Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Rafah Border "Breach" and the media

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to comment on the felling of the Rafah Wall and the media's coverage of it for Aljazeera's Listening Post, one of my favorite programs by the way (which I contribute to on a semi-regular basis). You can watch the video below (also watch for the brilliant piece of Burmese media activism following the Rafah Wall segment!).

In short, my point was that the Western media tended to view the felling of the wall as something of a "jail break", and the Palestinians filing across as swarming insects, and at best, a deprived people out on a shopping spree. The tone of coverage tended to shift more towards the negative as days progressed. I even received a series of interview questions from an Italian journalist in which she said many journalists were commenting on how the “poor and hungry” Palestinians were returning from Egypt “charged of Televisions and Computers and Mobile Phones” .

Suddenly, attention shifted from the event's proper historical and political context...of decades of isolation and occupation; of continued Israeli control over Gaza and its borders; of a deliberate and sustained siege, ongoing for not one year, but over a decade now in varying degrees... to Palestinian shopping habits and auditing their degree of need. Of course, underlying all this is the fact that you cannot resolve a situation by simply providing Gaza's population with humanitarian supplies, enough to sustain them for a few weeks at at time, enough to prevent and international outcry, enough to prevent death and starvation without addressing the continued occupation.

The same way you cannot resolve Israel's security dilemma's by simply demanding an end to rocket attacks, and keeping the borders closed, and occupation ongoing at the same time; as though that status quo-of simply not attacking Gaza in response but continuing the siege and the occupation- is acceptable to Palestinians.

And of course while the "border breach" brought temporary respite, it certainly did not resolve the deeper seeded Gaza crisis. Beyond the dramatic images of the border pilgrimage, the mass media is no longer interested in this issue. As far as they are concerned now, the situation has been resolved-Gaza's found a way out, so why the fuss?


Blogger Save the Oocytes! said...


It's impossible to make most people care. They're not themselves under siege, after all; and besides, as your occasional stray Likudnik poster will tell you, imprisonment and collective punishment is just part of Israel's right to defend itself. The international reaction to Gaza is a great way to see at least two crucial components of human behavior: apathy and tribalism.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am all for the letting of the Paestinian wall betwen Egypt and Gaza be taken down. I am all for Islamic states doing everything thay can to bring the Palesinians into the 21st century.
What I am really tired of is blaming the state of Isreal for every problem that the Palestinian state espouses, while their Arab neighbors do nothing.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Jeb Koogler said...

Dear Laila,

I'm very glad to have come across your blog. It looks very interesting, and I'll be sure to return!


9:30 AM  
Blogger ياسمين حميد said...

What drived me mad when I read or heared those comments about the 'shopping trip of the Gazans' are two things:
1) Even if it turns out that the Gazans WERE rich (which of course they aren't), this doesn't mean they are not seiged and unable to buy anything with 'their money'. Or as an old indian saying put it: "when the last tree is cut, the last fish is catched and the last deer hunted, you will discover that you cannot eat money".

2) So what if they bought TVs and PCs? Don't they need some too? Or are they supposed to live in the 19th century or else be considered throwing the money away?

Allah be with you and your people,
or as the egyptians say:
هم حيلاقوها منين ولا منين؟

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess if I was stuck 'inside' and was being treated like the proverbial mushroom - I'd want a few lifelines out to the world at large. A few benchmarks to know whether the 'fair deals' I might be offered were really that, or just table crumbs.

I notice the UN has been visiting and said just how grim things are in Gaza. Wonder if it will make any difference???

I suspect most people regret the rockets on one level - but they do keep Gaza in the headlines. Not off the radar yet!

8:50 AM  
Blogger JohnB said...

Salaam Laila.

Excellent comments both in your blog and in the Al-Jazeera piece. I think the big problem has been a tendency by the media (in the US, at least) to treat all news very superficially. There is very little investigation into stories and so we get these tiny little snapshots of events.

The failure of the media to do this is directly related (in my opinion) to news organizations either being treated as "profit centers" or purchased to enhance corporate profitability.

One need only look at the average anchor on CNN to understand that the emphasis is on marketability. No longer do you have journalists anchoring the news, but very attractive, predominantly female "news readers" delivering the news.

They look pretty, they read what is put in front of them and never give it or us a second thought.

It is not outright manipulation of the news but capitalism gone wrong: revenue and profit are the key indicators of the "success" of a particular news organization.

That said, the view of Gaza is skewed to say the least. What we need and likely won't see is a news team going in to Gaza and living with a few families for a time and then showing people what it is really like to not have work or electricity or enough food or medicine. There is no effort to personalize what is happening there.

InshaAllah it will happen soon.


3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, i really admire you. My fiance and i are currently in Afghanistan (im Austn-Afg, he's American Afg) and we're hoping for a baby by end of 09. but i don't see how i can do it bouncing back and for Australia and Afghanistan.

You're an inspiration! mashaalla.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laila: Congrats! Your blog has been chosen Blog of the Day at BlogAwards.com. BlogAwards.com is a newly launched website honoring the brightest and the best in the blogosphere. You can see your feature on our home page at http://blogawards.com and you may place a BlogAwards.com winner's badge on your blog if you so desire by visiting: http://www.blogawards.com/get-your-blog-badge. Congrats again on a great blog!

Susan Rogers

6:44 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

neat, thanks!

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am curious....why is there still a wall between Gaza and Egypt to begin with? Does that wall's continued existence after Israel's pullout make Egypt partially complicit in keeping Gaza under siege? Just trying to understand....

12:18 PM  

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