Friday, December 9th | 15 Kislev 5783

June 13, 2021 1:12 pm

Lethal, Own-Goal War Journalism on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

avatar by Richard Landes


Amnesty International employee and journalist Hind Khoudary. Photo: Instagram. – The month of May 2021 taught us Israelis many unfortunate things — things we hoped were not true (and continue to hope are not true) — about the sad straits of Israeli democracy; the relentlessly authoritarian nature of Palestinian or, for that matter, Arab and Muslim political culture; the troubled relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel; the rising strength of religious hatred in the region and the world; and, at least for me, the most senseless yet persistent phenomenon that crops up every time open conflict between Israelis and Arabs breaks out: namely the own-goal, lethal war journalism of the Western media and the wave of hatred it predictably unleashes around the world.

A brief preliminary discussion about the three types of unethical forms of “war journalism” is in order. There is patriotic war journalism: reporting as news your own side’s war propaganda; lethal war journalism: reporting as news a foreign belligerent’s war propaganda; and own-goal war journalism: reporting your enemy’s war propaganda as news.

Modern, professional journalism considers patriotic war journalism unethical, a prostitution of its high calling. While reporters sometimes sympathize with one “side” in a foreign war, lethal war journalists systematically give credence to one belligerent’s narratives, depicting the other side as an atrocious enemy. The third category seems wholly improbable, since why would anyone do something that stupid?

And yet, in the 21st century, the land “between the river and the sea” has given birth to a peculiarly virulent case of both lethal and own-goal journalism among Western news providers. From 2000-2002, a wave of the most ferocious and provocative lethal journalism in the history of modern, professional journalism came from Western journalists who published dishonest Palestinian claims about Israeli evil-doing (targeting kids, massacring civilians) and ran them as news.

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