The People of Palestine have witnessed 75 long years of apartheid and persecution under the brutal Israeli occupiers. In this article, Sameena Afshan covers how the media has treated it:
After the state of Israel was brought into being in 1948 by the ruthless Zionist Movement, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians – the original inhabitants of the land was systematically launched. The Palestinians mark the day as ‘Nakba’ i.e. ‘catastrophe’ because it was aimed at the destruction of Palestinian society. Although the United Nations proposed a two-nation solution then, it remained a silent spectator while the Israeli occupiers forcefully occupied about 78% of the historical Palestinian lands at the very beginning. About 75,000 Palestinians were displaced, 530 villages/towns ethnically cleansed and 15,000 were killed as soon as the state of Israel was formed. During the Arab – Israeli war of 1967, Israel occupied more Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The UN partition policy had given Israel control over 55% of land and now it occupies more than 85% of the Palestinian land. Time and again the Palestinians launched civil uprisings against the occupying force with all vigour and bravery, without the backing of any armed forces or any support by the international media. One such uprising ended when two Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 and 1995 which were meant to start peace talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders to come up with a two-state solution and maintain peace in the area. One of the steps to be taken towards the peace talks, according to the Oslo Accords, was the withdrawal of the Israeli military from the Palestinian lands that it had illegally occupied since 1967. However the peace process to be initiated never took place, the military presence was never withdrawn and persecution of Palestinians continued. The permanent displacement of Palestinians and the construction of Israeli settlements has been ongoing. According to the reports of ‘Adalah’ – the legal centre for Arab minority groups in Israel, ‘after the creation of Israel, no new Palestinian towns and cities were built within its borders whereas about 600 Jewish municipalities were set up there since then’. Palestinians are continuously subjected to land confiscations, unwarranted restrictions on movements of people, economic embargoes, unlawful killings, ruthless and abusive detentions, freezing of Palestinian funds and the list of atrocities goes on.
The blockade imposed on Gaza for 16 years after illegally occupying it for more than half a century has completely violated international human rights law. Even before the latest onslaught on Gaza, more than 70% of its household was already graded as “food insecure” – unable to afford their daily bread. Gaza has been a captive market for more than a decade where most of what they import comes from Israel. Gaza, which was once self-sufficient in food grains, fruits and vegetables, is now unable to produce anything due to continuous attacks and airstrikes by the occupying Israeli forces. The brutal occupiers have been hoping for decades to demoralize the Palestinians so that they stop resisting and surrender to the attackers. Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General says: “For 16 years, Israel’s illegal blockade has made Gaza the world’s biggest open-air prison – the international community must act now to prevent it becoming a giant graveyard.”
The Recent Conflict
The beginning of October saw an escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine. The continuous blockade of the Gaza Strip and expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem triggered an attack on Israel by the Palestinian resistance. It was surprising that the most competitive Israeli intelligence could not foresee this unusual attack that took Israel by surprise. The attack was a reaction to the increased aggression by the occupying Israeli authorities, their endless oppression and tyranny. The demand for reaction also comes due to the growing Arab Israeli normalization process which has resulted in a negligent attitude of Arab leaders about the Palestinian issue. Israel, with all its mighty military force, powerful backing of the US and control over all the major international media houses launched a brutal attack on the already besieged and weakened Gaza. It has further intensified the siege by blocking electricity, food, medicine and other humanitarian aid. Excessive bombardment on civilians and hospitals continues.
The Media Reactions
The media’s portrayal of the events is well-planned and organized. International media however have vested interests that do not allow them to report against Israel. The majority of Indian media follow the same path. They have successfully managed to portray the occupiers as victims and the occupied as brutal attackers. One of the BBC reports said: “500 people died in Gaza due to Israeli retaliation and 700 hundred were killed by the attack of Hamas”. The people of Gaza ‘died’ while the Israelis were ‘killed’.
The mainstream media houses have earlier fired their reporters for sympathizing with Palestinians. In 2018 The Washington Post reported that CNN fired its reporter Marc Lamont Hill for his call to ‘free Palestine’. Last year Katie Halper lost her job at ‘The Hill’ for writing about Israeli apartheid. Even The Guardian did not fall back in firing its columnist Nathan Robinson for mocking the military aid to Israel by the US.
Ben Nortan, the investigative journalist says: “There are 2.3 million Palestinians that are living under an illegal Israeli blockade. Israel controls everything that enters and leaves Gaza”.
The international media and world leaders have portrayed Israel as a poor victim so much so that even cartoons published in the media are posed to be threatening its existence. Some brave cartoonists played an important role in telling the truth about Palestine through their cartoons. Noteworthy are Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, British Cartoonists Dave Brown and Peter Brooks, Indian cartoonists Manjul and Sathish Acharya, the US Cartoonist Bill Bramhall etc. The Guardian sacked Steve Bell, its cartoonist for 42 years over Netanyahu’s caricature citing it as anti-Semitic.
The enslaved media institutions refuse to support Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice. The only time the media mentions Palestine is when they lawfully react after their pent-up sufferings overflow and their stifled voices can no longer resist. Even then they are demonised and dehumanised by the media.
The Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) says about the illegal settlements of Israel: “Israeli authorities have since 1967 facilitated the transfer of its civilians to the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 1967, Israel established two settlements in the West Bank, by 2017, Israel had established 237 settlements there, housing approximately 580,000 settlers. Israel applies Israeli civil law to settlers, affording them legal protections, rights, and benefits that are not extended to Palestinians living in the same territory who are subjected to Israeli military law. Israel provides settlers with infrastructure, services, and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules, and services”.
The Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) further talks about the forced displacement of Palestinian people by Israeli forces: “Israeli authorities have expropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian land for settlements and their supporting infrastructure. Discriminatory burdens, including making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in East Jerusalem and in the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control, have effectively forced Palestinians to leave their homes or to build at the risk of seeing their “unauthorized” structures bulldozed. For decades, Israeli authorities have demolished homes because they lacked permits, even though the law of occupation prohibits the destruction of property except for military necessity, or punitively as collective punishment against families of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis. In the West Bank, Israeli security forces have routinely used excessive force in policing situations, killing or grievously wounding thousands of demonstrators, rock-throwers, suspected assailants, and others with live ammunition when lesser means could have averted a threat or maintained order.”
The whole world is silent about the brutal occupation of 75 years of the Palestinian land by Israel, its tyranny, oppression, institutionalised abuse and discriminatory policies in the name of security and self-defence. According to international law, Palestinians have a legal right to armed resistance. This is quoted in the United Nationa’s General Assembly resolution from 1980 (resolution 35/35). The world has not witnessed any liberation movement without a revolutionary struggle against the settlers and colonisers. The international community should come to the rescue of the people of Palestine and support their freedom struggle as Gandhiji said: “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians just as England belongs to the British, or France belongs to the French”.