Western coverage of Gaza: a textbook case of colonizing journalism | Media

If you’ve been following Western media trying to make sense of the heartbreaking images and stories coming out of Gaza during the Israeli invasion, you’re bound to be disappointed.

Since the start of the latest Israeli attack on the besieged Palestinian enclave – which is proving to be one of the most rapid ethnic cleansing efforts in history – Western news agencies have repeatedly published unsubstantiated claims , presented one side of the story and selectively glossed over the violence to justify Israel’s violations of international law and shield it from scrutiny.

In doing so, Western journalists have abandoned basic standards in their coverage of Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinians. None of this is new. The failures of Western journalism have helped Israel justify its occupation and violence against Palestinians for more than 75 years.

On August 6, 2022, more than a year before Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, in a particularly egregious departure from good journalism, the New York Times buried the deaths of six Palestinian children in its report on a ” eruption” in Israel. “Fight Israel-Gaza”.

In the report, journalists waited until the second paragraph to mention that six children were among those killed by Israeli strikes in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza and, without even breaking the sentence, added: “Israel said that some civilian deaths were the result of militants hiding civilians. weapons in residential areas” and “in at least one case, a failed Palestinian rocket killed civilians, including children, in northern Gaza.”

In journalism schools, this is called “breathless” reporting. And it turned out that that was also a false statement. Ten days later, the Israeli army finally admitted that she was behind the strikes that killed these children in Jabalia.

The New York Times did not report this information so breathlessly.

I might call this unprofessional – which would be true as Western media coverage of this conflict has clearly been shaped by ideology rather than rigorous fact-checking. Such an assessment, however, would overlook a deeper and more profound problem within Western journalism: coloniality.

Conflict reporting is one of the most hypercolonized corners of the world’s biggest newsrooms. Even in racially diverse newsrooms, reporting on conflicts can be tricky. But the glaring errors that seem to slip past editorial filters in newsrooms that pride themselves on the accuracy of their conflict reporting need to be addressed. It must also be recorded that with these constant errors, Western journalists are playing a role of “mediator” in the conflict in Palestine, and not just reporting on it.

I would mince my words if I didn’t call it by its name: a textbook case of colonizing journalism. This is journalism produced by practitioners from colonizing countries who take pride in their imperial conquests and high self-esteem, every fiber nourished by centuries of predatory accumulation of wealth, knowledge and privilege. These journalists seem convinced that their countries have fought and defeated particularly immoral and powerful enemies throughout history, stopped evil in its tracks, protected civilization, and saved the day. This is the dominant story of the West and, by extension, that of Western journalism as well.

However, the dominant story is often not the real story: it is simply the story of the winners.

And today, Western media are once again telling the story of Gaza’s victors, as they have done many times before in their coverage of conflicts, crises and human suffering in post-colonial countries.

I saw this in the blanket tropical diseases by journalists familiar with malaria, dengue or Ebola will never flow through their veins or affect their communities. I saw him after Rohingya genocide when genocide survivors were asked if they had been “held down by five or seven men” while being gang raped.

Western journalism is, at its core, victor’s journalism – it never attempts to deconstruct stories, put them in the right order, or add relevant context to speak truth to power and expose excesses, continued aggression and violence from the “victors”. Of the history.

And when it comes to Palestine, it’s journalism about occupation by people who will never know what it feels like to live under occupation. It is voyeuristic reporting without a moral compass or basic sense of decency.

In colonizing journalism, language is a weapon used to erase the humanity of the colonized. In The wretched of the earthIn which he analyzed the dehumanizing effects of colonization, the philosopher Frantz Fanon wrote that Algerian suffering (during the French imperial conquest) was described in the media as “hordes of vital statistics” on “hysterical masses” with “children who seem to belong to colonization”. “The book was written in 1961, but its conclusions apply perfectly to Western media coverage of Palestinian suffering today.

This dehumanizing use of language was particularly visible in the death count. In early November, the Times of London note“Israelis marked one month since Hamas killed 1,400 people and kidnapped 240, sparking a war in which 10,300 Palestinians are believed to have died.” In Western news, Israelis are dying actively – Hamas “killed” or “murdered” them – while Palestinians are dying passively. They “dehydrate to death as clean water runs out” as the Guardian once said, as if this was not a deliberate crime against humanity but a random act of God.

According to the Western propaganda machine, Israel has the right to destroy Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen and any other country in the region to ensure the security of Israelis. This can kill almost all Muslims, Jews demanding a ceasefire, A staff And doctors from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), journalists, ambulance drivers and even babies targeting Hamas. Yet few news organizations discuss what this means for Israel and the world, if the only way for them to feel safe is to rain death and misery on millions. None of them – because there is now an “us” and a “them”, a world divided between colonized and colonizers – has ever truly questioned whether a victory obtained at the cost of the lives of thousands innocent children could one day be considered a victory. victory in the first place.

In this clever war propaganda, Western journalists obscure the real story we face here: Israel, backed by the most powerful army in the world, is waging war against a stateless people living under its occupation and pulverizing men and women. innocent women. and children by the thousands. The story that Western governments allowed this carnage while lecturing the world about their superior values, decency and love for democracy. Anyone living in the post-colonial world knows that their talk of decency, love of democracy, exceptional journalism and honest politicians is anything but a scam.

At this late hour, with war raging, children starving and Israel on trial for “plausible genocide”, it is crucial to highlight the bloodshed at the hands of Western journalists. They have, in full coordination with their powerful governments, slandered and disempowered multilateral institutions like the United Nations, given Israeli narratives of “self-defense” a veneer of respectability, and rendered Palestinian stories and perspectives irrelevant. about.

The few Palestinians who have been given a platform – in the name of “balance” and good journalism – have been discouraged from discussing the decades of oppression, occupation and abuse they have endured at the hands of Israel. They were allowed simply to mourn their deceased loved ones and beg for more help to feed their starving children – after condemning Hamas, of course.

Perhaps with this war, the game is finally won for Western journalism. As they watch Israel’s war against Gaza on their social media and see what is happening with their own eyes through reports and testimonies from Palestinians themselves, more and more people around the world are recognizing the role of Western media in perpetuating colonial power, its language and language. ideologies.

Today there is growing criticism of the failure of Western leaders, but not enough is said about how the Western intelligentsia, and particularly those who run the West’s most influential newsrooms, have also failed. . It is not only Western liberalism and the rules-based order that has been reduced to rubble in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza, but also the legitimacy of Western journalism.

In their coverage of the war in Gaza, Western news agencies have clearly demonstrated that they view mass death, starvation and unlimited human misery as acceptable and even inevitable when inflicted by their allies. They showed that conflict journalism, as practiced in Western newsrooms, is nothing more than another form of colonial violence – violence that does not manifest itself with bombs and drones, but with words.

In this moment of crushing barbarity, journalists of color like me are struck by the monumental amorality of the newsrooms we are told to admire. The least Western journalists, with their considerable power, can do right now is demand a permanent ceasefire and spare us a new wave of colonizing journalism.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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