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Israel: Mainstream Western media’s blind spot

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian homes have been destroyed; many people made homeless twice, thrice or even four times in their lives

“Zionists executed the psychological coup of the century by taking Palestine from the Arabs and then pretending Jews were Arab victims.”  - Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht

The history of Palestinian exile and diaspora has been overshadowed and almost silenced by the story of other exiles, most prominently that of European Jews during Hitler’s “final solution.” This genocide of Jewish people, which has come to be called the Holocaust, has subsequently received 50 years of attention in films, books, conferences, and this memory has been institutionalised in Holocaust museums in many countries. Only recently has attention begun to be paid to the decades-long Palestinian experience of dispossession, massacres and human suffering.

This Apartheid-like nightmare that Palestinians endure is the planned and deliberate impact of the hundreds of draconian Israeli laws and actions aimed at humiliating the unarmed and defenceless Palestinian people. The ultimate objective of this strategy is to undermine and silence any possibility of establishing a sovereign, independent Palestinian state.

Western mainstream media outlets seem to intentionally disregard many facts when reporting on Palestine. These outlets claim to be “objective,” but a cursory review of their reporting shows the levels of blindness to Palestinian realities can only be a result of the biased ideology of the media outlet itself. This reporting tends to deliberately ignore the following:

The West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem, are still occupied territories. This is a descriptive phrase that has disappeared from the political lexicon describing the conflict, even though it refers to the official position of the vast majority of countries in the world.

Military occupation, by definition, involves various types of violence: it violates rights and due process, and uses direct force as its main instrument of rule. Israel is the last occupying power in the world, an anachronism in the 21st century. Resistance to occupation is guaranteed under international law, and the occupation is the root cause of violence and terrorism.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) controls an area that comprises less than 20 percent of the total area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The PA has administrative control over the population, but has no sovereignty over land or borders. Palestine does not exist as a state. Palestinians do not have an army. Israel is a state. Israelis do have the strongest army in the Middle East, and the fourth strongest in the world. Israel, the occupying force, is also a nuclear power.

The resistance, be it the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement (BDS) or popular uprisings, is a response to Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid. Tens of thousands of Palestinian lives have been lost during the almost 67-year struggle to regain Palestinian independence, with the majority of these being ordinary Palestinians, or civilians, including hundreds of children younger than 16.

Israel is not the state of its citizens, but rather “the state of the Jews”. What happens to the Palestinians who did not leave during the 1947-1948 pogroms but instead became citizens of the state formed in 1948? They exist as third-class citizens in the Israel of today but no Western media outlet highlights this lack of equality, choosing instead to single out Israel as the only “democracy in the Middle East”.

The United States of America has not called on Israel to have a constitution that is as inclusive as its own - which means creating a state for all of the citizens of Israel irrespective of religion, race, or ethnicity. It has rather allowed and supported Israel to create and maintain a state for Jews only, and continues to justify this at every opportunity that it gets. Where is the Western media focus on the anomaly of Western governments calling Israeli a democracy when it is in fact a theocracy?

There is repeated claims that Palestinians rejected great deals at Camp David and with the Oslo Accords. However, the current political stalemate began when one-third of the Palestinian people, namely the residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank rejected the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution in legislative council elections in 2006. The “generous offer” given to them by the “dovish” Zionist “left” in these accords was going to be a non-sovereign, truncated "state" in return for a final termination of all rights and claims to historical Palestine, including the right of return of Palestinian refugees. In any event, even if Palestinians had accepted the deal, it is not clear that it could have been accepted and imposed within Israel.

The Israeli-Palestinian “conflict” is not intractable and “too complex to understand”. It will be solved if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders in accordance with the "land for peace" formula embodied in relevant UN resolutions, implements UN resolution 194, and ends its discriminatory policies against its Palestinian citizens. This is still the official position of the majority of mainly developing and non-aligned countries in the world. The reason for the current uprisings and tension in the Middle East is Israeli occupation, colonisation and apartheid.

The plight of the 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners has attracted little attention outside Israel, even though there have been warnings from human rights groups about the dire conditions they endure. Some of these prisoners are on an open-ended hunger strike, to expose the systematic abuse and torture that they experience in Israeli prisons.

None of these facts are part of the mainstream Western Media reports because for them, Palestinian lives simply do not count. They are not worth a word of empathy from the first-ever elected African-American president of the US, nor from CNN, NY Times or the BBC. Their lack of reporting on these facts enables Israel to hide behind the façade of the “peace process” and the title of “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Aside for this failure in mainstream Western media reporting, there are two main reasons for Israel’s decades-long failure to comply with international law. First, public opinion in Israel has been drifting to the right for the past three decades and as a result, the "Eretz Israel" ideology has become increasingly influential in Israeli politics. The fact that Israel has been able to occupy Palestinian land with impunity for 47 years has contributed to this colonising mind-set.  

Second, the Oslo process was designed to be a "negotiated process". An important fact is masked by this empty phrase. It is this: negotiations will take place under a balance of power wholly in Israel's favour, with US support at every turn, while Israeli settlements increase and Israel's colonial drive continues unabated. If the "process" stalls or fails, there is a built-in villain to attribute blame to.

While public attention focused on other wars in the Middle East over the last 30 years, successive Israeli governments have continued to create new Jewish colonies in the Occupied Territories, by confiscating land, assassinating leaders of the Palestinian resistance, and withdrawing residence permits from Palestinians born in “strategic areas” - including Jerusalem. 

They have also closed Palestinian schools, tortured Palestinian political prisoners, destroyed orchards and greenhouses and steadily decreased the ability of Palestinians to support themselves and their families, while increasing their dependence on Israeli-grown products. Since 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian houses have been destroyed, with many people made homeless twice, thrice or even four times in their lives.

After enduring this ongoing Nakba since 1948, and since the brutal Israeli invasions of the Gaza Strip in 2009, 2012 and 2014 were documented by citizen journalists in Palestine and broadcast worldwide, the mainstream Western media bias can no longer be hidden from view.

It is obvious to informed readers and viewers that the much- vaunted objectivity and reporting of only the facts of both sides of the story has been long thrown aside when it comes to the question of Palestine. What we have instead is embedded journalists who cover the story only to misrepresent the facts to support their governments’ continued enabling of Israeli occupation, colonisation and apartheid.

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: Thousands of homes were destroyed in the past year in the Gaza Strip (AA)