AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
Published — Wednesday 23 July 2014
Gaza violence spills over to West Bank; death toll nears 800
Editors face this dilemma in the newsroom almost on a daily basis. Every time there’s a slaughter of innocent which is like a daily occurrence these days, those in the news business face the predicament: To publish or not to publish?
I agree with many of my colleagues that some of these gory images of the carnage, this mindless bloodletting with bodies of children, youths in their prime and desperate men and women carrying their loved ones in their arms, are not most pleasant to look at the first thing in the morning.
In fact, given a choice that’s the last thing most of us would want to see when we pick up the newspaper in the morning.
We like to begin our day on a positive note, if we could help it. While we breakfast with our lovely families and see our pretty children get ready for the school, we are not really looking forward to such disturbing pictures of other people’s dead children.
Most journalists, media networks and their audiences around the world are understandably sick and tired of going on and on about the ‘Palestine problem.’ If many of them often suffer from what you would call the ‘coverage fatigue,’ you can’t really blame them.
How long can you go on publishing the same sad, depressing pictures and woefully familiar stories? As a colleague said the other day: “What’s new about the Palestinians getting killed? They’ve been dying for the past 60-65 years, my friend!”
One of my bosses chided me for running the report about a family of 14 Palestinians — four of them children — getting killed in an Israeli raid on the front page. “We should have had some positive local stories on Page 1,” he emphasized.
I couldn’t argue with him because, as they say, the boss is always right — even when he isn’t.
I couldn’t tell him that there is not a more local story than this one. This is our own story, whoever we are and wherever we live. This is the story of the good versus evil and the truth versus falsehood.
This is our own struggle for justice, freedom and dignity. After all, what is it that the Palestinians are fighting for? They have been struggling for basics like liberty and right to live a life of dignity in their own country, in the land that they inherited from their ancestors.
These are things that you and I have always taken for granted. We take them for granted because we didn’t have to fight for them, cradle to the grave. We inherited these rights thanks to our good fortune of being born in a free country.
Why are the Palestinians dying all over again? They are dying because they want to live in dignity. They refuse to submit themselves to the tyranny and the disgrace of occupation.
Like you and me, they want nothing from life but to live in peace, security and dignity — in the comfort of their homes, with their loved ones. Like us, they want their children to get the best of education and grow up to enjoy a life better than their own.
But do they have a choice? They have to suffer the most ruthless and vile occupation regime the world has ever known because the world looks the other way. The blessed international community that leader writers and pundits keep telling us about is too powerless and self-serving to act.
What can the world community do anyway when the United Nations has even dispensed with the pretense of passing resolutions perfunctorily appealing the Israelis and Palestinians to “exercise restraint?”
Yes. In the hypocritical court of international justice both the oppressor and the oppressed are equal. But how are the victims supposed to exercise restraint? By not being in the way? But does it really matter?
In any case, what has the civilized world and its vaunted institutions dedicated to peace done so far to stop the world’s longest-running ethnic cleansing campaign?
Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, has finally stirred out of his slumber after more than two weeks and more than 500 Palestinian casualties. And what’s the point of crying over the Western and US indifference. Has it made any difference? Ever?
But do we in the media have a choice? If this conflict has gone on for nearly 70 years now and the Palestinians continue to die like flies, should we stop reporting about it?
Should the media stop doing its job of telling the truth as it is for fear of offending the fine sensibilities of our sensitive readers? If we do not speak out against this ceaseless genocidal campaign against a helpless and defenseless people, who will? Especially if the Middle East media doesn’t take a stand on the issue, who will?
Just look at the obscenity of this conflict. More than 90 percent of the victims of this genocidal campaign, apparently to save Palestinians from ‘Hamas terrorism,’ have been civilians and an overwhelming number of them women and children.
After unleashing their craven terror on a besieged, helpless people, the brave Israelis are now running around pleading with their ever dependable friends in Egypt and elsewhere for a truce.
What has Israel achieved? What is its game? Who would dare raise these ques tions?
News agencies dutifully and dispassionately point out in a foot note that this round of the ‘hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians’ has been the deadliest since Israel’s last invasion of Gaza.
That’s it. The media is done with its duty. So has the world, after issuing its regulation appeals for peace and cessation of hostilities. Yes, hostilities. Cheated out of their entire country and locked away in the choking prison that is Gaza, Palestinians are guilty of ‘hostilities.’ They are guilty of still existing.
Perhaps it’s futile to blame the world community. It has understandably grown weary of this endless bloodshed in the holy land.
But the killing machine that is Israel never stops. It continues to kill — kill and kill…until the Palestinians give up what little remains of their ancient land — or give up their right to live.
Those four children wiped out while playing on the Gaza beach would never know what their crime was. Ten-year old Nour Al-Najedy looks like an angel as she sleeps in peace, shrouded in white. She was killed when Israel hit Rafah refugee camp. Nearly the whole family was wiped out.
Twelve-year old Abdul Rahman Al-Batish hasn’t stopped crying since he lost his father and 17 other family members in the bombing of an apartment. “They think we are worth nothing. They are killers, and one day I will avenge my father,” ITV’s Middle East Correspondent reports him as saying. A photograph of Abdul Rahman, his shoulders slumped against a car, shows the moment when he discovered his father was among the dead. His pain-wrenched face has become one of the most powerful images of the Gaza conflict.
The six-month old Mohammed Bourai never knew what his crime was. He sleeps in peace as his young, silently-mourning father cradles him in his arms. What father can bear such a sight? And what kind of people are they who do this to children as young as this?
Is there no one who can stop these child killers? Where is the international community when we need it so badly? Whatever has happened to the world’s conscience? How long will it maintain its silence? Silence is crime. Silence is complicity. As the Prophet warned, those who see evil and do nothing about it also share the guilt. We are all guilty.
Listen to the screams of hapless Palestinians, please
People are perplexed. They ask why do you only blame Israel? What about the Palestinians who lob tens of rockets into Israel every day? These are good questions and they deserve answers.
It is like this: Suppose you live in a nice house. When you return from a day out you find that some other people have moved into your home. When you ask, they tell you this is not your home, it is theirs. So you go to the police for assistance. But at the station you are told that several millennia ago ancestors of these other people had a house in this location. They are just reclaiming what was originally theirs. And there is nothing the police can do.
Now if you are a normal red-blooded human being you may be inclined to, at a minimum, grab hold of a few stones and lob them in the direction of your house.
This is the crux of the Israel Palestine issue. Like it or not, the truth is that the state of Israel is built on land that belongs, and always has belonged to the Palestinians. No amount of immigration from remote parts of the world, no vague dubious references to the scriptures, no colonial declarations and no diplomatically expedient UN resolutions can change the truth.
The scale of the injustice done to the people of the land of Palestine has few parallels in human history. Yet they have taken it on the chin. The PLO was well within its rights to call for the return of all Palestinian land — after all it is their land. But the tide of history was not on their side. So they yielded, at the behest of the world’s greatest power acting as an honest broker, to accept a truncated but contiguous and sovereign state in which they would live with dignity and freedom. Sadly, the honest broker could not deliver on its promise.
We see on our TV screens alien troops armed to the teeth oppressing unarmed Palestinians in their own land. We see their humble, spartan homes being razed to the ground. We see their diminishing, crowded cities acquire the atmosphere of concentration camps complete with gun toting ‘settlers’ swaggering through their streets.
And we say: Enough.
The tin can “rockets’ that are lobbed into Israel are a desperate attempt by a wronged people – a people whose screams we no longer hear – to tell the world that ‘we are here and we refuse to be forgotten’. So when Israel responds with insanely disproportionate force, people of conscience and justice recoil in anger and revulsion.
Mr. Netanyahu, listen to their screams. Give the Palestinians their state before it is too late — not for them, but for you. Men, or women, in your position have, or at least should have, an eye on history. And history will tell you that colonization never endures. So if you want your state to endure you must — for your sake — make your peace with the Palestinians. Today you need only give them that truncated contiguous state they were promised. Tomorrow, you may well have to give them the whole deal.
Mr. Obama, I know that the American ethos is one of justice and fair play, of a keen sense of right and wrong. And I know, as well as you do, that the American people would never countenance the usurpation of other peoples land. Sadly, a carefully woven veil of lies and obfuscation has shrouded the normally clear and balanced vision of the American people. But they cannot be fooled forever – no one can.
Your opponents accuse you of inaction and indecisiveness. Show them that they are wrong. Give the Palestinians the state your predecessors promised them when they signed the peace accords. In doing so you will not only guarantee Israel’s survival, but earn for yourself a place in history as the President who said “Yes, we can.” And he did.