by Miceál O’Hurley
MIDDLE EAST – The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) has released a Media Resource Guide to assist the journalists, observers and diplomats to develop enhanced language and considerations when reporting, speaking about or discussing matters in Palestine/Israel. In May 2021, ongoing violence escalated after the Israeli High Court considered what Israel deemed a ‘property dispute’ but which Palestinians universally regard as yet another extension of the long-standing Israeli policy of forced removal of Palestinians from their historic homes.
Escalated tensions were renewed in the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) and quickly grew to include military action by Israel and Hamas which included rocket attacks, airstrikes and artillery bombardments resulting in widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip. Both Israel and Hamas reported civilian casualties. Complaints about the disproportionate response by Israel which left more than 200 Palestinians dead, and hundreds of residences destroyed, including the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera network raged for almost two-weeks before both sides committed to an Egyptian-brokered cease fire. Israel reported 10 deaths.
This week, Ireland unanimously voted to declare Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories as a de facto annexation. Ireland is the first nation to do so. With Ireland occupying a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the overwhelming, multi-party resolve of the Oireachtas is believed to immediately inform Ireland’s decision-making and policy positions in the UN regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
As discussed on Diplomat Ireland‘s recent programme, ‘In Conversation This Week with Diplomat Ireland’, with special guest Ms. Rania Muhareb, B.A., LL.M., a doctoral candidate at the National University of Ireland – Galway, language has become an increasingly critical component in the Palestinian pursuit of justice. Challenging assumptions about how questions are framed, or the assumptions upon which the questions are constructed, and the continued use of the dialectics of colonialism, Ms. Muhareb challenged Diplomat Ireland, all journalists, academics, scholars, politicians and activists to more carefully consider the language they use and how it might inadvertently be an obstacle to peace and justice.
Diplomat Ireland and Diplomat Northern Ireland have reproduced the AMEJA Media Resource Guide: Palestine / Israel 2021, in its entirety below.
MEDIA RESOURCE GUIDE: PALESTINE / ISRAEL 2021
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) is issuing guidance to help newsrooms more accurately and critically cover issues related to Israel and Palestine.
This undertaking is in response to requests from industry reporters, editors and producers, many of whom are AMEJA members, for resources to better understand the historical context and nuance.
This guidance was created with input from member journalists across all types of media platforms and around the globe. This is not an exhaustive list of guidelines and resources, and AMEJA expects these recommendations to evolve as events unfold.
AMEJA urges anyone covering this issue to:
● Remember the broader context of Palestinian-Israeli relations and how they tie into the events you’re currently covering. All reporting should take into consideration that Israel occupies Palestinian territory, and that Palestinians — whether they live in the West Bank, Gaza or inside Israel — are subject to an unjust and unequal system, as documented by international organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.
● Avoid “both sides” framing. Recognize the power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinian people. This is not a conflict between states, but rather between Israel, which has one of the most advanced militaries in the world, and the Palestinians, who have no formal army.
● Be precise in your reporting of casualties. Avoid reporting headlines or ledes such as, “More than 30 dead in Gaza and Israel as fighting quickly escalates,” if for instance you know that the majority of those killed were Palestinians in Gaza. Tell readers who was killed or injured, where and by whom, using active, rather than passive language.
● Do not call Gaza “Hamas-controlled.” It is sufficient to say “Gaza,” or “Gaza’s Health Ministry,” for example. While Hamas is the political party in power, Israel still controls Gaza’s boundaries and the movement of people and goods through an ongoing land, air and sea blockade, while Egypt controls the Rafah crossing. Israel is widely recognized as the occupying power by the international community.
● Replace “eviction” and “real-estate dispute” with “forced removal.” The terms “eviction” and “real-estate dispute” suggest a disagreement between a landlord and tenant, obscuring the Israeli government’s efforts to forcibly displace Jerusalem’s Palestinian population. In the case of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and other occupied Palestinian territory, the United Nations has said forced removals would “violate Israel’s obligations under international law.”
● Avoid the word “clashes” in favor of a more precise description. Think twice before describing confrontations between Palestinian protesters and heavily-armed Israeli police reflexively as “clashes.” Confrontations often begin with police dispersing demonstrations using tear gas and rubber bullets.
● Double check “official” sources, whether from governments or the military. If no evidence is provided for a claim, tell that to your readers, high up in your story.
● Interview Palestinians. Your story is always incomplete without them. Former U.S. diplomats, Israeli military analysts and non-Palestinian Middle East commentators are not replacements for Palestinian voices.
● Be cognizant of how you’re identifying Palestinians. Do not use the identifiers “Arab-Israeli” or “Israeli-Arab,” unless requested by the individuals described. Instead use “Palestinian citizen of Israel” if that applies, or “Palestinian.” Also recognize Palestinians represent multiple faith backgrounds, including Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Samaritan, Baha’i and others. Ignoring this diversity perpetuates the misleading notion that the conflict is a religious one between Jews and Muslims rather than political in nature.
● Check in on your staffers of Arab and Middle Eastern descent, especially those who may be personally impacted by the situation. Be receptive to their feedback on your news organization’s coverage of the conflict without placing undue burdens on them. Recognize that their knowledge of the region and cultural fluency can be an asset to your organization’s coverage.