The latest chapter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has aroused passions around the country, and now it’s cropping up in newsrooms with staffers and activists putting leftward pressure on outlets to cover the Jewish state far more critically.
Israel declared war on Hamas after the terror group invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing over 1,200 people in Israeli border towns, mostly civilians. Hamas also took more than 200 hostages, and Israel has pounded Gaza in the weeks since, leading to accusations in an open letter signed by hundreds of former and current journalists that Israel is engaged in “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”
“We are renewing the call for journalists to tell the full truth without fear or favor,” the letter states. “To use precise terms that are well-defined by international human rights organizations, including ‘apartheid,’ ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide.’ To recognize that contorting our words to hide evidence of war crimes or Israel’s oppression of Palestinians is journalistic malpractice and an abdication of moral clarity.”
The letter, which said Israel was guilty of “atrocities,” also noted the dozens of journalists who have been killed in the war. It made just one mention of Hamas and complained that the war was improperly contextualized, despite being initiated by Hamas’ devastating terrorist attack.
“Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, in which more than 1,200 Israelis, including four journalists, were killed and some 240 others captured, these issues have compounded,” the letter states. “News coverage has positioned the attack as the starting point of the conflict without offering necessary historical context — that Gaza is a de facto prison of refugees from historic Palestine, that Israel’s occupation is illegal under international law, and that Palestinians are bombarded and massacred regularly by the Israeli government.”
“My hope for this letter is to push back on the culture of fear around this issue, and to make decision-makers and reporters and editors think twice about the language that they use,” Abdallah Fayyad, a former editorial board member at the Boston Globe, told the Washington Post.
Other signers from mainstream and left-leaning outlets represented in the letter include the Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, New York magazine, Washington Post, MSNBC, Bloomberg, Daily Beast, Chicago Sun-Times, HuffPost, and The Guardian.
On Nov. 10, the letter was updated to remove a signer with the Associated Press, although it was unclear who it was. The AP suspended another reporter, Issam Adwan, from covering the war in Gaza last month after a media watchdog exposed his fervently anti-Israel social media postings. The AP didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But it’s not just the demand for harsher coverage of Israel, which has been commonplace over the years when the ongoing conflict has made international news. Even a political cartoon noting the well-documented use of human shields by Hamas raised ire last week, inside the newsroom of the Washington Post.
The Post pulled a cartoon by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez featuring a Hamas spokesman decrying Israel targeting civilians, while a frightened-looking woman and four small children were bound with rope to his body. Opinion editor David Shipley wrote a mea culpa about the decision, saying some readers found it “racist,” and a separate email to staff by executive editor Sally Buzbee noted the “deep concerns” in the newsroom about it.
Ramirez told Fox News Digital the incident was “unfortunate” but praised his employer, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for standing behind him and the cartoon. The Post has an agreement where his cartoon appears in both outlets simultaneously twice a week, and Ramirez is reconsidering the deal after the Post’s action.
“People are emotionally invested in their politics,” Ramirez said of the reaction to the cartoon. “So it’s always going to cause a reaction, this one moreso just because of the heated debate that’s going on with the issue.”
One Post insider credited Shipley for limiting the fallout by acting quickly on the matter, although they acknowledged they didn’t expect the cartoon would cause a dust-up.
“There was both external criticism and internal criticism. I think a number of people inside and outside were offended by the caricature, both of the man and the woman. I’m not sure, however, if the message itself was the problem,” they told Fox News Digital, adding, “I went right past that cartoon and didn’t think anything about it until I started hearing the rumbles about it.”
Ramirez supplied examples to Fox News Digital of other pictures he’s drawn that use similarly exaggerated features, in response to accusations that he was crudely drawing Arabs.
The New York Times, no stranger to criticism over its coverage of the war, got a taste of pressure from the outside last week as well.
A group of protesters entered the atrium of the Times building in Manhattan carrying a banner calling for a cease-fire. They also wrote “lies” across the door in paint, read names of Palestinians killed in Gaza aloud, scattered mock editions of the newspaper and accused the media of “complicity in laundering genocide.”
The Times’ head of corporate security told staffers via email that the protests were “peaceful” and pointed out that no entrances were being blocked, according to the Associated Press. On the other hand, the Times has taken criticism from pro-Israel voices for some of its coverage, most notably when the newspaper admitted it relied “too heavily” on Hamas claims for its initial report on the Gaza hospital explosion last month.
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Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.