Image Credit: Getty Images

How Western Media spread misinformation on Palestine

Amidst the current ethnic cleansing taking place in Gaza, where entire neighborhoods such as Al Remal have been wiped out and civilians and medical crews have been targeted, the positions of mainstream western media and political figures cannot be described any other way, but as short or abhorrent.

Political figures, including Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, blamed the conflict on Hamas and stood by the Israeli occupation forces’ side, paving the way for the ongoing genocide taking place against more than two million sieged Palestinians in Gaza.

In short, the world has green lit the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.

Disregard for Palestinian Lives and the Invisibilization of Zionist Crimes

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot was asked time after time in his interviews with mainstream Western media whether he condemns Hamas’ operations. 

Zomlot proceeded not only to reject the question, but to point out the hypocrisy of these media platforms, stressing that occupation forces have laid siege on Gaza for 16 years, and yet these platforms fail to present these very same questions to Israeli authorities’ spokespersons.

Semantically, the words applied by mainstream western media to describe the conflict were characterized by rampant dehumanization and disregard for Palestinian lives, all while dismissing or making invisible the crimes of occupation forces. 

A famous such incident took place when the BBC announced that Palestinians “died” while Israelis “were killed.”

Not only so, but false, unsubstantiated reports emerged that the Palestinian resistance (Hamas) was beheading children, raping women, with some even going so far as to claim that a pregnant woman was brutally severed in half. These reports and more were proven to be false, but this did not stop Western media outlets, activists or politicians from spreading them.

The report of a pregnant woman being brutally severed was even inspired by Israeli aggression during the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, where Israeli forces, aided and abated by the Lebanese Forces, engaged in a raid on the Palestinian refugee camp, unleashing violence.

While various newspapers across the UK and US printed front-page headlines about children being beheaded, US President Joe Biden claimed he had seen images of these acts himself – but there were never any images to begin with, as these events did not take place.

Once reputable news agencies such as the NY Times and the BBC came under fire for failing to fact-check – a pivotal part of the journalistic process. They, and other outlets, later published retractions, but the damage was too late: the news had spread, and Western readers were already beginning to believe these false reports.

This is telling of the readiness of the West to accept racist and false discourses, that not only perpetuate stereotypes against Hamas, but as Palestinians and Arabs as a whole. This is also indicative of a deep pattern of perception in the West: one that promotes Israel as the truthful victim, and Palestine as the malicious liar.

Such discourses have disregarded the central cause behind the current conflict – occupation – on one hand, and have facilitated the lack of impunity vis-à-vis war crimes and ethnic cleansing committed by occupation forces on the other.

Silencing Palestinian Voices

Both discursively and concretely, Israeli forces, lobbyists and allies have worked hard to silence Palestinian voices and representation. Israeli airstrikes have killed seven Palestinian journalists in the last few days. 

In the wake of such violence, many Palestinian journalists announced that they’re close to ceasing working as a result of the ongoing onslaught.

In the UK, authorities such as Home Secretary Suella Braverman have announced policies and steps that effectively silence pro-Palestinian discourse, such as instructing the police to consider waving the Palestinian flag as an offence.

It’s important to note that during 2021’s Sheikh Jarrah movements, algorithms of platforms such as Instagram effectively lowered the reach of posts and accounts supporting the rights of Palestinian people.

An Ongoing Ethnic Cleansing

In the meantime, Israeli occupation forces have continued to violate international law, commit various war crimes and effectively perpetuate an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. 

Recently, Israeli forces cut off electricity, fuel and food supplies from more than two million people in Gaza. In addition, occupation forces used the internationally prohibited white phosphorus on Palestinian and Lebanese lands.

White phosphorus is internationally banned as it causes skin to burn on impact, affects the air in the area it is dropped in, and has horrible lifelong repercussions on the environment and people’s health.

Such steps are supported by famous celebrities such as Justin Bieber, who ironically posted a picture of demolished Gazan neighborhoods while stating that he is “Praying for Israel”, and a post by recently-famous psychologist Jordan Peterson who encouraged Netanyahu to “give [‘them’] hell”, and many others. 

Such stances have also been taken by so-called progressive and liberal political figures, including those who previously showed support for Palestinians.

However, the rise of awareness levels on ongoing asymmetries can potentially be concluded by looking at the comments’ sections of pro-Zionist posts, with many asserting support for Palestinian freedom and rejecting celebrities’ pro-occupation stances.

Righteous Voices

Voices such as Former Minister of Finance of Greece Yanis Varoufakis, Irish Spokesperson on Housing and Finance Richard Boyd Barrett, and many others have challenged mainstream media and political disinformation, provided insightful analyses of the situation at hand, stood firm for the rights of Palestinian people and condemned the cause of the current crisis: occupation, apartheid and an ethnic cleansing ongoing for decades.

At the time that this piece is published, occupation forces continue to wage war on the Gaza strip, besieging it, cutting off all electricity, food, and water supplies, and demolishing entire neighborhoods. Preliminary, unconfirmed reports by local activists and journalists have stated that around 17 families have been entirely wiped out as a result of the occupation’s incessant pounding of Gaza.