Israel Palestine

The Atlantic Magazine, Covering Palestine Without Palestinians

Two weeks in and 38 articles on the topic, the Atlantic has found only one token Palestinian to write about Palestine.
Graffiti on a wall relating to censorship. Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Cory Doctorow on January 15, 2015.

By Adam Johnson / The Real News Network

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Southern Israel that killed 1,300 Israelis, The Atlantic has published 38 articles, podcasts, and Q&As on the assault and Israel’s subsequent retaliatory bombing campaign, which has killed over 4,000 Palestinians and counting. Only one of these pieces was written by a Palestinian, whom the story is, at least in theory, 50% about.

The writers The Atlantic has featured in the past two weeks are mostly Americans—there were also several Israeli and a few Lebanese and Lebanese-Americans, but only one Palestinian writer, Ghaith al-Omari, who is a senior fellow at the pro-Israel Washington Institiute for Near East Policy, which was founded by the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The article, “How the Palestinian Authority Failed Its People,” is a fairly dry and academic breakdown of the positions of the Palestinian Authority on the current crisis. Beyond this one token entry, The Atlantic has not published any Palestinian writers.

That erasure is not an accident; it is consistent with The Atlantic’s almost-uniform pro-Israel bent and its long history of excluding Palestinian voices in discussions of Palestine. Even a cursory survey of their coverage throughout the years shows that the writers whose perspectives on the conflict have been published at The Atlantic have been overwhelmingly American and Israeli in nationality and perspective.

The Real News reached out to The Atlantic several times to see if they could point us to the last time a Palestinian writer other than al-Omari wrote for The Atlantic about Palestine but did not receive a response to our request for comment.

In 2018, The Atlantic ran a much-publicized series about a “Muslim Among Israeli Settlers” in which the hook was having “a Muslim” visit the West Bank Jewish settlements—a hook that, one assumes, was supposed to have some clever fish-out-of-water appeal. Ostensibly, the objective was to provide readers with a better, more textured understanding of the conflict; to carry out this objective, The Atlantic spent considerable resources sending Pakistani-American Wajahat Ali to go chat with settlers removing Palestinians from their homes. The piece was criticized for displaying a map that removed Palestinian East Jerusalem entirely, whitewashing the reality of settler violence, and, by virtue of using interchangeable “Muslims,” for contributing to the perspective that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is primarily a sectarian or religious conflict, rather than one of apartheid and subjugation or, at the very least, dueling nationalisms.

This kind of patronizing, view-from-the-outside-looking-in storytelling pervades The Atlantic’s coverage of the issue of Palestinian oppression and Palestinian liberation. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen articles such as: “A Devastating Attack by Hamas,” by former Department of Homeland Security and Lebanese-American Juliette Kayyem; “Four Misconceptions About the War in Gaza,” by former American Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Andrew Exum; “A Message From Iran,” from the Lebanon-born Kim Ghattus; and a half dozen pieces from Israeli and Israeli-American authors.

Eliot Cohen, former Bush official and signatory of the Project for the New American Century (the think tank most widely credited with shaping US policy regarding the Iraq War) wrote his own orientalist screed after the Oct. 7 attack. In his article “Against Barbarism,” Cohen tells The Atlantic’s sophisticated liberal readers that Americans have spent the last two decades fighting “barbarians in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.” And he matter-of-factly states that Israel’s fight against the Palestinian people is a fight against “barbarism.”

The article continues: “Barbarians fight because they enjoy violence. They do not only kill and maim—the armies of civilized states do that all the time—but go out of their way to inflict pain, to torture, to rape, and above all to humiliate. They exult in their enemies’ suffering. That is why they like taking pictures of their weeping, terrified victims; why they make videos of slow beheadings; and why they dance around mutilated corpses.”

To The Atlantic’s editors, such nuanced analysis from a discredited architect of the Iraq War is apparently more valuable than anything any Palestinians could offer readers.

The Atlantic is not alone. In a blockbuster report published last Friday, Semafor’s Max Tani documented how MSNBC was sidelining three Muslim anchors they felt were too pro-Palestine. Jewish Currents’ Mari Cohen detailed Wednesday how CBS producers took down an interview from its online archives with Palestinian-American legal scholar and human rights attorney Noura Erakat because she didn’t play the one-noted role of grieving victim and, instead, pushed back on the interviewer’s loaded questions. “They wanted me to be up there to lament our dead,” Erakat told Jewish Currents, “but not to establish international responsibility for [their deaths].”

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Cohen’s reporting also brought to light that Palestinian-American writer and political analyst Yousef Munayyer and Palestinian-American political analyst Omar Baddar were booked on CNN, given pre-interviews, and then, without explanation, were asked not to come on. As Cohen pointed out, this is part of a general trend, citing historian Maha Nassar, who, in a 2020 investigation for +972 magazine, documented how, since 1979, only 46 of 2,490 (1.8%) New York Times op-eds discussing Palestine were authored by Palestinians.

Further revealing the mechanisms of sidelining Palestinian voices, The Intercept broke a story Thursday showing that “leadership at Upday, a subsidiary of the Germany-based publishing giant Axel Springer, gave instructions to prioritize the Israeli perspective and minimize Palestinian civilian deaths in coverage, according to the employees.” Axel Springer, somewhat infamously, announced in 2021 that it would require all of its media employees to sign, upon hire, a loyalty pledge to NATO, capitalism, and Israel.

Palestinian and Jewish American attorney Dylan Saba wrote a piece about Palestinian voices being silenced in media and academia that was supposed to run in The Guardian a couple days ago but, according to Saba, “minutes before it was supposed to be published, the head of the opinion desk wrote me an email that they were unable to run the piece. When I called her for an explanation she had none, and blamed an unnamed higher-up.” It would later run in N+1 and In These Times.

In addition to curating what’s in The Atlantic magazine, Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg oversees the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival, an annual gathering where a who’s who of policy makers, corporate advertisers, government officials, and think tank hangers-on shape political and ideological consensus. Panels focusing on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in recent years—namely, one in 2018 and two in 2023—did not feature a single Palestinian. All the panelists were Americans and Israelis.

Goldberg’s own career took off, most notably in the run-up to the Iraq War, a period in which Goldberg proved to be instrumental in laundering mis- and dis-information for the war effort. In addition to his extremely dubious claim in October 2002 that Iran-backed Hezbollah had sleeper cells within the United States ready to attack at any time (“Are terrorists in Lebanon preparing for a larger war?” the subheadline asks. Turns out, no.), Goldberg also legitimized the idea in the minds of American liberals that Saddam Hussein not only had an active Weapons of Mass Destruction program, but that he also had “ties” to al Qaeda and played a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Jeffrey Goldberg Discusses Possible Links Between Iraq and al Qaeda and Evidence That the Iraqis May be Trying to Evade Weapons Inspectors” read one February 2003 All Things Considered headline, published three weeks before the invasion.

All of these claims would, of course, turn out to be false. All of these major blockbuster reports were based on lies, disinformation, misinformation, or, at best, extremely sloppy journalism. Nevertheless, because such claims supported the already-existing aims of the US security state, they would all eventually disappear down the national memory hole, and Goldberg would soon join The Atlantic as a star reporter, going on to interview presidents, write long think pieces, and continue to run trial balloons for potential Israeli airstrikes on Iran that never came to fruition, eventually being named editor-in-chief in 2016 where he, in the deepest of deep ironies, became a self-appointed expert on “conspiracy theories” (naturally, he ignored his own history of peddling discredited conspiracy theories).

All of this paves the way to the latest iteration of The Atlantic’s coverage of the so-called Israel-Palestinian conflict. Readers of The Atlantic are fed a steady stream of standard pro-Israel talking points and framing devices that involve putting Palestinians in a specimen jar and examining them solely through an “anti-terror” framework that set up discussions about, rather than by, those most affected by the ongoing apartheid and siege imposed by Israel. The result is more of the same rote conversations and dehumanizing, dead-end War on Terror framing, while the dead in Gaza continue to pile up.

Listening to Americans, Israelis, and others is, of course, perfectly fine. But maybe, as the ongoing siege and potential ethnic cleansing of Palestinians escalates more and more by the day, the country’s most influential center-left publication could maybe bother publishing more than one token Palestinian.

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Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson hosts the Citations Needed podcast and writes at The Column on Substack. Follow him @adamjohnsonCHI.

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