Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How the West Sees Gaza's Tragedy

By Sabria S. Jawhar

Saudi Gazette

The Western media have awakened up from its deep sleep to report on the terrible tragedies occurring daily in Gaza. That is, they are condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel. A simple examination of the news coverage of American and British press easily tells us of the indiscriminate attacks by Hamas on such Israeli villages as Sderot. And it's pretty much a no-brainer to the West that the ruthless Palestinians are at it again.

But where were the condemnations from the Bush administration, the US Congress and the United Kingdom's Parliament when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but still kept control Gaza's airspace, territorial waters and land borders. Israel in effect remains in control of Gaza as it continues to squeeze it dry with checkpoints not designed tokeep Israel secure but to keep the Palestinians in economic chaos. Israel also controls Gaza's telecommunications network, its population registry and its tax revenues. The Israeli army also have frequently re-entered Gaza at will. So how is this a withdraw from Gaza as toutedby Israel and Western nations in 2005? It's a withdrawal in name only.

But these finer points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are lost on the Western press. For the West there is nothing sexier in coverage ofHamas "gunmen" attacking Israeli civilian targets because "gunmen" is just another word illegal fighters at best and terrorists at worst. Israel began its blockade on Jan. 17 of the Gaza Strip. Israel cited rocket fire for the blockade. The international community agreed that Israel had a right to defend itself. The Western press backs the blockade because rocket attacks by Hamas are seen as unprovoked.

Yet the Western media fail to recognize the less sexier aspects of the conflict. It fails to report about electricity arbitrarily turned off in thousands of homes and severe restrictions of commerce at checkpoints that keep Palestinians in poverty. People are plunged into despair and live on the edge of starvation, but Western media coverage of the slow strangulation of the Palestinians would mean covering issues that go deeper than black andwhite and are more complex than a three-minute news report. This is on top of the sad fact that according to United Nations statistics, Israeli military forces killed 23 Palestinians andwounded 70 in Gaza by the third week of January. The total number of Palestinians, mostly from Gaza Strip, killed since the US brokered peace talks in Annapolis last November is approaching 200.

When the Israeli cabinet in September declared the Gaza Strip a"hostile entity" because of the rocket attacks it conveniently had forgotten what prompted the attacks in the first place. Israeli leaders forgot that their own policies toward the Palestinians are responsible for the attacks. Israel created the crisis by provoking the Palestinians, then exploited the crisis by claiming it is the victim.

I'm not an apologist for Hamas and the Palestinian people. Clearly Palestinian leaders have failed to rescue their own people by developing the infrastructure to ensure a self-sustaining government. Clearly, many leaders are more interested in protecting their own power base than helping the people who put them in power in the first place. But Israel created the current conflict, and then cries "victim" when its villages are shelled.

And what is perhaps the most tragic of allis the practice of Israel indefinitely keeping the Palestinians in astate of chaos to secure and maintain the support of the United Statesand the European Union. The US and EU mistake Israel's right to exist with the apparent right to inflict a slow death on hundreds ofthousands of people by crushing any hope of economic prosperity. The Western media have been woefully negligent in covering the story because bombs don't fall and there are no dramatic pictures to show television viewers. And the Arab media is not much better as it mires itself in conspiracy theories and exploiting Arabs' own sense of victimhood.

But once the media recognize that Israel's right to protect itself from the Palestinians is a self-fulfilling prophecy because it createsits own dangers, then the faster we get closer to peace.

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