Palestinians are not 'dying' in Gaza, they're being killed

Palestinians are not 'dying' in Gaza, they're being killed
5 min read
14 Nov, 2018
Comment: Framing the violence in Gaza as a tit-for-tat scenario is dishonest, misleading and harmful, writes CJ Werleman.
For decades, western media has ignored Israel's daily use of violence against Palestinians [Anadolu]
Gaza, home to 2 million Palestinians - three quarters of whom are refugees - experienced the worst round of violence this week since Israel's 2014 invasion, which left 2,300 Palestinians dead, including more than 500 children.

The escalation in hostilities is easy to track from the timeline of events, but you'd never know that if your primary source of information was western media outlets.

If one thing has remained constant in the Palestinian struggle for liberation over the course of the past 50 years, it's that major news outlets continue to frame the conflict and violence in a way that totally misrepresents the reality on the ground.

"Israeli Officer Killed During Gaza Raid in which Seven Palestinians Died," reads a headline posted on Twitter by the Guardian newspaper, which signals an Israeli was killed by Palestinians, while, at the same time, signaling seven Palestinians died somewhat mysteriously rather than on the receiving end of Israeli-fired bullets.

"Israel and Palestinians Exchange Fire," reads The New York Times' headline, which signals to readers that this latest round of conflict is located within a standard tit-for-tat scenario, and in doing so, falsely portrays the Israeli military and Palestinian resistance to be of equal footing and responsibility.

The Associated Press, however, takes the prize for the most skewed narration of Monday's attack on Gaza by Israel, with its headline, "Rockets, Bombs, and Mortars Fired Into Israel."

For decades, western media outlets have ignored Israel's daily and systematic use of violence against the indigenous occupants of the land it colonises, and in doing so have rendered the Palestinian people bit-part actors in a conflict that has spanned 70 years and counting.

Monday's violence didn't emerge from a vacuum

When Israel dispossesses Palestinians of their homes and land, or subjugates them to discriminatory laws, or shoots them for protesting their plight, western media willingly turns a blind eye. But when Palestinians eventually retaliate with violence of their own, typically with homemade rockets that rarely hit anything other than vacant plots of land or empty rural roads on the Israeli side of the Gaza fence, the media is all eyes and ears, providing saturation coverage, while at the same time whitewashing reality at the expense of Palestinians' narrative.

Monday's violence didn't emerge from a vacuum, nor are the respective belligerents - Israel and the Palestinians - equally culpable or responsible. The blame here lies squarely with Israel, as it has with all previous efforts by the self-proclaimed Jewish state, to mete out Geneva Convention defying forms of collective punishment on Gaza.

Hamas fired rockets from Gaza into Israel only after the Israeli military violated a nascent ceasefire in what even Israel has described as an "intelligence mission that went awry".

But as US-based Palestinian human rights activist Yousef Munayyer rightly observes, "Imagine if Palestinians crossed into Israel and killed 6 Israelis, all hell would break loose, but Palestinians are expected to just accept this."

The key point here, however, and one entirely overlooked by mainstream media reporting, is that Israel violated a ceasefire, invaded Palestinian territory, and carried out a botched intelligence operation, but not one media outlet carried a headline with this contextualisation.

For example, a headline that reads, "Israel Violates Ceasefire by Killing 8 Palestinians in Botched Gaza Raid" is one that informs readers of the actual timeline of events.

Also absent in the media's reporting were the words, "Palestinians Have a Right to Defend Themselves". Nowhere were Israeli claims that it has a right to defend itself from Palestinian rockets challenged by journalists who should know better, especially given that Hamas fired rockets came only in retaliation to Israel's incursion and violation of the ceasefire.

Not one media outlet carried a headline with this contextualisation

Absent also from any media contextualisation is the fact that the Israeli military has killed more than 180 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, while injuring more than 18,000 others, since the Great Return March began earlier this year.

This is significant because Israel is saying to the world that it reserves the right to shoot and kill unarmed Palestinian protesters for approaching the Gaza security fence, while also reserving the right of Israeli soldiers to cross over the fence into Gaza to kill Palestinians it arbitrarily deems undesirable.

Read more: Israeli state terror will fail to pacify Gazans

Also missing from reporting is that the terms of international law, specifically United Nations resolution 37/43, dated 3 December 1982, "reaffirm[s] the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle."

Moreover, the resolution's preamble makes clear that it refers not to a hypothetical abstract entity, but rather specifically to the rights of Palestinians, stating, "Considering that the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, sovereignty, independence and return to Palestine and the repeated acts of aggression by Israel against the peoples of the region constitute a serious threat to international peace and security."

The public is subjected to an endless stream of pro-Israel pundits

Instead the public is subjected to an endless stream of pro-Israel pundits who falsely pontificate on how Israel has a right to defend itself from Palestinian resistance, when in fact it doesn't, which only serves to legitimise illegal Israeli aggression in the minds of western media consumers while simultaneously delegitimising lawful Palestinian resistance.

The media plays a crucial role in how the world sees and understands this conflict, and by stubbornly refusing to frame these bursts of violence in a way that reflects reality, global audiences will remain passive and dispassionate observers of what has already been the world's longest foreign occupation, which is exactly the way Israel wants it.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.