Deconstruction Zone: Journalists Against Truth
Jul 2, 2021 | Noah Rothman
On May 14, an open letter was published calling on the Australian media to “Do Better on Palestine”, and “Consciously and deliberately make space for Palestinian perspectives, prioritising the voices of those most affected by the violence” and “avoid ‘both siderism’.” It was signed by dozens of prominent and less prominent Australian journalists. Similar “open letters” appeared in other countries, including the US. The following article specifically addresses the wording of the US letter, but its overall analysis also applies to the Australian version.
In recent weeks, a slew of reporters added their names to an open letter calling for an end to their profession.
They don’t frame their demands that way, of course, but that would be the practical effect of their recommendations.
The many high-powered journalists who signed on to this petition have demanded that news media embrace and disseminate “a narrative” – an elementarily didactic tale in which “Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians is overwhelming,” a fact that “must no longer be sanitised.”
Theirs is a romantic fable in which Israel is powerful, the Palestinians are powerless, and journalism’s role should be to promote this tale – not just to inform but to get results.
The first problem with this mission statement is that it is predicated on a series of falsehoods. These reporters affirm that it is an indisputable fact that Israel’s conduct constitutes “apartheid, persecution, ethnic supremacy” because these terms are “gaining institutional recognition” – the “many people are saying” standard of veracity.
“Media outlets often refer to forced displacement of Palestinians living there – illegal under international law and potentially a war crime – as ‘evictions.’” They claim that it is a falsehood to contend that this is a mere “dispute” between a landlord and a tenant in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
But that’s precisely what this is.
The legal conflict between Jewish owners who claim a chain of documented title over one piece of property going back to 1875 and its Arab occupants who’ve resided there since Israeli independence in 1948 – when the property, but not the title, was ceded to them by Jordan – has been working its way through Israel’s independent judiciary for four decades.
Maintaining the fiction that Jerusalem was seeking to “Judaize primarily Palestinian neighbourhoods,” is crucial to the “narrative.” It inserts the Israeli Government into affairs that it wasn’t involved in.
This leads us to yet another ponderous assertion made by these self-described journalists: Western journalism tends “to disproportionately amplify Israeli narratives while suppressing Palestinian ones.”
The very notion that the news media is somehow unable to “accurately reflect the plight of the Palestinians” is so solipsistic that one has to wonder what reality these reporters inhabit.
The Palestinian territories and east Jerusalem are routinely described in the press as “occupied,” though that’s oversimplified to the point of being misleading. In Gaza, every Jew was forcibly relocated by the Israeli Government in 2005, and much of the territory presently under “occupation” would be ceded to Israel according to the terms of the many proposed resolutions to this conflict.
We are routinely treated to soft-focus profiles of the long-suffering Palestinian people who languish under oppressive regimes that devote more of their money and energy to making war against Israel than serving their people. And yet, the villain of this rather straightforward story is always the same and almost never the true malefactor.
As Vox.com reported, progressives in government and the press have come to view the Palestinian cause as an extension of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. They use BLM’s campaign against police violence as a heuristic to navigate a conflict they don’t understand and which they don’t seem to want to understand. Rather, they want it to comport with a childishly simplistic, Marxist-flavoured narrative about how power dynamics explain the world.
Call that what you will, but you can’t call it reporting. What these alleged journalists want isn’t journalism. They are on a “sacred” mission to promote “contextualised truth.” Another way to say “contextualised truth” is “lie”. It even makes for pithier copy, which is what real reporters strive to produce.