This week, the President of the United States told a bold-faced lie. On national TV, in graphic detail. Hours later, the White House tried to walk it back. Too little too late.
That lie and numerous others like it – as the old adage goes – have traveled around the world this week (multiple times over) before the truth had time to put on its shoes. It was not fake news limited to rumors on social media spaces. Nor was this a case of the media and politicians being fooled. This was deliberate disregard to engage in any responsible effort of corroboration or second sources by journalists and government officials across the globe.
President Biden repeated rumor as fact, giving further credence to reports that the Israeli government itself conceded it could not confirm. What’s worse, when asked, he then dug his heels in saying he viewed non-existent footage. These same horrendous claims are the core driving factors and content for current calls for the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
U.S. and U.K. news broadcasts have been obsessed with asking Palestinian guests to condemn violence (even in the midst of discussing their families’ deaths). It is high time someone finally asked these journalists to condemn themselves.
CNN (and dozens of other outlets) tweeted and sent a notification on its app that these horrifying reports were unsubstantiated. Done. Fixed. Hands washed.
What about the hours of coverage where these lies were propagated? Will they spend as much time rescinding and apologizing and confronting Israelis with the lies as they did cavalierly and irresponsibly reporting them? Of course not.
These examples are not just inaccuracies of reporting. They are contributing factors to the justification of and incitement for massacre.
Amid unfathomable loss and destruction, Palestinians barely holding it together in their grief, are working overtime to do the media’s job. To document human rights abuses, war crimes, and correct disinformation campaigns by the Israeli state.
Perhaps it was foolish or naïve of us to think any lessons had been learned since the invasion of Iraq and the flood of misinformation that came with it–that maybe, just maybe, there would be self-reflection before the American public was dragged into supporting a war without condition, without any reverence or care for human life. Blinded by rage and guided only by tunnel vision vengeance with no consideration for history or the context of the last 75 years.
Once again, the U.S., Israel, and most E.U. states have proven that they see Palestinian lives as disposable. Outrage and denunciations of violence and the depravity and devastation of war are reserved solely for Israel. And media outlets fell right in line.
On the second day of coverage, I watched Al Jazeera live feeds and for a split second I forgot and thought to myself “Where’s Shireen Abu Akleh?” and then - I remembered. I remembered her murder, her lifeless body on the ground, and the U.S. government’s indifference, despite investigations around the world that confirmed Israeli culpability.
I thought of her voice reporting and signing off “from occupied Palestine, this is Shireen….” It’s been over a year since her death and the attacks at her funeral. Dozens of Palestinian journalists have been killed or injured since. Rather than honoring their memory and work, Western mainstream media have served as pallbearers and witnesses for the collapsing profession of investigative journalism.
This year marked the 75th commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, when over 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and dispossessed, becoming refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, and across the region. It has been 55 years since Israel began its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and over 15 years since it besieged the Gaza Strip and turned it into an open-air prison. This is the context absent from almost every major broadcast report.
For the last several years, the settler colonial regime of Israel has operated as if they can manage a population of millions of Palestinians into irrelevance, with normalization deals around the region and a “New Middle East,” comfortable in their hubris.
Palestinians, however, have once again reminded the world they cannot be suffocated into silence. They will live and strive for freedom and dignity for as long as it takes.
Here in the U.S., the harsh and painful reality for Palestinian-Americans is that we pay taxes to bomb our own families, but every American is complicit. Military aid from the U.S. to Israel in the last 75 years amounts to 260 billion, and this week was increased with an unconditional and limitless promise of weapons to Israel, which it will use against Palestinians with impunity once again.
Early Friday morning, an evacuation order was issued for over 1.1 million Palestinians to move south in the already debilitated Gaza Strip. It took hours to confirm the messages they received with word swirling between international organizations and news that it could have been spam or a hoax. When finally confirmed, people started to pack and move. Hours later, as Israel began preparing for a ground invasion and an onslaught of unprecedented proportions, they bombed the civilians fleeing in caravans.
We are watching genocide unfold in real time on our television screens.
Who amongst us will ask why? Who amongst us will say enough?
A version of this op-ed (in form and topic) was solicited and then rejected by the Los Angeles Times.