Gaza conflict and the need of alternative media

Jihad Masharawi weeps while he holds the body of his 11-month old son Ahmad, at Shifa hospital following an Israeli air strike on their family house, in Gaza City, on Nov. 14. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. Photograph by Majed Hamdan / AP

By Ikram Ullah, Columnist | Srinagar, Kashmir

[M]edia is a very potent and efficacious tool of information. Be it in its print or digital form, it has always proven to be successful in achieving desired or intended results upon masses. Take for instance, the fashion industry; it uses media in all its forms to make its new trends-even vagarious ones, and products acceptable in the society. Similarly, media is claimed to control the opinion of people. A country’s political discourse uses its media sources to influence the decision making of people. Or it would be safe to say that countries sell their policies to their people and to the world around by exploiting those measures in the media that favor them. Hence, it is usual for political parties to fund media agencies in result for lobbying.

However, in all of this political design, the profession of journalism loses its credibility as they tend to bend the facts and make them favorable for the political agenda they are lobbying for, promulgating distorted facts and impacting the understanding of common man which is the ultimate motive behind this tactic.

One recent example of this is when a very invigorating  morning of November 14, 2012 turned into a feeling of acrimony and disgust as I logged onto my Twitter account as part of my daily morning chores after browsing through newspaper websites of some of the world’s best known corporate media houses. To my greatest antipathy I noticed that “Gaza” and “Israel” were on the trending list and the very first sight of it set the buzzing sensations in my stomach going. Gaza and Israel always trend for wrong reasons, those of death and war, rockets and missiles and more missiles and more rockets. I believe all of us have developed that sort of sensitivity to this conflict that whenever we hear the two names our brain comes with an apt reflex of pictures-bodies, limbs, ambulances, wailing people and more rockets and more missiles.

Anyway, as I hit on the “Gaza link” the inevitable had happened and the two sides were again fighting each other and this time according to some sources it was the targeted assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari, the military commander of Hamas (the group ruling the Gaza Strip of Palestine), the man believed to control the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and involved in the abduction and the final deal that saw release of Gilad Shilat, that had triggered the flow of rockets and missiles from one side to other. The response of Al-Jabari’s killing had been stiff, with fierce cascade of rockets in Southern Israel which had responded back with offensive and loathsome bombing on Gaza causing immediate civilian causalities.

As I was trying to understand the whole situation I decided to revisit the so-called corporate media for more information. However, it seemed the news had no impact on our elite class media to make any mention what so ever. Pakistani mainstream media in-particular seemed to have been caught-up with illness of Bal Thakray, the foe of their cricket team who is always against Pakistan team playing cricket in India.

It was only after the death of the eleven month old son of the BBC journalist Jihad Masharawi that BBC acknowledged that Israel had carried the airstrikes on Gaza. The fight kept me glued to Twitter all day as information and news feeds from Gaza kept coming and the situation had clearly escalated.

In the retaliation to the air strikes that killed almost 19 people and left scores injured, Hamas sent some home-made Grad missiles into the Southern Israel one of which landed on an apartment building in Kiryat Malakhi, killing three Israeli civilians instantly. From now onward, the discourse of corporate media changed and all of a sudden the news became worthy of a headline-“Israel Under Attack”.

But as we retrospect and research further down to basic facts leading to the latest escalation of the situation in Gaza we come to know that contrary to what Israel and most of the western media reported stating that the targeted assassination of Al-Jabari was in response to rocket attacks on a Israeli convoy and hence in self-defense, we come to know that truth is something else.  According to Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian-American journalist and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, the impetus to current violence came on November 5 and 8, when a 20-year-old, mentally retarded boy named Ahmed Al Nabaheen and 13-year-old Ahmed Al Dagga were killed in separate incidents by Israeli troops who had ventured into Gaza. This was confirmed by Noam Chomsky and other independent writers and journalists in their collaborative article , where they lambasted the media for prejudiced reporting. This provocative killing of civilian youth was retaliated with rocket attacks on Israeli military patrol injuring four soldiers and after then we saw bombs, missiles and air strikes on Gaza taking the death toll to over 100, with hundreds injured.

[pullquote][…] the need of the hour is the rise of alternative media to project truth as truth and constrain or restrict the degree of misinformation propagated by the mainstream media, which will eventually put pressure on mainstream media to correct their reporting.[/pullquote]When we contemplate upon these facts the rationale sense tells us that the rhetoric of “self-defense” that Israel claims is not justifiable at all. And it seems to be a ruthless aggression to occupy the territory which was already under siege for the past almost five years, making lives of Gazans comparable to people in prison. According to Sara Flounders, Head of International Action Center (IAC), “it is a brutal assailment on defenseless people” and “Israel has become used to it with full support from US” and the western media.

Under such circumstances, the need of the hour is the rise of alternative media to project truth as truth and constrain or restrict the degree of misinformation propagated by the mainstream media, which will eventually put pressure on mainstream media to correct their reporting. Hence, people around the world need to support the growth of alternative media sources and should not rely only on corporate media.

Besides, the journalists around the world should hold their noble profession in high dignity by reporting facts as crystal clear and without the influence of any prejudice whatsoever so that the respect and legitimacy of media is preserved.

Comprehending the growing importance of alternative sources of information and its implications Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson, from its official twitter account (@IDFSpokesperson) started tweeting  live feeds about the conflict and went on to post the video clip showing the targeted assassination of Al-Jabari.

Ikram Ullah is from Srinagar and is currently studying Biomedical Genetics at Vellore Institute of Technology., Chennai. He is a regular contributor for The Kashmir Walla.

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