Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics

Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics

Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics

Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics

Synopsis

Few topics in the news are more hotly contested than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict- and news coverage itself is always a subject of debate. But rarely do these debates incorporate an on-the-ground perspective of what and who newsmaking entails. Studying how journalists work in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus, and on the tense roads that connect these cities, Amahl Bishara demonstrates how the production of U.S. news about Palestinians depends on multifaceted collaborations, typically invisible to Western readers. She focuses on the work that Palestinian journalists do behind the scenes and below the bylines- as fixers, photojournalists, camerapeople, reporters, and producers- to provide the news that Americans read, see, and hear every day.

Ultimately, this book demonstrates how Palestinians play integral roles in producing U.S. news and how U.S. journalism in turn shapes Palestinian politics. U.S. objectivity is in Palestinian journalists' hands, and Palestinian self-determination cannot be fully understood without attention to the journalist standing off to the side, quietly taking notes. Back Stories examines news stories big and small- Yassir Arafat's funeral, female suicide bombers, protests against the separation barrier, an all-but-unnoticed killing of a mentally disabled man- to investigate urgent questions about objectivity, violence, the state, and the production of knowledge in today's news. This book reaches beyond the headlines into the lives of Palestinians during the second intifada to give readers a new vantage point on both Palestinians and journalism.

Excerpt

You could say my field arrived at my doorstep every morning, back in the time when most people who regularly read the newspaper had home delivery. But it was at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. that I truly felt a beginning for my fieldwork on U.S. journalism during the second Intifada. I was awaiting the arrival of Mazen Dana, a cameraperson for the Reuters news agency who was based in the West Bank city of Hebron. Mazen was coming to the United States to receive a freedom of the press award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based organization. I was making a short documentary—my first—about cpi and Mazen’s work. It was November 2001, just months after the Al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, and the airport was a place of some anxiety for Arabs and those hoping to receive them. the embrace between Mazen Dana and Joel Campagna, CPJ’s Middle East director, exuded momentary relief. But no one was really at ease. As we drove home from the airport, Joel and Mazen talked about the news of the day. the United States had just bombed Al-Jazeera’s office in Kabul as part of the war in Afghanistan. Mazen Dana was an unusual candidate for CPf’s award. the organization usually honors journalists from around the world who investigate, write, and publish stories about corruption, conflict, or human rights abuses. Mazen did not write, edit, or publish. He had worked in his hometown for over a decade carrying a heavy video camera on his shoulder day after day to report on some of the most pernicious violence in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. in the year before Mazen received the award, as cpi recounted,

Dana was shot in the leg with a rubber-coated bullet while filming Palestinian
youths throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. Two months later, Jewish settlers beat

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