To Deny Palestinians Their Narrative is to Deny Their Existence; and it’s Working.
At this point in history, we are living through a global pandemic. At the same time we’re seeing major political changes occurring around the world. One such political change is Israel’s illegal territorial expansion in to the West Bank. The Plan which was authored by Donald Trump’s property developer son-in-law Jared Kushner and approved personally by Trump in January 2020, is being pushed forward by Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netenyahu who is currently under trial in Israel for corruption charges. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court has begun proceedings on trying Israel for War Crimes.
This decision to expand was taken, and a plan was agreed upon at the beginning of 2020 without representation for the 3.3 million Palestinians, including the 775,000 refugees across 19 camps in the West Bank. There are many misconceptions and deliberate misrepresentations about the will of the Palestinian people for one key reason; that Palestinians have historically and systematically been denied a voice for more than 72 years. This systematic oppression extends to Israel proper and as demonstrated by this annexation plan; it’s getting worse.
What you’ll find in mainstream Western media outlets and narratives, especially American ones, even amongst ‘liberals’ is that there is a predominant focus on the Israeli response to these systemic injustices, and how Israelis “feel” about the political situation within their personal, political, historical and religious perspectives, while simultaneously and consistently somehow failing to gather a Palestinian perspective in the same regard. These stories usually carry a lot of liberal guilt washing for not having recognised the basic rights and breach of human rights of Palestinian people before now. These pieces occupy space and centre on the Israeli experience yet do little to nothing to give voice to an entire population so systematically dehumanised; not in some far off land but within the same geographical space. 640,000 illegal settlers didn’t arrive in the West Bank in 2020; it’s been an ongoing project of confiscation, segregation and colonisation over several generations.
Not only that, this hierarchy of narratives favours those who already have rights and citizenship in at least one, usually two states, while dismissing entirely the freedom of stateless Palestinians in the specific discussion of statehood, and freedom; effectively denying Palestinians any agency whatsoever. This is a big part of the wider problem, since it’s clear we’ve been conditioned to think one perspective is superior to another. Furthermore reinforcing the centering of the European / Western and frequently the colonial perpective.
It falls within political journalistic integrity and personal integrity to present at least two sides of a story, or effectively history, not just one. While it’s important to hear dissident voices coming from Israel and American Jews and Israelis, it should not also mean that Palestinians are denied a narrative. They should not be mutually exclusive. This can only contribute to the divisive nature that the conflict has in the first place, rather than working towards reconciliation, and perhaps even peace.
The media outlets which do provide a platform for the alternative narrative, such as +972 Magazine and The New Arab which happens to be that of the oppressed in this situation, happen to be relegated as “fringe” or non-mainstream, even though they offer vast volumes of first hand accounts, statistics and local based news journalism — a type of journalism which is under attack and is dying. There is a personalised dimension to these particular stories (not just “articles”) and first hand narratives, which seem to cater to the audience of those who are directly affected by issues of injustice, for example, through the confiscation of their land and resources to the extra-judicual killings which never reach justice, or a conscientious reader. While mainstream media tends to cater for those not so immediately affected or for external “observers” and mere voyeurs of injustice.
This creates a distance between reader and story, meaning that the intent is not to inform, but to sculpt or even dominate the narrative. This effectively creates a dichotomy in the media and the audience along political lines ultimately setting a dangerous precedent. There is a simple solution to rectifying this dichotomy and this is by giving Palestinians their right to tell their side of the story with their personal, political, historical and religious perspectives.
We cannot come to conclusions, as Netenyahu and Trump have, without this consideration, otherwise we are following their lead, and their example; participating in the systematic denial of human rights for Palestinians. This would mean to in effect agree with, give credence to and uphold their global establishment rules, ideologies and practices. It goes without saying that Palestinians are fighting every moment of their lives for their recognition as human beings and for peace and justice.
While most people, and media outlets might denounce such leaders, since it would be unpopular not to, they are still perhaps unwittingly playing by the same rules, ideologies and practices that allowed these people to seize power in the first place. So since we cannot count on Netenyahu or Trump to change this discriminatory and essentially racist way of going about doing things, the media outlets need to change, journalistic practice needs to change and so does the narrative not just in print but on a personal basis too. If not then we can at least be clear about what is being supported and at what cost.