The media’s racist double standard on Palestine

(cartoon Catlos Latuff)

Asmaa Yassin

Mondoweiss  /  March 2, 2022

The world’s attention is now vividly focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I am watching the news in Gaza speechless, boiling with rage.

When I decided to become a journalist in college it was to amplify the suppressed voice and calls for freedom of my people. At that time I believed that journalism all over the world was one-sided: the truth, and nothing but truthful all the time. 

I also believed that being a Palestinian journalist, particularly based in besieged Gaza, could be an extra advantage as I could share the story of the Palestinians in the global media. 

However, the reality I have come to discover is that our identity as Palestinians – our race, religion, skin, and eyes color – do not seem to be enough to earn enough of the international media’s respect to have our voices embraced and uplifted. 

Our reality under a settler-colonial regime was recently described as apartheid by one of the world’s leading human rights organization and yet the coverage of this pronouncement speaks to our tragedy as an occupied people: our quest for liberation does not matter as long as we are on the “oriental” side of the world. 

It appears what really matters is the sides in the conflict: who is involved and with whom, rather than for what and why. The world’s attention is now vividly focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I am watching the news in Gaza speechless, boiling with rage. The ‘double standard’ of the mainstream media is clear as the white European Ukrainian people are celebrated even as they use the same terminology and tactics that struggling Palestinians get attacked for. 

This is not to devalue the struggle of the Ukrainian people for freedom, but the huge solidarity movements and sympathy that have stood up worldwide with Ukraine have triggered a crucial question in the mind of an average Palestinian citizen: has not the same, and even harsher, been committed against us by the Israeli occupation for over 70 years?

Apparently, not only is the Palestinian struggle for liberation not considered to be worthy of international support and media attention, but similar to a number of other oppressed nations, mostly in Arab and Eastern countries, it has been vilified and demonized under the label of “terrorism” and “antisemitism.” 

Palestinians know that war will do no good for millions of innocent civilians. Fleeing home in hopes of escaping death will only leave entire populations in exile and diaspora. Hypothetically speaking, if Palestine were a neighboring country to Ukraine, it would have welcomed the people of Ukraine to seek refuge and warmth. But since the peculiar establishment of the state of Israel, Palestinian refugees have been spread across the world and this number continues to dramatically increase due to the calculated procedures of the Israeli occupation to ethnically displace the indigenous people of Palestine so that another foreign settler population can rule. And it is now ironic that Israel, the same democratic state that denies entry of millions of Palestinian refugees in exile, has opened its arms to welcome Jewish Ukrainian refugees escaping their country after the Russia invasion. This serves as a microcosm for the racially-based discriminatory policies the Israeli occupation state has used against us based on race and identity in order to establish an exclusively Jewish state within the fragmented parts our homeland. And yet this context is left out of the story of Palestine whereas it is front and center for the story of Ukraine.

Similarly the violence we endure, and our right to resist that violence, are also ignored. 

For example, for over a week the Israeli occupation has killedattacked, and arrested a number of Palestinian people, most of whom are minors, yet this news was barely mentioned even in the corner of the news screen. The international media deliberately ignores our suffering and exile, and creates an international media blackout.  

We have been through four military attacks launched by Israel, killing and devastating an entire population in the Gaza Strip. The trauma and the fear we still carry on are not only abstract memories. They are feelings moving through our veins, filling our souls with the wish to live free and live less traumatized one day soon. We do not forget the massacres against us, like the Shuja’iyya massacre committed by the Israeli army on the morning of Sunday July 20 2014 which killed more than 74 people. However, it seems the world forgets and only recognizes Israel’s supposed right to ‘self-defense’.

But what is worse is that whenever we fight back at the assaults of the Israeli devastation, we are designated terrorists and antisemitic for jeopardizing a state’s safety and peace. Now, all of a sudden, and on a totally different side of the world, armed resistance is the proper action and response for the Ukrainian people to uphold in the face of Russian brutality. 

I am in awe at how the international media can praise one’s right to defend their home, people, and sovereignty by armed resistance when it wants to. This is clearly a lawful, legitimate, and valid right, but as we have seen when this resistance takes place in Palestine it is condemned, and whoever engages in it automatically becomes a member of a “terrorist militant group” that should not exist on the free world’s soil! I wonder if we were white, Christian, European, and had soft skin and tender hair, and ‘totally civilized’, if we would still be under occupation?

Racist and hypocritical mainstream journalism aside, the truth is plain: every story about resisting injustice and occupation is a story about, and completely applicable to, Palestine.

I just wish they would report it that way.

Asmaa Yassin is a Palestinian freelance journalist and writer based in Gaza City