With More Gaza Protests Planned, Don’t Believe the Mainstream Media’s Lies

Here are the mainstream media myths to look out for.

Tamara Nassar June 1, 2018

An injured Palestinian protestor is carried by fellow demonstrators during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration calling for the right to return, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 6, 2018. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the begin­ning of the Great March of Return on March 30, Israel has killed over 100 Pales­tini­ans and injured over 12,000. Only one Israeli, a sol­dier, has been injured in the con­text of the march. 

It is inhumane to expect a massacred population not to resist.

Most main­stream west­ern media cov­er­age of Gaza’s march has sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly decon­tex­tu­al­ized the mass civil­ian protest, brushed off Israel’s week­ly mas­sacres as clash­es,” rei­fied the bound­ary fence between Gaza and Israel a bor­der,” pre­sent­ed Pales­tin­ian pro­test­ers as Hamas pawns” pas­sive­ly dying for pho­to ops” and deployed oth­er strate­gic false­hoods to dehu­man­ize Pales­tini­ans fight­ing for their free­dom. The net effect is the demo­niza­tion of the march and the abso­lu­tion of Israel of its mur­der­ous assault.

Some out­lets have even por­trayed the protests as a reac­tion to the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, which was planned on the annu­al date com­mem­o­rat­ing the Nak­ba: Israel’s 1948 eth­nic cleans­ing of over 700,000 Pales­tini­ans. Accord­ing to Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, the embassy move inten­tion­al­ly under­mines Pales­tin­ian rights and in effect con­dones decades of vio­la­tions by Israel.” And yet is just a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the larg­er Israeli poli­cies of expan­sion­ism and eth­nic cleans­ing, which have dis­tort­ed the ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty of the West Bank and dev­as­tat­ed Gaza.

What are Pales­tini­ans in Gaza protesting? 

Since Israel imposed a block­ade on Gaza in 2007, it has waged rou­tine inva­sions that lev­el infra­struc­ture and kill thou­sands — a pol­i­cy described by some Israeli analy­sists and politi­cians as mow­ing the lawn.” Accord­ing to the UN, Israel’s attacks, cou­pled with the siege, have ren­dered Gaza unliv­able.” Over 96 per­cent of Gaza’s water is unsafe for drink­ing and 57 per­cent of house­holds are food insecure.

The Gaza Strip is often called the world’s largest open-air prison. Israel con­trols the mar­itime, aero­space and land bor­ders of the coastal enclave.

The Israel mil­i­tary defies inter­na­tion­al mar­itime law by restrict­ing Gaza’s fish­ers to six nau­ti­cal miles from their shore, rather than the 20 stip­u­lat­ed in the Oslo Accords (signed between Israel and the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion in the ear­ly 1990s). More­over, it often guns down fish­ers and their boats even when they abide by its limitations.

Israel deter­mines who and what can enter or exit Gaza. They con­trol ship­ments of fuel, med­i­cine, build­ing sup­plies, and food — at one point allow­ing only the min­i­mum calo­ries each per­son in the strip could con­sume with­out starving.

The only two open­ings” to the out­side world are the Erez check­point and the Egypt­ian-con­trolled Rafah cross­ing. The for­mer is the only point of pas­sage for trav­el­ers between Gaza and Israel and almost impos­si­ble to obtain a per­mit to. The lat­ter opened for only 35 days in all of 2017.

Almost 70 per­cent of Gaza’s pop­u­la­tion con­sists of refugees from oth­er Pales­tin­ian cities who were forcibly dis­placed to the strip by Israel. Pales­tini­ans are stuck in Gaza, and they are demand­ing their right to return to their homes as enshrined in inter­na­tion­al law.

Clash­es”

In their cov­er­age of the March, most main­stream media deployed pas­sive lan­guage that hid Israel’s agency in its mur­der of Pales­tin­ian pro­test­ers, jour­nal­ists and para­medics. One such term which obfus­cates the extent of this one-sided mas­sacre is clash­es.”

The Guardian, the BBC, ABC News and oth­ers report­ed on clash­es” in their head­lines. This puts no clear empha­sis on the vic­tims, the per­pe­tra­tors and the mag­ni­tude of the assault. One is led to believe that Israelis and Pales­tini­ans inflict­ed com­pa­ra­ble dam­age and suf­fered com­pa­ra­ble casualties.

The Econ­o­mist even called on Pales­tini­ans to take up gen­uine non-vio­lence” — echo­ing Israeli army pro­pa­gan­da that the march was vio­lent” and brush­ing over the fact that Israel has sub­ject­ed Gaza to its dead­liest days since its 2014 assault on the strip.

It is inhu­mane to expect a mas­sa­cred pop­u­la­tion not to resist.

One can­not equate the use of stones and molo­tov cock­tails with the use of sniper-rifles and drones. These do not amount to two equal clash­ing sides.” The for­mer has proved inca­pable of inflict­ing vio­lence, while the lat­ter has enabled the sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tions and maim­ing of vast num­bers of the Gazan population.

The fact is that Pales­tini­ans were the only vic­tims of week­ly mas­sacres that only Israel com­mit­ted. The death toll speaks to this: over 100 Pales­tin­ian dead to 0 Israelis.

Giv­en the gross pow­er dis­par­i­ty, the safe­ty of the Israeli sol­diers, and Israel’s shoot-to-kill pol­i­cy, sure­ly the term mas­sacre” is far more appropriate.

Pas­sive language 

In the same vein, out­lets have also used mis­lead­ing, pas­sive lan­guage that absolves Israel of its agency and blames Pales­tini­ans for the violence.

In a tweet emblem­at­ic of this trend, The New York Times wrote, Spo­radic rifle fire from the Israeli side of the Gaza bor­der made clear that the Pales­tin­ian protests could elic­it the sort of response that killed 20 peo­ple a week ago.”

This tweet is deceiv­ing on many levels.

First­ly, the term spo­radic rifle fire” masks both the per­pe­tra­tor, Israel, and the sys­tem­at­ic nature of the shoot­ings. The arti­cle sug­gests that rifle fire” sim­ply exists on its own, with no agent cre­at­ing it. This is espe­cial­ly far­ci­cal con­sid­er­ing a now-delet­ed tweet from the offi­cial Israeli Defense Forces that noth­ing was car­ried out uncon­trolled; every­thing was accu­rate and mea­sured, and we know where every bul­let landed.” 

More­over, describ­ing the rifle fire as from the Israeli side of the Gaza bor­der” pawns off respon­si­bil­i­ty from Israel by evok­ing the imagery of Israel’s bad neigh­bor­hood” and of bor­der dis­putes. Giv­en the pre­pon­der­ance of drone war­fare and snipers which have dis­tanced Israeli sol­diers from the bor­der, this may sim­ply have read, from Israel”.

Third­ly, rather than kill and maim hun­dreds, the rifle fire sim­ply made clear” that the Pales­tini­ans were respon­si­ble for their deaths. It showed that they could,” and in fact did, elic­it” the Israeli response.” This evokes motifs of the fatal­is­tic, unciv­i­lized Pales­tini­ans dying for a pho­to opp”. In this way, one doesn’t ques­tion the bru­tal­i­ty of the response, but only the Pales­tini­ans who elicit­ed” it.

Fourth, and per­haps most egre­gious, the peo­ple” killed were all Palestinians.

Bor­der”

Media out­lets fre­quent­ly refer to the site of the clash­es” or con­fronta­tions” as the Gaza bor­der.” The New York Times often uses that term, Israeli Mil­i­tary Kills 15 Pales­tini­ans in Con­fronta­tions on Gaza Bor­der,” they report­ed on the first week of protest. Doing so, how­ev­er, implies zones of sov­er­eign­ty for the respec­tive states that do not exist across the Gaza-Israel fence.

As men­tioned above, the siege has result­ed in Israeli con­trol over Gaza’s land, aero­space and mar­itime bor­ders. In addi­tion, Israel has imposed a buffer zone of uncer­tain size on Gazan ter­ri­to­ry, fur­ther illus­trat­ing the myth of demar­ca­tion of sovereignty.

More­over, Israel has nev­er defined its bor­ders nor accept­ed the 1949 Green Line which the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty rec­og­nizes: a fact evi­dent in its creep­ing annex­a­tions of East Jerusalem, seg­ments of the West Bank and the Syr­i­an Golan Heights.

The protests are slat­ed to con­tin­ue on June 5 to com­mem­o­rate Israel’s 1967 annex­a­tion of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty must bear wit­ness and hold Israel account­able for its atroc­i­ties against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion of Gaza. This requires see­ing through media tropes that dehu­man­ize Pales­tini­ans and white­wash Israel’s abuses.

Tama­ra Nas­sar is an assis­tant edi­tor at The Elec­tron­ic Intifa­da. She can be found on twit­ter @TamaraINassar.
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