U.S. media coverage of Palestinian struggles lags behind

By Margarita Ivanova

Calling family is something that the average person sees as routine, not an emotionally grueling task. You talk about your day, maybe complain a bit about the traffic or how you didn’t get enough sugar in your coffee this morning. In general, most of the people reading this have the opportunity to live a stable, comfortable life. But that’s not a reality for many Palestinians. 

For the people in Palestine, there is no sense of routine, and for 26-year-old Duaa Abdulla, there is no consistent comfort when it comes to calling her family in Gaza, especially during wartime. 

This inherent destitution is something that mainstream media outlets fail to exhibit, especially in the U.S. Many of us don’t really see what the average day looks like for an individual from Palestine.  

The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are Palestinian territories that have been controlled by Israel since 1967. Constant war and rising political tensions make visiting Gaza an extremely difficult and unreliable journey, according to Abdulla, whose parents moved to the United States in the ’90s before she was born.

“The last time I visited was about 10 years ago,” she said in an interview. “Gaza is landlocked and there are very strict parameters, so it’s not like you even have the easy option to travel illegally by sea.” 

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Even when Gaza is open and considered ‘safe,’ the round trip isn’t a simple one, Abdulla explains. Many run the risk of getting stuck in Gaza for weeks—even months, and there is no airport in the landlocked region. The typical route coming from the U.S. consists of taking a 13-hour flight to Cairo, Egypt, hopping on a seven-hour taxi ride from there to Gaza, and then waiting in line for hours outside of the border.

These normalized restrictions are something that Western media has also failed to depict.

The U.S. press, including The Washington Post, does not devote resources to covering the fact that East Jerusalem is under the supervision of the Israeli military, which controls movement with barricades and road checkpoints. 

Because of these obstacles, the trip is a risk that can lead to grief and displacement.

“I have friends who have gotten stuck [in Gaza] there for months because of wars, and that’s something that I really couldn’t risk doing because of the education I was getting in America,” Abdulla, who attended Rutgers University, said. 

Just this past year, there was a 14,000 person waitlist to leave Gaza and the West Bank. Which begs the question, why are people trying to leave these Palestinian territories, and why are protests happening worldwide? 

Israel has controlled Palestine for over 60 years, and it started as a war for power over land occupied by Palestinians, according to Aljazeera. The most recent war between the two territories broke out on May 6 and officially ended when a cease-fire was put in place on May 21. 

However, a cease-fire didn’t put an end to the violence. On August 7— Israel launched another attack on Gaza. Not only has the ceasefire allowed the insidious airstrikes aimed at Gaza to continue, but it has also done nothing to rebuild the lives destroyed in Palestine.

Every day, Abdulla’s family witnesses and hears cries for help as rockets recklessly hurtle towards civilian homes.

“During wars, they are always telling me things like ‘please forgive us if we pass away during the war. We are really scared, please keep us in your prayers,’” Abdulla said. “They will send me pictures of what’s going on outside of their windows and videos of rockets falling from the sky.”

Here she is also referring to the home demolition practice, which is another example of tactics Israel has used to limit Palestinian freedom of speech, as well as a way to settle into Palestinian territory.

This is information that is mostly obtained through middle eastern sources like Abdulla; as there has been little coverage done by Western Media on the latest bombings. Mainstream articles depict both sides as constant aggressors, rather than talking about how Israel has impeded innocent civilian freedoms. 

As a result of the death of her uncle in 2014 and the ongoing conflict, Abdulla’s family has developed a growing numbness to the effects of death. 

“They’ve become so used to watching people die in front of them,” Abdulla said. “I have a six-year-old cousin who was scared and sobbing because she was so afraid during this war. This is her first war, so it’s normal for her to react that way.” 

Abdulla’s six-year-old cousin is one of many children who have been mentally tortured during these wars. 

“It is important for people to know that these kids are being hit the hardest during these times,” Abdulla said. 

“Most of the time, students can’t set realistic goals and look forward to finding jobs one day,” Abdulla continued.

Abdulla says that the younger generations are continuing to grow in population, despite the increase in mental illness. 

“Gaza has one of the highest rates of inhabitants under the age of 18, so it’s very foretelling that the generations are still constantly growing,” she says. 

Moreover, since traditional media has prevented these stories from being heard, younger generations have amplified the voices of those struggling. Young adults have proven to be some of the most prominent advocates when it comes to spreading awareness across the world. Movements like “Free Palestine” have made their mark on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. 

Fatima Ismail, a 16-year-old high school student from New Jersey, is one of these leaders. Since the start of the movement, she has continuously posted on social media and organized events with her friends. On June 4, she teamed up with three others to protest in Princeton, where over 250 people attended the two-hour march, including Abdulla.

“We all contacted speakers and organizations to join us,” Ismail said in an interview minutes after a protest.  “All of my parents, siblings, and friends also came to support. Our main goal is to let people know that although there was a ceasefire, Palestine is still not free and we must still protest and fight for their rights because people are still dying.”

“People need to keep posting on social media because this is not just a trend,” she continued. “In the beginning, everyone was posting on Instagram stories, Snapchat stories, Facebook, and Twitter, but now that the trend is drifting, people have stopped sharing the news.”

These are voices that we should be following. They are voices that are constantly living through heartbreak as their own people suffer. Western media has twisted and skewed a one-sided dominance into a two-sided story. Not to mention that this lack of reporting also stems from the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel. 

This isn’t the first time we have seen the two countries neglecting the public’s interest due to their political relationship. Look at the Stuxnet 2010 cyberattacks on Iran for example. 

Ismail reminds us that the United States has continued to fund Israel throughout these wars, and so much of the media in the U.S. remains biased when it comes to showing what’s really going on in Palestine. 

“Since the U.S. supports Israel, they don’t allow Palestinians to share their perspective on mainstream media outlets,” Ismail said. “They don’t allow them to have a voice. Houses are being bombed every single day. Kids are getting rubber bullets, a mosque in Palestine was bombed while people were praying.”

Maya Ahmed, a 16-year-old youth organizer, says that coming out to protests is a great experience, but that there are also other ways to contribute to awareness. 

“Protesting [is great … [but] protesting isn’t enough,” Ahmed said. ”You have to donate to organizations to actually make an impact. Spreading the word alone can do so much. There are many people that are very uneducated about this topic, so it’s important that there are more people like us to spread the news.”