The latest surge of violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel was fueled by a horrific series of events involving Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. Brooke talks with Philip Weiss, co-editor of Mondoweiss, about coverage of these recent events, and how the view of the conflict is shifting in the media.
BOB GARFIELD: From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media. I’m Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I’m Brooke Gladstone. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at its deadliest in years. As Hamas rockets launch into cities and towns in Southern Israel, Israeli bombs pummel the Gaza Strip.
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Palestinian sources say that the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 100. This recent surge in violence was fueled by a horrific series of events.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: We have breaking news out of Israel right now. TV stations there are reporting that three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank have been found dead.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Just hours after they were buried, a 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was abducted. His body was later found burned. The early autopsy results show he was alive when he was set on fire.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: It's widely assumed he was killed in an act of revenge by Israeli extremists.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: Abu Khdeir’s Palestinian-American cousin Tariq was attacked and beaten by Israeli forces, as he attended a protest after the murder.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That Palestinian-American teen, 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir, was visiting family in Jerusalem from Tampa, Florida. A video that is said to show Israeli police beating and kicking him and photos of his battered and swollen face have circulated widely online, fueling outrage and extensive coverage in the US media. Philip Weiss, co-editor of Mondoweiss.net, says the attack on Tariq Abu Khdeir has prompted a landmark moment in coverage of the conflict.
PHILIP WEISS: Both the Washington Post and New York Times covered this in a way that I have not seen in the past. At the top of the front page of the New York Times, you saw a three-column photograph of Tariq Abu Khdeir badly beaten. His face is still misshapen. In the Washington Post, they had a video interview where the kid got to say, “I don't why they did this to me, I was just watching. I wasn't throwing stones.”
TARIQ ABU KHDEIR: I don’t know why they hit me that hard. I fell asleep from how hard they hit me. I went unconscious.
PHILIP WEISS: I was so surprised and pleased to hear the NPR report by Daniel Estrin in which he quoted Tariq’s mother, Suha Abu Khdeir, saying, “Now I understand why Palestinians hate Israel.”
SUHA ABU KHDEIR: After actually coming and, and going through it, I don’t blame these people for how – hating, for having so much hate – for Israel.
PHILIP WEISS: I mean, to have that type of statement in the American media in a dignified way, relating the Palestinian experience, it was just surprising.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So tell me about the coverage on mainstream TV outlets. Did you see a shift there, as well?
PHILIP WEISS: I was really amazed to see that Ayman Mohyeldin on NBC News was going to the grave of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was the 16-year-old abducted last week, going to that grave with Tariq Abu Khdeir, who was Mohammed’s cousin was so badly beaten.
TARIQ ABU KHDEIR: I feel so bad that like I missed the chance to see him for the last time.
PHILIP WEISS: I mean, it was just a tremendously moving moment, and I think we have to acknowledge that here’s an Egyptian-American reporter, Mohyeldin, with a Palestinian-American boy. It just reflects a degree of diversity in the reporting. And Jake Tapper grilled Israeli spokesman Mark Regev on CNN the other day.
JAKE TAPPER: Mark, Palestinians say this happens all the time. The only difference is that this kid was American.
PHILIP WEISS: He even asked Regev if this isn’t part of the culture of Israeli, which is a narrative that we have not heard much in the American mainstream.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How do these stories differ from what you’re used to seeing? Is it simply that they’re there, at all?
PHILIP WEISS: Here, I would contrast that to the coverage of, say, Emily Henochowicz, a Cooper Union student just four years ago, when she was shot with a tear gas canister. She was protesting specifically an Israeli attack on a Turkish relief ship, the Mavi Marmara –
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm.
PHILIP WEISS: - in which nine Turks were killed. She’s an American citizen. She’s an artist. She lost an eye. This could have been a big story. There wasn’t a lot of coverage of Emily’s disfigurement in the American press.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And why do you think that is?
PHILIP WEISS: Well, it’s been four years, and I think that there’s a certain understanding that Israel's response to the continuing resistance to occupation is going to be violent. That impression has built since 2008 or ‘9, the Gaza invasion and then the attack on the Mavi Marmara, which she was protesting. Instead of traditional treatment of this violence as being necessary for Israel security or is part of a cycle of violence, we’re beginning to see a narrative on the mainstream that says this is a product of occupation, that you can't have a military occupation for nearly 50 years, without producing resistance.
So I think that the American mainstream discourse is beginning to reflect a more international understanding of the conflict, which is that military occupation produces resistance.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Many besides Tariq’s mother have noted that if he hadn't been an American citizen, he wouldn't be in the news. And according to the Defense for Children International- Palestine, 214 children have been detained in Israel, as of May. And Palestinians are charged in military courts, where the conviction rate is nearly 100%. Will this bump in coverage have any real impact on how the conflict is covered more broadly?
PHILIP WEISS: I think it will. Traditionally, people said Israel is only acting out of its security needs or there’s a cycle of violence. The new narrative now is, no, this is occupation and this is the abuses that happen to people under occupation. That’s the narrative I see. This is now becoming something of a mainstream trend. And you and I both know when there’s a good story that’s a new narrative, journalists will jump on it. I have a friend who said to me, you know, my view of Israel was set by that Life Magazine cover in 1967 of those bronzed Israeli soldiers in the Sinai lounging on a tank after they’d destroyed the Egyptian army. And she said, you know, here were these people who were destroyed in Europe who had finally found a country of their own and they were, you know, triumphant against five invading armies. That’s what she believed. And, you know, without going into what's true and not true about that history, we’re in a different moment now.
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BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much.
PHILIP WEISS: Well, thank you, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Philip Weiss is co-editor of Mondoweiss.net, a news website covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, from a progressive Jewish perspective.