Lethality of Mis (Dis)-Information in Israel-Hamas War

The world witnessed Hamas and Israel engaged in yet another cycle of violence, which has an impact of stifling Muslim voices and their right to life. It has become increasingly clear that an armed response to the conflict is not only challenging but also counterproductive as the number of civilian fatalities rises. At the same time, the media also plays a crucial role in highlighting the events and narratives during the war-like situation, as positive journalism helps to mitigate the conflict and negative or biased journalism can exacerbate the crisis. However, the involvement of other parties, particularly the Western powers, is equally crucial in this war particularly when it comes to control of the media houses. Though occasionally well-intentioned, Western interventions have historically been seen as prejudiced because of political goals. Whether true or false, this perspective jeopardizes the peace initiatives the West claims to support.

On October 7, Hamas carried out massive strikes on Israel to counter their forceful occupation of historical Palestine. As a result, Israeli forces explicitly declared war and began bombarding Gaza on October 8.  Here, it is crucial to emphasize that Hamas is an Islamist movement with political aspirations that has had authority over the Gaza Strip since 2007, an area of around 365 square kilometers (141 square miles) that is home to a population of over two million Palestinian but is under Israeli sanctions. The movement began as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and it established a military wing to engage in violent conflict with Israel to recover historic Palestine. Additionally, it provided welfare services to Palestinians who had been subjected to Israeli occupation. Israeli soldiers continue to target innocent Palestinians in Gaza even though Hamas does not officially represent the Palestinian people. The United States and European Union have labeled Hamas a terrorist organization because of its armed resistance against Israel, which has included suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Then there is no point in the US and other major power states encouraging Israel’s attacks against Gaza just because of a militant group.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is intricate, influenced by geographical, religious, and historical issues. Conversely, dialogue and comprehension between parties can resolve any protracted dispute, regardless of its complexity. Although the path to peace is never that simple, it is nevertheless worthwhile. A deep desire for independence, self-determination, and autonomy is at the core of the Palestinian struggle.  Western states must maintain their neutrality if peace is ever to exist between Israel and Palestine instead of encouraging one party to use force over another. Unfortunately, the superpower and a few other major powers endorse Israel’s barbaric acts as their right. US President Joe Biden has stressed Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Hamas in all of his speeches and statements since making his speech during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. On October 7, Biden announced, “Let me be crystal clear: the United States stands with Israel. Israel has the unalienable right to defend its people and itself.” Since then, he has stated numerous times that he supports Israel without reservation. Biden’s stance toward the bloodiest battle as the head of a superpower state was surprising because it was intended to “legalize” Israel and its forceful occupation of historic Palestine which was the motherland of Palestinian Muslims. On October 16, Donald Trump in a similar statement vowed that if he is elected president once more, he will forbid immigrants who support Hamas from entering the US and dispatch law enforcement officials to pro-Hamas demonstrations to apprehend and expel foreign nationals who openly endorse the Palestinian militant organization.

Western media’s power is not only restricted to superpowers; its global reach also makes it indispensable for presenting a complex and fair picture of this challenging matter. Unfortunately, the media is unable to provide an unbiased account of the war in this instance, despite their huge responsibility to report on situations in warlike circumstances. Unfortunately, not only Israel but also the major participating states have tried to stifle the media during the Israel-Gaza and Israel-Palestine wars in the past. There are countless additional examples of the West using deadly force to try and control the media. An Israeli minister warned of shuttering the offices of Al-Jazeera, a well-known media organization since the company was reporting on Muslim fatalities caused by Israeli shelling. One prominent example of Israel’s unjustified use of violence against the media and journalist community is Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al-Jazeera journalist. Shireen was found not guilty in a report released on October 16 by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Commission Chair Navi Pillay said, “Shireen Abu Akleh is another victim of the disproportionate and excessive force used by Israeli security forces in these operations.” The Commission discovered a pattern of attacks on prominent journalists, including this one. Since the war started between Israel and Hamas, 21 journalists have been killed in the deadliest attacks in which 17 were Palestinian, 1 Lebanese and 3 were from Israel.

According to an evaluation of five major American newspapers’ coverage of Israel’s occupation over the past 50 years, the Israeli lobby has “deep pockets.” Over the past 50 years, headlines mentioning Israel have appeared more than four times as frequently as those noting Palestine. Positive headlines from Israel surpassed those from Palestine by a statistically significant margin. The UN report from 2014 on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza stated that 2,251 Palestinians lost their lives, 1,460 of whom were civilians and 556 of whom were children. Twenty Israeli officials were invited to speak on CNN compared to just four Palestinians. The term “occupation” has been used in headlines about Israel over 85% less frequently over the past 50 years. The word occupation has decreased by 65% in the Palestine corpus. In his book “The Wrong Story,” Greg Shupak of the University of Guelph in Canada conducted an empirical study of the coverage of US media. He found that the New York Times only mentioned Israel’s blockade of Gaza once in five editorials written just before and during the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. One of the main causes of the conflict’s prelude was the blockade. By hiding the siege’s significance from Palestinians, the story of Protective Edge is skewed to Israel’s advantage.

Instead of promoting narratives that support one side or obscure the reality on the ground, these media outlets ought to report objectively to give voice to Palestinians who are demanding freedom and to make their goals accepted. By doing this, they can contribute to fostering an environment where honest interaction and cooperation are feasible.

There are still unanswered questions and a great deal of deep-seated suffering as a result of Israel’s decades-long conflict and Palestinian displacement. This war proves that upcoming conflict can be as lethal as much with the exploitation of digitally viable means to exacerbate the conflict. As the world looks on, it is up to Hamas and Israel as well as all other stakeholder parties involved, particularly the West and those in charge of the media outlets who encourage Israel’s heinous actions, to make sure that this violent chapter comes to an end. If this pattern of violence persists, it will also eventually affect them. This is not a call for passivity or silence. Rather, it entails keeping international law intact, encouraging communication and negotiation between Israel and Hamas, and actively engaging without taking sides. Bias in war leads to additional polarization of the conflict, which causes misery over the whole region and delays the healing of the war’s wounds for decades. We can only expect to witness a dawn when Israeli and Palestinian children are raised not in the darkness of conflict but in the light of peace via a neutral, concentrated effort.

Muhammad Kamal

The author is an Islamabad based researcher in ‘Media Literacy’ and currently pursuing PhD degree in Media Studies. He is a Gold Medalist throughout his academic career. His research focuses on addressing the loopholes in media dynamics of South Asia with special emphasizes on Pakistan. *The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the position of Strafasia

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