The all-out war apartheid-Israel has waged on the people of Gaza in the past two weeks has exposed the unreliability and outright racism of Western media once again. The demonization of Palestinians, Muslims, and Arab peoples propagated by Western media outlets and the White House is being used to not only legitimize apartheid-Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestine, along with the recent intensification of violence in Gaza, but also has incited more violence against Palestinians in the US and attempted to hinder international outcry, support and solidarity for Palestinian survival, liberation, and self-determination.
After 67 years of occupation, 16 years of blockade, and two weeks of a concerted genocidal campaign of intensified military attacks on Gaza, Israel’s far-right government has regularly used racist and dehumanizing propaganda against Palestinians to justify the war and incite more violence. In the past thirteen days alone, high-ranking Israeli officials have spread dangerous rumors, misinformation and straight-up fabrications that demonize Palestinian people in order to excuse and legitimize apartheid-Israel’s genocidal campaign as sensical self-defense. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for instance, told the press “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel—everything will be closed. We are fighting against human animals,” which was then echoed by senior military leaders: “human beasts are dealt with accordingly.” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urged “the village of Huwara needs to be erased. […] the state of Israel needs to do it,” after hundreds of Israeli settlers rampaged through a Palestinian community, destroying homes and killing one person. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir encouraged such vigilante violence calling it heroic and pledging his full support.
In the past two-week total military siege of Gaza that has resulted in the slaughtering of over 4,000 Palestinians (and escalated subjugation of hundreds of thousands more) as revenge to Hamas’s October 7 attack, top Israeli officials have spread uncorroborated allegations of Hamas beheading babies and children and rumors of raping women. After the vicious October 17 bombing of a hospital killing at least 500 patients, doctors, and nurses along with women and children seeking refuge after Israel’s evacuation order of Gaza, Israel’s former social media advisor Hananya Naftali (hired by Prime Minister Netanyahu) immediately took credit for the massacre on social media, stating that “the Israeli Air Force had hit a hospital in Gaza.” Quickly the tweet was deleted and the statement retracted as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuthen blamed Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the attack, with affirmation from US President Joe Biden himself on October 18.
Allowing the Israeli government to retract such a claim and then run with and amplify their unverified denouncement is how media becomes complicit in war and genocide. And this strategy is tried-and-true for the apartheid regime’s playbook—it was merely one year ago after an Israeli sniper shot & killed Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen abu Akleh that Israeli forces denied it was them, let media run disinformation, & continued their attacks on Palestinians unfazed.
Israel’s war on Gaza has already killed more Palestinian children in one week than Ukrainian children were killed in a year of Russia’s war, and according to hospital records at least 50 Palestinian families have been completely wiped out from the civil registry. In addition to constant shelling of thousands of missiles on Gaza, creating a humanitarian crisis by threatening an imminent ground siege of Gaza via evacuation order to forcibly expel two million people, cutting off the electricity, water, fuel, food, and most if not all humanitarian aid through the 16-year-long blockade, apartheid Israel has continued its deadly targeting of journalists. According to Democracy Now, 12 journalists have been killed during this war in and around the Gaza strip, the majority of whom were Palestinian; BBC Arabic journalists were pulled from their vehicle in Tel Aviv and then held at gun point by Israeli police; a leftist Israeli journalist was accused of being a “traitor” for speaking out on the killing of Palestinians and has been attacked by a right-wing mob; MSNBC reduced the role and coverage of Arab and Muslim anchors in the past week—all in an international attempt to silence Palestinians and demands for ceasefire. Israel is now set to ban Al Jazeera’s operations—one of the few global media outlets that has reporters on the ground in Gaza—due to its coverage of the war.
As prison industrial complex (PIC) abolitionists, we know that the narratives press use and disseminate to frame an issue at hand is an important component of our struggle. The media is a terrain on which we struggle to not only inform people, but to influence decision makers, to challenge credibility, and to create shifts in common sense, thus combatting the dehumanization of oppressed and criminalized communities. What’s more, as abolitionists, we must examine how the “mass media images that keep alive stereotypes of people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, etc. as criminal, delinquent or deviant” are a core tool of the PIC that weaponize its abilities to target, control, and harm oppressed communities, by legitimizing oppression, state violence, and war on our people (See CR’s full definition of the PIC here). Apartheid-Israel’s genocide of Palestinians and military occupation of historic Palestine is not made possible without the violent portrayal, criminalization, and condemnation of Palestinians as inherently subhuman “terrorists.”
As a PIC abolitionist organization, Critical Resistance remains steadfast in solidarity with Palestine. This includes the Palestinian people as well as the countless anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist Jewish peoples internationally who are taking action and even risking arrest to demand a ceasefire. We join countless organizations and communities internationally, including our movement partners at CompassPoint in refusing “to amplify propaganda and misinformation that feeds into further dehumanization of Palestinian and Muslim peoples.”
What can you do to interrupt the media fueling Israel’s war on Gaza?
7 simple tips to interrupt dangerous media coverage:
1.) Contextualize all events and reports within the material conditions of the 75-year-long history of violent military occupation by apartheid-Israel over Indigenous life in historic Palestine;
2.) Consider the diversity of tactics and strategies that Palestinians have used for their self-determination and freedom, and how whether through nonviolent approaches or armed struggle, Palestinian resistance and declarations of the right to live have been routinely met with unparalleled militarized violence by apartheid-Israel with unconditional US-backing;
3.) Resist false and historically inaccurate narratives that this is a mutual “conflict” between two nations on equal political and military footing or merely some sort of centuries-long religious conflict with no practical or diplomatic solution;
4.) Look for and uplift Palestinian voices, experiences and humanity while also challenging Christian-hegemonic and white-supremacist antisemitism;
5.) Think critically about and disrupt how grief, generational trauma and legacies of the Holocaust are being used to weaponize and legitimize another genocide against Palestinians, and instead redirect all efforts toward community healing, solidarity, and collective liberation;
6.) Analyze critically the sources of news and reporting, corroborate with different kinds of evidence before spreading or jumping to conclusions, question motive and hidden interests, and always check your assumptions;
7.) Challenge racist (especially anti-Arab or Islamaphobic) coverage by sharing your views with local and national media outlets (write Letters to the Editor, and submit comments or op-eds in response to criminalization in the media; share independent media sources!).
Critical Resistance has put together this list of reliable news sources, political and research resources, and educational materials so that people can access accurate information on the unfolding genocide and resistance to it. If you want more on the topic of media coverage and Palestine, check out this event on Rebutting Zionist Narratives.