Palestinian Families and Children are Being Killed. Why Is It So Quiet?

Palestinians inspect the Abo Hatab family's house after an Israeli air attack struck their house in al-Shati Refugee Camp on May 15, 2021, in Gaza City, Gaza. The attack killed at least 10 Palestinian refugees from the same extended family, eight of them children. (Photo by Fatima Shbair/Getty Images)

Palestinian Families and Children are Being Killed. Why Is It So Quiet?

“Many journalists and editors have come to understand that critical coverage of Israel can result at minimum in a professional headache, and at worst in career damage.”

Israeli bombs and artillery shells are raining down on Gaza. Yet again, the world watches silently.

A 14-story highrise building collapses, one tower complex at a time into piles of rubble and dirt, 9/11-style.

A Doctors Without Borders physician reports from the front lines of Jerusalem: her patient, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy is shot in the face with a rubber bullet, the wound less than a centimeter away from his left eye.

A young Palestinian woman is being treated in a tent the injured after being shot in the buttock. The impact of the shot causes her to fall, injuring her elbow. She's then sprayed with "skunk water," a chemical agent that Israeli police routinely fire from water cannons that smells like excrement and rotting flesh. The scent causes her to vomit.

They are the luckier ones. Too many others have lost their lives.

Early Saturday, the Shati refugee camp was hit, killing 10 Palestinians and eight children. An entire family was wiped out, except for an infant named Omar.

A few days earlier, Ali Aymen Saleh, 15, was shot dead in the stomach on his birthday while watching a protest against Israeli occupation in his village.

Sajid Mizher, 17, was also shot in the stomach while volunteering with medics at a refugee camp, despite wearing a clearly marked vest.

There are so many more. But not enough, it seems, amid the deafening silence.

Because even as airstrikes continue to strike the already crippled Gaza Strip, Israel still, according to U.S President Joe Biden, "has a right to defend itself" against rockets fired from the coastal Palestinian territory.

Even as mobs of far-right Israelis smash Arab-owned businesses and drag a man who they believe is Arab from his car and beat him unconscious, Israel "has a right to defend itself."

Even as the UN warns of an all-out war breaking out -- a war, that is, between a state-backed by the world's largest arms supplier and a dispossessed population -- Israel still "has the right to defend itself."

It's a line we've heard over and over from Israeli leaders and their allies. But the death toll tells a different story, as it did after Israel's last brutal offensive in Gaza in 2014. On the Palestinian side according to a 2015 UN report, 2,251 people, of whom 1,462 were civilians, were killed. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers were killed along with six civilians.

As of Sunday morning, at least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.

"The right to defend itself" argument makes little sense in the context of current realities on the ground. Palestinians living in the occupied territories are not at war with Israel, they live at the mercy of their occupiers. In his book, "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes how the foundations of Israel are rooted in a colonial project that continues to subject its Indigenous Palestinian population to military occupation, land dispossession and unequal rights.

Destroy, displace and kill. It's been the (arguably unofficial) policy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government since he was elected 25 years ago.

Meanwhile, Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, has fired over 1,000 rockets from Gaza towards Israel over the last week, of which 200 have actually landed (most have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system). While death and suffering inflicted on Israeli civilians is as troubling as it is on the Palestinian side, any violent retaliation has to be viewed in context: Israel's Defence Forces (IDF) is supported with billions of dollars of American aid, a powerful air force and intelligence-gathering system.

It's also hard to believe that the IDF is on a mission to rid the Gaza Strip solely of "violent attackers and terrorists" when they try to use international media to provoke insurgency. Leading Israeli news outlets began reporting on Saturday that an earlier IDF proclamation about Israeli ground troops entering Gaza on Friday -- news that made headlines worldwide -- was an elaborate ploy to dupe Hamas into thinking that an invasion had begun so they could respond with even more lethal attacks on Palestinians. In fact, no invasion had taken place.

In response, Israel's military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, insisted it was an honest mistake during the fog of war. Was it an honest mistake too, then, when media offices belonging to the Associated Press and Al Jazeera were destroyed Saturday afternoon?

"Many journalists and editors have come to understand that critical coverage of Israel can result at minimum in a professional headache, and at worst in career damage."How are we, in a year of racial awakening, still not able to recognize Israel's half-century military occupation and deepening grip over Palestinian life? Why does a culture of impunity exist when it comes to Israeli aggression?

The silencing of Israeli crimes and exclusion of Palestinian voices has been felt acutely in Canada for years, most recently when the University of Toronto's law faculty controversially decided to rescind a hiring offer to a human rights lawyer because of concerns that her scholarship criticized Israeli human rights violations of Palestinians.

Canadian journalists are getting fed up too. An open letter to newsrooms signed by over a thousand people, including news editors, reporters, academics, lawyers and citizens are calling for more equitable coverage of Israel balanced with historical and social context, which hasn't happened. As former CBC Middle East correspondent Neil Macdonald said around the hesitation felt by reporters to cover Israel and Palestine three years ago: "Many journalists and editors have come to understand that critical coverage of Israel can result at minimum in a professional headache, and at worst in career damage."

Critics of the Israeli government are not Israel-haters or anti-Semites. We all know that political conflict results in devastating suffering on both sides. But we are also pushing against the narrative that the victims of this violence -- children and teenagers -- are somehow deserving of it.

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