Like a lot of people, I’ve spent the past couple of days glued to my TV set and the papers, monitoring the horrible situation in the Gaza strip, and the Arab world’s increasing disenchantment with Egypt.
So far, according to the UN, at least 373 Palestinians have been killed and 1,720 are injured. Of those killed, approximately 1/3 were women and children. In terms of civilian casualties, some analysts have called this the worst attack since the 1967 war.
(“Counting makes it’s easier,” says Palestinian journalist Laila El-Haddad. “Systemising the assaults makes them easier to deal with. More remote”).
As Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian human rights activist in Gaza tells us:
In Gaza, it’s 9/11 every hour, every minute, everywhere, and tomorrow is always a new day of mourning. […] It is now 60 hours that Gazans’ eyes, like mine, haven’t closed for some sleep. Dozens are missing, in the hospitals there are desperate women looking for their husbands, their sons, for two days, often in vain. It’s a macabre sight at the morgue. A nurse told me that after hours of searching amongst the pieces of the bodies at the morgue, a Palestinian woman recognized her husband from an amputated hand. That’s all that remained of her husband, with his wedding ring still on [...]
On the Israeli side, four people have been killed.
I’m not going to go into who is to blame, what this means, etc,, since that’s not the purpose of this blog.
I will, however, give you a brief impression of how Palestinian Muslim women are being represented on Arab TV, making it clear that the Arabic press is not only biased, but doesn’t exactly try its best to be objective. So over here, you will hear nothing about Israeli protests, only about the gleeful Israelis, happy that the Palestinian terrorists are getting their just rewards.
That’s not to say that western media isn’t also biased—but at least in this scenario, although Palestinian rock throwers are the images that appear in several papers, and statements such as “The onus is on Hamas” and “It is war to the bitter end [on Hamas]” (The Daily Telegraph, The Independent) are aplenty, the numbers at least speak for themselves. Other ‘western’ papers have gone as far as to say Israel’s actions were ‘disproportionate,’ though very few have actually condemned its actions or pointed out that Israel won’t allow journalists into Gaza.
The Arab media’s agenda is to turn public sympathy towards Palestinians, and as we all know, TV is much more adept at tugging at people’s heartstrings than mere words are.
So on Arab TV, we are constantly bombarded by images of lamenting, wailing women and dead children. True, the women aren’t the ones who are dying, but the media portrays them at those who are losing the most. Their keening wails and heartfelt emotion is stronger than the images of dead children, which unfortunately have come to resemble nothing more than movie props in gory looking stage makeup.
“Men are just losing their lives,” croaked one old wrinkled grandmother, wearing torn clothes dusty with rubble and splattered with what seems to be blood, huddled under a makeshift plastic tent. “I have lost my sons, my sons-in-law, my grandchildren, and even my house. I’ve even lost my pots and pans. I have nothing. We have nothing. It’s like we are flies being swatted. Less than that even.”
Palestinian women, as Egyptian journalist Amal Sorour noted when she traveled to the territories recently “believe in continuously giving birth in order not to become extinct, because they are always getting killed.”
An Israeli bomb struck the Imad Aqil mosque at the Jabaliya refugee camp, destroying it and several buildings around it, including the Baloosh family home. The seven eldest sisters were sleeping on mattresses in one room, and five of them were killed: Tahrir, 17, Ikram 15, Samer, 13, Dina, 8 and Jawahar, 4. May God give them peace.
The Arab media is also keen to show us the huge queues outside bakeries, with women and children of all ages hoping to buy a few measly loaves.
No mention is made of Hamas policewomen, or of any woman playing any other role than the victim.
But I can’t say I really blame the media. Maybe even more than the deaths of innocent children, I feel for the mothers, who are mostly helpless. Their lives, already difficult—with ‘honor killings‘ and the numbers of battered and sexually abused women in the Gaza strip spiking dramatically ever since the siege began—have become impossible. I cannot even begin to contemplate what it must be like to not be able to protect your children.
“It is my daughter Noor’s birthday on January 1,” concludes Palestinian journalist El-Haddad. “She will be one year old. I cannot help but think: who was born in bloodied Gaza today?”
Let’s hope the New year brings an end to this seemingly endless war.