On Tuesday, February 15, the UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, and the North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies hosted NPR International Correspondent Daniel Estrin, who presented on “Reporting from Jerusalem: Behind the Headlines”. This virtual discussion with Estrin highlighted his experience on reporting in Israel and Palestine. Estrin has reported from the Middle East for over a decade, including seven years with the Associated Press. Since joining NPR in 2017, he has reported from Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Other reporting has taken him to Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Russia and Ukraine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, PRI’s The World, and other media.
Estrin spoke about the variety of situations he’s encountered while in Israel and the Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West Bank, including his ability to reach out to both sides of the conflict. He continued on and spoke about how the approach and general environment of the Middle East, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has changed over the years, especially with the difference of each U.S presidential administration. When asked about how different U.S presidential administrations influenced reporting, Estrin remarked about the “night and day” difference that existed between the Trump administration and the Biden administration. For example. Estrin noted the unwillingness of Palestinians, either officials or civilians, to communicate with foreign media during the Trump administration, but have been more willing to communicate during the Biden administration. When asked about how he feels in regard to his reporting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whether or not his reporting is exhaustive, Estrin noted that he often has to tell smaller parts of stories considering the complex situation. One area in which Estrin finds comfort while reporting on the conflict is that he is not the only reporter in the area. This means that the perspectives that he doesn’t have the time or space to tell can and are still being told.
Estrin also discussed the importance of telling stories that take place within conflicts but are not about the conflict. Specifically, he elaborated on how only looking at the political conflict between Israel and Palestine can restrict the valuable stories that also need to be shared on a cultural or social level. Estrin also noted how important it was for reporters to try and obtain the most accurate information, as it is a reporter’s responsibility to acknowledge that individual people and organizations have motives that may disrupt telling a story. Specifically, Estrin said that reporters must be cautious and aware that they “don’t take anything at face value,” because the stories being told include a variety of perspectives and often need abundant context. Furthermore, Estrin expressed the need for those who tell the stories on the front lines of conflict to be fair reporters and take into account and place a check upon their own personal biases.
This event was also co-sponsored by the UNC School of Journalism and Media; Department of Public Policy; Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Curriculum in Peace, War, and Defense; Curriculum in Global Studies; Triangle Institute for Security Studies; and UNC Hillel.
Abdulrahman Sarsour ‘24