.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hungry or not? Mainstream media's hypocrisy on Gaza

The mainstream media and NGOs were the the main purveyors of the myth of Gaza was suffering form a humanitarian crisis - a myth that goes back to the early 90s at the very least.

Since the Gaza Mall opened, we have seen on a few occasions the people who have made a living talking about how miserable life is in Gaza take a step back and re-frame their arguments. They cannot deny the truth, but they don't want to retroactively look like liars - which is what they effectively have been for nearly two decades.

So, one by one, they are reframing the Gaza meme to try to save face and make sure that people still blame Israel for Gaza's problems.

Gaza is still miserable, these newly-sophisticated and nuanced journalists are saying, but it is not because the Gazans are hungry, or poverty-stricken, or cannot get basic items. Forget all those thousands of articles over the years that we wrote, forget us uncritically quoting Jimmy Carter about how Gazans are "literally starving" or being "starved to death." No, the problems with Gaza are not so much physical but a state of mind, you see.

Previously, we mentioned Slate's backtracking, admitting that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and no hunger. Instead, Slate quotes an official, it is a "crisis of dignity."

Oh, I see. So how does Gazans' dignity stack up against, say, that of poor Egyptians or Yemenis or even Saudi Arabia's lower class? We don't know, and we won't know, because reporters much prefer to hang out in Gaza where they can visit the Roots restaurant than to go to poor Arab villages in other parts of the world.

Time magazine's reframing of Gaza sounded like this:

Gaza's residents will concede that there is no hunger crisis in the Strip. Residents do love the beach, and the store shelves are stocked. But if you're focused on starvation, they say, you're probably missing the point. To them, the word prison speaks more to the effect that years of conflict and political and economic isolation have had on the Gaza psyche. "We are talking about continuous stress and ongoing trauma," says Hasan Zeyada, a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), the territory's main psychological treatment and research NGO. "It's not one incident, but all of the time. We are at a continuous level of high stress and human-rights violations and traumas through Israeli invasions and war."

Oh, so we are missing the point if we focused on starvation? Then why did Time magazine's Gaza correspondent write, in 2008, "As you sit down to a Thanksgiving feast, please spare a thought for the starving Palestinians of Gaza. There are 1.5 million of them, most of them living hand to mouth, or on UN handouts, because Israel has them under siege."

Now, the latest to join the hypocrites is Ethan Bronner of the New York Times. Two years ago he didn't hesitate to state as a fact:
Militants have tried to infiltrate the border crossing into Israel five times in recent weeks. That has led Israel to keep the border closed more often, further reducing supplies and worsening the already severe humanitarian crisis there.
No nuance there, Gazans were in a "crisis," the exact same way one would describe sub-Saharan Africa or parts of Bangladesh.

Now, however, Bronner has caught onto the new Gaza meme, talking about the Gaza mall:

To the commentators who have never been here, certain points need to be cleared up. To those who contend the mall is proof that Gaza has construction materials: the building is 20 years old. To those who have described the mall as “gigantic” and “futuristic”: it is small and a bit old-fashioned. To Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, who wrote that the mall “would not look out of place in any capital in Europe”: it would.

But the broader point many of these advocates are making — that the poverty of Gaza is often misconstrued, willfully or inadvertently — is correct. The despair here is not that of Haiti or Somalia. It is a misery of dependence, immobility and hopelessness, not of grinding want. The flotilla movement is not about material aid; it is about Palestinian freedom and defiance of Israeli power.
On at least 14 occasions the New York Times described the ships that try to sail to Gaza as "aid ships."

Bronner is not only trying to willfully change the Gaza meme, but in the paragraph above he is showing his own support for the illegal breaking of a legal blockade. He is not quoting a Free Gaza official as to the purpose of the ships, he is stating their purpose from his own perspective - "Palestinian freedom and defiance of Israeli power." He is all but publicly admiring their aims and goals.

However, the fact is that  both the media and the anti-Israel activists have used the "starvation" meme as a convenient fiction to focus the world on demonizing Israel. Their current re-framing  to change it instead to "dependence, immobility and hopelessness" is nothing more than an attempt to not look like fools and not admit that they have been lying to the world for years.

If they cared about Palestinian Arab "hopelessness" they would be spending much more time in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. They would be interviewing Mahmoud Abbas about why he has yet to dismantle a single "refugee" camp in the West Bank - all of which are under Palestinian Arab control.

No, these hypocritical reporters are not interested in revealing truths about how Gazans live. They have been dining in fine restaurants in Gaza and staying in fancy hotels - they knew the truth for years. They are equally not interested in Palestinian Arab suffering and deprivation - because by any measure, the Arabs in camps in Lebanon envy the Gazans. These hypocrites hammer away at Gaza for years because they want to blame Israel for Gaza's problems, nothing more. They'll occasionally leaven their prodigious Gaza output with an article about Hamas abuses of Gazans, but their focus has been unrelentingly on Israel.

The unraveling of the "humanitarian crisis" meme just shows how deeply the mainstream media has been in bed with NGOs and anti-Israel activists and how easily they parrot false statistics and claims.

Any way you look at it, the media has been lying to you about Gaza for years. Why should you believe them now?