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Western media when it comes to Israel and Palestine: tale of two very different realities

Published October 9, 2023 Updated October 10, 2023
A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9, 2023. Photo: AFP
A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9, 2023. Photo: AFP

Early Saturday, Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, provoking a scathing retaliation that has since racked up thousands of casualties.

The sudden flare-up stands to possibly undermine U.S.-backed efforts towards normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia – and a viable step towards a possible two-state solution.

Reportage on the conflict, however, has been less than balanced with Western media outlets failing to curb leading terms, opinions, and narratives.

Israel imposes total siege on Gaza, cuts off water supply

For perspective, Hamas has the aim of establishing a Palestinian state. But it is regularly referred to as a “terrorist” organisation by Israel, the United States, European Union, Canada, Egypt and Japan.

Christiane Amanpour, a veteran journalist – with years of experience and coverage of numerous wars in her career – and a primetime anchor on a major cable news network, has the responsibility to not sustain a bias and keep reportage and questioning bereft of slant, one would think.

This applies to all conversations with guests on the show, including the questions and the manner in which she goes about asking them.

However, over the weekend, Amanpour failed to do that, repeatedly — and by no means, was she alone in it.

She not only continued to refer to Hamas as “terrorists” but looked visibly uncomfortable when faced with some hard facts about the reasons for the conflict.

This was not a network error, but seemingly her personal choice aired on television as part of a national broadcast.

Becki Anderson – also a primetime CNN anchor – repeatedly referred to the offending party as “Gazan militants”, refraining from using the word “terrorist” during her reportage.

Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, in conversation with Amanpour on Sunday, stated: “Western media must abandon this framework which has gotten us to where we are now…” but was interrupted by Amanpour who pushed him to condemn Hamas.

Zomlot went on to state the core reason why war broke out in the first place. “What is tragic is the blindness and deafness of the world and internationally community, of the warnings given that this was coming.”

“The National movement of Palestine (PLO) have committed to what the world asked of us, – recognise Israel, commit to negotiations and non-violence, and to international legitimacy and resolution. Israel was expected to do one thing only – roll back its occupation – not one day did it do so, thus killing the prospect of a two-state solution.”

The world was expected to do one thing – “uphold international law equally”.

Zomlot was interrupted several times even when Amanpour had no concrete additions to make, and looked increasingly uncomfortable the more he pushed as the conversation got away from her and her cue cards.

If there really was no blame to be placed on the Israelis for this incursion, there would be no fidgeting, deflecting and squirming. Optics matter, and they were glaring.

“Pay attention to the destruction Israel is carrying out,” added Zomlot. “Don’t underestimate a person’s desire for freedom…”

Not to be written off as propaganda – this was quite frankly the cleanest and most concise explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that I’ve heard, since my reading of ‘How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror’ by Reza Aslan.

More than 123,000 people displaced in the Gaza Strip: UN

In the same hour, Amanpour also spoke with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and continued to speak in tandem with him condemning the conflict, echoing US support for the war and nodding along understandingly as he lamented the “unprovoked act of war.”

On BBC, however, an Israeli spokeswoman was pushed hard by anchor Maryam Moshiri on responding to the “open air prison” Gazans are living in everyday — as she squirmed and dithered. Perhaps, Zomlot would’ve found a friendlier audience and a more interactive exchange on this forum.

Yet not enough of the narrative was and is being driven towards discussing concrete, calibrated measures towards a two-state solution, on finally lifting the siege in Gaza, nor on conflict resolution

Safe to say, western reportage of the conflict has been truly disappointing – that too, in 2023, where the world has unanimously and unequivocally been able to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deem it illegal with Putin guilty of war crimes.

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What was most startling is the so-called ‘awe’ and ‘shock’ expressed by the western media – it’s almost as if they didn’t see it coming or that this attack did not have years of illegal occupation as the actual trigger.

The west tried to spin it as a “particular failure of intelligence”, but how daft do you have to be to not realise that this was only a matter of time – that the so-called stealth attack had years of despair, resistance and eventually, courage to back it up.

But its not as clear-cut a human conflict as the war in Ukraine, is it?

Gaza has remained under an Israeli-led siege where over 70% of its people are refugees. But can the world really see that?

Hamas spokesperson Khaled Qadomi told Al Jazeera: “We want the international community to stop atrocities in Gaza against Palestinian people, our holy sites like Al-Aqsa. All these things are the reason behind starting this battle,” he was quoted as saying after the attack unfolded.

While violence should not really pave way for more violence, in principle, there is a need to see this perspective reverberate as strongly as the condemnation across media outlets, perhaps even a review of the increasing attacks on Palestinians in the past year under the hard-lined Israeli government.

An attack of this scale could simply be a desperate attempt at being heard, and perhaps, prompt negotiation.

And yet not enough of the narrative was and is being driven towards discussing concrete, calibrated measures towards a two-state solution, on finally lifting the siege in Gaza, nor on conflict resolution.

Instead, a blame game has started with Israel vying to “inflict an unprecedented price”, as news anchors continue to numbingly ask, “what now…”.

The crux of the matter, it seems, as usual, has been lost in retaliation, and without any real change, likely to maintain the status quo.

Author Fatima Bhutto, in a piece for The Guardian in 2021 on the Western failure in Afghanistan, wrote: “Occupiers only have temporary power, eventually they have to leave. They have to go back somewhere. But men fighting for their home cannot be defeated. You give them no choice, they have to fight you. They have nowhere else to go, nowhere to retreat to.”

Qatar leading talks to swap Hamas-held hostages for Palestinians in Israeli jails

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Faiza Virani

The writer is Life & Style Editor at Business Recorder


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Jk Oct 09, 2023 08:23pm
A filtered lens!
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Pakistani Oct 10, 2023 11:30am
Faiza Virani, I have to say an "excellent writeup" and comprehensively touching upon various mindset being propagated using the media strength, a good analogy.
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Builder Oct 10, 2023 03:47pm
The war will escalate for sure and that would be devastating.
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Sumro Oct 16, 2023 06:58pm
The War has spread to US...the media's biased reporting is leading to hate crimes against Chicago area...a lunatic killed s six year old boy and severely wounded her mom!
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Taimoor Ashraf Oct 18, 2023 01:23pm
The West must make a clear and consistent stance. In the not-so-distant past, it harbored intense hatred for Jews, leading to the Holocaust where 6 million were killed. Now, there seems to be no fault found in them. These extreme pendulum swings need to cease.
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