|Lebanon Protest 311.(Photo by: Associated Press)|
Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians
By MUDAR ZAHRAN
The negative focus on Israel by the global media has harmed the Palestinians’ interests for decades.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the international media have
been unhesitant in criticizing the Jewish state on almost everything. This has
evolved into a media culture by itself, to the point that many internationally
renowned newspapers would have a button labelled “Israel” or “Israeli-Arab
conflict” on their Web sites including very little positive content about
Israel. Media hostility toward Israel has been mainly focused on its military
operations and, in more quiet times, on the living conditions of the
Palestinians in Israel.
Amazingly enough, the international media, and
particularly the Western ones, pay very little attention to the conditions of
the Palestinians living in Arab countries, despite the extreme oppression they
have been enduring for decades in most Arab countries.
do not have someone to speak for them in the global media, possibly because a
news story about countries other than Israel is less interesting or “sexy” by
media standards. This tendency to blame Israel for everything has lead to the
development of numerous myths about the situation of the Palestinian there that
have provided an excuse to purposely ignore and compromise the human rights of
the Palestinian in many Arab countries.
THE EXAMPLES for that are
plentiful and sometimes cross the line into tragic comedy. While the world is
crying over the Israel-imposed blockade on Gaza, the media, for some unknown
reason, choose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living
in camps in Lebanon.
Lebanon, a country with some of the most hostile
forces to Israel, has been holing up Palestinians inside camps for almost 30
years. Those camps do not have any foundations of livelihood or even sanitation
and the Palestinians living there are not allowed access to basics such as
buying cement to enlarge or repair homes for their growing families.
Furthermore, it is difficult for them to work legally, and are even restricted
from going out of their camps at certain hours. Compare this to the fact that
Palestinian laborers were still able to go to work every day in Israel while
Hamas was carrying out an average of one suicide bombing per week a few years
ago, and until recently launching missiles daily on southern Israel. Not to
mention the fact that Israel allows food items and medications into Gaza if
handled through the Palestinian Authority.
The Lebanese atrocities toward
the Palestinians have been tolerated by the international community, not only by
the media. Today, while some Israeli military commanders have to think twice, in
fear of legal consequences, before they visit London or Brussels, well-known
Lebanese leaders who had directly participated in mass killings of Palestinian
civilians, during and after the Lebanese civil war, are becoming world-respected
political figures – Nabih Berri, for example, the leader of Amal Shi’ite militia
who enforced a multi-year siege on Palestinian camps, cutting water access and
food supplies to them. The Palestinians underBerri’s siege were reported to be
consuming rats and dogs to survive. Nonetheless, he has been the undisputed
speaker of the Lebanese parliament for a long time. He travels frequently to
Europe and criticizes Israel for its “crimes against the Palestinians” on every
MANY OTHER Arab countries are no different than Lebanon in
their ill-treatment and discrimination against the Palestinians. Why do the
media choose to ignore those and focus only on Israel? While the security wall
being built by Israel has become a symbol of “apartheid” in the global media,
they almost never address the actual walls and separation barriers that have
been isolating Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries for
While Palestinians targeted by the IDF are mostly fighters
pledging war on Israel, the world swiftly overlooked the Sabra and Shatila
massacre in which Lebanese Christian and Shi’ite militiamen butchered thousands
of Palestinian women and children. Unsurprisingly, the international media
accused Israel of being responsible for the massacre, despite the fact that live
testimonies aired by Al-Jazeera satellite television a few years ago show
massacre survivors confirming that IDF commanders and soldiers had nothing to do
with the killing.
The demonization of Israel by the global media has
greatly harmed the Palestinians’ interests for decades and covered up Arab
atrocities against them. Furthermore, demonizing Israel has been well-exploited
by several Arab dictatorships to direct citizens’ rage against Israel instead of
their regimes and also to justify any atrocities they commit in the name of
protecting their nations from “the evil Zionists.”
This game has served
some of the most notorious Arab dictatorships, and still does today, as any
opposition is immediately labelled “a Zionist plot.”
This model had
served Gamal Abdel Nasser in ruling Egypt with an iron fist until he died, and
was the main line for Saddam Hussein, who was promoting that “Iraq and Palestine
are one identical case” in his last years in power.
The global media must
be fair in addressing the Palestinians’ suffering in Arab countries and must
stop demonizing Israel. It should start focusing on the broader conditions of
the Palestinians in the Middle East region.
There is much to
The writer, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, is a researcher at
the University of Bedfordshire.