“Mommy, hide me, I’m scared,” whispered a terrified Palestinian child to his mother in a video posted online, as Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza on August 22, the tenth consecutive night the Israeli military pounded the Strip.
You wouldn’t know this, however, if you rely solely on Western media outlets for your international news. When Israeli-fired missiles and artillery rounds rain down upon Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth, neither the accompanying explosions, nor the terrified screams of Palestinian men, women, and children make a sound—at least not in the newsrooms of Washington DC, New York, and London.
Palestinian lives have been made so unworthy and invisible, thanks to concerted efforts by the Israel Lobby, Christian Zionist organizations, and Likud Party friendly Western governments, that even when they are bombed relentlessly and mercilessly the Western media gaze is fixated on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as it was just barely two weeks ago, when the Trump administration announced the “normalization” of ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
Palestinians are not only excluded from the United States’ shambolic “peace” process but also ignored when Israel wages war on them.
What’s clear is this: Palestinians are not only excluded from the United States’ shambolic “peace” process but also ignored when Israel wages war on them, a defenseless population that has no army, navy, air force, tanks, or air defense system.
When Western media outlets make Palestinians invisible, they play an active supporting role in Israel’s decades-long effort to ethnically cleanse the entire Palestinian population, which started the moment European Jewish settlers began sorting themselves into armed militias and terrorist groups in the 1920s.
Remarkably, yet unsurprisingly, almost none of the major US and international news media outlets have filed a single article on what has been two consecutive weeks of relentless Israeli military attacks on Gaza, not the BBC, nor CNN, Fox News, Sky TV, and ITV.
If “silence is violence,” as Black Lives Matter protesters often and rightfully proclaim, then the media is complicit in the misery and suffering of the Palestinian people by keeping them hidden out of view as US, UK and European-manufactured and sold weapons are fired towards their homes, schools, markets, and hospitals.
To right this wrong, and innumerable others, Western newsrooms must make a deliberate choice to give a voice to the Palestinian people, and it can start by asking the most self-evidently obvious question of them all. That is – what does it feel like to be an unarmed civilian locked in an open-air prison, with no shelter from Israeli warplanes and drones flying overhead?
“Despite being aware of the overwhelming moral support by the international community, we feel absolutely lonely. It feels we are shouting at the top of our lungs, protesting against the illegal occupation from a deep and dark well with very high walls surrounding us,” Muhammad Smiry, a 28-year-old resident of Gaza, told me.
“Whilst trying to remain calm during the explosions and Israeli warplanes hovering over our heads, being a son, father, and a husband, I struggle to keep my terrified family members less worried,” said Smiry.
When I spoke with Naila Shawa, a Gaza resident and mother of two young daughters, after Israeli warplanes pounded the Strip in November 2019, she explained how grappling with the stress and anxiety has become far more challenging as a parent.
“The noises of bombing and expectations of the next airstrike make life really difficult.”
“Whenever there is any kind of military activity, it’s really difficult to cope with. The noises of bombing and expectations of the next airstrike make life really difficult. I’m still not at the stage of explaining this to my daughters, so I tell them that this [airstrike] is thunder or fireworks,” said Shawa, whose daughters are aged two and five.
“The first thing that comes to mind is how to have my energy charged enough to be patient and also keep my stress [level] as reasonable as possible to deal with these hours while they [daughters] are awake. I try to do things as normal as possible, having our meals together, doing all the little things that they like, playing with them, doing some drawing and coloring, getting their favorite toys, so that they’re busy and engaged, and not involved with the background noise,” said Shawa.
“Whenever a missile hits [nearby], I try to hide how I feel from them, but doing so is difficult…strikes by F-16s hitting just 100 meters away from you is not an easy experience.”
When I visited Gaza several years ago, a Palestinian father of three explained how his youngest child had become so traumatized by Israeli airstrikes that he would urinate involuntarily when a surveillance drone flew overhead, a claim also made by Shawa, who told me her friends are “always talking about that.”
Dr. Nasem Baim, a former Minister of Health in Gaza, told me he fears the latest round of Israeli military escalation will lead to a new war “if the situation isn’t released.”
“I hope the situation will calm down soon,” said Dr. Baim. “But unfortunately, we are left alone, except from Allah.”
Smiry also spoke about how Palestinians feel abandoned by nation-state government and betrayed by the United Arab Emirates.
“Regarding the UAE-Israel ‘peace deal,’ the residents of Gaza feel another dagger has been stabbed in our backs. Even though it was a much-expected move made by the Arab leaders to choke us further, we are highly disappointed and feel betrayed. Our basic human right of freedom has further exacerbated the crisis that we live in,” said Smiry.
The Palestinian people are willing and able to tell their stories. The enclave is home to one of the most educated populations on the planet. There’s simply no legitimate excuse for denying their voices. The media has a moral and ethical responsibility to share with the world their experience when others, particularly foreign governments, talk about Palestine or the Palestinian people, because silence is violence.