A call for editorial standards on Palestine/Israel

9 min readMay 20, 2021
#SayEthnicCleansing / #CallItApartheid / Shrinking Palestine image credit: Visualizing Palestine

To sign on:

As journalists, scholars, antiracism and human rights advocates, we are appalled at the abject failure of US media to report factually on Israeli state violence against the Palestinian people. We join the growing call for basic editorial standards of context, accuracy, and antiracism to be applied to stories on Palestine and Israel.

We have watched in horror as news outlets reduce Israeli efforts to seize the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — part of a seven-decade project of colonization and expulsion — to “conflict” between “Arab mobs and Jewish mobs.” We have been outraged at reporting on Israeli strikes in densely-populated Gaza — often called an open-air prison — that repeats claims from Israeli army spokespeople that the residential buildings, journalists’ offices, schools, universities, and hospital access roads are legitimate targets.

We have also watched as Palestinians take to social media to report what they are experiencing and witnessing — and then again been horrified as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter suspend or throttle their accounts. We have heard reports of journalists pulled from covering Gaza because they called for newsrooms to “include historical and social context, reporters with knowledge of the region and, crucially, Palestinian voices.” We have seen leaked editorial standards that explicitly disallow the term “colonialism” in reporting on Israel’s colonization of Palestine.

Media integrity is shattered by such refusals to report on Israeli state violence and by the silencing of those who try to report it. These dishonorable actions make the media not only complicit, but a powerful tool for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

We call on newsrooms across the United States and the world to adopt editorial standards that reflect historical context and factual accuracy, and protect against the racist framings of Palestinians propagated by Israeli state sources.

Call it apartheid.

Palestinian communities have long made this argument. Both Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem issued reports characterizing the Israeli state’s systemic discrimination and violence as apartheid, despite tremendous political pressure from the state of Israel and its supporters.

Don’t “both-sides” a colonial power and the people resisting it.

Euphemizing terms like “conflict,” “clash,” and “flare-up” operate like the passive tense or “weasel words.” They hide the power differences between Israel — one of the most heavily militarized states in the world — and a Palestinian population resisting colonization, dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and lethal violence. Palestinian resistance to this violent system of occupation and apartheid is a legal right.

Use and center Palestinian sources.

Palestinian journalists are on the ground and reporting under incredible duress, but instead we are constantly presented with Israeli army spokespeople as sources — a slant that would be unimaginable if not for our parallel experience of media using police sources to report on police violence against US Indigenous communities, Black and other communities of color. This practice has an enormous impact. A study of the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza found that “the New York Times covered 431% of Israeli deaths and only 17% of Palestinian deaths, a ratio of 25:1.” Another 2018 “sentiment analysis” of five newspapers shows the skewed reporting that results from the vast overrepresentation of Israeli sources. This puts to rest any claim that US reporting based on those sources is neutral.

Don’t use racist or obscuring language.

Israeli sources frequently use racist, essentializing terms that minimize Palestinian identity, and US newsrooms habitually echo them. Refer to Palestinians in the language they determine for themselves. Palestinian citizens of Israel are not “Israeli Arabs.” Palestinian identity is not interchangeable with Arab identity of other lands. The absence of US reporting on Israeli violence against Palestinians inside or outside of Israeli borders does not mean a period of “relative quiet.” Hamas is currently the duly elected, governing party of Gaza, not “militants.” Consult with Palestinian sources on appropriate, accurate language.

Don’t conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Some institutions that excuse or defend Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing have called on media to tar as “antisemitic” those who oppose it. The IHRA definition of antisemitism is currently the primary tool for claiming that criticism of Israel is discriminatory — despite the fact that the author of the IHRA definition (and an international group of Jewish scholars) has rejected such claims. If you require an alternative, use these Five Principles for Dismantling Anti-Semitism.

Report on the growing global movement against the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians

The violence of May 2021 has catalyzed mass marches against Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, new political organizing among Palestinian youth, and new gestures of solidarity and interconnectedness among Palestinians, people of color, indigenous people, Jews opposing Israeli apartheid, and many others. Just as overemphasizing Israeli sources places a thumb on the political scale, failing to cover these connections results in skewed, mischaracterized reporting that empowers and prolongs Israeli state violence.

*This open letter for journalists, scholars, and antiracism/human rights advocates was initiated by the Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Advisory Council.

The undersigned:

[List in formation. SIGN ON at: tinyurl.com/SayEthnicCleansing]

Rabab Abdulhadi, Director and Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, San Francisco State University

Abigail Abysalh-Metzger, NGO representative

Shannon Al-Wakeel, Attorney

Laura Albast, Independent Journalist, Editor

Heshmat Ali, Human, attorney, civil rights advocate, human rights advocate

Jasmine Alkhatib, Clinical psychology doctoral student

David Alvarez, Professor of English

Bench Ansfield, PhD Candidate in American Studies, Yale University

Gloria Antonetti, Concerned citizen

Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor

Todd Ayoung, Cultural Worker

Alexandre Azzalini, Engineer

Benjamin Balthaser, Associate Professor of Multi-Ethnic Literature, Indiana University, South Bend

Vanessa Banti, Librarian, activist

Sari Bashi, Research Director, Democracy for the Arab World Now

A.J. Bauer, Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Alabama

Dalit Baum, Israeli activist

Joel Beinin, Professor of History, Emeritus, Stanford University

Lara Bitar, Editor in Chief, The Public Source

Benay Blend, Independent/Retired Scholar, American Studies

Lisa Bloom, Adjunct Professor, Media Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Anne Bluethenthal, Human rights artivist

Inga Boegershausen,

Steven Botticelli, Adjunct clinical faculty, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

JB Brager , Gender Studies & History scholar

Naomi Braine, Professor of Sociology

Madeline Brigell, Human Rights Advocate

Nasreen Broomandkhoshbacht, PhD Candidate, UCSC Anthropology

Bernadette J. Brooten, Scholar of Religion

Rachel Ida Buff, Writer and advocate for border abolition

Emma Carlisle, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation

Barbara Chasin, Professor Emerita, Sociology, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

Kathleen Christison, Writer

Annia Ciezadlo, Author and journalist

Em Cohen , Jewish Writer

Deborah Cohler, Professor

Merrill Cole, Professor of English and Queer Studies; Poet

Sarah Combellick-Bidney, Political science professor at Augsburg University

Kim Compoc, Scholar-activist, University of Hawaii West Oahu

Andrew Courtney, Artisit/Photo-Journalist

Elyse Crystall , Assoc Prof of English & Comp Lit

Ziad Dallal, Scholar of Arabic and Comparative Literature

Lydia Dana, Scholar: Sociology

Toni Dang, Human rights advocate

Marisol de la Cadena, Anthropologist UC Davis

Lara Deeb, Professor of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies

Nancy Diehl, Human rights advocate

Coy Dionco, Professor of Theology

Mary Ann Doane, Professor of Film and Media

Dany Doueiri, Professor, California State University

Emily Drabinski, Librarian

Michael Drexler, Professor of American Literature, Bucknell University

Lisa Duggan, Professor, New York University

Gabriella Edwards, Student

Akhtar Ehtisham, Surgeon

Kareem El-Hosseiny, Director of Government Affairs, CAIR-Georgia

Lara Elborno , International Human Rights Lawyer

Pamela Etheridge,

Nava EtShalom, Literature scholar

James C Faris, Retired teacher

Rimal Farrukh, Journalist

Bo Fauth, Lawyer

Gordon Fellman, Professor of Sociology

Anthony Fernandes, Human rights advocate

Jeff Fort, Professor of French and Francophone Studies

Cynthia Franklin, Professor of English

Emmaia Gelman, American Studies scholar

irene gendzier, independent scholar; retired prof BU

Andom Ghebreghiorgis , Former Congressional Candidate in NY-16

Terri Ginsberg, Film scholar

Don Goldstein, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Allegheny College

Inderpal Grewal, Professor, Gender studies

Sarah Grunwald, Travel writer

John Gunkel, Physician

Rani H, Student

Jean Halley, Professor of Sociology

Isaac Hand, PhD Candidate, NYU

Michael Harris, Professor of mathematics

Jessica Hatrick, Communication scholar

Glenn Hendler, Professor of English and American Studies, Fordham University

Doug Henwood, Journalist/broadcaster

Robert Herbst, Human Rights Lawyer

Katie Herman, Book editor, poet

Robert Herrera, Concerned

Moath Herzallah, Palestinian in diaspora

feras hilal, writer and performer

Khader Humied, Professor of Architecture

Sarwat Husain, Human Rights

Rachel Jennings, professor of English

Lynne Joyrich, Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University

Alex Kane, Journalist

Caren Kaplan, Professor Emerita, American Studies, UC Davis

Assaf Kfoury, Boston University

Laleh Khalili, University Professor

Moiz Khan,

Ayaz Khan, Physician

Ibrahim Khan, Human rights advocate

Z Khan, Human rights advocate

Maryam Khan , Journalism undergraduate student

Maryam Khan , Journalism undergraduate student

John King, Composer/cultural worker

David Klein, Professor of Mathematics, California State University Northridge

Lisa Maya Knauer, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Kimberly Knight, Teacher, activist

Olga Kopenkina, scholar, curator

Julie Kosowski, Human Rights Advocate, Jewish, Daughter of another European Genocide

Astrid Kosowski , Human rights advocate

Kathryn Kueny, Scholar, Islamic Studies

Rachel Kuo, Scholar, Co-leader Asian American Feminist Collective

Sergio Laforgue,

Savannah Landau, Jewish American human rights advocate

Nanette Le Coat, Human rights advocate

Ellen Leopold,

Michael Levin, Musician

jil levin deheeger, advocate

Mark LeVine, Professor of history, journalist

Alan Levine, Human rights lawyer

Zachary Lockman, Professor, New York University

Scott Long, Ph.D., Human rights activist/advocate

Alex Lubin, Professor of African American Studies

Yasmine Lucas, PhD candidate, Anthropology, University of Toronto

John Maclean, Medical practitioner

Charles Manekin, Professor of Philosophpy

Curtis Marez, Scholar

Eli Massey, Independent journalist, former editor at Current Affairs magazine

Jeffrey Melnick, Historian

Haynes Miller, Professor of Mathematics

Susette Min, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies, UC Davis

Susette Min, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies, UC Davis

Narjes Mish, Human rights advocate

Husain Misherghi, Fellow human and American citizen

Siraj Mowjood, Physician

Bill Mullen, Scholar

Rossa Mullin, Documentary Filmmaker

John Munroe, Concerned Citizen

Carol Muskin, Northwestern University, School of Education and Social Policy Adjunct Faculty

Rima Najjar, Retired professor of English literature (Al-Quds University, West Bank), Blogger (Palestinian and righteously angry — Medium), OC member of USACBI.

Jamal Nassar, Dean Emeritus

Anjali Nath, American Studies scholar

Elizabeth Neoman, Journalist/human rights advocate

Ezra Nepon, Author, Justice Justice Shall You Pursue: A History of New Jewish Agenda

Sheryl Nestel, Independent Scholar/Activist

Donna Nevel, Community psychologist/educator

Aaron Niederman, Reconstructionist Jew

Benjamin Nolan, Doctoral Candidate, UMass, Amherst

Judith Norman, Philosophy professor

John Oakes, Publisher, The Evergreen Review

Joseph Oesterlé, Emeritus Professor in Mathematics, Sorbonne University, Paris

Hannah Osland, University of Hawaii, Marine Lab Technician

A. Naomi Paik, Associate Professor of Global Asian Studies and Criminology, Law, and Justice at University of Illinois, Chicago

Laurie Palmer, Artist and Professor

David Palumbo-Liu, Scholar, human rights activist, writer, Stanford University

Shailja Patel, Scholar

Leah Pearlstein, Member of JVP Westchester

Rosalind Petchesky, Scholar, activist (Distinguished Professor Emerita — Hunter College & Graduate Center CUNY)

Jenny Polak, Artist

Mehr Qayyum, Blogger, Data Scientist -Governance Metrics

Madeline Reed, Concerned American Jew

Ru Ren,

Cheryl Riggs, Emeritus Professor of History, California State University San Bernardino

Fluffy Robin, A Muslim that can’t stand what’s happening

Stephen Roddy, Professor of Modern & Classical Languages, USF

Paula Roderick, Attorney, human rights advocate

Dylan Rodriguez, Professor, Ph. D.

Lisa Rofel, Professor, University of California

Bruce Rosenstock, Jewish Studies scholar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Meredith Ryan, Human and civil rights advocate

Mariko Sakurai, Care worker

Mays Salamah, Freelance Editor, performer

Leslie Salzinger, Scholar, Sociology and Gender Studies

Aseel Sawalha, Fordham University

Emily Schacter, Grants manager for sexual and reproductive rights

Abdallah Scheib, MD

Heike Schotten, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston

Sarah Schulman, Distinguished Professor, City University of New York

Susan Schuppli, Director, Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London

Daniel Segal, Professor of Anthropology and History

Arif Shaikh,

Arif Shaikh,

Orrin Shindell, Assistant Professor of Physics

Lincoln Z. Shlensky, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Victoria

Kristina Shull, Assistant Professor of US and World History

Bobbi Siegelbaum, Retired Health/FamilyLivingEducator, Human Rights Advocate

Seth Sieger, Jewish American student

Richard Silverstein, Journalist

Sarah Sklaw, History PhD Candidate, NYU

Jeffrey Skoller, Assoc. Professor, Film & Media, UC Berkeley

Newland Smith, Member, Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network

Abba Solomon, Researcher in American Zionism

Dean Spade, Professor of Law, Seattle University

Dr. Michael Spath, Executive Director, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace

Virginia Spatz, Journalist, We Act Radio

Christopher Stone, Associate Professor of Arabic Hunter College (CUNY)

Shelley Streeby , Professor of literature and ethnic studies UCSD

Thomas Suarez, Historical researcher, British Mandate period

Rebecca Subar, Peace and conflict studies scholar

Fadi Tahrawi, Human rights advocate

Lia Tarachansky, Journalist & Documentary Filmmaker

Urooj Tarar, Journalist

Barry Trachtenberg, Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish History, Wake Forest University

Chloe Truong-Jones, PhD candidate in American studies

Katie Unger, Advocate

Eli Valley, Comic artist

Ayelet Wachs-Cashman, Legal Assistant

Alan Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor Emeritus,University of Michigan

Gordon Ward, Concerned Jew

Dror Warschawski, Research associate, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France

Nan Warshaw, Human rights advocate

Kyla Wazana Tompkins , Associate Professor, Pomona College

Elizabeth Weed, Scholar, feminist studies

Julie Weiner, Advocate for human, civil, voting and election-integrity rights

Alistair Welchman, University of Texas at San Antonio

John Westerfield-Moses, Human Rights Activist

Catharine White , Independent writer and editor

Lesley Williams, Human rights advocate, JVP and the International Jewish Collective for Justice in Palestine

John Willoughby, Professor Economics, American University, Washington, DC

Gill Wing, Journalist

Rabbi Alissa Wise

Will Wolfson, Neuroscientist

Rain Wright , Scholar, English

Isra Yazicioglu, Professor of Religious Studies

William Youmans, Scholar of Media Studies

Gabriel Young, Scholar, Middle Eastern Studies

Yousra Zaheer, Human rights advocate

Omar Zahzah, Education and Advocacy Coordinator — Eyewitness Palestine; Independent scholar

Ana Zeiger, Jewish antiracist organizer

Nina Zhiri, Professor of Literature, University of California San Diego

Sulafa Zidani, Scholar of Media Studies and Communication