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Inside Story Americas

Gaza and the US media narrative

Is there potential for a shift in the US media's time-honoured portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2012 11:42

It is a familiar story: Israel bombards the densely populated Gaza Strip, and a US president defends its right to do so due to the rocket fire from the Occupied Territory.

As the number of Palestinian casualties grow, both US politicians and media express sympathy, but point out that the 'militants' brought it on themselves with their constant aggression. 

"The problem [is that these stories] are covered as cycles, they are covered as Breaking News rather than the larger context with a larger history .... [The issues] are complicated and they are contextual and therefore, unfortunately, they get chased out of a lot of American journalism which is looking for a simple story line."

- Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington Bureau Chief

As far as television coverage is concerned, the watchword is balance. 

No description of Palestinian suffering can be aired without a reminder of the suffering in Israel.

But what has made this year's bombardment interesting is the number of US journalists deployed to Gaza. 

Unlike previous years, Israel did not shut the territory down. The question is whether, as a result, the story being told by the US networks has deepend in its comprehension.

Another development is the recent success of a self-defined progressive TV network, MSNBC, that may be tempted to question the official narrative.

In addition, there is the flowering of online opinion, and newly energised outlets of dissent like the Occupy movement. 

A statement on the OccupyWallStreet.org website - which was later removed - appears to draw a moral equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli government.    

"There are at least two framing narratives that were utterly unchanged. The first one is of Israeli innocence, that Israel is somehow not responsible for what occurs, that it is simply reacting to issues .... There is no sense that Israel is occupying Gaza, occupying the Palestinian lands. There is no sense that when you occupy a people they will resist."

- Vijay Prashad, Trinity College

That statement said:

"Since the latest round of violence erupted in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, many of us in OWS have felt saddened and torn. We completely condemn the Hamas rocket attacks on civilians, but we also know that retaliation will only beget further violence.

"We hold diverse opinions on the ongoing situation there, but from the bottom of our hearts, we feel the utmost solidarity and compassion for those - on all sides of the conflict - who are suffering from terror and wish peace to prevail. It is possible to support those in Israel without supporting the injustices perpetuated by the Israeli state; we stand united against anti-semitism and Islamophobia alike, and we condemn violence from all sides."

Could these recent developments suggest that, this time around, there may be the potential for a crack in the time-honoured US media narrative around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

And how has the US media been covering the conflict in Gaza?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Frank Sesno, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University and a former CNN Washington bureau chief; Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Insitute for Policy Studies, who helped found the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation; and Vijay Prashad, a professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Connecticut, and the author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter.


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Source:
Al Jazeera
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