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For the past two months, my social media feed has been a carousel of death and destruction. Haunting images. Fear and longing. Pleas from a stunned civilian population who are exhausted from digging people out of the rubble. From being denied basics like food and water. From the bombs raining down around them. Numbers, so many numbers. Twenty thousand people killed and counting. My homeland and its people are being destroyed in full view of the world.

And yet, amid all this horror, I was surprised by what really broke me. It was a clip of a live-cross with Salman al-Bashir, a reporter for the Palestinian Authority’s TV channel. He had just learnt of the death of his colleague Mohammed Abu Hatab. He was inconsolable, yet somehow he found the words to offer a crushing assessment: the world can see what is happening, and no one cares. The press shields and helmets are ‘merely slogans’, he told us. ‘They don’t protect journalists at all.’ The studio presenter was sobbing as she watched him rip off his press vest and helmet. ‘Live on air, we lose souls one after the other.’ This moment carved into me deeply as someone who makes a living out of words.

The overwhelming sentiment I had when I saw that interview was that I had failed him and everyone he was talking about. In that moment, I felt that nothing I have ever written has made any difference at all. At last count, sixty-three media workers have been killed, the majority of them Palestinians. The Committee to Protect Journalists say this has been the deadliest period for journalists since the organisation began reporting fatalities in 1992.


I have never reported from the front lines. I’ve never been placed in a position where my life is truly in danger simply because I’m doing my job. My journalism career in Australia seems comparatively uneventful, because what’s the occasional comment calling me a cunt, really?

In that moment, I felt that nothing I have ever written has made any difference at all.

But I have been writing about Palestine for years. I know how it feels to be reduced to a trope, to be railroaded, to be silenced. Australian media has always been slanted in its bias towards Israel. To understand why, I will leave you to read the 2017 book Balcony Over Jerusalem by John Lyons, who wrote: ‘If the whole world could see the occupation up close, it would demand that it end tomorrow.’ His discussion of the pressure placed on media by interest groups is eye-opening. In 2021, he expanded on Australian media’s self-censorship: ‘I knew that if I reported the truth […] I would be the target of a backlash which would be tough, nasty and prolonged.’

The few times I have managed to get published locally on this subject, it has been akin to tip-toeing through a dark room so as not to awaken a beast. One of my most innocuous pieces was a monologue I recorded for ABC Radio National, which traced my childhood and the experience of being the daughter of Palestinian migrants. Because I said that Palestine is ‘a nation the world likes to pretend is non-existent’, it got picked apart by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). ‘Seriously silly’ they labelled it. ‘Any other group striving for independence would do almost anything for the attention the Palestinians receive.’ Meanwhile, another outlet I wrote for wouldn’t let me call the land Palestine; it’s Palestinian Territories, I was told. Australia still does not recognise a Palestinian state.

I was at my most candid when I wrote columns years ago for the London-based news website, The New Arab. I wrote about how so-called liberal Zionist celebrities can’t even call us Palestinian, only ‘neighbours’. (Though I suppose it’s an improvement on ‘human animals’ and ‘savages’.) I wrote about my disenchantment with Conan O’Brien when he went to Israel and marketed the state to the world as a tiny, friendly triumph. I wrote about Ahed Tamimi, the fearless teenager who was arrested for slapping an Israeli soldier. (Tamimi has since been imprisoned again and later released as part of a hostage exchange; she reported terrible conditions.) I was able to write without censorship. I was able to speak freely about the injustices faced by Palestinians. But it was like shouting into the wind. Who was reading but those who didn’t need convincing?


I have become a digital curator of information and culture. I post on Instagram, daily. I am chasing every particle of truth. Every shard of information, every evocative image; a hope that in concert with other writers, artists and activists, we can compete with legacy media and undo or reshape what has been done. It is startling, but also encouraging, to see young adults dissecting this decades-long conflict on TikTok without fear of repercussion. It is heartening to see Jewish critics of Israel stand in solidarity because these atrocities are being done in their name. Most importantly, we get to see the occupation from the perspective of Palestinians, their voices so often not present in news media about them.

But the numbers, so many numbers. They’ve eclipsed the Nabka of 1948. 1.8 million Palestinians displaced. The unfathomable death toll continues to rise, with no end to the killings in sight. UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls Gaza a ‘graveyard for children’.

We get to see the occupation from the perspective of Palestinians, so often not present in news media.

This reality sits at the heart of a letter signed by journalists in the Australian media (including myself), who have called for more balanced reporting on this conflict. They note the media blockade on the ground, the mounting evidence of war crimes, the misinformation. What is the media for if not to hold to account those in power?

And while journalists in Gaza and surrounds wear a press vest at their own risk, the measured Australian letter from journalists has been met with scorn by major and not-so-major outlets. Senior editors from the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age responded by saying that any of their staff who signed the letter would not be allowed to report on the conflict. The ABC and the Guardian have followed suit with similar warnings.

I thought a lot about the SMH/Age response and wondered how many Australian journalists have accepted press junkets to Israel. Then an image of journalists covered in mud, grinning widely as they lolled about on the banks of the Dead Sea, landed in my inbox. Among them was SMH editor Bevan Shields. Then came more. Soon it was reported that all four of the SMH/Age editors who signed the note banning the open letter signatories from covering the conflict had been on trips to Israel. (Crikey has full coverage of which Australian journalists have taken trips to the region, many organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.) Why are their biases not questioned?

This double standard is but one strand in the Australian media’s failure to report fairly. UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine Francesca Albanese said local journalists showed a ‘very basic’ understanding of the conflict during her November visit to Australia. After appearing on ABC’s Q+A, she told Crikey: ‘I’m asked questions [with] wrong assumptions. So I spend a lot of time fixing that assumption and then struggling to provide either context or an in-depth analysis of the situation.’ This is the plight of writers who speak to the truth of the ongoing occupation of Palestine. Like Albanese (an expert on this situation), we’re accused of ‘lacking objectivity’.

As a person considered ‘diverse’, being a journalist in Australia has always been a challenge. My Palestinian heritage did not matter when reporting on superannuation. But in mainstream media, I have battled to not be a novelty. I have made best efforts alongside a handful of other Arab journalists to be afforded the same respect for our skills as non-Arab ones. I have often lamented that our backgrounds are seen as a deficit rather than an opportunity for greater insight.

What is the media for if not to hold to account those in power?

Many of us recognised a long time ago that Palestine has fared poorly in mainstream media. Israelis are killed, while Palestinians die. The passive language obscures reality. In this current spectacle of horror, we are seeing other shifts in language. We are seeing Israeli hostages referred to as ‘women and children’, while Palestinians, held in jail often without charge, are ‘women and people aged 18 or younger’. Language matters. Meanwhile, staff at the ABC have raised concerns about not being able to use words like ‘occupation’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘apartheid’. Did you see the statement the ABC released after Patricia Karvelas asked minister Tony Burke if he views what is happening to Palestinians as genocide? They both got slammed simply for discussing the question.

Why do we need to ask the media to ask the important questions and report accurately? Because much of the time, they are being fed their news angles. During this siege, some journalists even embedded with the Israeli army, their reporting subject to approvals. Unverified claims reported by major news outlets have been used to justify this violence against civilians.

However, it is important to note that mainstream media publications are no longer the only narrators. The truth about this military occupation has been exposed and much of it is due to the Palestinian journalists, themselves victims of the violence, their houses bombed, their family and friends killed. They wear press vests and helmets that do not protect them, and yet they report often, and beautifully. People will name their children Motaz, Bisan and Plestia. These resilient truthtellers, who check in to let us know that they are still alive. Who check in to tell us they, too, may soon die. Their tools are words and facts. One day, if history is kind to the memory of Palestinians and the earth they cherished, every post, every clip, every word will matter.

Images: Motaz Azaiza, @motaz_azaiza; Plestia Alaqad, @byplestia; Bisan Owda, @wizard_bisan1.

Despite the heartbreaking despondency I felt watching Salman al-Bashir tear off his media jacket, I know that hopelessness in my position is a privilege. No matter what has passed, I remain a writer. I still have a voice, I need to use it. We all do.

Journalists on the ground in Palestine are risking their lives to show the reality of what is not a ‘war’ but a crime against humanity. We need mainstream media in Australia, sitting safe in newsrooms thousands of kilometres away, to show some courage too. It has not struggled to do so for other conflicts. And it should not hesitate to hold politicians and Israel accountable for these atrocities. The civilians facing ongoing bombing in Gaza need the media to step up. Their lives depend on it.