Honorable Mention in the 2015 MES Book Award, sponsored by the AAA Middle East Section.
Few topics in the news are more hotly contested than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and news coverage itself is always a subject of debate. But rarely do these debates incorporate an on-the-ground perspective of what and who newsmaking entails. Studying how journalists work in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus, and on the tense roads that connect these cities, Amahl Bishara demonstrates how the production of U.S. news about Palestinians depends on multifaceted collaborations, typically invisible to Western readers. She focuses on the work that Palestinian journalists do behind the scenes and below the bylines—as fixers, photojournalists, camerapeople, reporters, and producers—to provide the news that Americans read, see, and hear every day.
Ultimately, this book demonstrates how Palestinians play integral roles in producing U.S. news and how U.S. journalism in turn shapes Palestinian politics. U.S. objectivity is in Palestinian journalists' hands, and Palestinian self-determination cannot be fully understood without attention to the journalist standing off to the side, quietly taking notes. Back Stories examines news stories big and small—Yassir Arafat's funeral, female suicide bombers, protests against the separation barrier, an all-but-unnoticed killing of a mentally disabled man—to investigate urgent questions about objectivity, violence, the state, and the production of knowledge in today's news. This book reaches beyond the headlines into the lives of Palestinians during the second intifada to give readers a new vantage point on both Palestinians and journalism.
About the author
Amahl A. Bishara is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tufts University. She filmed the documentary Across Oceans, Among Colleagues (2002), which follows the advocacy efforts of the New York–based Committee to Protect Journalists on behalf of journalists in the Middle East.
"Bishara brings both anthropological and journalistic experience to her subject, and presents through multiple genres—rich description, reflections on the scholarly literature, photographic analysis, focus groups—a portrait of the ways international journalism and Palestinian society have come to depend on one another not despite, but because of, the manifold tensions between them. The book's thoughtful analysis and critique should appeal to students and scholars of anthropology, critical media studies, and the Middle East, as well as to the journalists whose work it examines."
—Gregory Starrett, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
"Amahl Bishara breaks new ground in her exploration of Palestinian-Israeli-American dynamics of control, protest, and resistance. Her keen insights into the second intifada help us better understand two critical issues: what is happening on the ground in Palestine and how these events are being reported by the American media."