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It's Time for Israeli Media to Start Calling Gaza Victims by Their Names

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Relatives of Muhammad Hassouna, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike mourn before his funeral outside a hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.
Relatives of Muhammad Hassouna, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike mourn before his funeral outside a hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.Credit: Fatima Shbair /AP

Even before Sunday night’s cease-fire, Israeli television viewers could breathe a sigh of relief. Israeli broadcasters were touting the low number of casualties among the population of Gaza. And what if a few Palestinians were killed? It doesn’t matter.

The latest round of fighting, which the Israeli army dubbed Operation Breaking Dawn, would end and no one would remember what happened in Gaza until the next operation. What was on display in all its glory was an Israeli media circus and the dehumanization of Gaza’s civilian population.

Days of war: Understanding this weekend's Israel-Gaza flare-up

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Let’s begin with Kan Channel 11 public broadcasting’s report Saturday titled “The operation not in focus: Foreign media are tired of covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The report showed viewers how foreign networks were covering the outbreak of the fighting on Friday in Gaza, but the real story came in the last minute of the report with the following statement: “More than 24 hours following the outbreak of Operation Breaking Dawn, it appears that both the diplomatic arena and the one in the media have been granting Israel some latitude, but based on the past, if this operation continues, such latitude will contract.”

From Channel 11’s perceptive, it doesn’t matter if the number of casualties in Gaza continues to increase, or whether the civilian population is harmed. What’s important is continuing to quell the Israeli conscience and to maintain the image of a moral Israel that has been forced against its will to defend itself.

“The Palestinian claim that a 5-year-old girl met her death in an IDF attack last night has been accorded its place,” a report on the girl’s killing stated, without even taking the trouble to mention her name. What’s so scary about mentioning the name of the 5-year-old, Alaa Qadoum, who “met her death” in an Israeli attack?

That’s how they slowly fed the television audience with the justifications for the fighting – normalizing the killing by tranquilizing the viewers and failing to present the Palestinian perspective. According to Channel 11, foreign media outlets weren’t interested in Gaza and that provided justification for “latitude” on Israel’s part. The hope was that a responsible adult – in this case, the “foreign media” – would grant approval for Israel’s actions.

But Channel 11’s failure to mention Kadoum’s name doesn’t absolve Israel of responsibility for her death – even if the public and the media ignore it. Alaa Qadoum was an innocent child who was killed by Israeli forces. Ignoring her name exemplifies the Israeli media’s fear of providing coverage of Palestinian voices. Let’s have one reporter who dares express views that are different from the Israeli narrative.

The IDF spokesman couldn’t even remember the name of Taiseer al-Jabari, the Islamic Jihad commander killed by Israel at the beginning of the fighting on Friday. This game in which the media skips past mention of the Palestinian dead and the civilian population has to end.

On the news anchored by Dana Weiss on Channel 12, Weiss asked reporter Ohad Hemo for an update on the situation. He mentioned the number of dead and said: “In Gaza, they’re reporting 15 fatalities so far, including a 5-year-old girl and two women.” He then corrected himself: “Young women and another 12 members connected to Islamic Jihad.”

That’s it. Silence. The end of the story. Time to move on. Weiss didn’t even ask who those “young women” were. Do they have faces? Or form of some kind? And no one on the studio panel bothered to ask who the women killed were either.

These female civilians weren’t mice running around the Gaza Strip. They were human beings who were living lives of their own.

Yet the Israeli media has gotten used to doing this – quelling the viewer’s conscience, failing to ask questions that are painful for some of its audience to hear. And failing to check out the facts regarding the people killed in Israeli attacks.

So for the information of Ohad Hemo and others, the name of one of the two women was Duniana al-Amour, a 23-year-old Palestinian artist at the beginning of her career. The second woman was 62-year-old Naama Abu Qaida, who died on the way to the wedding of her younger son.

But what does all this matter? Let the Palestinians die. No one in the Israeli media is recording their names or reporting on their lives, and no one will ask questions. Everyone is the loser in war, but for the Israeli media, war also involves something else – defeating the Palestinian narrative and continuing to anesthetize the Israeli conscience.

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