The Listening Post

Israel-Palestine: The conflict and the coverage

We analyse the polarising coverage of the clashes in occupied East Jerusalem; plus, the false binaries in the media.

Over the past few weeks, violent clashes have erupted in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, with youths taking to the streets to protest against an occupation that has lasted almost half a century.

Israel has been swift and brutal in its response – to date, more than 50 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces.

Videos of these attacks, as well as the reprisals, have been broadcast by mainstream media causing some to conclude that the news is fuelling the sense of grievance and then the violence. 

Whenever violence flares in this region, there are complaints from both sides over how this story is reported, and the same concerns – the lack of context, the issues around terminology and the way the stories are framed – have come to the fore once again.

Talking us through the media side of this ongoing story is Luke Baker, the bureau chief for the Reuters news agency in Jerusalem; Ben Hartman, a reporter with the Jerusalem Post; Jim Naureckas, an editor at the US-based media watchdog; and Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Other stories on our radar this week: A Chinese journalist has been held without charge for obtaining state secrets and press freedom groups are crying foul; in Ethiopia, the four remaining Zone 9 bloggers who had been imprisoned on terror charges for more than a year have now been freed; and a British newspaper publishes an expose accusing the UAE of paying a PR firm millions of dollars to spread negative news in the UK about its opponents, including Qatar.

‘Us’ and ‘them’ in media discourse

Binary narratives have long been employed by journalists as a storytelling device to present the news and package stories. Binaries are organised around oppositions – good and evil, freedom, tyranny, secular vs religious.

The common element in these binary narratives is they tend to privilege one group or term over another – creating a hierarchy of value.

Often the mainstream media merely reinforce binaries offered up by the dominant political discourse – George W Bush’s post-9/11 speech, that idea – that “you’re either with us or against us” – grew into one of the biggest binaries of them all – the so-called global war on terror. But what gets lost when these types of binaries are employed?

The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro looks at the issues surrounding binary narratives in the news media.

Social media has played a central role in the latest escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine. As well the videos, images, hashtags and statistics flooding the blogosphere, political cartoons have been shared addressing the various criticisms and biases that both sides see in coverage.

We have been tracking user-generated material online and have put together a selection of images to give you an idea of what people from both sides of the divide think of the news coverage.