Tuesday, 20 January 2009


in case you haven't been across to the hand mirror over the weekend, my piece in the daily telegraph went up on saturday, and there is some discussion here at the hand mirror.

those who belong to the aotearoa ethnic network will be aware that there has been a lot (and i mean a lot) of debate and information posted about the situation in gaza. it's a lot to keep up with, and many valid points have been made with good links, as well as some nonsense. however this part of a message emailed to the list today has occupied my mind:

Just a couple of observations. I just came back from Malaysia, where the government and media are blatantly anti-Israel.Everyday without fail, national papers called for the withdrawal of Israel. I was shocked to see pictures of bloody Palestinian kids and corpses of Palestinian babies on the front pages of national dailies. Of course, that was the intention of the editors, to shock and polarise the population.

when i read this, the very first response that came to my head was: "the fact that children are being killed does not offend you? just the fact that pictures of them are being broadcast?"

i don't really know much about malaysia or the media there, though i've visited several times. the coverage there may well not be balanced, in terms of equal coverage of every point of view. the pictures may well be there only to sell more papers, as most front page pictures are. i heard a similar report sometime early last week complaining about the coverage in some countries, with the same complaint that they are showing pictures of children corpses, children who are the innocent victims of this awful conflict.

as if it's wrong. i say it's not wrong. i say that the media here is wrong to sanitise coverage of war, any war. i say it's wrong to protect people from the actual awfulness of killing; to save them the gory pictures so that they can somehow pretend it's not real or it's not happening. it's wrong to save their sensibilities and to save them from the pain, when the sensibilities of these children no longer exist, when their pain was not relieved.

it's only when we see the full extent of people's suffering that we begin to care, that we move to act. and yes, in this current conflict, they (and i mean all countries around the world) should also show the dead israeli children. there should be balance, in that equal time should be given to every child's death.

not only should they show the deaths of those who die from bombs and sniper fire, but also those who died from lack of medicines getting through the blockade. and those who died from lack of food, because the food wasn't allowed to get through. and those who succumbed to preventable illnesses due to weakness cause from lack of sleep - the lack of sleep that comes from constant shelling, of the kind that was a deliberate strategy used in baghdad at the beginning of that war. and those who died in their mothers wombs while waiting at checkpoints, just ready to be born into a world of misery and pain. and those who were killed for throwing stones.

why should we be protected? they weren't.

there is the danger that viewing so much violence will desensitise us. will make us immune. and if that is the case, then imagine what it's like to live in such conditions, where the violence is not just on tv or on the front page of the paper, but right there in front of your eyes. every day. and the people dying are your family, and your neighbours, and your school mates, and your work mates.

shocking people so that they demand a stop to all this mess is a bad thing? not to me. more balance so that all deaths are covered? yes, absolutely. let us all feel everyone's pain.

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