As a Palestinian living in the United States, I must say that the reporting of Fox News and CNN has no connection to the reality that Palestinians know only too well. Their coverage is unfair and fails to convey the whole truth of what is transpiring there. I have intensively followed the news since the abduction of the three Israeli teens on June 12, and it has become abundantly clear to me, and to many others, that the mainstream media in America are biased toward Israel.
CNN and Fox target an older, white demographic. But the latest Gallup poll indicates that 18- to 29-year-olds are the most likely age group to view the Israeli attack on Gaza as unjustified (with social media and Internet fluency perhaps better informing their views), while those whom Gallup calls "nonwhites" view the Israeli onslaught as unjustified by a 2-to-1 margin. America is rapidly changing, demographically, but the cable news networks are are failing to deliver the more accurate information being conveyed outside mainstream media sources.
American media seem to present the situation in Gaza as if there is an equal battle between Hamas and Israel. There needs to be an acknowledgment of the power imbalance in this conflict. Israel's right to defend itself is repeatedly stressed, but what of the right for Palestinians to defend themselves nonviolently -- or even violently -- from their own homes against forces that expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and are still denying Palestinian freedom today?
The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 1,300 since the escalation erupted on July 8. Most of these casualties are civilians, with over 300 children killed. People in Gaza, especially children, have already survived three wars since 2008. This trauma may take generations to overcome.
The current violence in Gaza revives embedded memories of the violence that I experienced in Palestine growing up. Nonetheless, I am hopeful for positive steps toward peace on both sides, and for a transformation of the relationships, attitudes, and interactions between Palestinians and Israelis. The interconnectedness of our world allows us to see that conflicts are multidimensional, and that the dynamics that allow a conflict to continue for decades include more than just two actors and two opposing stories. Therefore, in order to respond to the challenges, needs, and realities in Gaza, we must address both the obvious issues and their underlying causes.
Specifically, Gaza is an enormous open-air prison. It is among the most densely populated places in the world, with a population of around 1.8 million inhabitants living in 146 square miles. The Israeli blockade of Gaza limits the crossing of people and goods, including food and medicine. With no functioning seaport and movement via Israel and Egypt highly restricted, export prospects are almost entirely crushed. The situation in Gaza is a catch-22, where the people of Gaza depend on basic goods for survival from the very people who are shelling their homes, hospitals, and social infrastructure. It is a ghetto made dependent on Israel.
It is social media that is highlighting these realities far more than self-censored mainstream media. The increased access to Internet and use of social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has provided a means to raise awareness and mobilize support for Palestinians by supplying images and accounts of civilian deaths and the destruction of housing and civilian infrastructure, as well as short videos of Israeli brutality.
For example, the footage of 15-year-old Palestinian American Tariq Abu Khdeir being brutally beaten by Israeli police on July 3 was recorded on his neighbor's smartphone. The recorded material, which was released on Facebook, reached millions of people and eventually was covered by mainstream media, though the ongoing harassment of the Abu Khdeir family has been largely ignored.
Nelson Mandela wrote that "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Rather than castigate -- or, even worse, ignore -- Palestinian freedom aspirations, Americans should speak up for the rights of Palestinians to live as free people out from under Israeli siege and occupation.