Interview with Noura Erakat: Framing the Palestinian Narrative
Large-scale Israeli assaults on Gaza create global media frenzy. The official Israeli discourse saturates the airwaves and the mainstream press of the United States, which remains Israel’s staunchest ally. At such times, an assortment of Palestinian voices provides a counter-narrative to Israel’s dominant and domineering narrative. Albeit without the stamp of officialdom, these voices are nevertheless critical as they offer a Palestinian perspective that is rarely heard in the U.S. media and one that constitutes a resource for a public that is otherwise largely shielded from this viewpoint.
During the summer 2014 attack on Gaza, one of the most prolific Palestinian voices on the media circuit was that of Noura Erakat. An attorney and legal scholar by training, Erakat is an assistant professor at George Mason University, teaching in the legal studies, international studies, and human rights/social studies concentrations. Her scholarly interests include humanitarian, human rights, refugee, and national security law. Additionally, she is a co-founder and editor of the widely respected e-zine, Jadaliyya. Along with other Palestinians (including Diana Buttu and Yousef Munayyer, both of whom have penned pieces for this special issue of JPS), Erakat has helped shape the Palestinian narrative in the English-language media, particularly in North America.
Erakat has long been an outspoken public figure on Palestinian issues. She has made regular appearances on television as an analyst and commentator, speaking about the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon as well as the three attacks on Gaza since 2008 (Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, and Protective Edge). With this summer’s attack garnering the dubious distinction of being Israel’s bloodiest and longest ever unleashed on the territory, the Palestinian narrative and media discourse took on even greater urgency. Consequently, JPS sought out Erakat’s views of, and experience with, the media as a Palestinian, an analyst, an activist, a public figure, and a woman.
This interview was born of an earlier informal conversation I had with Erakat, in which she had recounted anecdotes from her media appearances, including the kinds of programs that had invited her to appear and the types of questions her interviewers posed, as well her own observations about the U.S. media’s treatment of Palestine and the Palestinians. The formal interview took place on 4 September 2014, a little over a week after the 26 August cease-fire went into effect.