Reporting on Gaza, Giles Fraser of the Guardian writes about the near impossibility of maintaining the kind of objectivity expected of journalists: "Being calmly rational about dead children feels like a very particular form of madness. Whatever else journalistic objectivity is, it surely cannot be the elimination of human emotion."
We have now been bystanders to two weeks of unrelenting missile attacks by one of the world's strongest armies on the open air prison that is Gaza. Some of those who have seen the carnage first hand have forsaken the macabre dance of evenhandedness that much of the media is engaged in, for anguished emotional overflow.
Chris Guinness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) broke down sobbing, after giving Al Jazeera an interview about the deadly attack on a school in Jabaliya, not realizing he was still on camera. But he has no regrets about the network broadcasting that moment when his "heart burst." Speaking from what he has witnessed of the appalling suffering the children of Gaza and other civilians, he said, "We have now reached a point of such profound tragedy that tears are more eloquent than words."
Jon Snow of Channel 4 News held his head, pointed to the bridge of his nose and cupped his fingers over his own eyes to simulate the "panda eyes" and suppurating wounds of a child who had suffered a serious injury to her skull. There was nothing antiseptic about his report filed from his studio in London after his return from Gaza, where he visited the children at Al-Shifa Hospital.
This is not journalism as usual.
But there are few signs that the media in Honolulu is paying attention. For three Tuesdays in a row, an ad hoc coalition of community members, activists and academics have gathered with signs at the corner of Atkinson and Ala Moana Boulevard to protest Israel's violations of international law.
More than $3 billion in US tax dollars flows to Israel every year. Through this aid, US taxpayers are--largely unknowingly--facilitating the effort by Israel to beat Hamas into a "sustainable quiet." The strategy is one of collective punishment of the residents of Gaza for rockets fired by Hamas into Israel. That punishment is inflicted through the indiscriminate bombing of schools, hospitals and homes. Warnings issued by the Israeli army about imminent strikes are of little use to the people of Gaza who have no place to run to when the schools and hospitals that have opened their doors to desperate, injured Palestinians also become targets for further bombing.
This tragedy is unfolding far away but it touches the people of Hawaii in unexpected ways. Dr. Cynthia Franklin, of the English Department, University of Hawaii, Manoa has been a prime mover behind the Honolulu protests that began three weeks ago. On July 28, she posted this on Facebook:
"This morning, the first thing I learned was that Refaat Alareer, a contributor to a project I am co-editing, Life in Occupied Palestine: A Special Biography Issue, lost his brother and four other family members to Israel's bombings of Gaza. Israel has now killed 26 members of Refaat's extended family. I want to stand tomorrow for Refaat, and for all his family members living and dead, and for all the people living and dying under what he describes as "one of the most brutally wild occupations the world has ever known."
There will be a fourth protest this coming Tuesday. The previous protests did not attract the attention of the media. But it did draw people of all ages, faiths, ethnicities, professions and personal experience.
Many are Muslim. Many are not. Some are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist. Whole families have been present. Long time peace activists and newcomers to this kind of civic engagement, too. There have been students, as well as moms and dads toting babies and toddlers.
They came to pay attention to the shame and tragedy of the violence that continues in Gaza because world outrage is not loud enough, not insistent enough, not sustained enough.
Many of us feel impotent about how little we can do to stop, stop, stop the insanity of what is happening in Gaza.
But in coming together to pay attention, we are doing something.
In the words of Iris Murdoch, “paying attention in itself is a moral act.” Will the media in Honolulu do as much by simply reporting on this act of witnessing for justice?