The Berkshire Eagle’s local angle on the violence presently unfolding in occupied Palestine replicates many of the perennial issues with coverage of Palestine in the United States.
Under the headline “We are heartbroken and we are strong,” the Eagle published several hundred words on the losses suffered by an Israeli woman living in the Berkshires. The banner image accompanying the article shows survivors wandering around a neighborhood devastated by a bombing — but this neighborhood happens to be a refugee camp in Gaza City that was bombed this week. Scrolling down, the next image shows the apocalyptic glow of bomb blasts against clouds of smoke, with an urban skyline in the foreground: this image, too, is an image of this week’s bombings in Gaza, not Israel. The captions for these images, both from the Associated Press, are the only times the words “Palestine” or “Palestinian” appear in the article.
These images are horrifying, as is the story of shooting, abduction and home destruction that the Berkshire-based Israeli family told the Eagle. Many other Israeli families are grieving these kinds of losses for the first time.
But hidden here are acts of silencing that have real consequences. To use images of Gaza reduced to rubble to illustrate an article in which Palestinians are not even mentioned except as “Hamas” or “terrorists” directs the sympathies of the reader viewing these images away from the actual victims of the violence depicted.
Likewise, the author’s description of the trauma of losing one’s home, or the people in it, is written without ever mentioning the fact that home invasions and demolitions are a state-sanctioned tactic that Israel has deployed against Palestinians on a regular basis. When it happens to Israelis, it is exceptional; to Palestinians, it is the norm.
We should always mourn a life cut short by violence. But to uncritically uplift a narrative of “terror” while erasing the experience of the occupied Palestinians is to reinforce the idea that only some forms of violence — always the state-sanctioned, heavily funded and wildly disproportionate — are legitimate.
There are stakes to this kind of media coverage. The United States sends billions of dollars each year to support Israel’s military, which uses the Palestinian territories over which it has near complete control as a testing ground for surveillance and weapons technology and military techniques that are exported all over the world, including back to the United States. Now, Israel is poised to use this eruption of violence to request even more from the United States as it announces flagrantly genocidal aims in Gaza. Israel has already cut off water, electricity, food and fuel to the enclave, and has bombed residential buildings, hospitals and schools. On Friday, the Israeli military ordered 1 million Gazans to evacuate — an order the United Nations described as “impossible” — then bombed those attempting to follow the order.
Sadly, reporting like that featured in The Berkshire Eagle is the norm, not the exception, across news outlets big and small in the United States. But a news landscape, and a world, in which Palestinian lives are valued as much as anyone else’s is within reach. The latter will require the dismantling of the apartheid regime Israel enforces on Palestinians — a process that will make Israelis safer as well as Palestinians. The former is much easier to enact right now, and it begins with asking more of our local news outlets — particularly the independent ones.
Brian Zayatz is an editor of The Shoestring.
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