Throughout the latest round of Israeli aggression against Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, it is refreshing to see that both ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ media outets alike have widely
covered the horrendous murder of 16 year-old Mohammad Abu Khdair, and the brutal beating and unlawful arrest of his cousin, young Palestinian-American Tariq Khadair, by Israeli police.
While the former genuinely caught attention for being horrific (he was burned alive), it is likely that the latter did so because he was a citizen of the west, and so the issue was much closer to home (and we all know how much more valuable western lives are, in comparison to Arab or Muslim lives), it helped to widely publicise the atrocities which Israel’s regime has directed against the Palestinians.
But there’s still a huge problem. Namely, the universal problem of the way the media is
portraying all this. They’re portraying it as if it’s a conventional, symmetrical war in which both sides are trading equal levels of violence, and as if both sides are a match for each other. Lets look at some extracts from a CNN report on the situation something of a template for all the media coverage on the latest atrocities, and lets see what’s wrong here:
Jerusalem (CNN) — Eight activists formed a human shield outside a hospital in Gaza Saturday, a doctor said, as Hamas and Israel battled it out with rockets and airstrikes.
The death toll from the airstrikes now stands at 127, according to a CNN count of official
Palestinian reports. More than 900 people have been injured, the Gaza health ministry said.
In one incident Saturday, an Israeli airstrike killed six Palestinians in Gaza City, according to local medical sources. And, an Israeli airstrike hit a facility housing the disabled, killing two women, the health ministry said Saturday. The Israel Defense Forces said it was looking into that claim.
Attackers in Gaza opened fire and damaged an IDF vehicle patrolling the security fence in
northern Gaza, the IDF said.
Gaza militants have fired about 690 rockets and mortars toward Israel, 138 of which the latter intercepted, according to the Israeli military.
As the two sides exchange blows, hospitals hoped to remain open.
What’s wrong with that, you may be thinking at this point? Surely, both sides are indeed exchanging rocket fire, both sides have had casualties, and so on, right?
While it is indeed the case that both sides have exchanged fire, the problem is that the media reports make it seem as if both sides are equally powerful; they attempt to EQUALISE the levels of violence. With lines such as “Hamas and Israel battled it out with rockets and airstrikes”, they make it sound as if both sides have equal levels of military power at their disposal, as if they can both do equal damage to each other.
Wrong. Israel has a huge, mechanised army, armed with the latest, up-to-date weaponry, and with hundreds of thousands of well-trained men. The Palestinian resistance groups have several thousand men, non of whom have similar levels of training, and none of whom have anything close to the amount of equipment that the Israelis have. The Palestinians, over one million of them, are squashed into several miles of impoverished land, and are caught like fish in a barrel. The Israelis have all the space in the world to move around outside Gaza, trapping the Palestinians in Gaza under a brutal siege, and arbitrarily throwing bombs onto them at will.
Not only that, but such reports are deliberately vague in regard to the levels of military force which are being used – when they mention Israeli and Palestinian clashes in which Israel has used airstrikes and heavy artillery against civilian areas, they are actually vague as to who has used the airstrikes and indiscriminate force. They try not to directly imply that it was Israel, while not trying to imply that it was the Palestinians (who are all homogenised as ‘Hamas’) either, e.g. “Hamas and Israel battled it out with rockets and airstrikes”. Not only is the media failing to mention which side launched the deadly bombings and airstrikes on Gaza, as if trying to imply that the Palestinians (who have no air force, no advanced weapons, and no army) did it themselves, but they attempt to play down Palestinian desperation by using the same tactics; in this instance, they mention that Palestinians are using a human shield to protect a hospital, but they don’t say who from:
Eight activists formed a human shield outside a hospital in Gaza Saturday a doctor said, as Hamas and Israel battled it out with rockets and airstrikes.
They know, and we know, that they can’t possibly be forming a human shield against Palestinian rocket fire; Palestinians have enough problems, and would never rocket their own people. But, to tone down Israel’s actions, they don’t mention that they’re protecting the hospital from Israeli bombing either… They just leave it in limbo. They’re not protecting the hospital from anyone in particular. Not from any one group. Just protecting it. Finito. At least, that’s what various media reports seem to want you to believe.
Why do they use such methods of reporting? Because that’s the only way that they can tone down Israel’s brutality, by vainly trying to disassociate them from their own brutal bombardment of innocent people. They imply that both sides are equally matched, and that they can both fight each other on equal terms, in an attempt to cover up the reality that Israel is using its huge advantage in weapons and international backing to simply slaughter the innocent people of Gaza with impunity. The truth is that the only weapons the Palestinians can use in a desperate attempt to defend themselves are primitive, home-made rockets, which according to IDF propaganda, are some sort of huge threat to Israel. Well, shall we assess the result of a Palestinian rocket, in comparison to an Israeli airstrike?
Then shall we look at the death toll, in terms of how many people the Palestinians of Gaza have managed to kill with these inaccurate rockets and other tactics, in comparison to how many people the Israelis have killed? Via the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories:
B’Tselem’s research indicates that, from June 2004 to 17 April 2013, 24 Israeli civilians (four of them minors) and one foreign national were killed in Israel by Palestinian rocket and mortar fire. In addition, five soldiers were killed, three in Israel and two in the Gaza Strip. Another Israeli civilian and three foreign nationals were killed by rocket fire at settlements in the Gaza Strip, before they were evacuated. Palestinian rocket fire also killed at least ten Palestinians (seven of them minors).One Israeli civilian (a minor inIsrael) and one soldier (in the Gaza Strip) were killed by an anti-tank missile fire.
A total of 44 persons have been killed by rocket and mortar fire, and two persons have been killed by anti-tank missiles.
Palestinian rockets have killed 44. Then shall we see how many people in Gaza have been killed by the Israelis? According to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the number is over 2,200, and that number has yet to be updated, given Israel’s latest round of aggression. 2,200+. Compare that to the death toll from Palestinian actions, and then tell me that this is a symmetrical conflict. Think about it. That doesn’t even include the numbers of people killed in the occupied territories such as the West Bank, which is steadily rising.
Plus, look at the death toll from the latest round of Israeli aggression, since July 8th. In four days, the IDF has killed 127 Palestinians… 88 were civilians. A further 924 were wounded, again, the majority being civilians. If that isn’t deliberate, I don’t know what is.
How many Israelis were killed? None. 22 were wounded; 20 civilians and two soldiers. Presenting this as a conflict, and calling for “both sides” to show restraint is like calling for the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto to show restraint. Because Israel is using the same tactics the Nazis used back then. To see the oppressed become the oppressors is always tragic.
Lets look at further extracts from the CNN report – in a tactic typically used by the media, they avoid directly quoting suffering Palestinians, yet they are quick to jump to attention and quote Israelis. Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, is immediately offered a platform:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left all possibilities open, saying the international community will not influence his actions against Hamas. He reiterated that there is one path to a cease-fire: the cessation of attacks from Gaza.
“We are considering all options and getting ready for every possible scenario,” he said. “All the citizens of Israel are aware of my major goal, and this is to bring back the quiet to all Israeli territories. Hamas keeps attacking us, and therefore we are fighting them back.”
The Palestinian perspective is left woefully ignored. They never stop for a moment to speculate on the motives for Palestinian retaliation against Israel, or to interview those on the ground in Gaza, who lost their children and loved ones to Israeli bombing.
Have they not considered the possibility that when you ethnically cleanse, murder, beat, and treat a whole people like second class citizens, and back them into a corner by trapping them in a small, impoverished strip of land, they may just have a justification for retaliating? They also fail to dispute Netanyahu’s lie that Hamas attacked first – was it Hamas that ordered the Israeli army to begin bombing last week?
In addition, all those who resist are routinely described in the media as “Hamas militants“. The media has spent years vilifying Hamas, and so whenever they need to demonise any Palestinians who wage armed resistance, they homogenise them as Hamas, with all the negative connotations that implies. Of course the spineless, Quisling PA (which spends all its time shielding the illegal Israeli settlements and oppressing Palestinians on Israel’s behalf) gets off scott free.
The truth is that it isn’t just Hamas that engage in resistance in Gaza. the Popular Resistance Committees’ Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades are fighting, as is Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing (the Saraya al-Quds Brigades, or the ‘Jerusalem Brigade’ in English), the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (formerly part of Fatah), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Mustafa Brigades, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s National Resistance Brigades, you name it.
But no. According to the media, only the evil Hamas organisation is fighting, and Hamas unequivocally equals all Palestinians. The way they present Hamas as being synonymous with the Palestinians is done to justifying Israel’s murderous actions; by their logic, Hamas are awful, so that must mean that all Palestinians must face bombing.
In the wake of the latest appalling flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestine, the buzzword among international leaders has been “restraint”. In most conflicts, this would seem like the obvious solution. But in this case, there is a problem with the word.
Calling for restraint on both sides frames the situation as an equal conflict, with two sides inflicting near equal amounts of violence on each other.
This is simply not the case. The Israel-Palestine situation is not a fair battle, but a prolonged process of colonisation by Israel which that has led to a brutal occupation of the Palestinian people.
The kidnappings and murder of the three Israeli settler teenagers is a horrible tragedy, but many people are failing to understand it as a symptom of the Israeli occupation.
Haneen Zoabi, an member of the country’s parliament, has made one of the most rational evaluations of the situation. “Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives […] act this way?” she has asked. “They are not terrorists. Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any way open to change their reality, and they are compelled to use means like these until Israel wakes up and sees the suffering, feels the suffering of the other.”