Narrative Control: a podcast about the Israel/Palestine conflict in the media

This podcast focuses on how both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict are represented in the media. It aims to point out examples of how the media portrays both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict, how anti-semitism is used to beat back any critiques of Israel, how Israel uses the media to justify the oppression of Palestinians and how all of this fits into a framework of a settler-colonial society. The media—newspapers, television, radio, etc.—are how a vast majority of people the world over get the information they need to make an informed decision. So it matters if there is a bias in the reporting or if certain voices are left out. I focused on four main topics: Use of the media, anti-semitism, the justification of oppression and the settler colonial framework. 

Capitalism plays a large role in how the media pays for the content they make. Ad sales and the selling of the audience’s eyes and ears are how media companies pay their employees, so the content that is produced matters quite a bit: News content that offends advertisers can be detrimental to a company’s bottom line. In this section, I quoted from “The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media,” by Greg Shupak who highlights how capitalism and the press work hand-in-hand.

I also play an audio clip from a Fox News clip that highlights how the conflict between the two groups is framed. Israel is usually talked about as a nation defending itself from violent terrorists, while Palestinians are represented much differently. I also quote from an academic study done by Usaid Siddiqui and Owais A. Zaheer called “50 Years of Occupation: A sentiment and N-gram analysis of U.S mainstream media.” The study looked at 50 years worth of coverage in five major newspapers and some of the results include how Israeli headlines were used four times as often as Palestinian ones, the use of the word “occupation” declined by 85% over the 50 years, and concludes that U.S press gave more opportunities to Israelis to amplify their voices. I include this because it quantifies the bias of the reporting.

Anti-semitism is used as a way for people to defend against critiques of Israel. In this section I focus on debates between Harvard University Professor Alan Dershowitz and Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill. The two have had fiery debates over the years on a number of different outlets. Hill oftentimes points out how Israel is accurately accused of war crimes and uses Apartheid-like tactics. Dershowitz routinely calls Hill a bigot and sidesteps questions. Hill worked for CNN for a number of years, but was ultimately fired after giving a speech to the United Nations. Hill used the term, “from the river to the sea,” which has a tumultuous history and is used by members of Hamas. However, it is also used by groups advocating for peace and is not a term synonymous with anti-semitic values. 

The next section focuses, on a lack of coverage in the media about legitimate accusations made against Israel by the UN and other institutions. I focus on how Israelis currently living in the illegal settlements justify the treatment of the Palestinians by using clips from a short documentary done by the New York Times. The interviews in the documentary include clips of how violence is used against the Palestinians as a “deterrence” and how a woman is okay with Israel’s (as she put it) fascist tendencies.

The last section I focus on how all of this fits into the settler-colonial framework. I give a definition of what settler-colonialism is and what it does to native populations. I touch on how hard it is to find accurate reporting done on the area and how the U.S media works hand-in-hand to further the settler-colonial project of Israel.

 This project was quite the undertaking at first and I didn’t quite know how to start it. I have done podcasts in the past that included first-hand reporting, but nothing like this. To prepare for the project I listened to a number of podcasts that I would consider more academic than journalistic and tried to base my recording off of those. I think in the end, simply writing would have been much easier, but the content would have been very different. I chose the podcast because it is a format that is very popular today and widely accessible for people to consume. It also would have been very hard to include audio clips into the written format and I wanted to give the audience the ability to hear firsthand what is being said in the media. At one point in the podcast I chose to include clips of people speaking in Hebrew. I did this because I wanted the listener to hear in the voices and the language of the people in the settlements. I paraphrased what was said ahead of the clips to give the English-speaking-listener the ability to comprehend what was being said, but I think it is important to use the clips of the people in their native language. 

As far as any shortfalls in my podcast, I wish I had the time and team to do my own media research that could mirror Siddiqui and Zaheer’s. I know I would not have had the time to look at the span of time these two covered, but wish I would have picked up the years where they left out. I know it is minor, but I wish I would have used a microphone to record the podcast instead talking at a computer screen. The sound quality bothers me a bit, but overall I am pleased with the content of the project. 

Bibliography

“’BDS Is A Bulls**t Purity Test’, Tlaib Lashes Out.” TheDC Shorts, YouTube, 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1BKHJHsHLM.

Cavuto, Neil. “Security Expert on Israel’s Response to Palestinian Protests.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 14 May 2018, https://video.foxnews.com/v/5784696947001#sp=show-clips.

“Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.” United NationsUnited Nations, 23 Dec. 2016, https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12657.doc.htm.

“Israel, Hamas Comments Ignite Explosive Debate.” YouTube, CNN, 1 Aug. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ4H7xi9CJc.

“Marc Lamont Hill at UN Calls for ‘Free Palestine from the River to the Sea’ to Chorus of Applause.” YouTube, Unwatch, 28 Nov. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvzSv28z97o

“Marc Lamont Hill On Getting Fired From CNN, His Remarks On Palestine More.” YouTube, Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM, 14 Dec. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_5k6AJoNDs

“October 2019 Approvals: 2342 Settlement Housing Units Advanced.” Peace Now, 31 Oct. 2019, https://peacenow.org.il/en/october-2019-approvals-2342-settlement-housing-units-advanced

“Palestine Refugees.” UNRWA, United Nations, https://www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees

“Shapiro: Media Outlets Acting as Propaganda Arm for Hamas.” YouTube, Fox News, 15 May 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdpYFOxNbak

Shupak, Greg. Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media. OR Books, 2018.

Siddiqui, Usaid, and Owais A. Zaheer. “50 Years Of Occupation: A sentiment and N-gram analysis of U.S. mainstream media…” 416 Labs, 19 Dec. 2018, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/558067a3e4b0cb2f81614c38/t/5c391cc4758d46ef9834907f/1547246789711/416_LABS_50_Years_Of_Occupation_Jan+9th.pdf

Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 8, no. 4, 2006, pp. 387–409., doi:10.1080/14623520601056240.

Zaki, Iris. “What It’s Like to Grow Up in an Israeli Settlement | Op-Docs.” YouTube, New York Times, 25 Mar. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eac1l1ozfLc

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