Palestinian voices on Israeli TV are few and far between, but when they are allowed on-screen, hostile hosts treat them like props to inflame audiences.
"But the host is actually a leftist!" is probably the funniest lie producers tell when they try to lure Palestinian guests into their news studios in Israel. As if we don't work in the field or don't even watch TV, they know they have to make their guest feel safe for them to accept their invitation.
If one wants to understand how structural violence is maintained and nurtured in Israel, all one has to do is watch the following interview I had with Israel national broadcasting service.
First, let's start by providing a little context. Last week an unprecedented wave of protests supporting the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem emerged all over Palestine (including Palestinian towns and cities inside Israel).
In Lyd (Lod in Hebrew), a mixed city (which was entirely Palestinian and became mixed after its occupation in 1948), protested as well. Police responded with brutal violence, hoping to suppress the anger. But the crowds wouldn't stay at home.
Fifteen years ago, settlers who Ariel Sharon evicted from Gaza settled in Lyd. They had a core of settlers already there, called "Garin Torani", and they now had massive support. The open and declared purpose of settling in Lyd is to "Judaize" the city. Meaning, push the Arabs away, just like Israel does in the West Bank.
These settlers and their racist nationalistic and religious extremist ideologies are also about action. They're armed. So when Arabs took to the streets, they encountered them. Clashes began between the two sides, and Musa Hasouna, 32-year-old Palestinian, was shot dead by a settler.
The perpetrator was taken for questioning by the police and was later released after the public security minister publicly called for his release on Twitter, emphasising his arrest was "unethical."
When I was invited to the Israel national broadcaster, the host didn't want me to talk about any of that or the dire situation of the Palestinian community in Lyd.
What happened in that interview set a new rock bottom - even by Israeli TV standards, where it's common knowledge all reporters immediately start reciting the government's official party line without questioning, every time there's a flair up with Palestinians, anywhere.
So, why host an Arab journalist on their TV, then? Well, the answer has two tiers:
First, they want to seem liberal, or to put it more accurately, "fair". Interviewing "the other side" is a norm in journalism, especially the institutionalised ones. Even the right-wing Fox News invites progressives and liberals on their shows.
Then, usually, another factor plays a role. Once they get their guest in the studio, most hosts in the mainstream Israeli media see them as prey.
To them, it's a great opportunity to score some points with the Israeli mainstream - who are usually not interested to hear the other sides' story to begin with. Instead of providing a fair platform, stay professional and allow the interviewee to express themselves, they go on the attack.
Most commonly, they ask the interviewee, rather demand for them "to condemn the violence by Palestinians." In other words, what they're basically asking is that the Arab provides proof they're "good Arabs" - docile and unthreatening.
Allowing them to expose the other side's story or narrative doesn't sit well with their agenda. Therefore, when they rarely do somehow invite an opinionated and free-thinking Palestinian, more often than not, the "interview" turns into a heated debate.
Israeli media had been playing a crucial role in recent unrest within Israel. According to the representation index, published weekly on the media watchdog website, the 7th eye, Palestinian citizens of Israel are rarely invited to attend news shows on radio and TV.
Only 4 percent of the guests during the first quarter of 2021 were Palestinian, even though they make almost 20 percent of the general population. It's enough to look at that astonishing figure to understand the mindset of these producers and hosts.
Still, what we are seeing in this latest uprising is unprecedented. The level of incitement is unheard of.
Two days ago, N12 Israeli channel had a panel with Israel Frey, a Hasidic Jewish journalist. Frey wanted to provide context and criticism of Israeli police for allowing armed settlers to break curfew in Lyd, and he even criticised police for allowing their armed comrades from the West Bank to join them without setting any roadblocks to the city during the day. He also tried to show how the Lyd mayor and his deputy threatened the Arab population of the city. The host immediately silenced him.
This was a rare event and a dangerous escalation: Israeli media has evolved from silencing Palestinians to silencing Israeli journalists who still wish to maintain high standards and provide context.
Stories don't begin in the middle. They have a beginning and an ending. People who take to the streets to protest the killing of children in Gaza, expelling families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah or violating the sanctity of one of the holiest places on earth at the Al-Aqsa mosque are not "angry rioters on Kristallnacht."
By not telling the whole story, Israeli media mainly and dangerous misinforms the Israeli people, who remain captives of this violent circle, lacking the tools to question its meaning.
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