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When Palestinians tell the world what is happening to them, why are they met with disbelief?

The Palestinian viewpoint is credible and vital as Israel continues to unleash carnage on GazaMon 13 Nov 2023 12.30 GMT

In these past few sleepless weeks, I have seen images and videos that will haunt me forever. Palestinian parents carrying their children’s charred and dismembered bodies in plastic bags to makeshift morgues; whole families, across three generations, crushed under the homes they built; exhausted doctors working desperately by torchlight and operating on patients without anaesthetic; one of the oldest churches in the world, sheltering the displaced, bombed. So far more than 10,000 Palestinians have been reported killed – more, after one month, than the number of civilians killed in Ukraine after two years of war.

The Israeli war machine is always horrifically ruthless. But this time we are witnessing a level of violence not seen since the 1948 Nakba – during which about 70% of the Palestinian population was forcibly displaced and more than 500 communities were wiped out completely. Indeed, for nearly four weeks the Israeli regime has cut off power and limited access to the internet, reducing contact with the outside and meaning the full scale of its assault has been hidden from the world. Some Palestinians in Gaza are still managing to maintain some communication by charging phones in cars and using power from what solar panels are left. Among them are Palestinian journalists – at least 32 media workers have been killed since Hamas’s offensive on 7 October – who are risking their lives to show us the devastation that is being wrought upon them.

Yet despite the plethora of pictures, videos and testimonies that have come out in the past few weeks, Palestinians once again find themselves in a position where they are denied authority over their own experiences and seen as not credible. This was demonstrated par excellence following the Israeli army expulsion order for 1.1 million people in northern Gaza, when they told the world that they would allow for safe routes for Palestinians to head south. Yet these “safe routes” were ones that they had bombed, in one case hitting a convoy and killing at least 70 Palestinians, including children. Independent investigations confirmed what Palestinians had been saying all along – that there were no “safe routes” out of north Gaza.

While Palestinian journalists have been phenomenally brave and extensive in their coverage, too much of the international mainstream media has insisted on giving credence to Israeli regime officials: for example, when they provided “proof” of a recording of a conversation between Palestinians claiming responsibility for the al-Ahli Arab hospital bombing. Palestinians immediately argued that it was falsified based on the accents and dialogue. A Channel 4 News investigation cited two independent journalists who determined the recording was not “credible”.

What continues to be astounding is that a regime recognised under international law as the occupying power, and as one that many human rights groups agree is imposing a system of apartheid, is trusted to relay information about its own atrocities. Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza are questioned and interrogated at every breath they take. Even their corpses are questioned, as when Joe Biden said he didn’t have “confidence” in the numbers of Palestinians killed. Gaza’s health ministry issued a list with all the names of those killed along with their ID numbers, which are registered with the Israeli authorities.

The Israeli regime continues to dehumanise Palestinians as part of its tactic to sow seeds of doubt on their testimonies and to justify the atrocities it is committing. The Israeli defence minister, Yoav Gallant, said they were fighting “human animals” and the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called Palestinians “children of darkness” in a now deleted tweet. The Israeli minister for heritage even raised the possibility of dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza. So much coverage is complicit in this dehumanisation of Palestinians, as Mohammed El-Kurd found when appearing on British media. “Our death is so quotidian,” he writes, “that journalists report it as though they’re reporting the weather.” Indeed, we often see the time-old linguistic gymnastics whereby Israelis are killed yet Palestinians simply “die”.

The reality is that Palestinians have been dehumanised to such an extent, that even when they hold up their murdered children in front of cameras and display them to the world, there are those who will still say they are responsible for their own children’s deaths. But make no mistake, what we are seeing in Gaza is an unfolding genocide and Palestinians are showing the world what it looks like in real time.

  • Yara Hawari is a senior policy fellow at Al Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network
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