How the Palestinian 30th Land Day was obscured as some international print media preferred to highlight instead the coverage of a suicide bombing in the West Bank
As Palestinians marked the 30th Land Day
on Thursday, March 30, a late-night suicide bombing occurred at Kedumim
, an Israeli settlement which is part of the Ariel bloc
, hulking deep within the heartland of northern West Bank.
Like the sun shadowed by an eclipse which happened on Wednesday, March 29
and was partially visible in the Palestinian skies, the Land Day event was obliterated from the news-spheres the next day.
Media's story-chasers chose to run after the literally 'burning' story in which four Israeli settlers died and editors gave full-blast coverage to a single person's sensational act of self-destruction rather than on the peaceful gatherings in at least seven locations of the dispossessed Palestinians protesting the occupation of their lands in the West Bank and in Israel.
It would seem that for the nth time, violence and sensationalism ruled the media skies and peaceful, non-violent actions are not newsworthy enough.
Furthermore, a look into some dispatches on the suicide bombing sent by Jerusalem-based correspondents to their foreign news outlets showed that Land Day was not even used as news peg nor as a frame which could provide a context, and in a way, to explain the story, from the Palestinians' perspective.Contexts and connections
The suicide bombing happened on March's eventful penultimate week.
Aside from the Land Day commemoration, the week witnessed the Israeli elections on the 28th
and the swearing-in of the Hamas cabinet on the 29th and the Palestinian Land Day on the 30th.
The annual Land Day
commemorates Palestinians' protest against "Israel’s ongoing expropriation of Palestinian land on which it continues to build new illegal Jewish colonies, and expand existing settlements and cities, which were created since 1948 and after 1967."
The first Land Day demonstrations in 1976 to protest against the Israeli expropriation of Palestinian-owned land, and the event has been held every year since.
While the Land Day could have provided the Palestinians' lens on the suicide attack, the event itself was not covered by the international media nor mentioned in the suicide account.
Some print media provided context, however, and connected it instead to the Israeli elections, the Hamas rise to power, the Hamas-Fatah dynamics, international (read: US, particularly Condoleeza Rice) pressures and the history of suicide bombing in Israel and Palestine.
Land Day out of his mind notwithstanding, Chris McGreal, correspondent of the UK-based The Guardian
provided a most nuanced four-legged newspeg, framing the account of the event in the context of the Israeli elections, the Hamas-Fatah dynamics, the history of suicide bombing in the area and the tension created by the Jewish settlements and the 'security fence' which has evolved into an Annexation-Apartheid barrier.The New York Post's take
, meanwhile, focused on the inside politics within the Palestine Authority, stressing 1.) the connection between the violent act against the Israelis and the Hamas' rise to power; and 2.) the power politics between the Hamas and the Fatah parties.
In fact, the NYT story's headline is more than telling of this slant: "Bomber Kills 3 Israelis as Hamas Takes Power." Greg Myre, the NYT correspondent, also quoted unnamed "political analysts" who speculated that "the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade may try to step up its attacks to show that the group, and by extension Fatah, is still a force to reckon with." Myre quoted two Palestinians.
Ken Ellingwood of The Los Angeles Times
wrote an account which framed the suicide bombing in the context of the Israeli elections, the rise of Hamas to power and the settlement blocs and the final borders to be defined by the barrier/fence/wall.
But Ellingwood devoted a dozen paragraphs on the Israeli perspective and two paragraphs, towards the end of the story, on the Palestinians'.
On the other hand, the dispatch from Scott Wilson of the Washington Post's Foreign Service
pointed to three news hooks, the Israeli elections which was closely linked to the issues of the separation wall as final borders and the settlements blocs within West Bank. It also mentioned the dynamics between the Fatah and the Hamas.
The short dispatches from the news wires like Associated Press, Reuters and the BBC
, gave short accounts which described what happened at the scene of the bombing and details of the event rather than providing contexts and connections.Out of sight, out of mind
While a celestial phenomenon like a total eclipse of the sun happens every 18-20 months, the invisibility of the Palestinian perspectives in news accounts, particularly of the foreign press, is habitual and predictable.
At least two in-depth analyses of the contents of media coverage on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict had noted this dire absence of the Palestinian perspectives from most news accounts on the issue.New York-based writer Remi Kanazi writes in International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC),"
Every time a suicide bombing strikes Israel, mass coverage of the tragedy begins instantly. Whether landing on the front page of New York Times or taking up the headline block on CNN.com, the pain that Israeli people endure is shown endlessly."
"Israelis do suffer. Suicide bombings are horrific. Nevertheless, Palestinian pain occurs far more frequently, and yet it is often overlooked by the mainstream American media," Kanazi notes.
Citing a study done by the non-profit organization If Americans Knew
, Kanazi suggested that NYT was partial to the Israelis, "covering Israeli deaths in the headline or the first paragraph in 159 articles. In contrast, the newspaper only covered about 40 percent of the Palestinian deaths."
Kanazi further noted that NYT would only include quotes from Israeli sources, citing no Palestinian witnesses and other credible non-governmental organizations.
It is interesting to note however that in this particular account of the March 30 suicide bombing, the NYT correspondent had quoted only Palestinians and had given only a Palestinian background on the bombing. And yet, the story's rhetoric is still that of the "war on terrorism", as if the suicide was all about Hamas-Fatah wranglings and had nothing much to do at all with Israel and Israelis.
Meanwhile, Greg Philo, writing in The Guardian about an exhaustive research done by the Glasgow University Media Group
on television news coverage in the United Kingdom on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, noted that "the quality of what the audience see and hear is so confused and partial that it is impossible to have a sensible public debate about the reasons of the conflict and how it might be resolved."
As in the case of the dispatches on the recent suicide bombing, these TV news reports "tend to focus on the day to day events and in reporting these, there is a strong emphasis on Israeli perspectives."
Philo wrote that "there are very distinct and different perspectives in this conflict which should be represented on the news."
There is the Israeli perspective: "The Israeli authorities and much of the Israeli population see the issue in terms of their security and the survival of the state in the face of threats from terrorists. They present themselves and their own actions as a retaliation to attacks."
On the other hand, Philo stressed that there is the Palestinians' stand: "the Palestinians see themselves as resisting a brutal military occupation by people who had taken their land, water and homes and who are denying them the possibility of their own state."
Both Kanazi and Philo recommended that it would make for a more effective, accurate and fair coverage of the ongoing conflict if the Palestinian context is always presented, thus engendering a more informed international public which understands its many-dimensioned nuances. *