By Aijaz Zaka Syed
We face this battle in the newsroom almost on a daily basis. Every time there’s a slaughter of the Palestinians — which is almost every day — we in the news business, especially in the Middle East, face this predicament: To publish or not to publish?
I agree with many of my colleagues that these gory pictures of the carnage, this mindless bloodletting with bodies of children, youths in their prime and desperate men and women carrying their loved ones in their arms are not most pleasant to look at.
In fact, given a choice that’s the last thing most of us would want to see when we pick up the newspaper in the morning.
We want to begin our day on a positive note, don’t we? While we breakfast with our families and see our lovely children prepare for the school, we are not really looking forward to seeing such disturbing pictures of other people’s dead children.
Many of my fellow journalists and most media networks around the world are sick and tired of going on and on about the ‘Palestine problem’. They are suffering from what you would call ‘coverage fatigue.’
How long can you go on publishing the same stuff, similar pictures and irritatingly familiar stories? As a colleague said the other day: “What’s new about the Palestinians getting killed? They’ve been dying for the past sixty years, my friend!”
Another senior criticized the choice of lead story on the front page – the one about the killing of 14 Palestinians, four of them children, in an Israeli raid last week. “Instead we should have positive local stories on Page 1,” he suggested.
I didn’t want to argue with him though.
I couldn’t tell him that there is not a more local story than this one. This is our own story, whoever we are and wherever we live. This is the story of the good versus evil and the truth versus falsehood. This is our own struggle for justice, freedom and dignity.
After all, what is it that the Palestinians are fighting for? They are struggling for basics like liberty and right to live a life of dignity in their own country, in the land that they inherited from their ancestors.
These are basic things that we all have come to take for granted. We take them for granted because we haven’t had to struggle for them. We inherited these rights thanks to our good fortune of being born in a free country.
And why are the Palestinians dying? They are dying because they want to live in dignity. They refuse to submit themselves to tyranny and the disgrace of occupation.
Like you and me, the Palestinians too want to live in peace and security — in the comfort of their homes, with their loved ones. Like us, they too want their children to get the best of education and grow up to enjoy a life better than theirs.
But do the Palestinians have a choice? They have no choice but to suffer under the most ruthless and vile occupation regime the world has known while the world looks the other way. The so-called international community that the editorial pundits and diplomats keep telling us about is too bored to act.
What can the international community do anyway when the UN has dispensed with the pretense of passing regulation resolutions urging Israel as well as the Palestinians to “exercise restraint?” Excuse me? Are you telling both the oppressor and the oppressed to exercise restraint? How are the oppressed supposed to exercise restraint? By not being the victim? But does it really matter?
In any case, what have the UN and the international community done so far to stop the world’s longest running ethnic cleansing campaign? Ban Ki-Moon, the current UN chief, acts as if he’s in the pay of the United States, not the United Nations. Besides, what’s the point of crying over the Western and US indifference? Has it made any difference? Ever?
And do we in the media have a choice? If this conflict has gone on for nearly 60 years now and the Palestinians continue to die like flies, should we stop reporting about it?
Should the media stop doing its job of telling the truth as it is for fear of offending the sensibilities of our sensitive readers? If we do not speak out against this ceaseless genocidal campaign against a helpless and defenseless people, who will? If the media in the Middle East and Muslim world doesn’t take a stand on the issue, who will?
Just look at the series of attacks on Gaza this week. Sixty people were killed in Gaza on March 1, scores of them children and many of them less than a year old.
The day before that, on February 29, 18 people were killed, four of them children; one of them was a six-month old baby. And the day before that…it goes on. This week, the ever alert news agencies inform us, has been the deadliest for the Palestinians since 2002.
But who cares? The daily Palestinian casualties are nothing but mere lifeless statistics in news reports. The world has grown weary of this endless bloodletting and killing of innocents and women and children. Children too young to know why they are dying!
But the killing machine called Israel never stops. It continues to kill – kill and kill…until the Palestinians have give up the claim on their country or become a minority in their own land.
The six-month old Mohammed Bourai is yet another young Palestinian who would never know what his crime was. He sleeps in peace as his young, silently-mourning father cradles him in his arms. What father can bear such a sight? And what kind of people are they who do this to children as young as this?
Is there no one who can stop these child killers? Is there no one who can stop this Holocaust?
Where is the international community when we need it so badly? What has happened to the world’s conscience? Why is it silent? And how long will it maintain its deafening silence? Silence is crime. Silence is complicity with the oppressor. Those who see evil and do nothing about it also share the responsibility.
-Aijaz Zaka Syed is a senior editor and columnist of Khaleej Times. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com