A telephone and internet blackout by the settler colonial state of Israel isolated people in the Gaza Strip from the world and from each other on Saturday, disabling calls to loved ones, ambulances and outreach to the rest of the world. This blackout inhibited the previous flow of information, images and footage of violence from within the Gaza strip that was being facilitated by Gazan journalists and media. Gaza went completely under dark after 21 days of rampant Israeli shelling, airstrikes and bombardment. The night of the blackout witnessed the most intense shelling in the strip – after spending weeks slaughtering Palestinians with the cameras on, their destruction of Palestinian infrastructure led to the shutting off of communication in Gaza. With the communication coming back on for the time being, Gazan journalists have, with little internet and safety, been committed to the mission of getting information out and reporting to the world about their ongoing genocide.
The resounding clarity around this blackout reflects the deep seated Israeli fear of the Palestinian dissemination of information and knowledge. The journalists of Gaza, agents of truth, defy the assumed impunity with which Israel carries out one massacre after another.
On the 25th of October, the Israeli army killed the wife, son, daughter and grandson of Al Jazeera Correspondent Wael Dahdouh in a targeted attack on their home in a ‘safe zone’. Channel 13 journalist Zvi Yehezkeli admitted Israel purposefully and premeditatedly murdered the family of Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh: ‘Generally we know the target. For example, today there was a target: the family of an Al Jazeera reporter. In general, we know‘. This comes after Blinken asked Qatar to ‘turn down the volume on Al-Jazeera’s coverage’ of Gaza.
The heroic journalistic integrity of Wael Dahdouh persists as he continues to report on Gaza on ground, as do many of his colleagues. In the past 23 days, Israel has killed and murdered 32 journalists in Gaza.
With International journalists prohibited from entering occupied Gaza, The bloody weeks have witnessed the massacres of journalists, most of them a result of Israeli bombardment, nine of whom have been killed in their homes in the wake of targeted attacks. This however isn’t a novel phenomenon of Israeli violence.
Israel’s project of lies and fiction
The terror of 11 May, 2022 is etched in the memories of people across the world, It is the day Shireen Abu Akhle was killed by Israeli forces. Shireen, a prominent and groundbreaking voice during the second intifada was killed on duty in the West Bank city of Jenin by an Israeli sniper who fired a bullet into her face, killing her instantly. What followed initially was brazen and reckless manipulation of truth by the Israeli government, refusing to take responsibility for her murder and instead positing that it was likely a Palestinian militant gunfire that killed her. Months later however, the Israeli Occupying forces admitted that there was a high possibility that she was ‘accidentally’ killed by IDF gunfire, claiming they will not be charging the soldiers responsible.
The rampant lies and disinformation around Shireen Abu Akhle’s murder is one of the many purported by the Israeli army, Israel’s suffocation and repression of journalistic fervor and the truth is a tale as old as the occupation itself.
Violent imprisonment, gag orders and the obstruction of the freedom of press
The committee to protect journalists reports a deadly pattern of journalists killed by Israeli forces in the past 22 years. The journalists support committee (JSC) has issued statements in the past about how the Israeli occupation arrests Palestinian journalists for their opinions and hauls them before military courts using racist laws. Israel has a long history of arresting journalists reporting on its war crimes and violations of human rights and has thus mastered the art of suppressing the freedom of press. One tool employed by the Israeli colonial establishment is the administrative detention in which Israeli courts detain and incarcerate Palestinians for a prolonged period of time. This form of judicial oppression is imprisonment without trial or any charges, and is routinely exploited by Israel under the farce of a ‘national threat’.
This tactic has been employed and enjoyed by Israeli regimes throughout the intifadas of the 2000s. According to their own non governmental human rights organisation, since 2002, there has not been a single month that has gone by without Israel holding at least 100 Palestinians in administrative detention – a practice that blatantly violated the restrictions of International law. While the western media coverage of Israeli hostages remains to be at an all time high, little to no light is shed by the western counterparts on the regular repression and oppression of Palestinian voices and reporters.
The suppression of truth isn’t exclusive to independent journalists but also Palestinian media and news organisations. One example is that of Al-Quds TV, Israel banned the Palestinian broadcaster and declared it a ‘terrorist organisation’. In 2019, the Israeli Prime Minister declared Al-Aqsa TV a terrorist organisation, claiming it was used by Hamas to recruit terror groups. Israel has previously bombed the station’s studio in Gaza and forced its shutdown. Foreign journalists are routinely threatened and censored to comply with pro government rhetoric. In addition to growing murders of journalists, there have been rising incidents of assaults, arrests, threats and cyberattacks targeting journalists carrying out their work both in Israel and occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. The CPJ reports that on October 12, BBC Arabic reporters and their team were dragged from their vehicles, searched and held at gunpoint by the police in Tel Aviv.
This repression of media isn’t limited to Palestinian journalists, the rise of gag orders within the settler colony of Israel has been mapped and researched extensively. National security authorities in the country have been increasingly using a system of gag orders to control media coverage. Noa Landau, the editor of Haaretz English Editions in Israel writes of how in 2015 alone, 231 requests of gag orders were submitted to the courts across the country.
The language of settler colonialism
The Israeli war against the lexicon of liberation isn’t a pursuit limited to occupied Palestine. In the past 28 days, the west has seen an increasing rise of journalists fired and sacked for expressing a semblance of criticism against the Israeli government. If anything, the Israeli brutal crackdown against the truth goes hand in hand with the emboldened language of war purported by the West. Terms like war, conflict, deaths can easily be replaced by genocide, annihilation and murder but the lexicon of popular media lies in the hands of the Israeli colonisers.
The imperial media states that Israelis are killed while Gazans and Palestinians ‘die’, Israeli settlements are ‘infiltrated’ by terrorists meanwhile, Palestinian infrastructure is destroyed by unnamed entities. A prime example of how language is embedded in violence was how media houses of the West reported on the Baptist hospital bombing in Gaza, The New York Times repeatedly changed its headline over 3 times from ‘Israeli strike kills Hundreds in hospital’ to ‘At Least 500 dead in Blast at Gaza Hospital’ – it is useful to note here how the perpetrators are slowly granted impunity with any traces of their oppressive violence omitted and erased.
Israeli babies are ‘slaughtered’ meanwhile Gaza has ‘casualties of war’, the genocide of Palestinians thus assumes the passive voice wherein western journalism build a narrative of justification. The Israeli state machinery is entirely reliant on the popular perception of a ‘moral army’ and a ‘just state’ – the truth however is far from this, the reality of settler colonialism is rooted in falsely denying and suppressing Palestinian voices under the malicious guise of ‘terrorism’ and ‘barbarians’.
Israeli terrorism is granted indemnity as they continue to indiscriminately slaughter and carpet bomb Gaza in their faltering attempts to wipe out a resisting population. If the past few days have taught us anything, it is that the Israeli regime can laud over US funded military tech and buy out western journalistic integrity, but it has no hold over the Palestinian voice of liberation. Palestinian Journalists like Plestia Alaqad and Motaz Azaisa among many others continue to work towards the steady end of occupation and genocide.
Israeli monopolisation on grief and history
The dissemination of knowledge then becomes a colonial enterprise – who gets to speak and what they get to speak on becomes the primary objective of curtailment by a colonial state. It is a state whose factitious legitimacy is wholly dependent on imperial sympathies, Western anxieties and propaganda. The Israeli Project is one of circulating non-truths and obstructing history in order to monopolise on the economy of grief. Grief becomes a rife body exclusively extended to the colonisers, while condemnation is exclusively reserved for the colonised. The racist anxieties of the white populace empowers the Israeli occupation in its violent erasure of history.
The Israeli state’s large scale English medium presence on social media platforms is resonant to this point – they operate to derive and manufacture consent for their continued occupation of Palestine.
The violent crackdown on Palestinian journalists thus forms the core of the Israeli political agenda against the publication of irrefutable fact. Despite this, The occupying state of Israel is crumbling as it meets its imminent demise, for they know that the sound and resilience of Palestinian voices will always echo louder and prevail over Israel’s violent censorship, brutal occupation and ghoulish bombardments.