Even by the low standards we’re accustomed to, a recent Channel 4 News report on Gaza’s suffering – in the context of border protests – is appalling, failing to even feign objectivity, balance or any semblance of professional journalism.
The piece, (Gaza suicide crisis: ‘We’re dead already’, May 10th) by presenter Jonathan Rugman, about ‘rising’ incidents of suicide in Gaza, doesn’t ever explicitly blame Israel for the problem of Palestinian suicide, but it doesn’t have to. Viewers would inevitably be led to this conclusion by the presenter’s contextualization of the topic by employing the counter-factual cliché about Gaza as “the world’s largest open air prison”, his false suggestion that humanitarian goods can’t enter the coastal strip and the presenter’s failure to so much as mention Hamas – the proscribed terrorist group which runs the enclave – and the group’s role in perpetuating Palestinian suffering.
Further, though the report implies that suicide has increased in recent years, the presenter later acknowledges that no official statistics are kept of suicide rates, thus undermining the entire premise of the report.
However, the most insidious suggestion – illustrative of the media’s tendency to infantilze Palestinians – appears at the 3 minute mark of the film, where a Gazan woman named Nahed Shweikh admits to physically abusing her young daughter, an act which the reports connects to the mother’s ‘hopelessness’ and poverty.
Here’s a still frame of the girl, with scars (presumably from the beating) visible on her forehead.
Here’s the relevant clip.
However, a little research indicates that such beatings represent a widely accepted method of child discipline within Palestinian culture and is disturbingly common. According to a 2014 UNICEF report, three-quarters of children aged 2-14 experienced “violent discipline” in the home in the month prior to the survey. Other reports indicate sexual assault of children is widespread, and usually goes unreported due to “the weight of tradition” and a Palestinian “culture of shame”.
But, of course, the Channel 4 News presenter wasn’t interested in providing relevant context, nor investigating the real cause of poverty, suicide and child abuse in Gaza – or the wider issue of Hamas’s role in Gaza’s isolation and misery. His sole objective was to produce a segment consistent with the desired media narrative of cruel Israelis inflicting suffering upon innocent Palestinians.
As we’ve demonstrated continually over the years, the one common thread uniting most correspondents covering the region is a stubborn refusal to go beyond their professional comfort zone, reach past the journalistic echo chamber they inhabit, and treat Palestinians as moral actors responsible for their own fate.