On the American channel CNN, a journalist asks Palestinian Muhammad al-Kurd live if he supports “violent demonstrations” in Jerusalem. Without hesitation, he replies: “Do you support the violent expropriation of my family?” When she asks him what he thinks of a possible expulsion, Kurd does not agree with the word: “This is not an expulsion, it is an ethnic expulsion”.
In recent days, with increasing tension in Jerusalem, Palestinians and Kurds alike have used interviews and social media to protest the way the press has portrayed the crisis. Kurd also complained on Twitter, for example, that his speech to the American newspaper The Washington Post was edited, leaving out words that are fundamental to him: colonialism and occupation.
It is nothing new that the Palestinians accuse journalists of not understanding the situation. But this issue was raised this week. The Kurdish family is being expelled from the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by the Israeli government if the Supreme Court upholds a first instance decision.
Protests against the measure have spread throughout the city – intensified by the Israeli police raid on al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest mosque, injuring hundreds.
Then the radical Palestinian faction Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem, killing two, according to Israeli officials. Israel retaliated with aerial bombardments in the Gaza Strip, killing 28 people, including 10 children, according to Hamas.
When the American newspaper The New York Times reported on these events, it wrote in its headline that “militants in Gaza fired rockets and Israeli police fought against Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem”. On Twitter, Palestinians protested that the headline implied that the rockets preceded police violence, reversing the order of events.
“This has been going on for years,” explains Franco-Palestinian Inès Abdel Razek, director of the Rabet organization. “The press portrays the situation as if it is a conflict between two parties unable to reach an agreement, but this approach is problematic. Palestinians today live under Israel’s sovereignty as second-class citizens, with fewer rights.
Sheikh Jarrah’s houses were built in 1956 by Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem, for Palestinian refugee families. Israel recaptured the territory in 1967, during the Six Day War.
After that, Israeli groups started to settle there. They said they bought this land in the 19th century, which the Palestinians disputed. The Israeli court accepted some of these demands and began to deport families. The last time happened in 2009.
One of the recurring criticisms from people like Abdel Razek is that newspapers – which follow the standard of always listening to both sides of a dispute – end up creating a sense of false equivalence. “They place the rockets fired by Hamas and the massive bombardments of the people of Gaza as if they were on the same level,” he said. “It ends up erasing the power structure.”
The situation, she says, is not unique to the Palestinian context. There is a parallel to the way the black population is sometimes represented in the United States – one of the things that drove the wave of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. “Palestinians, like blacks, are dehumanized. When we react, the media speak of “clashes” and “tension”, but it is a violent crackdown on the demonstrators. “
One solution, for Abdel Razek, is for the media to put the voices of Palestinian communities in the spotlight – as some have tried to do with black populations in recent months. Listen to them not only as victims, but also as analysts, and not just as racial issues.
This is not to ignore that Hamas is a radical militia, considered terrorist by the United States and Israel. He also did not fail to report his attacks, such as the one that hit an Israeli school this week. What is at stake for Palestinians who are unhappy with the press is also to understand the situation in which they live. This type of speech echoes what has been said in Brazil, in the case of the Jacarezinho police massacre, in which at least 28 people were killed by the police.
“Palestinians have been dehumanized for decades, and now we are trying to change that. Especially young people, who respond. The press is only interested in people when there are outbreaks of violence. But we face violence every day, ”says Abdel Razek.
“Palestinians only appear in the press when they are throwing stones, when they are angry, when they are a mass of people. They never portray our stories, our personalities, our feelings.