"To be clear, we certainly welcome all reporting that lays bare atrocities against oppressed peoples without justification or obfuscation—much like the article’s headline does. The imprecise language and framing used within the body of the piece, however, obscures the reality of such horrors if not outright legitimizes them."
August 15, 2023
Ali Sawafta, Journalist, Reuters
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Journalist, Reuters
Brian Moss, Ethics & Standards Editor, Reuters
Bradley Works, Managing Editor, Saltwire
Steve Bartlett, Senior Managing Editor, Saltwire
Dear Mr. Sawafta, Mr. al-Mughrabi, Mr. Moss, Mr. Works and Mr. Bartlett,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express my concern over an article written by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi of Reuters and published August 15 on the Saltwire website entitled “Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank raid - medical sources.”
To be clear, we certainly welcome all reporting that lays bare atrocities against oppressed peoples without justification or obfuscation—much like the article’s headline does. The imprecise language and framing used within the body of the piece, however, obscures the reality of such horrors if not outright legitimizes them.
Though the authors go on to mention the exact ages of the two Palestinians killed, they nonetheless opted to label the 16-year-old a “teenager” rather than a “child.” This may seem like a negligible difference, but set against the broader context and given the real consequences at stake, some pedantry is warranted. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is “every human being below the age of eighteen years,” while international humanitarian law charges occupying powers with the care and protection of children in occupied territories. Thirty-eight children have been killed in Occupied Palestinian Territory to date this year. Such appalling statistics are sadly so commonplace now that their gravity is diminished. However, given that so much of this conflict is contested on legal and technical grounds as opposed to on moral and humanistic ones, it is incumbent upon journalists to abide by their profession’s principles and use accurate labels. I would therefore ask that the statement in the first paragraph be updated so that “teenager” is replaced with “child.”
Relatedly, the authors’ use of the word “captured” to characterize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is incorrect and could mislead readers into thinking that Israel has a strong claim to or ownership of this territory. In fact, Israel occupies the West Bank in violation of international law. To exchange the accurate-though-unflattering “occupy” for the airbrushed “captured” is to erase the legitimate grievances of Palestinians and pardon Israel’s ongoing crimes. I would therefore insist that the word “captured” be replaced with “occupied” in the article’s penultimate paragraph.
We are glad to note that a recent Reuters article used the word “occupied” instead of “captured.”
For a thorough analysis on why Israel’s occupation of the West Bank should never be described as a “capture” of territory, please refer to CJPME’s resource for journalists.
Most concerning is the article’s final paragraph, in which Israel has “settled” the West Bank, while Palestinians are “split between a Western-backed administration and armed Hamas Islamists who reject coexistence with Israel.” I ask you to consider the following:
- Israel has not “settled” the West Bank. It has occupied it since 1967 and continues its incremental annexation of the West Bank through its ongoing construction and expansion of illegal settlements.
- Hamas has no significant presence in the West Bank. It has no material effect on the quality of life or self-determination of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. To suggest that Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are split between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is careless and exhibits a poor grasp of the situation’s fundamentals.
- Hamas is an Islamic liberation organization that, in addition to having a military wing, governs certain aspects of the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and provides social services, running hospitals and schools. Moreover, Hamas leaders have stated that they would accept a peace agreement based on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. To characterize them as “Islamists who reject coexistence with Israel” is demonstrably false.
- The Western-backed PA has all but lost its credibility in the eyes of Palestinians, an overwhelming proportion of whom do not feel as though it represents their interests. Instead, the Palestinian Authority is seen as a “sub-contractor for Israeli security.” To frame Palestinian political allegiance in such a reductive way not only shows a dearth of journalistic integrity, but undermines all Palestinians’ basic desire for and claim to freedom from the harshest and most restrictive of circumstances.
While this paragraph no doubt aimed to provide context to the ignorant reader, its being rife with falsities actually muddies the waters further. I would therefore insist that it be removed from the article as it only serves to diminish the validity of Palestinians’ stance.
I urge you to consider the precision of your language and to be aware of which narratives are served or overlooked in your framing of this issue. Should you wish, you contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Media Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East