Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Why the sympathy?

New media sources, delivered directly to people’s phones, have changed the game in the Arab-Israeli conflict, writesMohamed Salmawy


Al-Ahram Weekly

How do you explain the unprecedented level of global sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza and the condemnation by world public opinion of Israeli brutality against defenceless civilians? This is the question raised by images from major cities around the world showing mass demonstrations protesting Israeli aggression and in support of the Palestinian people.

Some will argue that the reason lies in the ferocity of the assault that has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded. But the fact is that brutality is the common denominator in all Israeli assaults throughout the history of that country. Palestinians have experienced that brutality from the massacre at Deir Yassin over half a century ago, through the Sabra and Shatila massacres, to the previous invasion of Gaza in 2009.

However, a comparison between Sabra and Shatila, for example, and the massacre that is taking place today in Gaza throws into relief a new factor. This factor is a change in the media that has gained ground over recent years. No longer is the transmission of information and images captive to the official press, which had been controlled by pro-Israeli influences throughout the west and in many countries of the east.

The public is being exposed as never before to images of children being killed and homes and hospitals being destroyed —all crimes of war punishable under the Geneva Conventions —via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, SMS and MMS. These applications are free from intervention by some editor-in-chief who has the power to determine what and what is not publishable in his newspaper.

Israel had succeeded for many decades, especially given the near total absence of Arab influence, in imposing its control over the American press in its entirety and over the bulk of European media. It was thus able to disseminate misinformation and obstruct the transmission of truth to readers. As a result, the common narrative in the west was that Israel had a right to the land that belonged to another people, that it was an oasis of civilisation and democracy in the Middle East, that the Arabs and Muslims were bloodthirsty and Palestinians were terrorists.

Every newspaper and TV channel had an editorial policy. Those in charge of implementing it could and would halt the publication or broadcast of news and information if they felt that content contradicted their outlet’s policy.

But the world of mass communications has changed. People no longer have to wait for the hourly CNN news bulletin or morning delivery of The New York Times to learn the news. They can get their news fresh, immediately and audio-visually, simply by tapping an icon on their mobile phone.

 World public opinion is discovering, for the first time, the long-concealed facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel’s brutal assault against Gaza has triggered the release of these facts from their decades-long captivity.

The question we must now ask ourselves is how are we going to handle this. How can we capitalise on this unprecedented level of international sympathy for the Palestinians?

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