A day after journalist, writer, and frequent MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal harshly criticized that very cable news network during a broadcast of "Ronan Farrow Daily" for its biased and deferential pro-Israel coverage of the current military assault on Gaza, she appeared on "All In with Chris Hayes" to further discuss the matter.
The evidence of anti-Palestinian bias in the mainstream media - including cable news networks - is beyond question, as numerous studies and analyses have shown. A common refrain - heard again last night in Hayes' attempt to defend his employer's coverage of the ongoing Israeli massacre of Palestinians - is that Israeli government officials are more accessible than officials from Palestinian groups. But this claim rests on the assumption that allowing politicians and their spokespeople to repeat honed talking points is the same thing as journalism.
In January 2014, for example, an internal study of the past 11 years of NPR's Israel-Palestine coverage found that its reports and dispatches suffered from significant "imbalance" between Israeli and Palestinian voices. Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos summarized the report, noting that such skewed representation "is to be expected." Why? Here's what he writes:
Israel generates more news in part because its officials are more open and the country is more democratic than in the Palestinian territories. Israel stages more newsworthy "official" events, such as elections, and its economy is far more dynamic. Israel also is an ally of the U.S., and its officials frequently visit. The Gaza Strip in particular is miniscule. NPR's sole correspondent is based in Jerusalem.Naturally, no mention is ever made in this litany to Israel's crushing occupation and siege of Gaza, the deliberate destruction of its economy and infrastructure, or the fact that Israel is "more democratic" than an isolated and imprisoned enclave much in the same way Apartheid South Africa was ostensibly "more democratic" than the Bantustans created for its inconvenient and unwanted inhabitants.
"I had [Israeli government spokesman] Mark Regev on this program for 16 minutes, alright? That's a very long interview but there was a lot to talk to him about," Hayes told Jebreal last night, after noting that Hamas officials are hard to book for on-air interviews.
While much has been made of Jebreal's truth-telling and Hayes' weak pushback, the chyrons used during Jebreal's interviews have told an even more troubling story.
In all of her appearances on the network over the past two years as MSNBC contributor, Jebreal has routinely been introduced, described, and referred to on-air as either a "journalist" or an "MSNBC contributor," and usually both.
During her appearance on "All In with Chris Hayes," however, which followed her widely-reported condemnation of Israel/Palestine coverage, the chyron describing Jebreal read: "Palestinian Journalist." That kind of description serves to paint her comments automatically as themselves biased and emotional, rather than factual and impartial. It would be as inappropriate as frequent contributor Jonathan Alter being referred to as a "Jewish Journalist."
As such, I tweeted the following:
Anyone notice how @allinwithchris chyron referred to @rulajebreal as a "Palestinian Journalist" tonight & not an "@MSNBC Contributor"?
— Nima Shirazi (@WideAsleepNima) July 23, 2014
So @rulajebreal speaks truth to @MSNBC and they drop her as a contributor. Now she's just some Palestinian lady. See what happened there?
— Nima Shirazi (@WideAsleepNima) July 23, 2014
(click to enlarge)
I created the above image and tweeted it out at 10:14AM and 10:21AM today. It was soon retweeted dozens of times, including in a modified tweet by user @SubMedina. From there it went viral, as they say, and has subsequently been retweeted hundreds of times.
The image - though no credit back to me (boohoo) - was included in posts on BuzzFeed, Mediaite, and vaguely referenced in the Washington Post.
In response to Jebreal being referred to - for the very first time on MSNBC - as a "Palestinian Journalist," a clear example of othering, marginalizing her commentary, and presenting her views as agenda-driven and out of the mainstream, MSNBC issued a statement, which explained that, as Jebreal was no longer a contracted contributor to the network (effective "last month"), her title had been updated accordingly.
More specifically, "[a]n MSNBC spokesperson also told BuzzFeed that Jebreal was referred to as 'Palestinian Journalist' because that's how she self-identifies, adding that she was labeled incorrectly as an MSNBC contributor on Monday's Ronan Farrow Daily broadcast due to a production error."
Similarly, MSNBC told TVNewser: "She was labeled incorrectly on Monday's show due to a production error and we corrected that for Tuesday's 'All In' appearance."
This is massively disingenuous and more than a little bit factually incorrect.
Over the past month, when - according to MSNBC - Jebreal had already opted out of renewing her contract with the station, MSNBC producers and on-air hosts still regularly referred to her as a contributor. Just last week, on July 14, Jebreal appeared on "Ronan Farrow Daily" with a familiar chyron:
Farrow himself even introduced her as "MSNBC's own Rula Jebreal."
While it's as yet unclear exactly when Jebreal's contract with MSNBC expired, during her appearances in June she was still being referred to as a contributor, and alternatively with the simple title "Journalist." Here are some examples:
June 1, 2014 on "Melissa Harris-Perry":
June 3, 2014 on "The Reid Report":
June, 7, 2014 on "Melissa Harris-Perry":
June 17, 2014 on "The Reid Report":
Apparently, once an experienced and respected reporter and analyst starts criticizing news coverage of Israel, she goes from being a journalist and just becomes a Palestinian journalist. Somehow this doesn't seem like the best way to counter accusations of pro-Israel bias in the media.
Talking Points Memo reports:
Jebreal said that in her two years as a contributor at MSNBC, she was never labeled a "Palestinian journalist" before Tuesday night.
"I did not see the title. When they said 'Palestinian journalist,' that was wow to me. I am not a Palestinian journalist. I am a Palestinian woman individually, but I was not hired for two years because I was Palestinian," Jebreal told TPM. "I was hired because I was a foreign policy analyst and I was a journalist. A journalist. We don't call people a 'Jewish lawyer' or a 'black woman from Brooklyn.' That is unacceptable."
"For me, the point is I am a journalist. So I go wherever I find better opportunity, stronger possibilities, and I am called there as a journalist. I am not called as a 'black woman.' I am not called as a 'Palestinian,'" she added. "I was never called to be hired by MSNBC because I was Palestinian. [I was hired] because of my foreign policy expertise. I talked about Egypt, I talked about Tunisia, I talked about the Arab Spring, I talked about Yemen, about Iraq, about Syria. And suddenly I become the 'Palestinian journalist'?"Keep it up, MSNBC, you're making this too easy.