Media guidebook on MidEast conflict sparks criticism

Book suggesting how to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict denounced by both sides
By Courtney Trenwith
Sun 10 Nov 2013 11:22 AM

A guidebook for journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict published by an international press freedom organisation has attracted widespread criticism for being too politically correct.

The guide by Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, contains words and phrases it suggests should not be used in coverage of the conflict, providing alternatives.

For example, the guide says “Apartheid wall” and “security wall/fence” are respectively offensive to Israelis and Palestinians, and journalists should use “separation barrier” instead, according to The Daily Beast, which has obtained a copy of the book, which will be distributed in Israeli and Palestinian newsrooms.

“Words are a touchy subject in the day-to-day reporting by Palestinian and Israeli media,” the IPI website says.

“Expressions that are regarded as incitement in Israel may be considered patriotic on the Palestinian side, and vice-versa.

“The one-of-its-kind reporter’s handbook, consisting of more than 75 words and phrases, is intended to serve as a guide to journalists covering the region as well as the Mideast peace process.”

However, it appears unlikely to gain much traction among journalists, particularly those based in the relevant areas. Newspapers on both sides of the fence have criticised the guide.

Israeli paper Haaretz called it "the useless reporter's glossary" and questioned whether anyone would use it.

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“Will it be an Israeli media outlet in the hands of right-wing publishers or those who feel that to attract readers or viewers they have to pander to the lowest populist denominator?” the newspaper asks in its article about the glossary.

“Or the Palestinian press that is part of a society that sees a national struggle of independence the only way to ending decades of oppression and occupation?

“Does anyone really believe that journalists on either side will be convinced of the need to adopt more impartial and neutral terms of reference?

"It would be wonderful if incitement ceased from those newsrooms, but that isn't going to happen because of a book politely asking them to do so."

A pro-Palestinian website agreed the glossary would not be adhered to, despite it being "a bold attempt" to create a politically correct record.

The guide was written by six anonymous Israeli and Palestinian media veterans who separately made suggestions, that were then compiled IPI. The project was funded by a grant from the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

It also deems some adjectives unnecessary, such as in “innocent civilians” and “peaceful demonstration,” while instead of “Judea and Samaria”, “eternal capital of the Palestinian people” or “united capital of Israel”, the guide recommends geographically specific terms like the West Bank, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem.

“Israel” is recommended over both “Zionist entity” and “Jewish state”. The former is perceived to deny Israeli statehood, while the latter ignores Arab history and implies that non-Jewish Israelis are not fully part of the state, the guide says.

It also recommends avoiding “Middle East expert” because some activists are often referred to as experts without disclosure of their partisan views.

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