As the Palestinian death toll continues to rise in the latest round of clashes in the occupied territories, it seems mainstream media continues to portray the Palestinians as the instigators of this violence. Yesterday, Israeli forces shot and killed two more Palestinians, following fourteen days of violence that have already claimed at least 30 Palestinian lives. However, most American media and some South African media outlets are ignoring the broader context of the situation.
While Palestinians have been responsible for the deaths of a number of Israeli’s, some commentators argue that this can never be comparable to the Israeli occupation of Palestine that has been responsible for countless deaths of Palestinian civilians including woman and children.
On Thursday from Gaza, Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian journalist tweeted about the area being bombed. But whether this bombing will make headlines is hard to tell. It depends on which media outlet picks it up and if anyone who is seen as “newsworthy”.
According to journalist, Philip Weis, mainstream news sites continue to emphasize Jewish victims over Palestinian victims, and leave out the larger context of the conflict, Israeli occupation and the hatred it is producing, on both sides.
Suraya Dadoo from the National Coalition for Palestine says that for the most part, media have reported on the latest protests and stone throwing incidents in a vacuum.
“There is no mention made of the occupation, no mention of colonialism and no mention of the fact that residents of east Jerusalem are heavily discriminated against and have no political representation at all.”
In the last few months, there has been a build-up of frustration particularly with the Palestinians in Jerusalem and those in the occupied West Bank which has resulted in a series of small uprisings in the region.
The Israeli government has thus, chosen to violently suppress this protest action which has resulted in the deaths of many Palestinians.
“In response of course there has been Palestinians that have retaliated and have attacked Israeli’s as well, but I think that these actions need to be seen within a wider context which the media has generally ignored,” Dadoo explained.
In various news reports, minimal attention has been given to the occupation as a whole. The fact that Palestinians live under Israeli military law whilst Israeli settlers, who are also responsible for violent crimes, are subjected to Israeli civil law which has the most minimum conviction rate.
“Israeli’s literally get away with murder, whilst Palestinians are subjected to harsh sentences for incidents such as stone throwing,” Dadoo continued.
“There’s no mention of the fact that not all Palestinians are allowed to worship at Al Aqsa; and I think the decades old attempts by Jewish extremists to try and colonise Al Aqsa has been entirely missing.”
Dadoo says that much of the omissions that are done in the reporting is part of a much broader campaign to show that Israel is the victim.
“In the peace process, Israel is the one that has made these generous peace offers and Israel’s occupation is essentially a fight against terrorism. Colonising the West Bank is really an attempt to protect Europe and the western world against this creeping threat of terrorism from the Middle East,” Dadoo went further.
These small uprisings are being undertaken by civilians. Dadoo mentions these uprisings are not as a result of political parties such as the Palestinian Authority calling civilians to take up arms.
In the book, Why Israel Dadoo states that American news coverage is also influenced by the business interests of the corporations that own mass media.
All actions by Palestinians are seen as acts of terror and all Israeli actions are then viewed as necessary for the security of the Jewish people.
Zaakir Ahmed Mayet, the chairperson of the Media View Network (MRN), a Johannesburg advocacy group against Zionism, offers the opinion that the media bias in favour of Israel is due to a lack of understanding around the Palestinian issue.
Mayet attributes the lack of coverage to Palestinian victims due to what he calls ‘lazy journalism’.
“The intifada has not come out of a vacuum…it has come out of years of oppression and occupation,” Mayet added.
“There is a lack of information and lack of understanding to the Palestinian issue. Consciously skewing the story to favour Israel is due to financial considerations as well as other influences within the structures of mainstream media.”
Muslim Judicial Council spokesperson Nabeweya Malick said reporting on the Palestinian situation should always be presented in the context of Israel’s objectives.
“Whenever Israel needs to kill thousands to gain more land or increase control over the occupied, the killing is portrayed as being a response to an attack. Therefore, the recent outbursts of brutality should be seen as a continuation of the suffering of the people of Palestine and not an event that started yesterday with the stabbing of a policeman.” VOC (Umarah Hartley)