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Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Media Serves Up Gaza Trauma and Drama

Melancholy music prefaces CNN's gavel to gavel coverage of the Gaza disengagement emphasizing its primary focus: the trauma Jewish inhabitants of Gaza are undergoing as they are once again being uprooted and dispersed. Attention is focused on the alleged trauma inspired by the government's decision to sponsor the relocation of approximately 8,000 Jewish Israelis from the Gaza Strip and a few hundred others from four West Bank colonies to homes within their state, not that they're going far and not that they're going without substantial financial aid from the state, and most likely the fifty states, from whose taxpayers Israel has asked two billion dollars for its"dramatic" step toward peace.

And dramatic it is. Sharif Hamadeh's observation that "Since there are no ribbons for civic equality and human rights, Jewish Israeli society and the international media remain transfixed by the pornography of the disengagement" is apt. He likens the international media's preoccupation with the disengagement as "absurdist theatre." The "histrionics" of the colonists, with many an American and Canadian among them, serve the purposes of the Israeli government, which has publicly stated it has no intention of dismantling more than the two percent of the illegal colonies that Gaza comprises. CNN and BBC are preparing westerners for another fact on the ground: If it is this difficult to get eight thousand colonists out of an area that hasn't much historical or biblical importance for Israel, it is next to impossible to remove the four hundred thousand entrenched in the occupied West Bank.

Nonetheless, TV coverage brought a few chills today. It is a tough task for even the most die hard Zionist sympathizer to put a spin on loud and obnoxious infiltrating juveniles hell bent on raising Cain. And we were treated to a candid Islamic University student, Ibrahim, who when asked by the reporter if he had any words for the departing Jewish people refreshingly replied, " Yes. Be frank with yourselves. This is not your land. I don't know where you're from. You are a lot of different cultures. You ripped this land from us." And hat tip to Golda (I can forgive the Palestinians for killing our children, but I can not forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs), Ibrahim proffered, "You forced us to hate you. I love you and wish you a peaceful life."

But for every Ibrahim there are manifold Israeli government officials hogging the cameras. Ariel Sharon, Mr. Pathos himself assures the colonists: "Your pain and your tears are an inseparable part of this country's history," he said, pledging that "we won't abandon you" after the evacuation.

Abandoned? Hardly. According to Nazareth based Jonathan Cook, who has pointedly refused to cover the hoopla: "There are lots of other stories I think might be worth covering, where Israel would find it harder to sanitise my reporting. I could visit the new luxury settlement some of the Gaza families are being moved to, which is concreting over one of the last nature reserves in the Negev. I could look at how Israel is hoping to use the $2bn aid it is expecting to receive from America as "compensation" for the disengagement to confiscate yet more land from Arab citizens in Israel’s Arab heartlands of the Galilee and Negev so that Gaza’s extremist, armed settlers can be relocated there. And of course I could look at the relentless land confiscation, house destruction and wall-building going on well away from Gaza in the West Bank and Jerusalem, unnoticed as those thousands of journalists are distracted by the "trauma" of disengagement."

And, as usual, the real victims of any Israeli venture are the hapless Palestinians. Laila El-Haddad reported in Al-Jazeera that the Dair Al-Balah area of Maani, which is near the hardline settlement of Kfar Dfaram is faces a month long closure. And according to Palestine Center For Human Rights, Gaza, "The IOF have imposed a tightened siege on the al-Mawasi area. They have continued to close al-Tuffah and Tal al-Sultan checkpoints at the entrances to the area. . On Monday morning, 15 August 2005, IOF ordered residents of Tal Reidan quarter in the north of al-Mawasi area through megaphones not to leave their homes until further notice." PCHR fieldworkers have also listed numerous settler attacks on Palestinians.

Israeli actions that are ongoing in the occupied West Bank remain underreported, if reported at all amidst the hoopla of 'disengagement' coverage. According to International Middle East Media Center, IMEMC , whose reports of Israeli atrocities are too numerous to list here, the Israeli Army has bulldozed lands near southwest Jerusalem, settlers have attacked homes and destroyed furniture in Borqa village, invasions are continuing, arrests are continuing, and barns and a well in Hebron have been destroyed. Farmers are convinced the action is aimed to get them to leave.

Still, the Palestinians of Gaza are entitled to savor the "drama" of the TV spectacle of a colonist pulled away kicking and screaming. "Ala'a Salim A-Qadi and his family and neighbors are watching television raptly as disengagement events unfold." For Ala'a and his family whose cut flower business was destroyed because colonists "over-pumped the main aquifer," causing sea-water to leach the water supply, seeing the settlers leaving produced tears. And after thirty-eight years of oppression, if anyone is entitled to a "dramatic" moment, it is the Palestinians.

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