On Western Media and the Erasure of Palestine – Hashem Abushama 10/14/23

Source: Mondoweiss.net

The Palestinian struggle brings to the forefront the colonial relations that underpin today’s world, and that the West, and its media, work tirelessly to hide.

With every Israeli massacre in the besieged Gaza Strip, the double standards of Western media and governments become palpable. This time, however, the targeting of Palestinians and their supporters, especially across Europe, seems to be more violent and coordinated than ever before. On October 10th, the UK Home Secretary sent a letter to Chief Constables in England and Wales, encouraging the police to broaden the grounds on which they can arrest Palestine supporters. The letter encourages the police to consider chants such as ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ as an “expression of violent desire” and Palestinian flags as “intended to glorify acts of terrorism.” Yesterday, the German police attacked supporters of Palestine on Sonnenallee, arresting some of the protestors. In Vienna, the police banned a Palestine protest and issued fines to as many as three hundred protestors. In France, the police banned Palestine protests.

This coordinated violence across the continent occurs in parallel with the Israeli besiegement and bombardment of the Gaza Strip, its shooting of Palestinians in the West Bank, and its theft of land across 1948- and 1967-occupied lands. Thus far, the Israeli settler colonial regime has killed roughly 1,500 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and injured more than 6,000, as its brutal shelling has wiped entire families from the public record. And the death toll is only starting to mount. The Israeli settler colonial state has tightened its blockade on the Strip, holding its entire population hostage, refusing requests to bring food and medical supplies into Gaza, and has paralyzed the enclave’s already-overburdened and under-resourced health system. One is compelled to wonder how, in the midst of this calculated and systemic violence, can media organizations and governments in Europe and its offshoots (the United States, Australia, among others) choose to proactively pluck the Palestinian violence against the Israeli settler state out of context, selectively framing it as the root and cause of the unfolding atrocities. This ahistorical framing, coupled with a legal push in the higher power echelons to criminalize support for Palestine, contributes to the unfolding violence against Palestine and the Palestinians. The fact that the Western media only uses the register of violence to speak on Palestine feeds on a colonial, racist, patriarchal, and capitalist discourse that aims to justify the Israeli settler colonial erasure of Palestine.

Since the Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip started, I have been reviewing British media and its everyday items, such as the newspaper, phone, posters, and TV channels that seep into the public’s consciousness. Without the critical tools and education to puncture through their framing, we become complicit and easily intimidated. Some media outlets have gone as far as spreading misinformation, which surely would have been considered a hate crime in other contexts. Both the Daily Telegraph and The Times chose this misinformation as the headline for their October 11th issues. Although some (not all!) of those newspapers have already retracted their original false claims, the damage has already been done.

The Guardian chose to adorn its main headline for October 12th with the words ‘Israelis suspended between fear, grief and foreboding.’ The Daily Mail selected ‘The King Calls Them Terrorists, Why Can’t the BBC?’ Marching to the same beat, the Daily Telegraph opted to plaster the Royals’ condemnation of Hamas on its front pages. Survey the pages of the newspapers, and the stories eliciting support and empathy for Israel abound, making it clear who the perpetrators are and that vengeance against them is justified. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are only evoked through the register of terrorism and violence. Even those headlines, which are shy in their coverage of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, intentionally omit the perpetrators: the Israeli army and state. They are designed to neglect the root and cause of the violence: Israeli settler colonialism. By settler colonialism, we mean the gradual transfer of European Jews to the land of Palestine, the coercive displacement and dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population, and the imposition of a coordinated and sustainable system that turns this displacement into a continuous process.

Western media relies on racial, gendered, and colonial tropes to describe the atrocities in Palestine. It instrumentalizes white female faces to elicit support for Israel. Such a tactic simultaneously serves racism, patriarchy, and colonialism. It relies on notions of white female ‘innocence’ and ‘victimhood’ to justify the continuous erasure of Palestine. In a headline by the Daily Telegraph about a British IDF female soldier, below, we are shown a smiling white female soldier wearing military attire and a keffiyeh on her head. Neither the photograph nor the article questions why a British citizen is justified in enlisting in a settler army elsewhere, let alone the same army that is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. To the contrary, the article frames such enlisting as voluntary and dignified. These strategies bring to mind 9/11, Laura Bush, and the weaponization of white feminism in the service of imperialist and colonial expansion. Black and Brown feminist scholars and activists, including Lila Abu Lughod, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde amongst others, have long debunked and punctured through such strategies. It is this same white feminism that has been utilized by the media and governments to justify the intensification of Israeli brutality against the Palestinian residents of Gaza. …

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