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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Palestinian people are not their government

**Trigger Warning: This article includes detailed descriptions of war and death.**

Accounts from Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 have been heartbreaking. The USC Shoah Foundation, an organization dedicated to recording the stories of Holocaust survivors, has been collecting stories of the Oct. 7 attack. One mother described desperately trying to keep her children quiet by distracting them with TV as soldiers moved through the village outside; another man, tasked with collecting the mutilated bodies of the dead, recounted that one of the victims was missing her face. [1] Hamas is solely, personally, responsible for these horrors.

And yet, instead of working to prevent the ongoing murder of Palestinians, governments worldwide—including the Israeli government—have always and continue to worsen the situation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticized repeatedly for his failure to prevent the rise of Hamas: Netanyahu indirectly but purposefully allowed funds and resources to cross the Israel-controlled borders of Gaza in an effort to split Palestinian leadership. In 2019, Netanyahu was quoted as saying, “Those who oppose a Palestinian state should support the transfer of funds to Gaza, because maintaining the separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state,” according to the Times of Israel. [2] It worked. 

According to author and journalist David Phillips, Hamas took over control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority and the secular extremist party Fatah following a national election in 2006. [3] Although Hamas enjoyed national democratic support in the past, support from the Palestinian diaspora has fallen due to Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Support for Hamas from Gazan citizens generally is support not for its military operations, however. While there are those in Palestine who support Hamas as a means of resistance against Israeli authority, most people support it for its social services, which crucially received nearly 85 percent of Hamas funding in the 1980s. [3] To call Hamas a fringe extremist group is to ignore the reality of the situation Palestinians face: constant war and oppression at the hands of Israel, with a government that commits atrocities in the name of freedom.

The government of Israel has a history of harshly punishing even nonviolent Palestinian protest, a practice that partially led to increased support for violent resistance groups like Hamas and Fatah. For decades, Israel has enforced a blockade around Gaza, strictly controlling who and what moves in and out of the region. In March of 2018, thousands of Palestinian refugees led a “Great March of Return” to protest this blockade as well as the violent expulsion from their homes. According to Amnesty International, at least 10,000 Palestinians were injured during the protests, including hundreds of children, paramedics and journalists; at least 150 Palestinians were shot to death by the Israeli army, who were using live ammunition on the protestors. [6] 

In the same way that Israeli citizens are not responsible for the horrific violence against the Palestinian people, Palestinian people are not responsible for the actions of Hamas. Israel continues to punish the entirety of the Palestinian people for the actions of Hamas, including thousands of innocent children—more children have died during these past two months than in the entire past four years in every conflict nationwide, according to the United Nations, and children make up nearly half of Palestinian deaths. [4] Some of the identified remains of children have no names; their entire families have died with them before they could be named. [5] Israel targets hospitals and journalists while preventing medicine, supplies and communication from entering Gaza, cutting the already starving and injured Palestinians off from humanitarian aid.  

Despite everything—the deaths, the mutilations, the starvation—governments and administrations unilaterally focus on meaningless statements condemning Hamas. Chillingly, the United States House passed a resolution back in October, according to Axios, which “affirms the U.S.’s ‘commitment to Israel’s security, including through security assistance’ and calls on all countries to ‘unequivocally condemn Hamas’ brutal war.” [7] The following week on Nov. 2, Congress approved $14.5 billion in military aid to be sent to the IDF, according to the Associated Press. [8]

Western media sources treat the issue similarly. Publications like the New York Times can’t seem to go five words without emphasizing that really, they don’t like Hamas. Newspapers will refer to the Gaza Ministry of Health as a “Hamas-run source—” [9] as if Hamas is not functioning as what remains of the Palestinian government. When Israel reports its death toll from Oct. 7, no one is rushing to specify that these are “IDF-backed” sources. [10]

Denouncing Hamas is an ineffectual political gesture that ignores the complicated history of Palestinian resistance while simultaneously dismissing the present plight of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. Bloodshed is bloodshed, and war is war; every government right now should be focused on pushing both Hamas and Israel to extend a permanent ceasefire, and not on meaningless statements of solidarity or condemnation. There is nothing that will bring the thousands of men, women and children back from the dead, but right now, we have the power to prevent more death.  

 

SOURCES: 

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/09/us/shoah-foundation-records-october-7-testimonies/index.html  

[2] https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-years-netanyahu-propped-up-hamas-now-its-blown-up-in-our-faces/  

[3] https://books.google.com/books?id=cNq0gvBPcGQC&pg=PA81#v=onepage&q&f=false  

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/07/middleeast/palestinian-israeli-deaths-gaza-dg/index.html  

[5] https://mondoweiss.net/2023/10/this-is-a-list-of-the-names-of-more-than-6000-palestinians-that-israel-has-killed-in-gaza/ 

[6] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/ 

[7] https://www.axios.com/2023/10/25/house-resolution-condemning-hamas-attack-israel 

[8] https://apnews.com/article/house-israel-aid-ukraine-republicans-biden-gaza-b7bfe528b12ac5954cfd5c034f11320d  

[9] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-palestine-hamas-alshifa-hospital-gaza/

[10] https://www.npr.org/2023/11/11/1212458974/israel-revises-death-toll-hamas-attacks-oct-7  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor