The last few days have seen the continuation of widespread violence by Israeli occupiers against Palestinians in the West Bank. Numerous videos have been posted of illegal Israeli settlers evicting Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah and of Israeli forces attacking peaceful Muslim worshippers in al-Aqsa Mosque. Perhaps the most widely circulated (and encapsulating of the Israeli colonizing mentality) was a clip of an Israeli settler explaining to the Palestinians he is evicting,
If I don’t steal your home, someone else will.
Sadly, the attitude and sentiment of the Israeli settler is a microcosmic reflection of the mentality of the Israeli state and of Israeli society at large. In February, a court in Jerusalem ordered six Palestinian families to vacate the homes they have lived in for almost 70 years to make way for Israeli settlers. The flimsy justifications behind these evictions highlight the ironic hypocrisy of the Israeli settler-colonial project. At the heart of it is the belief that the land of Palestine was stolen from the Jewish people (never mind how many thousands of years in the past). The solution to this historic injustice? To rob the current inhabitants of the land who have no connection to the original crime. In the words of Aryeh King, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem,
…if you are the owner of the property and somebody is squatting on your property, wouldn’t you have the right to take him out from your property?
To anyone with a basic understanding of the Nakba and the establishment of the Israeli state, the irony of such pronouncements is obvious, but they also point to the reality of being a non-Jew anywhere in Israel or Palestine. The Israeli government has created an apartheid state where the rights and interest of one group overtake the interests of other groups. The government has repeatedly allowed Jewish settlers to violate the property rights of Palestinians without consequence, and has used the state apparatus to violate the religious rights of Muslims, as seen in the recent assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan prayers. Since the start of 2020, Israeli courts have ordered the eviction of 36 Palestinian families from their homes. The use of the judicial process by settlers acts merely as a legal screen for their otherwise unhindered pursuit to drive Palestinian Arabs out of Jerusalem and make the city the de facto capital of a Jewish Israel.
The question is, how did we get here? How has Israel been able to so blatantly violate international law repeatedly and with little to no consequences bar tame tweets by a few Western politicians calling on Israel to de-escalate “tension?” The answer is long and involves a multitude of issues, including western foreign policy aims as well as weak leadership in Arab countries who have failed to stand up for Palestinian citizens. However, the role of the media in hiding and thereby ensuring the continued subjugation of Palestinians cannot be underestimated.
Malcolm X famously stated in an interview,
The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
This quote encapsulates the nature of the reporting on the occupation of Palestine. Every year, Israel arrests, assaults, and kills innocent civilians, and every year, the media fails to report the reality of the situation on the ground. Newspapers and media outlets repeatedly refer to these attacks as “conflicts” or “confrontations.” They repeat verbatim lines of Israeli government propaganda which always follow the same pattern of referring to any protesters as terrorists and claiming that any action by Israelis are done purely in response to Palestinian violence.
At worst, the actions of the media can be described as active support for Israeli policy, and at best, it can be said that journalists have fallen into the balance trap. This is where journalists ask both sides for their telling of the story and report them both in order to claim they are unbiased in their coverage. The problem with the balance trap is best described by journalism professor Johnathan Foster;
If someone says it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the [expletive] window and find out which is true.
In the case of Palestine and Israel, the media for years have uncritically reported Israeli propaganda without interrogating the blatantly state-concocted narrative. This has led to the public illusion that the repeated violence in the occupied Palestinian territories always occurs as a result of an initial act of Palestinian violence, which Israel, we are told, has to respond to in order to protect itself.
However, the rise of social media and the ability of Palestinians to video the violence they face and share it across the world instantaneously and without the filter of publication editors has created a new window. Rather than the public having to rely on media narratives, people around the world can now literally see what is happening in Palestine. Time will tell to what extent this will dislodge the reach and impact of Israeli propaganda. Nonetheless, we can be sure that the multimedia defense of the occupation will only intensify as more and more people are exposed to the brutality visited on Palestinians on a regular basis.
About the Author: Abubakr Dawood is a Politics and International Relations student in Birmingham and an intern writer for Traversing Tradition. You can follow him on twitter here.