Feb. 9, 2016
Many Journalists Write to Fit the Narrative that Israelis Are Bad and Palestinians Are Good – Zenobia Ravji (The Tower)
- The concept of a Jewish state has always made sense to me. Perhaps because I myself come from an ancient ethnic and religious minority, the Zoroastrians, who continue to live in a diaspora outside of what was once our homeland, Iran. So I came to Israel with a predisposed understanding of the need for a state, a safe haven for a people that has been a global minority for millennia and continuously persecuted.
- I first came to Israel in January 2014 as a graduate student in journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a two-week holiday that turned into two years. When I accidentally ventured into the West Bank during my travels, I had no idea I was even there. I was surrounded by tranquil scenes, modern infrastructure, and economic cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis.
- I thought people should see the entire truth – not just soldiers, bombs, and riots, but also what’s happening when none of the drama is taking place. And it wasn’t just the normalcy of life in the West Bank that went unreported. Many of the human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority were never mentioned, such as the lack of freedom of speech and the press, and a complete neglect of the Palestinian people by their own politicians, who continue to exploit the peace process while pocketing European and American funding for a “free Palestine.”
- I decided to stay in Israel to complete my last semester of journalism school, which consisted of one major project. Mine was a feature story on economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. It was a documentary that takes place on Sde Bar farm in the Israeli settlement of Nokdim, following the lives of an Israeli farmer and a Palestinian man who works with him.
- During my time in Israel, I landed an internship with an Israeli non-profit that provided support services for foreign reporters based in Israel. My job was to accompany members of the press on field tours, getting perspectives on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. I found to my surprise that much of the foreign press was ignorant in their reporting. They tended to write stories that fit the preconceptions of their editors. For the most part, this narrative consisted of the idea that Israelis are bad and Palestinians are good.
- Israel is the only country in the region that respects freedom of the press. Members of the foreign press are free to say whatever they want about Israel, without fear of censorship or retaliation. This is not the case on the other side of the conflict. During the 2014 Gaza war, there were several incidents in which Hamas deleted photos and video footage from journalists’ memory cards before they crossed back into Israel. Hamas wouldn’t let them report the entire story.