////

The Media: An Agenda Against Empathising With Palestine

Disclosure: This is an opinion article

Over a year ago today, I wrote in an article that; “people are quick to criticise Arabs but slower to help them” and it seems, unfortunately, I have been proven right. Where is the accountability within the British media towards Israel’s blatant war crimes against the Palestinians? The media churned out story after story condemning Qatar for its human rights record, which for the record I had no problem with. I did take issue with the fact, however, that it wasn’t equal criticism. Again, we see that today.

I will show you through; the media, the world of football, and the festive period just gone as to why there is an unfair double standard levelled, and lack of sympathy, towards Palestine. Alongside this, I will also mention the unfair blame levelled at Arab countries for what’s currently going on. 

Do You Condemn Hamas?

This frequent line of questioning on national television; ‘do you condemn Hamas’ has become one that is quite offensive to the Arab and Muslim community. I am not a supporter of Hamas and neither do I know anyone who is. Believing in Hamas’ strategy does not correlate with being humane towards innocent Palestinians being murdered in any way. Arabs and Muslims are not spokesmen for Hamas, we do not have their phone numbers on speed dial I promise!

This question has become an unhealthy fixation in Western media. In one of my recent articles, I mentioned a quote by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Peter Hinchcliffe (2002), that shows that Palestinians were not known as civilians by the media, but simply as terrorists for around forty years. A big part of that was influenced of course by Hollywood films, particularly an American company called Canon. In the documentary Reel Bad Arabs, Shaheen talks about Palestinian representation in films and covers the fact that Canon was created by Goran and Globus: two Israeli directors who made 30 films vilifying Palestinians and Arabs as terrorists amongst other nasty depictions. Western media cannot shake this image of Arabs and Muslims to this day of them being terrorists, and that includes guests who are interrogated by TV show hosts. 

Israeli representatives, however, are not met with the same hostility for their government’s image. Officials such as Avi Dichter in the Likud party have come out saying they want to roll out a second Nakba. Netanyahuhas even said this is the children of light versus the children of dark. Are these not the words of genocidal intent, that for so long the West has supposedly prided itself on fighting against? Should their actions not be called as violent and evil as what Hamas did?  

Let me make it clear if I haven’t already, I do not condone what Hamas did on October 7th, it did not do anything to further the Palestinian cause. Killing innocent Israelis and taking hostages is truthfully wrong and I have no problem saying that. The death of any civilian should be scorned. However, the more information that comes out about how Hamas treated hostages, it goes against the media narrative. We see this through the account of; an unnamed Israeli womanNatalie HandYocheved Lifshitz and recently Ajam and her mother, that these named people were all fed and taken care of according to their accounts. Again, this doesn’t mean I’m saying Hamas should have had hostages to begin with. In contrast, IDF soldiers have forced Palestinian men to go naked and bundled them up in vehicles. There seems to be no regard for innocent Palestinians as all have been conflated with the enaction of what Hamas did when this is simply not the case.

Let’s also bring light to the fact Israel’s government has by no means acted righteously. It is said in the media that Israel swapped Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages (take the Guardian here as an example). That wording is very key. Prisoners. It would infer that those under Israeli detainment have committed a crime. But many held by Israel are innocent under international law. Zeina Abdo is just one example who was imprisoned for five and a half months (alongside living under house arrest multiple times) for simply criticising the government and also posting a Palestinian flag online. Are these the actions of a criminal? She was part of the exchange deal for Israeli hostages as a prisoner, but was she not also a hostage herself? Even finding information on these cases is quite difficult online and many of the charges tend to be petty crimes such as throwing stones, or in this case, activism. A more well-known case is of activist Ahed Tamimi, who once received eight months imprisonment after slapping an IDF soldier. This was in response to him shooting a rubber bullet at her cousin and seriously injuring him. The conviction rate of Palestinians tried is staggering at nearly 100% according to Human Rights Watch

Considering the war is supposed to be taking place in Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank have also been subjugated to harsh conditions such as a complete lockdown whereby they’re not allowed to leave their homes. The death count in the West Bank is up to 320 Palestinians killed and on top of that 5,000 have been arrested by the IDF since October 7th. It is not Hamas that runs the West Bank territory, whose presence is limited and lacks the capacity for sustained violence, but rather the Palestinian Authority, run by Fatah, who are the Palestinian representatives in this region and don’t want a confrontation with Israel, as the BBC reports. However, the subjugation of Palestinians in the West Bank has caused Hamas support in the area to triple, and one might argue that Israeli violence has emboldened support for violence against them in the area. Whatever way you slice it, there is no justification for this, and the Israeli government still goes unquestioned.

 Some have said regarding the attacks that are occurring in Gaza now; ‘let’s not forget how we got into this mess in the first place’ or ‘how else do we get rid of Hamas’, and this position does not consider the historical perspective. In 1948 when the Nakba occurred, 15,000 Palestinians were killed and 750,000 expelled from their homes, where then was the international community’s stance of ‘we stand with Palestine’? In 1982, was Israel bombed in response to the bloodbath they caused alongside Lebanese Christian militia forces in camp Shatila in Sabra, killing 2,000- 3,500 Palestinians in the camp, Did anyone step in? Or to stop the first Intifadawhen over 1,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers for protesting between 1987 and 1993? This was also coupled with, and still to this day, the forceable removable of Palestinians by the government of Israel creating more settlements. Israel has been getting away with such atrocities for years and these are only a few examples. The answer is simple as to why the outrage of Palestinian deaths is so quiet in Western media. It’s because their lives do not hold the same value, unfortunately. When Israeli civilians died it was a period for mourning or their ‘9/11’, but when it is Palestinians, it is ‘complicated’ or an ‘outcome of war’. 

Israel felt pain on October 7th understandably with a figure of what is believed to be 1,200 innocent Israelis being killed. But can this somehow justify a response of killing roughly 20,000 innocent Palestinians in return? Can this really just be a consequence of war? If you google online, ‘How many Hamas fighters are there?’ you’ll get an answer of roughly 20-30,000. Now I wasn’t ever any good at maths at school, but I’m sure the rhetoric that ‘Hamas was using the civilians as human shields’ would have meant Hamas would be desecrated by now if every Hamas soldier was hidden by the civilians killed. Considering, Israel is bombing Gaza, how does one even use a human shield in that instance? It is clear that if Israel planned to rid Hamas of Gaza, it would not be bombing indiscriminately without regard for Palestinian civilians. On top of this Israel has been reluctant to allow aid into Gaza, even shooting at aid convoys. By this, it means they are fully aware it will result in the active starvation and malnutrition of men, women, and children. It then becomes clear to the world the IDF’s goal is most certainly the destruction of Gaza and its people.

 There are tons of condemnation to go around for Hamas in the media, but far less calling Israeli actions genocidal citing once again a double standard. It seems there has been a reduction in journalistic integrity over this period. Where is the accountability when an Israeli bulldozer runs over a Palestinian, or when Palestinian women are shot inside a Church? Not to mention more than 7,000 children have been amongst those killed in the bombings. This begs the question, where is the sympathy for Palestine in the news? Palestinian children: being hurt, crying for their dead parents, and lacking nutrition and water, are truly heart-breaking images to see. 

Blame The Arabs.

I don’t want to spend too long mentioning this subject of topic, but I was perplexed as to how at one point in this conflict since October 7th the blame which should have gone to the IDF killing Palestinians instead went to other Arab nations.

Nikki Haley (presidential hopeful) asked, ‘Why are Arab nations not accepting refugees? This misses the point entirely. Arab countries have been accepting Palestinian refugees since the Nakba of 1948; namely, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other nearby nations are known to have Palestinian refugees. Haley clearly can’t see that there is a fear of the Palestinians never having the right to return to Gaza if they are made refugees once more. There are seven million Palestinian refugees around the world according to Refugees International. Why should there be a continuation of this crisis when it can be stopped at the root?

Let us not also forget that Israel did bomb the Rafa Crossing in October, as Al-Jazeera reported. Are these the actions of a state that cares for refugees by pushing them towards Egypt and then bombing the areas they travel to? Israel still has not been challenged for these actions, and it has made Arab nations cautious of Israel’s intentions.

In debates when someone doesn’t like what you are saying they usually switch topics. This is what has happened when discussing Palestine, have we forgotten that the IDF is directly responsible for killing Palestinians? Not Arabs, Israel. They can stop at any moment but choose not to, so it should not be the Arab nations that are blamed for these deaths but rather the perpetrators of the crime.

There’s No Room For Politics In Football.

I started this article by mentioning the Qatar World Cup last year, so I think it’s only right we bring up how the footballing world has reacted to Palestine and perhaps shows how they mirror a media agenda. It would also be interesting to compare what’s going on now with other cases.

Football to my mind is supposed to be about actively supporting all, there are always countless billboards that go across the side of the pitch with slogans about equality and no room for racism. Rightfully in the past years football has supported certain initiatives such as BLM, promoting females in the game, LGBQT rights and hoping for a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine. So why have certain issues been avoided in this case, footballers and fans are encouraged to use their voices on some matters but not others. Writing this I by no means want to take away from these other causes, I just struggle to understand the lack of consistency within football about why some matters are ‘too political’ and some aren’t when they often contain the same substance of the issue.

In protest of not being allowed to wear ‘one love armbands’ (to support the LGBQT movement) at the 2022 World Cup German players covered their mouths to show they were being silenced. Fans of Qatar were quick to remind the Germans of their flaws by holding up pictures at the next German game of the footballer Mesut Özil, covering their mouths also. This was about the racist abuse Özil faced by German fans for having Turkish origins, he was famously quoted as saying “I am a German when we win and an immigrant when we lose.” The footballing world did seem quiet when these words came from the mouth of the ex-Real-Madrid and Arsenal star.

Özil also came out in 2019 condemning China’s treatment of Ughyr Muslims which is well documented. You would think the footballing world would have supported him. But this was not the case as Arsenal distanced themselves from him and so did the Premier League to protect their sponsorship in China. While it cannot be proven that Özil was sold a year later because of his comments, his playing time did decrease if that is any indicator.

Now we are seeing again the footballing world go quiet when there is any remote solidarity shown to the Palestinians. FIFA, UEFA, and the Premier League have been cracking down on fans showing any sign of support for Palestine. A Liverpool fan has been removed from Anfield for wearing a Palestine hoodie, a Manchester United steward sacked for trying to get the Palestinian flag shown, and footballer Anwar El Ghazi has had his contract terminated for posting support to Palestine, as shared by VersusCeltic were also fined £25k for waving Palestinian flags by UEFA. Can people within football not see the irony of how they criticised Qatar for silencing some yet now football bodies are doing the very same thing and arguably to a far more extreme extent? This is exactly what I was talking about last year, that the double standards are so clearly in front of us.

How can UEFA legitimately take action in this case of fans showing solidarity with innocent Palestinians being killed but there are fans in Ukraine and Greece that are not being punished for having pro-Nazi banners up? I’ll be waiting to hear news of their fines… probably will be waiting a while!

I used the case of Özil above alongside the Palestinian case in football now, to demonstrate that perhaps it is a trend that when the issue pertains to Muslim or Arab suffering it is considered too political for football and yet anything else seems to be on the table. There is so much wrong with this. Oleksandr Zinchenko was praised for showing such courage in speaking out about the wrongful killings of his people back in Ukraine. And so for this reason it is firstly puzzling to me that he has come out in support of the Israeli government despite the knowledge of innocent civilians being killed in Gaza. Why has he not been condemned for that in the same way people have been condemned for showing support for Palestine? 

The Festive Period

Many European countries claim they are Christian nations but turn the other way as the oldest Christian group, the Palestinians are being slaughtered.

The world was uprooted when Notre Dame was burnt in a fire in 2019. Everybody came out and donated large sums to ensure the rebuilding of this Church in France, to be precise $565 million went to its repairs. Now where is this sentiment towards the third oldest Church in the world being hit by rocket strikes in Gaza? I still don’t see anyone clamouring to donate money to restore that Church. Has Christianity become so monopolised by the idea it is a Western religion only, and that the value of its Middle Eastern heritage holds little to no value? 

Not only are some Christians in the West ignoring the fact that Palestinians are being killed but they are also ignoring that the destruction of Palestine is the destruction of Jesus’ birthplace. It was certainly difficult to feel the festive Christmas spirit knowing as Peter Osborne puts it ‘Jesus would’ve been killed if he was living in Palestine today’. Jesus was after all a Palestinian, native to the land. In this video, Peter also shows a clip in the video of a Christian group in America that bizarrely encourages the destruction of Gaza at the expense of other Christians (Palestinians). 

Munther Isaac, who is a Christian pastor in the West Bank, even suspended celebrations of the holiday due to the genocide. Thus, how could we in the West celebrate the same as we watch the systematic destruction of a people and their havens of worship? The reason perhaps is because as Munther lays out, Christmas has strayed away from its original purpose which is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is supposed to be about practising gratitude for what we have, and celebrating with loved ones, cherishing these moments. However, over the last number of years, I have come to realise in this country it isn’t what Christmas is about anymore. It’s about what presents you get and how much is spent. This is best characterised in Harry Potter, when for Dudley’s birthday he complains about only getting thirty-six presents and that last year he got thirty-seven. 

Conclusions

I think I have laid out clearly that there is an unconscious bias against Palestinians, the media across the Western world have struggled with the idea that Arabs and Muslims can be tolerant and peaceful people. It has also dismissed their pain and misery as a result of the need to identify them with terrorists or villainous people. Other social issues have seen to have been taken more care of and deemed more important in the media, in football and even in religious spheres, showing us the lack of equality that still faces us in the world.

I shouldn’t group all Western media, but here I am addressing the vast majority of them. The power that the media has is immense. The narrative needs to change from tragedy versus deaths in war when comparing Israel and Palestine, to tragedy and more tragedy. Let us reflect on this immoral war for it is. Mehdi Hassan challenged Israeli Mark Regev, and this interview put pressure to ask why a ceasefire cannot be reached and for this, his show has been cancelled by MSNBC. The media has a chance to apply pressure and condemnation of what is going on as Mehdi Hassan did, these voices shouldn’t be silenced as free speech is supposed to be the pillar of a Western democracy. We saw the news apply such pressure for Qatar’s human rights abuses, so why will they not call Israel’s actions such?

I think it is appropriate to sign off this article with a quote that comes from the Bible to address the actions of Israel. Mark 8:36 says; “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” 

What soul will Israel have after annihilating Gaza? 

Latest from Comment & Conversation

LESS is MORE

Editorial Disclaimer: This is a comment article. LESS is MORE: How the University of Bath cut the