A trade union for Palestinian journalists has strongly condemned Western media organizations for perpetuating lies and propaganda about Israel’s siege of Gaza, saying that they have been “facilitating genocide” amid Israel’s “wholesale ethnic cleansing” of Gaza.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), a member of the International Federation of Journalists, put out the scathing statement this week, saying that Western outlets frequently serve as a mouthpiece for Israeli military propaganda rather than as sources of truth amid Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza.
“Even by the low standards set by media coverage of previous massacres in Gaza, the media discourse surrounding recent events represents a new low for the principles of journalistic integrity,” PJS said. “Shorn of any pretence of objectivity or truth, some Western media organisations have parroted Israeli government talking points, failed to challenge or even attempt to verify blatant misinformation and propaganda, and adopted dehumanizing and violent language about the Palestinian people.”
They point out that many Western outlets have failed to adhere to “basic journalistic standards”; as an example, PJS raises the incident in which President Joe Biden and Israeli leaders cast doubt on Palestinian officials’ count of the deaths in Gaza.
Last week, Biden said that he has “no confidence” in the death count and “no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.” He went on to say that civilian deaths were the “price of waging a war.”
His comments sparked outrage, with human rights groups, including the UN, noting that the Palestinian health ministry’s death counts have historically been reliable and journalists pointing out that Biden’s own State Department officials have cited the ministry’s death counts before in official reports.
At the time of Biden’s remark, Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Gaza had killed 6,500 Palestinians, according to the health ministry. Now, just eight days later, Israeli forces have killed a total of 9,000 Palestinians.
The killing of journalists in Israel’s siege has been unprecedented, experts say. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 35 journalists have been killed so far as of Thursday, including 30 Palestinian reporters, four Israeli reporters, and one Lebanese reporter.
“When, for example, the Israeli and US governments suggested — with no evidence whatsoever — that the Palestinian Health Ministry had inflated the number of Palestinians registered as killed in Gaza, many news agencies uncritically adopted this talking point,” PJS wrote. “By engaging in such unfounded speculation — driven by the propaganda of the Israeli war machine — media organisations are facilitating the mass death of Palestinians and laying the groundwork for a genocide.”
Indeed, many major U.S. news outlets often specify that the Gazan health ministry, like other government agencies in Gaza, is overseen by Hamas — despite the fact that this doesn’t automatically invalidate the health officials’ death counts and that the health ministry is partially overseen by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
When the health ministry reported that Israeli airstrikes had killed or wounded at least 400 people at Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, for instance, The New York Times added that the death toll was reported by the ministry “controlled by Hamas” and added that it wasn’t verified, sowing doubt in the number that has been corroborated by local hospital officials.
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