falsely claims that it does everything it can to prevent civilian deaths and that “...  those killed are in active combat zones and in proximity to armed militants.” The Wall Street Journal does not challenge these statements — in fact, it reinforces them, by referring to Palestinian civilians as “noncombatants” when they are murdered. This asserts the absurd notion that Palestinian civilians are responsible for their own murders and shouldn’t have been in “proximity to armed militants.” 

The IOF’s propaganda — fully accepted by legacy US media outlets —  is especially harmful for the perception of Palestinians in Jenin and Jerusalem, where defending against the theft of their homes effectively turns civilian areas into “active combat zones.” 

About The Author: 

Sarah O'Neal is a poet, organizer, and writer from the Bay Area. Her work is informed by interests in mourning rituals, queer Muslim poetics, and Black liberation. You can find her on twitter @atayqueen or at www.sarahadbiboneal.com

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