by Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath
”They think we are terrorists,” Palestinians would say when I asked what they thought the outside world thought of them. And when I asked why, they would say, “That’s what the media calls us.” After living in Palestine for a year, I learned that many Palestinians would argue that since the first and second intifadas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, mainstream Western media have been quick to lump together all Palestinians into the group of extremists who portray the region in a negative light. The mainstream media may not directly call all Palestinians terrorists, but news about Palestinian culture and life under the occupation does seem absent from Western newspapers and television screens.
Journalists in Palestine face some level of censorship from the Palestinian Authority, censorship and intimidation from Hamas in the Gaza strip and censorship from the Israeli military. Both Israeli and Palestinian journalists are also restricted in where they can go within the region. These restrictions have given birth to a new kind of media within the area, alternative news.
Websites such as alternativenews.org, electronicintifada.net, and 972mag.com are now the places to get information about the region and the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. They are also the places to find out about the culture of the Palestinian people. These sites are dedicating themselves to covering the region with on-the-ground reporters and bloggers. These journalists and bloggers are committed to telling the world about the situation in Israel and Palestine. The mission of these alternative news sites is to tell the stories they say mainstream Western media are missing. They generally offer news and analysis of both Palestinian and Israeli culture and politics.
+972 Magazine, named after the area code that is shared by Israel and Palestine, is one of the up and coming alternative news sites. Started in 2010, after the merger of several English-language blogs, it brought together journalists from all over the world to write about how the conflict is influencing daily life in both Israel and Palestine. On its website, the +972 Magazine editors say their purpose “is to offer a fresh, on-the-ground perspective and analysis of the rich and unexpected cultural and social life in this region.”
Many of these sites are biased toward the Palestinian case and provide one-sided analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Palestinian fight for freedom. But these alternative sources of news are also giving a voice to the culture and society of the Palestinian people, something missing from mainstream Western media and even more traditional Middle East news outlets.
Alternative web news is becoming the outlet for Palestinian news that is simply ignored or overshadowed by the region’s other issues, such as the Arab spring and Israel’s concern about Iran.
These sites are gaining in popularity, but will they reach a Western audience so that Palestine can be seen for its rich culture and not just its conflict?