How Corporate Media Whitewash Israeli Crimes: A Personal Narrative

This speech was delivered by MintPress founder Mnar Adley in Chicago at the Sirat Conference on December 25th, 2023. Adley was invited to give a keynote address to talk about corporate media’s complicity in Israeli war crimes and Israel’s attack on journalists.

TRANSCRIPT  //  Like many of you, my heart is weighed down so heavily by the ongoing turmoil in Gaza. And every day, I witness in absolute horror what Israel is doing to Palestinians, as it commits war crime after war crime; it’s watching dismembered children with their limbs blown off or helpless fathers carrying their decapitated babies while collecting the body parts of their wives and children in plastic bags. Or mothers carrying the dead bodies of their children, crying and screaming for them just to wake up. Or the newlywed wife who embraces her deceased husband, her lover, and gives him her last kiss and hug goodbye. It almost feels like we’re watching a sadistic horror movie right on the screens of our smartphones, but we’re not — we are watching in real-time a genocide of my people unfold before our eyes.

And the death toll stands stark and horrific — over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed by merciless bombs, guided missiles, and white phosphorous — weapons handed directly to an out-of-control apartheid state by our government and paid for by our taxpayer money.

If anything good has come out of this horrific war, it’s that the moral depravity of the so-called “rules-based order” has been exposed to the masses. The mask has fallen from the Neoliberal class. For far too long, liberal Western politicians have tried to convince us that they live by the standards of human rights, freedom of speech, and democracy. These are the same individuals and countries that say Israel has a right to defend itself against the world’s largest concentration camp. Our so-called leaders in Washington, London, and Brussels have weaponized human rights to sell the world’s so-called humanitarian wars and to expand its settler colonial projects. But let’s not forget that this ruling class is what brought us the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Somalia and the brutal maximum pressure campaigns, sanctions, and regime change operations against sovereign nations like Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and so many more countries who are resisting Western imperialism. Israel’s war in Gaza is just an outward representation of what the Neoliberal class represents — a bloodthirst for war that fuels the military-industrial complex. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon applaud this genocide. Think tanks that are funded by these weapon manufacturers draft the war policies for our politicians to make these wars inevitable. We see dead children; they see their stock prices go up.

But it’s clear that no matter how many millions they spend to manufacture consent for their wars and support Israeli apartheid, Palestinians have won the hearts and minds of humanity. Never have I seen such global dissent and awakening to Israel’s war in Gaza. We’re seeing a global awakening. Millions have taken to the streets, mass sit-ins at our elected officials’ offices have been organized, and boycotts. The massive coffee company Starbucks lost 12 billion dollars in a matter of one month from our boycott campaign. We have to disrupt the money-making mechanisms that make these wars possible. The capitalist system is meant to make us feel powerless, but we have the power to stop this war. And Israel knows this.

That’s why Israel is spending millions on propaganda, but it’s also systematically targeting Palestinian journalists in Gaza. Over 100 journalists have been killed so far in less than 70 days. These courageous individuals, committed to unveiling the truth, have become direct targets of a regime desperate to cloak its genocidal actions from the world’s scrutiny. Israel doesn’t want the world to see the reality of its genocidal onslaught in Gaza, so it’s assassinating the messengers. In most parts of the world, wearing a flak jacket marked “press” gives you protection. But right now in Palestine, it may as well be a target, as Israel has turned Gaza into what the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has called a “cemetery for journalists.”

And you’d think mainstream corporate journalists would talk about the targeting of journalists in Gaza, but they’re not. If legacy media outlets like the New York Times or CNN cover Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza, they don’t have the basic journalistic integrity to say who killed them and fail to point out that Israel is systematically targeting them. Corporate media are whitewashing Israeli crimes and playing the fool, pretending not to understand where the missiles come from. They pretend not to hear the genocidal rhetoric emanating from Tel Aviv, who are openly calling Palestinians subhuman who need to be cleansed out of Gaza. Brave journalists have lost their lives trying to document the Israeli onslaught — we will not forget Palestinian journalist Ayat Khadoura, who was killed in her home by an Israeli airstrike. In her “last message to the world” posted on Instagram, she said: “We used to have big dreams, but now our dream is to be killed in one piece so they know who we are.”

Today, my dear friend and colleague journalist Motaz Azaiza has chronicled with full transparency the horrors of life under incessant bombs. And people around the world are flocking to his page to get live coverage of the war because it’s become evident that Western corporate media are biased towards Israeli apartheid, pushing atrocity propaganda about October 7th to justify Israel’s genocide… Western media leave out the context that Israel is occupying Palestinian land and fail to mention the many crimes against humanity Israel is committing every single day according to the Geneva Convention. It’s no coincidence. It’s because organizations like the New York Times Jerusalem bureau are built on a Palestinian house in al-Quds, which belongs to a noted Palestinian writer, Ghada Karmi, a survivor of the Nakba.

The NYT also cooperates with Israeli officials by receiving and obeying gag orders from the Israeli government. The New York Times Israel bureau chiefs Ethan Bronner, Isabel Kershner, and David Brooks had their adult children enlisted in the Israeli army while they were actively covering Israel and Palestine for the newspaper. The so-called paper of record never made this public to its readers, raising serious questions of bias and a conflict of interest. The New York Times also has a history of firing journalists like Gaza-based photographer Hosam Salem following an intervention from the Israel lobby group Honest Reporting. CNN and others who are embedded with the Israeli military have to get their footage approved by Israel before publishing it.

These are minor examples that don’t even scratch the surface of how other media outlets work directly with Israel to control the narrative on Palestine or even how BIG Tech works with NATO and Israeli-funded think tanks like the Atlantic Council and the ADL to crack down on alternative information on social media platforms. Consider this: In a matter of 60 days, Motaz amassed over 17.5 million followers. While the New York Times has 9.4 million digital subscribers…. We are winning the information war, and people are breaking through the propaganda. Journalists like Motaz Azaiza, Younis Tirawi, Muhammad Smiry, Motasem Mortaja, Wael Dahdouh, Hind Khoudary, and Bisan, to name a few, are showing us in real-time the courage it often takes to be a journalist.

As Israel continues to pound Gaza and we continue to see images of death, blood, and destruction, it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s easy to be left speechless. But our story doesn’t end here… for every bomb dropped, every child left to survive but orphaned, limbs lost, every person pulled from under the rubble but left horrified… for every person left to survive… they survive to tell our story. We are the survivors — and our existence is our resistance. Israel thought it could bury us, but we turned out to be seeds. I was once that little girl who sat on her rooftop in Shufat–al–Quds and watched in horror Israeli jets drop bombs on homes in Ramallah. I was once that little girl who sat in her classroom only to look around to find my classmates missing each day because they were either killed or blocked from crossing a checkpoint to get to school…

I was once that little girl who was too afraid to look outside her window as Israeli soldiers pointed their rifles toward us during a militarized curfew… I was once that little girl who had her water cut off and had to hide in her barricaded home so that Israeli settlers wouldn’t come inside and attack her family. By 13 years old, I had already witnessed human rights abuses by a state that had convinced the world it was a civilized democracy. No child should have seen what I had seen, let alone what the children of Gaza are seeing today. By 13, I had already witnessed Palestinians subjected to discriminatory laws, having their travel controlled, and living behind a 30-foot-tall concrete apartheid wall separating them from the world. Every single day was a matter of survival while living under martial law and occupation. When I finally moved back to the US when I was 13 years old – to the pristine suburbs of Minneapolis, MN – where the lawns were perfectly mowed and perfect… life was calm… but my mind was racing with thoughts of children being killed by bombs, families left homeless from airstrikes, electricity and water cutoffs. I couldn’t stop thinking about the men and young boys who were abducted by Israeli police in the middle of the night raids and held in indefinite detention without trial and on no charge. I could not unsee what I had seen.

Little did I know moving overseas to Palestine as an American child would shape not only my perspective on the world but how the media operates. When we moved back to the US in 2001, it was just a few months before 9/11. I was absolutely traumatized. I suffered from what soldiers who fight in wars suffer from when they return home: PTSD, severe anxiety, and survivor’s guilt. I was just 13 years old and felt like no one understood what I had witnessed. While most teenagers in America were worried about football games, shopping, and partying, I turned to the media to stay up to date on the war I could not let go of. But what I got were images of Palestinian men covering their faces and bearing guns, stoking fear in the hearts of Americans while framing Palestinians as the aggressors. Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC gave Israeli leaders, and political figures paid millions of dollars by the Israeli lobby unlimited airtime on their networks to spew dehumanizing rhetoric about Palestinians and how much we hated ourselves, and that we wanted our children to die.

The media instilled fear in the hearts and minds of Americans to paint us as savages and barbaric to help justify Israel’s apartheid and fascist policies on a defenseless population. Why wouldn’t they? The US gives Israel over $10.4 Million a day to the apartheid regime. After 9/11 – the media propaganda machine went on steroids to dehumanize Muslims as barbaric and painted a caricature of jihad narrative about us to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – that left 4 million people dead. It became clear that Americans’ lack of understanding about the world was because of the media… And it’s as if they are all given the same script to talk about wars overseas. It’s no wonder six corporations own 90% of what Americans see, hear, and read. Americans are the most propagandized people on the planet.

Now, despite feeling alone, traumatized, misunderstood, and at times almost losing hope when I was 13, having lived under Israeli occupation and now living in a post 9/11 America, watching in horror on my TV screen US bombs being dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan…. It was this rock bottom place where I found courage and catharsis in pursuing journalism to speak up not just for Palestinians but for all people around the world who are living under war. It was at 13 years old that I decided to become a journalist. And in 2009, against all odds, I became the first American woman to wear the hijab while anchoring and reporting the news in the US. While I thought this was a great accomplishment at the time, I soon realized that very little change could be made within corporate media that is directed by marketing strategies and not actual journalism. I would just become the face of diversity at these stations while pushing dumbed-down stories to the masses.

This is why I started MintPress soon after when I was 24 years old – and about ten years later, MintPress is now a leading independent investigative news outlet in this country and around the world that exposes the profiteers of the war machine. Our investigations have been cited by politicians, major news organizations, academic journals, books, and much more across the globe. Our reporting has been used in negotiations between the US and Russia that helped stop a full-blown US invasion of Syria. But this route hasn’t been an easy one – my name has been dragged through the mud, I’ve been labeled and smeared… I’ve appeared on the front pages of major media outlets with my face plastered next to Bashar al-Assad, calling me an agent of Iran, of Hamas – you name it. MintPress has been targeted financially by British intelligence, who ordered Paypal to ban us – we’ve been banned by Tiktok, and our Wikipedia page has been written and edited by Israel lobby groups. I’ve lost friends on the way and have had my own family turn against me for standing staunchly against war and not falling for sectarian division.

But this is by design – it’s a psychological war against the truth-tellers to intimidate us into stopping – to push us into a corner. No matter the information war waged against us, we will not back down because there are innocent lives at stake who need us to be their voice. Journalism became my outlet for the helplessness that I felt growing up when I suffered from PTSD, the trauma that I carry because of my life in a war zone and knowing that so many people I left behind in Palestine are still suffering, whether it be in Gaza or anywhere in the world living under war. Israel thought it could bury us, but we turned out to be seeds.

How Corporate Media Whitewash Israeli Crimes: A Personal Narrative

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