Watch This Palestinian-American Woman Crush Every Media Trope About the Gaza Protests

Noura Erakat delivers a much-needed corrective to dehumanizing U.S. media spin.

Sarah Lazare May 15, 2018

Activist, human rights lawyer and scholar Noura Erakat appears on CBS May 14. (Screen shot/CBS)

Since Pales­tini­ans in Gaza launched the Great Return March on March 30, Israel has killed at least 109 Pales­tin­ian pro­test­ers and wound­ed 12,300 oth­ers, accord­ing to Gaza­’s Health Min­istry. Instead of prob­ing the Israeli gov­ern­ment and its U.S. back­ers about this mass atroc­i­ty, Amer­i­can media out­lets are far-too-often imply­ing that Pales­tin­ian pro­test­ers are respon­si­ble for their own deaths — false­ly por­tray­ing the mas­sacre, in which zero Israelis have died, as clash­es,” and paint­ing Pales­tin­ian pro­test­ers as pawns of Hamas, rather than legit­i­mate civ­il soci­ety activists.

"This is a decades-long siege of Gaza, 50-year occupation and 70-year exile, and the only time Palestinians matter is when they're being killed or appearing as a threat to Israel.”

Noura Erakat, a Pales­tin­ian-Amer­i­can human rights attor­ney, activist and assis­tant pro­fes­sor at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty, tells In These Times that wide­spread dehu­man­iza­tion in the U.S. media stems from the fact that we don’t turn our gaze to Pales­tini­ans unless there’s some­thing hap­pen­ing to Israelis or in regard to U.S. rela­tions. Pales­tini­ans appear as shad­ows. This is a decades-long siege of Gaza, 50-year occu­pa­tion and 70-year exile, and the only time Pales­tini­ans mat­ter is when they’re being killed or appear­ing as a threat to Israel.”

Erakat is in a posi­tion to know. Amid the con­stant stream of mis­in­for­ma­tion, she was fea­tured on CBS on May 14 to give the Pales­tin­ian” reac­tion to the ongo­ing protests in Gaza and the Trump administration’s inau­gu­ra­tion of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Dur­ing the inter­view, Erakat was hit with near­ly every trope about the con­flict cur­rent­ly cir­cu­lat­ing in the U.S. media — and she crushed them on by one:

They had me on their pro­gram and lit­er­al­ly asked me about Hamas amid civ­il mass protests. On March 30 when at least 14 Pales­tini­ans were gunned down, Israel explic­it­ly said it would not inves­ti­gate itself nor allow for an inter­na­tion­al probe, mean­ing that they defend their lethal use of force. Six weeks lat­er, when they esca­lat­ed, the ques­tions should be about Israel’s vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law. The fact that they asked me about Hamas shows that they are either will­ful­ly mis­lead­ing their audi­ence, or they just aren’t doing the work. Both are hor­ri­bly irresponsible.”

Tens of thou­sands of pro­test­ers in Gaza are call­ing for an end to Israel’s mil­i­tary siege, which has led to severe gas and water short­ages, as well as eco­nom­ic dev­as­ta­tion, for the rough­ly 2 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the strip. Demon­stra­tors are also demand­ing the right to return to the land Israel evict­ed them from 70 years ago dur­ing the mass-expul­sion known to Pales­tini­ans as the Nak­ba,” or catastrophe.

Amid these protests, Erakat says, Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists are miss­ing crit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties to ask hard ques­tions. Jour­nal­ists should be ask­ing Israel, Do you think Pales­tini­ans are a peo­ple with the right to exist and to self-deter­mi­na­tion?’ They should be ask­ing Israel, What is the prob­lem with allow­ing Pales­tin­ian refugees to return?’ They should be ask­ing U.S. sen­a­tors why they are not enforc­ing the Arms Export Con­trol Act, [which con­di­tions arms exports on human rights standards].”

Instead, U.S. press cov­er­age of these protests is so dis­mal that, accord­ing to Erakat, By the time they bring me on, I’m hav­ing to serve as a corrective.”

Sarah Lazare is web edi­tor at In These Times. She comes from a back­ground in inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism for pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing The Inter­cept, The Nation, and Tom Dis­patch. She tweets at @sarahlazare.

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