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The Israel-Palestinian media disconnect

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

In an ongoing war, information is often viewed as an important weapon - information about what the other side is doing, but also what the people in a country and war see and know about the conflict. This is the sound of a video clip from Al Jazeera English posted earlier today on the social media platform X.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: If you're watching this prerecorded report, then Al Jazeera has been banned in the territory of Israel.

DETROW: Israel has banned the Qatari news channel from its airwaves and online in the country, saying its coverage of the war in Gaza threatens national security. The move comes as critics accuse both Israeli and Palestinian media of failing to cover the suffering on the other side of the conflict. And each side is quick to discredit the other's point of view. NPR's Carrie Kahn talked with news consumers and journalists on both sides of the ongoing war and brings us this report.

(CROSSTALK)

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: At a convenience store in Tel Aviv's working-class Hatikva neighborhood, a group of men are filling out lottery tickets, smoking cigarettes and occasionally glancing up at the TV playing the evening news. Shahaf Simantov, a 20-year-old driver for a food delivery app, says he gets almost all his news from TV.

SHAHAF SIMANTOV: What's up in my country, I see. What I need to see, I see. Hamas from Gaza, fake news.

KAHN: He doesn't believe people are going hungry in Gaza or the high Palestinian death toll - more than 34,000, according to the health ministry, which Israelis emphasize is run by Hamas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: The TV is set to Channel 14, which was launched 10 years ago and is now Israel's No. 2 station. With its steady stream of conservative and favorable coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it's been dubbed Israel's Fox News. Alon Harazy is 44 years old. He works for a moving company.

ALON HARAZY: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: He says he likes Channel 14 stories about Israel's military, which he says motivates young people to join the army. Most Israeli TV coverage focuses on soldier profiles and Hamas' brutal attack on Israel on October 7 that killed about 1,200 people, according to Israel. There are also frequent updates on the more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza and their relatives' agonizing wait for their release. However, Rutie Poltal, a 63-year-old retiree, says she seldom sees what's happening to the people of Gaza on Israeli TV. She watches TikTok.

RUTIE POLTAL: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: It breaks my heart to see their destroyed hospitals, all the children without fathers, mothers crying, she says.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAIRCLIPPERS BUZZING)

KAHN: Across the street at a small hair salon, 33-year-old Schlomi Rachamino is getting his weekly trim. Channel 14 is also on the TV above his chair. He says he has no need to watch anything else.

SCHLOMI RACHAMINO: (Through interpreter) I don't need to see anyone in Gaza. We need to erase them all.

KAHN: Almost half of Israelis over the age of 20 watch TV news, and almost a fifth say they'll only watch Channel 14, says Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, a media expert at the Israel Democracy Institute.

TEHILLA SHWARTZ ALTSHULER: Just like what happens in America these days, our media is very, very polarized.

KAHN: And just like in other countries, she says, Israeli and media budgets have been slashed as advertisers shift to social media. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues his campaign against critical media. He's facing criminal charges for allegedly giving favors to media tycoons to get better coverage. He denies any wrongdoing. Israelis are getting their news in a bubble, says Shwartz Altshuler.

SHWARTZ ALTSHULER: And this creates crazy blind spots for the Israeli public, as well as a gap between the world's understanding of what is happening in the territories or in Gaza and the Israeli public's understanding.

KAHN: Israelis view themselves as victims after October 7 and don't understand why the world sees them as the aggressors in this fight, says Meron Rapoport, an Israeli journalist. And they were stunned when accused of genocide in the International Court of Justice, he adds.

MERON RAPOPORT: The Israeli public deserves that at least you will get a wider picture of what's going on.

KAHN: Rapoport, who works at the independent news site +972, says Israelis are being fed a steady diet of patriotism and victimhood.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: In the control room of Watan television in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, a man directs a nightly call-in show. Palestinian media faces scrutiny too, like reporters calling Hamas militants resistance fighters. General director Muamar Orabi says Watan tries to cover both sides fairly.

MUAMAR ORABI: All of us, we saw what's happening in the 7 of October when Hamas attacked, but today they're killing everything in Gaza. This is our children, our fathers, our mothers. So we need to highlight the suffering.

KAHN: Watan's offices in Gaza were destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. At least 97 journalists have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Ramallah resident and avid news consumer, 38-year-old Mohammad Quasam Ali, says Palestinians know all they need to know about October 7. He gets most of his news from Telegram and Al Jazeera, the Qatari-based news channel.

MOHAMMAD QUASAM ALI: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: We cannot forget which side is responsible for October 7, he says. The international community and Israel has trapped Gaza for decades, leaving little hope, he adds. He doesn't believe what is on Israeli media. A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey showed that 90% of Palestinians do not believe Hamas committed atrocities on October 7. As Palestinian media continues to report what they view as an extreme and intolerable manmade humanitarian crisis, Israeli media presses its coverage of what it reflects as a just and existential fight for security and survival.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAIR PRODUCT SPRAYING)

KAHN: Outside Tel Aviv, in the makeup room at Channel 13's studios, Raviv Drucker, one of Israel's best-known investigative journalists, gets last-minute hairstyling. His weeknight news show is about to go live.

RAVIV DRUCKER: I need to go in.

KAHN: You have a good show.

He, too, criticizes Israeli media for not showing what is happening to Gaza's population. But he says journalists are people too, and like society, they're traumatized by Hamas' vicious attack.

DRUCKER: It's really easy to ask them to be - to aspire to the highest standards, but it's very difficult to implement.

KAHN: He recently put an image of a Palestinian baby with blood on his face on a show, and was criticized as being too provocative by panelists. Israel's public doesn't want to see that side of the story, he says, and most of Israeli journalism doesn't want to show it. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRACEY CHATTAWAY'S "EMBERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.