If you are a bit confused as to what has been in the news about Gaza lately, you are not alone. And it’s probably because the prevailing US media narrative of what is going on over there is fundamentally skewed. We are being provided news sans the historical context necessary to understand why Hamas and Israel can’t stop launching rockets at each other.
The historical backdrop of the conflict in Gaza is a necessary part of the story and, considering the often uneven media coverage surrounding the fighting, it seems to start when we decide to press record. Americans are not being given the crucial background on Gaza and, as a result, our press coverage, popular opinion and public policy are being framed by the US’ unyielding support for Israel. As Al Jazeera reporter Shihab Rattansi stated, it seems “no description of Palestinian suffering can be aired without a reminder of the suffering in Israel."
I understand foreign policy means having allies, but our near-blind allegiance to Israel will only allow it the impunity to continue the bombardment of Gaza if we continue along the same path. To better understand the conflict, we need context. Only then will we understand why it is paramount a two-state solution be put forward if we hope to see peace come to the region. And we will never get to the root causes of this conflict without a statehood option. The Guardian reported Monday that the UK is prepared to back the recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN. When will the US be ready for this?
The US and many American media entities have been complacent in their failures to cover the context of the illegal occupation of Gaza. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council. In years leading up to this, Hamas gained more popular support for its building up of many civil society institutions and social services for Palestinians. In the wake of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death and a perceived inefficiency of the Palestinian Authority, which had a Fatah political party stronghold, Hamas triumphed with the people.
Western powers like the US often dislike groups like Hamas, as its militant forces that are more than willing to launch rocket attacks against Israel in retaliation for the maltreatment of Palestinians. In 2007, the US instigated a failed military coup against the Hamas government and Israel imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip. Israel claimed the siege was necessary to monitor weapons movement over the border. This blockade has proven more detrimental to Gazans than anything else.
Israel and Hamas came to a ceasefire in 2008. In exchange for Hamas halting its rocket attacks, Israel agreed to lift the blockade. The latter never really happened. The blockade is still in place today and, according to the UN, has caused incredible humanitarian and economic trauma.
The most recent eight-day skirmish started off with sensational headlines about Hamas rockets flying into Israel, but failed to mention they were reactionary to Israel’s targeted attack and successful assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. While Jabari was in charge of force, he was also presently involved in peace negotiations; the US media has consistently failed to report this.
In the wake of the newest ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, many wonder if peace will hold long enough to allow further negotiations, or if history will repeat itself. Both sides will have to make concessions if there is to be the existence of both an Israel and a Palestine. Hamas will have to recognize the existence of Israel, and Israel will need to stop perpetuating the status quo and violating human rights in occupied areas like Gaza.
The US must realize its fervent, sometimes aberrant support of Israel needs to be matched with a compassion for Palestinians and human rights if it wishes to play such a large role in the peace process. Moreover, this background is needed to understand why the creation of a Palestinian state must be brought to the table this time around. If not, the temporary truce will likely fold yet again.
This all may, admittedly, be just another gripe I have with the constant need for “breaking news,” exciting SOTs and easy-to-comprehend snippets in our 24-hour news cycle, but the lack of history and context provided in this uneven conflict and illegal occupation is giving neither the situation nor the Gazans due justice.