Western media dehumanises Palestinians & Gaza

Western media dehumanises Palestinians to justify Israel's genocide in Gaza
5 min read

Samar Saeed

16 October, 2023
Western media coverage of Palestinians as violent terrorists has normalised their dehumanisation & legitimised Israel’s crimes against them - like the siege & genocide in Gaza. It refuses to view their struggle as anti-colonial, argues Samar Saeed.
Over 2,700 people, including over 700 children, have been killed in Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza. [GETTY]

Last Saturday morning, the Palestinian resistance launched a surprise attack on Israel by air, land, and sea. Striking one of the most formidable militaries in the world with such precision, Palestinian fighters temporarily took over several Israeli settlements around the vicinity of Gaza, capturing Israeli soldiers when they least expected it, overwhelming the settlers and even succeeding in taking abandoned weapons and armoured vehicles.

Within minutes, Western leaders, celebrities, athletes, and institutions rushed to the defence of Israel, condemning in the most horrific terms what they portray as Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians. This reaction has never been extended to Palestinians despite the violence and the killing Israel has committed for over 75 years.

Just before the retaliation, Israel had killed more than 200 Palestinians and the world did not flinch. The Israeli settlers, who live in heavily militarised settlements, protected by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), carried out pogroms in the towns of Huwara and Jerusalem.

In the face of this Israeli violence, the media has never deployed its resources to show a fraction of Palestinian's daily brutalisation, assassinations, and incarceration by Israel’s colonial power. The normalisation of Palestinian dehumanisation has been so striking that it has led to calls for Palestinian mass murder, with colonisers portrayed as victims and the colonised as villains in different parts of the world.

The international media response to the retaliation was swift, targeted, and organised. It operated as global campaign, aimed to smear the Palestinian resistance and portray the events as an “unprovoked attack” by Hamas on Israel. They have portrayed the resistance as aimless, bloodthirsty savages, whose main goal is to kill Jewish civilians.

Individuals, journalists, and politicians circulated false information that Hamas “beheaded 40 babies” and “raped women”, using an exhausted and dangerous trope of the violent Arab and brown man, being dangerous, barbaric, and hypersexualised. It is no surprise that Palestinian dehumanisation reflects the continuity of enduring colonial discourse which has long operated to justify land theft and ethnic cleansing. Only this time, mainstream Western media was so blatantly shameless in their fabrication of so-called evidence.

The president of the United States felt comfortable to repeat these baseless rumours. And even when the Israeli army could not confirm that they were true, politicians, CEOs, and others continued to parrot them, demanding the eradication of Gaza and asking Netanyahu to “finish it.”

The majority of the world and its liberal leaders called for a genocide against the Palestinians and that is exactly what had happened. In six days, Israel dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza, which is 365 kilometres squared with 2.2 million Palestinian residents. More than 2,700 people have been killed including over 700 children.

Israel occupied Gaza in 1967 and in 2005 they dismantled their settlement. However, since  2007, Israel has placed Gaza under a land, sea, and air blockade making it the largest open-air prison. Plenty of evidence emerged of Palestinian children being killed, injured, and pulled out of rubble. Again, we did not hear an outcry to stop the slaughter of Palestinian children.

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Palestinians’ will to live is greater than Israel’s will to destroy
In the face of Western hypocrisy, the people stand with Gaza

The world has yet again confirmed to everyone that brown bodies are disposable while white bodies deserve to live.

A few Palestinians initially challenged Western media's racial-Islamophobic narratives on Palestine, but their voices were quickly suppressed, and their interviews went unpublished.

The only time the media gave this much attention to Palestinians was when they resorted to armed resistance to defend themselves against Israel’s colonialism, settler violence, and ethnic cleansing. The media’s hyper-focus on Hamas, as if it was the only group in the Palestinian resistance, and on violence is intentional. It aims to further dehumanise Palestinians, justify the genocide in Gaza, and blame Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians.

Not only does the media absolve Israel from any responsibility, but it also portray it as a victim. They never mention that Palestinians are resisting a colonial nuclear power with an army that is considered among the 20 most powerful militaries in the world.

They have 241 fighter/interceptor aircraft, 153 trainer aircraft, as well as 11 aerial tanker planes, making it the fourth highest in the world in this category. They also have the Iron Dome. Military service is mandatory, and the IOF has approximately 170,000 active military personnel while lists more than three million males and females available for army service. This makes Israel’s society the most militarised nation in the world.

The IOF's gigantic budget amounts to $20.5 billion, as estimated in 2019, placing it 15th in global military expenditure rankings. The US is the main financier of this military might and had given Israel $225.2 billion between 1951 and 2022. This is what the Palestinian resistance, which does not have an army,  is up against.

The Western media institutions refuse to view or analyse the Palestinian resistance movement as an anti-colonial struggle for freedom and justice. They constantly strip it of its revolutionary vigour and view it through the lens of violence and terrorism demonising not just the resistance and its freedom fighters, but all Palestinians.

It is impossible to think of a liberation movement that did not resort to revolutionary armed struggle against settlers, including the ones remembered as non-violent such as South Africa. Resistance, in all its forms, has been used in all liberation struggles around the world from Haiti, to South Africa, to Algeria, and Vietnam. Palestine is not an exception and Palestinians will continue to fight until they liberate their land and gain their freedom. This is something the whole world needs to know.

Samar Saeed is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Georgetown University.

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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.

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