Sunday Dispatch: Palestine, Israel and mainstream media
May 27th 2022
Photo: Christopher Hanna
Each week on the Sunday Dispatch, Lindsay Riley talks with writers, activists and experts to better understand issues from all around the world. This week, he sat down with Palestinian scholar and author Ramzy Baroud to talk about how Israel’s apartheid has been covered by mainstream media.
For Palestinians, the 15th of May, 1948, is known as the Nakba, or “Catastrophe”. It’s the day when more than 700,000 Palestinians were violently forced from their homes by Israeli settlers, in an organised effort to subdue and destroy Palestinian society. 74 years on, Israel’s apartheid against the Palestinian people has only heightened. In just five months, Israeli police and military forces have killed more than 50 Palestinians. Among them have been children, civilian mothers and notably, veteran Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Israel falsely suggested that Palestinian gunfire may have been responsible for Abu Akleh’s death – a claim it has since withdrawn, but not before it was widely repeated in mainstream media. Ramzy explained what this tells us about how the media weighs Palestinian and Israeli voices.
“Israel could come up with a blatant lie, and it knows that the mainstream media are not going to point out the outrageous and blatant lie, but rather are going to deal with this lie as a possible fact. And that’s indeed what happened. And because Israel already has won the sympathy of mainstream media and many of their audiences, that once again puts the Palestinians in the position of being the ones who are making the possible false claim. We have seen this numerous times in the past.”
The raid on the Jenin refugee camp where Shireen Abu Akleh was killed was one of many similar violent raids this year. Israel has justified its escalations as responses to attacks on Israeli settlers by Palestinians, and mainstream media accounts have supported this narrative. Ramzy warned that describing Israel’s actions as tit-for-tat violence with Palestinians ignores Israel’s real agenda of colonisation, and mystifies the power dynamic between both parties.
“Referring to this as ‘clashes’ and ‘disputes’ and such… it gives Israel a blank cheque, ‘carry on doing what you’re doing, even an occasional criticism in some western media here or there is not going to dissuade you’… So we have to confront the language, because if we don’t confront the language, we are allowing the status quo to prevail.”
Recent Israeli attacks on Al-Asqa Mosque further highlight these media biases. Israeli settlers, particularly far-right groups, have stormed and attempted to occupy the mosque in recent years. Israeli security forces escalated attacks, firing rubber coated steel bullets, teargas and stun grenades at Palestinians worshippers inside the Al-Asqa Mosque almost daily during this year’s Ramadan.
Media coverage of the raids played into often repeated myths about the religious nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through this lens, Al-Asqa is just one more contested holy site where Judaism and Islam have clashed for centuries before. Ramzy said that the language used by Western media fails to recognise that this is instead a process of ongoing colonisation, and the deliberate suppression of culture that is wielded as a weapon in colonial regimes.
“When I travelled in Africa, in South East Asia, in South America, I never resort to this language. It is colonialism, it is part of a larger American imperialism scheme in the Middle East. What Palestinians are doing is not just resistance and retaliation to violence, it is freedom fighting and they are freedom fighters. And we are part of the larger historical scheme that started with Western colonialism in the south hundreds of years ago and we remain one of these very last platforms of colonial expansion and native resistance.”
Despite overwhelming odds, the Palestinian people are yet to be defeated. Ramzy said that ultimately, despite receiving little support from mainstream media, Palestinian people will be the author their own fate – that of liberation.
“Resistance doesn’t need anyone to defend it. Resistance is a human reaction, whether at an individual or at a collective level. Palestinians resist, because that’s what Palestinians ought to do.”
For more interviews like this, tune in to the Sunday Dispatch from 8:15am each week on the Sunday Overhang with Lindsay Riley. In the meantime, you can listen back to Lindsay’s full interview with Ramzy Baroud up top.