Thursday, August 18, 2005

 

The Media and the Disengagement

There is an article in Ha'aretz by Ehud Asheri on Israeli media coverage of the disengagement in which he claims that "the settlers are losing on the ground, but they're winning on television." Asheri writes:
[T]he real battle being waged in the Gaza Strip [is] the battle over the disengagement narrative.

So what's the story with the disengagement? Is it a story about disaster and destruction or about rehabilitation and recovery? A story about the triumph of the settler spirit or its defeat? The impression from the first three days of the broadcast is that the settlers' disaster narrative of destruction and victimization is the winner. They are few against many, weak against strong, idealists against "followers of orders," determination versus ambivalence.

Obviously their spirit grabs the screen. The images they have to offer are far more attractive. Viewers watch and weep. The quest for the human drama leads the cameras over and over again to the wailing evacuees and to the soldiers, especially women soldiers, who join in their tears. They document the children as they come out of their homes in Kerem Atzmona with their hands up, crying and wearing orange Stars of David (sure it's "in poor taste," but that only proves how much they hurt). They stay focused on the man dangling a helpless baby out a second-story window (sure it's dangerous, but what can you do, he's desperate). They caress the groups of worshipers and reciters of Psalms. The pain, the anguish and the prayers makes for terrific footage.
It's interesting that the Palestinian narrative doesn't even get a mention in the battle of narratives. It's the Israeli military versus the Israeli settlers. Really, I wonder if there even is a battle of narratives going on here. Aren't both these stories really part of the same narrative? I think that's certainly the case here in the United States, where any nuance separating the stoic soldier from the pained settler is completely blurred. Both figures fit into the "painful concessions" narrative of sacrifice on the part of Israel, on Israel's perpetual victimhood.

Update [1:00 pm]:
Jennifer Loewenstein has a commentary on Counterpunch in which she expresses her outrage at the coverage in the United States of the Gaza disengagement. She writes:
On ABC's Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim - a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn't view the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn't want violence. She will leave even though to do so is causing her great pain. She talked about the tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew would be gone from the scene. The camera then panned to her elderly parents sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.

In the 5 years of Israel's brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and sorrow, of her memories and her family's memories; never got to listen to her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live. And yet in Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 -- often at a moment's notice ­ on the grounds that they "threatened Israel's security." . . .

On Tuesday, 16 August, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that more than 900 journalists from Israel and around the world are covering the events in Gaza, and that hundreds of others are in cities and towns in Israel to cover local reactions. Were there ever that many journalists in one place during the past 5 years to cover the Palestinian Intifada?
And so on.

Comments:
Oh my goodness, yes! I watched a segment yesterday, on Fox, which starred a 30ish settler woman with a very marked Silver Spring accent going on and on about how the world is just letting this horrible stuff happen to them, the poor settlers. "Is there no justice?" she wailed. Truer irony was never spoken.

There was footage of a house being dismantled -- much blubbing and sorrowing, but no mention of the fact that these folks are moving into nice new accommodations, footed by us. Unlike the Palestinians whose houses have been razed and who are living in rubble or tents, if they're lucky. And there was an incredible scene in which the IDF knocked down a door with some sort of battering tool, to disclose a cowering family, crying and clinging to one another. How fortunate for Fox that their reporter was there for that...

I find all the unremarked-upon lamentations about the 'land' and the trees particularly vulgar, in light of what the Israelis do to Palestinian olive groves and farms without a single news story.

And you know, it *is* vulgar and egregious and even if many in the American audience don't know enough to see that clearly, many in the Jewish American audience most certainly do know just how twisted this narrative is. Some may think that this sort of propaganda is justified by the need to keep Israel ever topmost in the hierarchy of favored nations in US foreign policy, but they do know it's manipulation.

I think the next story, of course, will be how the luckyducky Palestinians are fucking up the empty settlements and not taking advantage of their great good fortune.

Aunt Deb
 
Absolutely. Another round of the tired "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" bullshit. I've yet to hear anybody in the news challenge the "Now the ball is in their court" line that Sharon is throwing out there. All the talking heads who they bring on are people like Dennis fucking Ross who are of the same opinion. "Let's see if the Palestinians can handle Gaza, and maybe they can earn some of the West Bank for themselves as well." As if the basic human rights of people living in the West Bank should somehow be dependent on whether the Palestinians living in Gaza behave like good little boys and girls for Israel? I can just see Dennis Ross (who, along with Peter Beinart, is in competition for the biggest asshole with a little boy's haircut award) standing in front of a classroom and telling everybody that "[insert phrase here] is a privelege, not a right, people!"
 
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