On 11 February 2024, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and the Institute for Palestine Studies hosted the symposium “The War on Gaza in Western and Arab Media”, as part of the Second Annual Palestine Forum. Moderated by Muzna Shihabi, Development and Communications expert at the Arab Center, Paris, the panel featured presentations from Yara Hawari, Co-Director of Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network; Ben White, Founding Executive Director of The Britain Palestine Media Centre; Yousef Munayyer, Head of the Palestine/Israel Program and Senior Fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC, and Wael Abdelal, Assistant Professor of Media and Mass Communication at Qatar University.
Hawari began by discussing Western media’s complicity in the genocide in Gaza, stating that the mainstream media coverage of the ongoing genocide in Gaza has highlighted not only deep biases in favour of the Israeli regime but also the ease with which Palestinians are dehumanized. This dehumanization is a core element of colonization and of genocides around the world. The Western media adopts a dehumanizing rhetoric that is deeply rooted in white supremacy and colonial dominance. These tactics of dehumanization, according to Hawari, include adopting the language from the discourse of the war on terrorism and the “unchilding” Palestinian children. Lastly, Hawari highlighted that there is a modus operandi among Western journalists and media platforms vis-a-vis Palestine where standard ethical codes of journalism are disregarded.
In the same context, drawing on examples from Western media, Munayyer discussed media bias and how it has evolved over the duration of the war on Gaza, examining framing, topics, and patterns of coverage. Munayyer argued that a key US contribution to the Israeli war, perhaps more important than money and bombs, was filtering information in order to widen the political space to carry out this onslaught. This has created the most significant bifurcation of views between the West and the East in recent history and has been detrimental to US interests in the process.
White addressed the widespread criticism by Palestinians and others of the coverage by English-language Western media outlets of Israel’s unprecedented offensive against the Gaza Strip since 7 October. He focused on what the media got wrong and why, as well as demonstrating what good coverage looks like. He emphasized that some of the problems highlighted in recent months are familiar and long-standing, as well as more unique, context-specific challenges, but there are also opportunities to be taken.
Lastly, Abdelal presented the discrepancies in the coverage of the Gaza war in Arab media. While Arab media supports the Palestinian cause to the extent that they compete for coverage and quality, a consensus has been absent in the current Israeli aggression in Gaza. The Arab media coverage has taken two directions. The first has focused heavily on the war and its repercussions. The second has taken a non-neutral stance, employing sceptical and sometimes hostile rhetoric in an attempt to condemn the Palestinians. Abdelal also highlighted the absence of objective political and field analysis, and the lack of information in Arab media coverage. He concluded by discussing the phenomenon of foreign Arabic-language channels.