In a militarised society like Israel, even the media serves to perpetuate a brutal occupation and reinforce Zionist illusions.
“In Israel, there’s no law that says: Screw the Arabs, and yet, we continue to be screwed in all aspects of life,” an activist friend of mine once said. “The reason behind this is very simple: The fantasy of the hegemonic collective.”
While no laws explicitly, actively and directly command discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, there are 65 discriminatory laws against Palestinians, and all 1.9 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are marginalised in almost all aspects of life.
During the recent onslaught in Gaza and amid the pending evictions of Palestinians in Jerusalem, one lesser-known form of racism and discrimination reared its ugly head: incitement of violence against Palestinians in mainstream media.
Israeli broadcasters attacked Palestinian guests, didn’t allow them to express themselves freely and called on Israelis to kill Palestinians on sight.
On most occasions Palestinians were brought on air as “guests” only to be asked to condemn their fellow Palestinians by a bloodthirsty Israeli anchor or panellist.
Perpetuating the Zionist Fantasy
Palestinian citizens of the state consist almost 20 percent of the population in Israel but make only 3-4 percent of the guests on television and radio news shows, according to the 7th eye, an Israeli media watchdog.
Even when they do get invited it’s to speak about political issues related to their communities. Almost 30 percent of the healthcare workers in Israel are Palestinians, but it’s nearly impossible to see an Arab physician as a guest on a health show, for example.
In Israel, Jewish Israelis grow up in the public education system not only not learning Arabic, but knowing virtually nothing about the national identity, history, narrative or culture of their fellow Arab neighbours and citizens, the descendants of the Palestinians who survived the Nakba in 1948.
This is a form of cultural segregation nurtured by the establishment to keep Palestinians disenfranchised and maintain a master-slave relationship between them.
Arabs usually occupy service positions, and no matter how educated they are, the average Israeli would rather see them as service providers. When it comes to editors, producers, anchors and decision makers in the media, they too are products of the said system.
But lack of knowledge isn’t and can’t be the sole reason for discrimination in the media. Curiosity is part of human nature and a key component in journalism - so why aren’t Israeli media people curious themselves to learn more about Palestinians and help educate their fellow Israelis?
The answer is the shared fantasy of the Israelis hegemonic mainstream, which stems from settler colonial ideology of Zionism. According to this fantasy, the Jewish state is the embodiment of the return to the promised land - a land that belongs only to Jewish people. It doesn’t matter that it was built on the suffering of an entire other nation.
But that nation -- the Palestinian nation -- is still alive, and it has been struggling to merely exist for 73 years.
If Palestinians speak up and voice their pain or narrative, the shared Zionist illusion doesn’t seem like such a good, positive story anymore. So why screw up a story an entire colonial collective worked so hard to build and convince others of its authenticity and ethos?
And it doesn’t stop at that. Whenever there’s an escalation between Israel and Gaza, the West Bank and Palestinian citizens, the media fall in line behind the Israeli army spokesperson.
For example, during the early days of the recent onslaught in Gaza, almost nobody in the media pointed out the fact that Netanyahu had orchestrated it for his benefit amidst a government crisis, although it was obvious to a lot of Palestinians and leftist Israeli politicians. Instead, most TV channels repeated the Netanyahu government’s messages.
This happens because Israel is a militarised society. Almost everyone serves in the army, and children are taught from a young age that they will serve their country and “protect it”.
No matter that “protecting it” mainly means occupying other people and putting millions under illegal and immoral siege.
A militarised society will back its government actions without questioning. Its media can’t be any different.
And what happens to the very few journalists who decide to show humanity and sympathise with Palestinians under bombardment? They get attacked. Viciously.
Here’s a story: Yonit Levy, a prominent TV anchor in the most popular channel in Israel, interviewed a Palestinian woman in Gaza during the 2014 massacre. Levy teared up in what should be an understandable human reaction to the woman’s story of grief and loss. What followed afterwards was unimaginable: Israelis attacked Levy for her show of compassion to a fellow suffering human, some calling for her immediate termination.
It's a pity that so very few see that the victims of this are not only the Palestinians - we know our stories and narrative because we live them. The indirect victims are the Israeli people, who are doomed to stay in the dark, knowing very little about Palestinians under a racist and unjust regime.
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