The independent media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting on the media coverage from http://www.fair.org
Missing from Mideast Coverage: Occupied territories no longer "occupied" on TV news
November 3, 2000
The turmoil in the Middle East has been a top international story on television news since fighting broke out between Palestinians and Israeli troops and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza in late September. But amid the constant flow of footage showing violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, a central fact of the conflict has been missing from almost all network TV coverage: the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territory.
The three major networks' evening news broadcasts-- ABC's World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and the CBS Evening News-- aired 99 stories mentioning the West Bank or the Gaza Strip from the outbreak of fighting on September 28 through November 2. But only four of these stories informed viewers that Israel occupies those lands.
Virtually the entire world, including the United States and the UN Security Council, regards Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian land seized in the 1967 war as a violation of international law. Even Israel does not contend that the West Bank and Gaza are part of its national territory, instead referring to them euphemistically as "administered territories."
Yet in a typical 90-second news story reporting on "Palestinian violence" (as it is routinely called) against Israeli occupation soldiers, viewers are not told that Palestinians are fighting against a military occupation. The right to use force to resist foreign occupation is universally recognized and enshrined in international law.
During Iraq's seven-month occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91, TV journalists had little difficulty recognizing this principle. On ABC, Peter Jennings forthrightly referred to the country as "Iraqi-occupied Kuwait." "Tell us about the resistance to the Iraqi occupation," Jennings asked in an interview with a Kuwaiti living under Iraqi rule (World News Tonight, 9/6/90).
On CBS, Dan Rather reported that Westerners who had left the emirate "are bringing back stories of an occupied but still unconquered nation" (CBS Evening News, 9/11/90), while his correspondent in the Persian Gulf reported on Kuwaitis who "have vowed to return to resist the Iraqi occupation" and reports of "attacks and ambushes on Iraqi soldiers by a fledgling Kuwaiti resistance" (CBS This Morning, 8/23/90).
Yet in the Israeli-occupied territories, CBS correspondents today talk of "Israeli soldiers under daily attack"; "Israel...again feeling isolated and under siege"; and, in one case where Israeli occupation troops abandoned a fortified position in the West Bank, "Israelis have
surrendered territory to Palestinian violence" (CBS Evening News, 10/4/00, 10/8/00, 10/7/00).
About 164 people have died in the conflict so far, at least 152 of them Palestinians killed by Israeli settlers or occupation troops.
Some outlets have even taken the step of referring to occupied Palestinian land as part of Israel. Tom Brokaw (NBC Nightly News, 10/2/00) introduced a report about "the ever-widening eruptions of violence in Israel." He then went to NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher, who explained that Palestinians were "storming an Israeli army outpost in Gaza" and "setting siege to another army post in the West Bank."
When Israel's internationally uncontested status as an occupying power on Palestinian lands is omitted from the media's coverage, Palestinian rock-throwing is made to look like random aggression, and Israel's use of lethal weaponry can be portrayed as a legitimate response to provocation. The real status of Israel's presence was explained by the United Nations Security Council last month, when it unanimously called upon "Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations" under the Geneva Conventions to protect human rights in the occupied territories.
ACTION: Please contact the three networks and ask them to clearly identify the status of the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territories under international law when they report on the conflict in the Middle East.
NBC Nightly News
Phone: 212-664-4971 or 202-885-4259
ABC World News Tonight
CBS Evening News
Phone: 212-975-3691, 202 457-4385
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