Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A wounded Palestinian child was brought to Indonesian Hospital to receive medical treatment after Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on May 10, 2021 in Beit Lahia, Gaza. At least 20 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed, according to local health authorities. (Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A wounded Palestinian child was brought to Indonesian Hospital to receive medical treatment after Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on May 10, 2021 in Beit Lahia, Gaza. At least 20 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed, according to local health authorities. (Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"These Are Not 'Clashes'": Media Slammed for Coverage Amid Deadly IDF Attacks on Gaza

A U.S. State Department spokesperson also faced criticism for refusing to condemn the reported killing of Palestinian children.

Jessica Corbett

Amid reporting that Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed at least 20 Palestinians, including nine children, rights activists and journalists on Monday called out some members of the media for covering the latest developments with language that misrepresents the power dynamics of the region.

After Israeli forces injured hundreds of Palestinians with rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas at the Al-Aqsa Mosque—and refused to stand down—Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded with the deadly airstrikes, claiming to strike "Hamas terror targets."

As Jack Mirkinson of Discourse Blog and many other critics pointed out, outlets including the Associated Press, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, and the Washington Post used "clash" or "clashes" to describe the attack on the mosque, which is a holy site for Muslims and Jews. As Mirkinson wrote Monday:

This is not a "clash" between two equal sides. This is a straightforward attack by Israel on Palestinians. For days, the Israeli government has been systematically assaulting Palestinians worshipping at one of the holiest sites in Islam, during Ramadan, all while enforcing a move to ethnically cleanse a Jerusalem neighborhood of its Palestinian residents. Israeli forces have fired rubber bullets and stun grenades, injuring hundreds of people. The deputy mayor of Jerusalem has been filmed lamenting that Palestinian activists weren't shot in the head.

Israel is one of the most militarily advanced countries in the world, thanks to the United States. It is the government in charge. It is the occupying power. It is the one taking active steps to displace Palestinians, to attack worshipers at a mosque. The asymmetry at play is beyond overwhelming.

Some reports "are completely bewildering," he wrote, while others "are clearly so nervous about veering from the script that even when they start strong, they descend into near-gibberish."

Mirkinson was far from alone. In a statement Monday night, Linda Sarsour, executive director and co-founder of MPower Change, the largest Muslim-led digital advocacy organization in the United States, said, "These are not 'clashes.'"

"They are attacks," Sarsour continued. "They are violent assaults by an occupying force. They are acts of ethnic cleansing, carried out by Israeli forces, on Palestinians, for worshipping at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, or for merely existing in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah."

As Common Dreams has reported in recent days, attempts by Israeli settlers and security forces to drive Palestinians out of the Al-Bustan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem have sparked global condemnationincluding from some progressive U.S. lawmakers.

"What we're seeing aren't 'clashes,'" Sarsour emphasized. "What we're seeing is the oppression of an apartheid state, against people engaged in peaceful worship during the holiest nights of the year for Muslims around the world."

"The Palestinians are a resilient people," she added. "They want freedom and liberation. They want to live with dignity. They want justice—all universal values, rights, and principles we all deserve. Let's stop the whitewashing of their systemic, violent oppression."

"Clashes" isn't the only word choice that has "stoked controversy," Alex MacDonald reported Monday for Middle East Eye. Others include "conflict," "property dispute," and the terms used when referring to structures at "the Old City complex which houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Western Wall."

Reporters, rights advocates, and progressive lawmakers also called out U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price for how he handled questions from journalists on Monday, including his refusal to explicitly condemn the IDF's reported killing of Palestinian children in the airstrikes.

"Washington is increasingly twisting its tongue in knots trying to square what they say is their support for human rights with support for Israel as it commits war crimes and crimes against humanity," tweeted Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian-American writer and political analyst, with a video clip.

U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, also weighed in, tagging Price's official Twitter account:

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept—which last month published a thorough examination of U.S. President Joe Biden's record on foreign and military issues, including "what would become a career-spanning defense of Israeli militarism"—pointed out that Price's responses were not surprising.

"The questions from reporters here are solid. And the answers from the State Department spokesperson are, unfortunately, not shocking," Scahill said. "This is a bipartisan horror and Joe Biden has a very long history of defending Israel's gratuitous violence and killings."

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—who, along with Tlaib, was the first Muslim woman elected to Congress—took to Twitter Monday to address an issue Price was questioned about: the right to self-defense.

Meanwhile, some Israeli Jews took to the streets chanting "Yimach Shemam," a Hebrew phrase that means "may their names be erased," which was denounced as "sick," "shocking," and "revolting."

"Hard to capture how deeply horrifying this video is. Thousands of Israeli Jews singing about revenge... dancing as a fire burns on the Temple Mount," said Simone Zimmerman, director of B'Tselem USA and co-founder of IfNotNow. "This is genocidal animus towards Palestinians—emboldened and unfiltered."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Appeals Court Orders Release of Secret Memo Barr 'Used to Undercut the Mueller Report'

While the DOJ has not announced whether it will appeal, a spokesperson for the watchdog behind the case said that "the American people deserve to know what it says. Now they will."

Jessica Corbett ·


Trans Girls in Utah Can Play School Sports After Judge Blocks Discriminatory Law

"Our daughter just wants the same chance as other kids to make friends and play on the team she loves," said one parent plaintiff. "Today's ruling gives her the opportunity to do that."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Deeply Dangerous Nonsense': Treasury Dept. Debunks GOP Lies About 87,000 Armed IRS Agents

The intensity with which Republicans "are coming at this is really a testament to how important these resources are going to be—because there are many wealthy tax evaders that stand to lose a lot," said one official.

Kenny Stancil ·


Michigan Judge Blocks Enforcement of 'Dangerous and Chilling' 1931 Abortion Ban

The decision is a "welcome" development "but our work continues," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, vowing to use "every tool in my toolbox to fight like hell for women and healthcare providers."

Jessica Corbett ·


Tlaib Says Biden Must 'Hold Israel Accountable' for Raid on Palestinian Rights Groups

"The silence by our country is enabling more death and violence," said the U.S. congresswoman.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo