Israel-Palestine: There are not ‘two narratives’ – just one deadly reality


For so long, western media peddled Israel's fictions. Now the story is changing - and the old gatekeepers are no longer in charge

Israeli tanks are deployed along the Gaza border on 20 May 2021

Hamid Dabashi writes in Middle East Eye 5 June 2021

The latest round of Israeli slaughter in Gaza, along with its coverage in western mainstream media, has highlighted a glaring chasm between the facts of daily Palestinian life and the fictions Israel and its allies have fed the world.

To repeat that western media outlets are biased against Palestinians has become a truism. They have knowingly twisted truth into fiction not just by calling a colonial conquest a “conflict” or property theft “evictions”; they also get the plot wrong. There was a land without a people, the story goes, and a people without a land.

These media outlets are invested in their own ignorance, having sold this fiction for decades.  They are invested in sustaining the course of the settler-colony. We read them not to find out what happened, but to see how they are spinning it

This time around, though, the soup is so salty that even the cook had to admit it. Headlines citing “the misery of life under occupation” would never previously have been dreamt of in the New York Times, and yet it landed on the front page last week. Suddenly, the US newspaper of record was printing pictures of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces on its front page.

Voices of defiance against Israeli war crimes have become common in Europe and the US, in a way we could not have imagined even a decade ago. Regular NYT columnists – not just those “guest columnists” who pop in during moments of crisis to give the newspaper an air of impartiality – are now writing on the shaking of the previously unshakable friendship between the empire and its favourite ally.

There are more balanced venues, to be sure. But importantly, media such as the BBC and the New York Times are no longer in charge of the story. They no longer establish the discourse; they deviate from it. They are invested in sustaining the course of the settler-colony. We read them not to find out what happened, but to see how they are spinning it.

David and Goliath

Indeed, there is the bloody reality that Palestinians have lived since their homeland was overrun by European Zionists, and then there is the fiction proffered by European and US media. These two diametrically opposed poles are falsely called two “narratives”; if we believe one side over another, we are just buying into a “narrative”.

In reality, Israel is a garrison state – a massive military machine, from top to bottom. Palestinians are killed, occupied and their land is robbed. Palestinians do not have an army, a navy, an air force; they are the David to the Israeli Goliath. Media such as the BBC and the New York Times side with Goliath, calling him David, and they blame David, calling him Goliath. Or, even worse, they blame both David and Goliath and call that “balance”.

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