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The Conflicting Narratives And Biases Of The Media Coverage Of Gaza

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By Mirza Arif Beg:

Forty nine days of vociferous shelling, and pounding of rockets; close to 2,200 killings, and massive infrastructure losses. Well, this is what the latest confrontation between Hamas and the State of Israel, resulted in. How did it all begin? Three Israeli teenagers, who were kidnapped, and later on found dead, triggered the Jewish state’s rampage on the Gaza strip. Now the question arises, was this really the inception point of the mayhem which unleashed?

israel_gaza_1

Well before the abduction of the 3 Israeli teenagers, 2 Palestinian children were killed in May, but unfortunately, their deaths had fallen prey to the Western media’s apathy. As the news of Israeli teens’ killings gained momentum, it attracted the international media’s outcry. Though, Israel this time around, facilitated the movement of international journalists, in and out of Gaza (which they didn’t do in 2011-12), most of the international organizations have been accused of taking either a pro-Israeli, or a pro-Palestinian stance.

The latest offensive in Gaza, for the very first time, saw thousands of protesters in the US, France, UK, and many other countries, who were not only defiant of Israel’s blood bath in Gaza, but were in defiance of the conventional media coverage as well. In one of the protests organized outside CNN’s head-quarters in the US, Mohammad Hamad, an American-Palestinian activist, said, “The US media is absolutely biased. All we hear is pro-Israel”.

Haaretz, which is considered to be one of the most liberal newspapers in Israel, presented the real picture of the conflict. With a readership of just around 10%, owing to its image of being exceedingly liberal, Haaretz restored the objectivity in media coverage, which is evident from this example. After one of the attacks on a United Nations’ school in Rafah, that led to the death of 10 people, and injured many more, Haaretz was the only newspaper in Israel, to have reported this event online.

A few headlines read as:
The New York Times: “Airstrike near UN school kills 10.”
CNN: “UN calls airstrike near Gaza shelter moral outrage.”

Haaretz led with an article about the UN school strikes. BBC’s coverage of the Gaza conflict has also been viewed with great scepticism. It has endured wrath from both the sides. Though, BBC executives have maintained that since they have received complaints from both the sides, this means they are striking the right balance; it took BBC almost 10 days, before it started covering Gaza extensively. On July 9, when Hamas attacked Israel, its ‘World section’ read; “Israel under renewed Hamas attack”, clearly explaining its inclination. On the other hand, it didn’t waste time in putting the onus of the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, on Russia.

Even the National Public Radio of US, tells us about the underrepresentation of the Palestinian cause in the last 11 years. According to this article, “The head of the survey, former foreign editor, John Felton, found that the Israeli voices were heard of, or quoted in stories, more than the Palestinian ones, by a 664-448 margin. Among leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heard or quoted 772 times, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 323 times, and the Gaza Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, not once.”.

There is a plethora of reasons as to why news organizations end up taking sides. Our views get hampered by two main reasons. One, when we always see a conflict from a historical lens; and two, it is a baggage of the religious background that we carry, as explained by the Pakistani-Canadian writer, Ali A Raza, in his blog for the Huffington Post. Cross media ownership also plays an important part, as we see anchors on Fox News, as having a totally different tone, from those on Al-Jazeera.

New York Times, as its officials claim, always tried to strike a balance in the news coverage, but could not escape its reader’s anger. “We have received more than thousand emails on a single day, just talking about a pro-Israeli, or a pro-Palestinian stance”, said Margaret Sullivan, NYT’s Public Editor.

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, is of the view that a ‘good vs evil’ narrative should be kept aside, and we must recognize the legitimate grievances of both the sides. He identifies Hamas as equally responsible, as it inflicts brutality not only on Israel, but on Gaza as well, by using its residents as human shields.

At a time, when western media has been impugned repeatedly for being a promoter of anti-Semitism by many prolific scholars, VICE News doesn’t stand out of queue. VICE in its twelve part series of the recent Gaza conflict, ‘Rockets and Revenge’ tried to cover both sides very vividly but has been criticized for being anti-Israel. It won’t be wrong to say that Vice News covered the recent conflict most extensively.

From the death of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager who was killed out of retaliation, to the very last rocket launched by Israel, Vice News was always on ground zero to report. To cover a place which is as hostile as Gaza, Danay Gold the Vice reporter, not only talked to people from Gaza, but from East-Jerusalem, and the city of Ashdod, which is in close proximity to Gaza. This geographical contiguity of Ashdod with Gaza puts it at a greater risk. Ashdod is the first receiver of rockets launched by Hamas. They also talked to the security forces operating at the borders, about Israel’s much touted iron-dome technology. One of the top security personnel recounts that this technology had intercepted at-least 162 rockets launched by Hamas, in first three days of war. Now why do people accuse Vice News to be taking sides with Palestine? For a very simple reason, the images that come out of Gaza, juxtapose with those coming out of Israel. On one hand, a man carrying an amputated hand is shown, and on the contrary, young people smoking hookah at the borders, and enjoying the operations of Iron-Dome technology, is the view from the other side.

News organizations have been noted of being averse towards Israel, just because they present drastic pictures from ground zero in Gaza. In one of his opinion pieces for Forbes, Richard Behar, a renowned investigative journalist, asserts that reports from Gaza also get hampered because of the intimidating machinery of Hamas, which continuously monitors the coverage. On the other hand, for those who refer to the NYT as pro-Israel, the least it can say is that “it is very difficult to get someone to speak against, or even about Hamas.” Since 43% of Gaza’s population is less than 14 years of age, majority of the people who die are teenagers, providing another dimension to the coverage. Ayman Mohyeldin, an NBC correspondent from Gaza, was pulled for being overtly pro-Palestine. Though he was later reinstated by the channel, his pull off triggered a movement on Twitter. Rula Jabreal, a Palestinian journalist and writer, had also fanned this controversy, in an interview with MSNBC.

Thus, the recent offensive in Gaza has subdued for the time being, but scrutiny of media coverage continues.

You must be to comment.
  1. Babar

    The U.S. pumps in 3.5 billion dollars annually to Israel, along with arms and ammunition, which aids in the systematic and strategic destruction of Gazans. In an open letter to President Obama, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert wrote from Gaza:

    The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza’s hospitals are working 12-24 hour shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

    Ashy grey faces – Oh NO! Not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out – oh – the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas – the leftovers from death – all taken away … to be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa in the last 24 hrs. Enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here – almost nothing: no electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors – all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterday’s hospitals. But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormously resolute.

    Mr. Obama – do you have a heart? I invite you – spend one night – just one night – with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe. I am convinced, 100%, it would change history. Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.

    1. Warrior

      It is the sum of payback your community is receiving by nature. Face it!

    2. Babar

      Perhaps it is the oppression of people on the basis of their religion which could explain why the U.S. has invaded one Muslim country after another, since decades, for money, oil, and power, killing millions of Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Panama, Somalia, among a host of other countries.

      http://youtu.be/3DOgWuGYGeo

  2. Babar

    The state of Gazans is indescribable. Homes turned into morgues, and there was blood and body parts on the streets of Gaza. A dearth in medical supplies, shortage of food and water, and hospitals overflowing with injured patients was an everyday occurrence. The death toll in Gaza reached 2,100, the number of injured escalated to 12,000, and more than 510,000 displaced – that is more than half a million people homeless. Around 180,000 left their homes to live in refugee camps due to the fear of losing their lives, while over 330,000 people had their homes destroyed. Hospitals and schools were deliberately targeted, the only powerplant destroyed, leaving a city of 1.8 million people with only 2-3 hours of electricity, while they lived in constant fear of being bombed. Imagine living under the threat of premature death 24/7, not knowing when a missile would drop and end your life. The worst part of the conflict was the ordeal faced by children in Gaza. In an age when they should be playing with toys, they became victims of bombs. Many children withered in pain, while others breathed their last.

  3. Damien Hanet

    But what happens when an independent international tribunal condemns Israel? I have submitted the story to YKA and the problem I have seen in Indian media being very pro-Israeli. I am a terrible writer so I will try to write an article, plus being a non Indian I don’t my argument to be seen as western.
    The Russell Tribunal condemns Israel for the Protective Border aggression. http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/extraordinary-session-brussels

  4. Gaurav

    Hamas continued to launch rockets from civilian areas for no reason. why does hamas launch attacks from hospital compounds and schools.

  5. taniya

    I seriously wish that there was no such thing as RELIGION and NATIONALITY. Why cannot we human beings have on religion one gender one god one nation?
    At least the youth of 21st century must get this n i know that we r capable of living as one. There is no point in blaming our past. it is the future that v have to look into. I always imagine of a world with only one kind of people-GOOD where no religion caste gender exist. I DO NOT BELONG TO A NATION, A RELIGION, A CASTE OR A GENDER.I AM JUST A LIVING BEING WITH A HEART AND A MIND.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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