U.S. Media Coverage of Israel-Palestine Conflict Is Changing
In a recent article in The Washington Post in May 2021, Eva Najjar, a UX designer currently based in Haifa but from the Palestinian village of Rama, wrote about the attacks in Gaza that started on May 9th.
When Palestinians protested the expulsion of families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, they were repressed by Israeli forces. More than 700 Palestinians were arrested between May 9th and May 14th. Najjar described how detainees suffered “fractures and injuries throughout their bodies, including their faces and heads. Police shot a 17-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel named Muhammed Kiwan in the head on May 12. He died on May 19.”
The eleven days of fighting —that lasted until May 21st —between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip was the worst since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. In addition to Gazan civilians who were killed or injured, thousands more were displaced. Homes and buildings were destroyed and the supply of vital services and goods was cut off.
The difference between the 2014 attack and the one this past May does not lie in the intensity of the destruction or even the sorrow from the losses, but perhaps the U.S. media coverage that followed the events. The status quo in American media is changing when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict — even while changes in U.S. foreign policy remain somewhat stagnant.
U.S. Media Coverage of the Israel-Gaza Conflict
In 2014, media coverage of Operation Protective Edge differed depending on the media source. U.S. publications were often sympathetic to Israel and sometimes failed to acknowledge the Palestinian perspective. In a July 2014 piece examining U.S. media coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict, The Times of Israel reported that British news sources, in contrast, were often more critical of Israel.
In May 2014, the events of Operation Protective Edge didn’t even make The New York Times; front page (which instead covered the ongoing central American children issue on the Mexican border), although it did receive some coverage in the international section. In contrast, in May 2021, The New York Times published a piece that covered the more gruesome details of the events in Gaza — mainly the 66 Palestinian children that were killed during the eleven days of fighting between Israel and Hamas — with the emphatic phrase, “This is Who They Were.” The article featured pictures of the children and even their ages.
This was the first time in U.S. media history where faces were literally put to the names of Palestinian civilians killed in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Putting Faces to Names
In light of the events in Gaza this past year, The New York Times published an exclusive podcast entitled “Nine Days in Gaza” in May 2021.
“You never get used to the sound of bombings,” Gazan Rahf Hallaq told The New York Times.
The publication of the 30-minute podcast — the transcript can be viewed here — is telling in the way that U.S. media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict has changed since 2014.
Hallaq, who at the time who was a 21-year-old English student and resident of Gaza City, is the type of Palestinian voice that has not received representation by major publications until last year. What is perhaps most remarkable about the episode of the The New York Times’ The Daily podcast is that it was published while the attacks in Gaza were still occurring, making it seem like The New York Times — perhaps the most powerful media publication in the United States — was just as sympathetic to the Palestinian perspective and the fallout after the fighting as it was to the Israeli side.
The podcast goes on to discuss the casualties of the fighting between Hamas and Israel, including how Israeli airstrikes killed 200 civilians, dozens of them children. Podcasters also discussed with Hallaq her life, her dreams, and how she suffered during the first nine days of bombings. Podcasts like this (along with the previous piece in The New York Times on Palestinian children) cover events and detail the cost of war. They also put faces to names and give Palestinian voices an outlet for expression of their hurt.