Journalists have an obligation to spread the news. In fact, journalists often take on some of the toughest issues. Historically they have exposed some of the most profound injustices in the world with a mission to make the public aware so that it can take action if it wishes to do so. This continues to be the main role of journalist today. Fundamentally, they are the ones who are fighting against any form of censorship and the media does not have the right to have selective hearing. With this in mind, as consumers of the news, the responsibility of the citizen is to listen to the news and become informed.
However, when discussion arises in the media about Palestine, there seems to be a different set of standards. A short Google search will show you that major news networks in the United States such as NBC, CNN, and CBS have not reported about the state of Palestinians since October 2015. But since October, over 400 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, 650 Palestinians continue to sit in administrative detention, and Southern Gaza has been ravaged by floods continuing to devastate any hope of rebuilding infrastructure.
The media and major news sources fail us by not reporting fully on this issue and therefore fall short of their fundamental responsibilities. No matter your opinion on the conflict, we cannot fully address possible solutions to the issue until we all know what exactly is going on. We are experiencing a form of media censorship when they do not have interviews with Palestinians and solely show fleeting images of violence and death. Further, like many political actors in the Middle East, the United States media strips most Palestinians of their legitimacy by harshly labeling them as radicals, rogue actors, or the most offensive, terrorists. We see images of Palestinians but rarely, if ever, hear their voices. In the few instances where American reporters have made commentary on behalf of the Palestinians, they have been removed from their post or put on leave. Even in academic and knowledgeable settings, censorship occurs when people feel pressure to not talk about the human rights violations that Palestinians face daily.
So I want to ask the question: Why is the discussion of the plight of Palestinians with a sympathetic tone the issue that journalists are penalised for discussing? Why is this the issue that many people have been criticized for talking about?
There is a selective nature when it comes to freedom of speech when discussing Palestine. As a college student and a young person, I find that censorship is a topic that both I and my peers are concerned especially in light of current discussions of political correctness and language.
Therefore, I find it alarming:
When I hear that there are organizations that keep track of every Students for Justice in Palestine organization on college campuses in the United States and deem the organizations Anti-Semitic,
When a tenured college professor was fired for tweets criticizing the Israeli government (a case that has been picked up by the Center for Constitutional Rights),
Or when even discussing the situation is followed by consequences and condemnation.
Demeaning a group for bringing attention to a major modern day crisis that is rarely reported on is censorship. My discussion of Palestinian right to self determination and safety is not an opinion piece. The headlines containing numbers and statistics are not opinions or taking a side on the issue. There is no bias in that.
Furthermore, we cannot have selective hearing nor selective activism about an issue. Notable people such as Angela Davis, Judith Butler, Cornel West, and Alice Walker have spoken about this issue. As socially conscious people concerned about a variety issues, we have an obligation to be in support of those who are being demonized for questioning a status quo and practicing the right to think freely. By being denied statehood and a right to self determination, Palestinians are stripped of legitimacy and are consistently denied a right to exist as a people. Due to the lack of these rights, the conditions that Palestinians, or the millions of Palestinian refugees, live in are deplorable. People should be able to advocate for Palestinians without a fear of reprisal.
Some of the issues you may feel more well versed or passionate about have many similarities to the Palestinian cause. For example:
If you believe in prison reform and/or abolition - You should be concerned about the 6900 Palestinian political prisoners sitting in jail, some of whom are on the brink of death due to hunger strike.
If you believe in the abolition of racial profiling - You should be concerned about the number of checkpoints that Palestinians must arbitrarily pass through to get to work and hospitals.
If you believe people have the right to self determination - You should be concerned the reality of life in Gaza, which has been called the world's largest open air prison.
When it comes to the issues that we all concern ourselves with, not only does it fall on the shoulders of a journalist, news network, or broadcast company to talk about these issues, but it is also upon us to demand that all perspective are shown equally. In this article, I am barely skimming the surface of the number of stories, conflicts, policies, or political actions that could be debated about Israel and Palestine. In light of this though, with so much to discuss, we cannot afford to silence an entire population of people that are experiencing the violations of their most basic human rights, nor can we silence those advocating for them.