Hamra Tariq is an undergraduate student currently pursuing her international relations degree at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. She has a keen interest in South Asian politics, the Indo-Pacific, and the shift in the global order.
Hegemony and Discourse
The Western centrism of scholarly work on international relations and its influence on framing global public opinion via media bias paves the way to validate several violations of international standards. Political and economic power allows the West to control the social production of knowledge and perpetuate power relations. The reconfiguration of existing meanings and identities is penetrated into society in a way that “new” representations of the same become standard.
Thus, the legitimacy and illegitimacy of power imbalances are defined by those in power themselves. The consensual submission to power hierarchies and the dissemination of knowledge gives additional space for hegemonic ideologies to overshadow others. The incorporation of hegemonic discourses into individual subjectivities creates a larger acceptance of social inequality.
Media and press is the most dynamic component of framing an ideological structure but anything that can potentially influence public opinion contributes to it. Therefore, the careful construction and propagation of hegemonic discourse help to maintain the status quo. The prevalence of this discourse brings about acceptance of inequitable structures of social power.
The Westernized narrative-building is used as a tool to justify, for example, colonial occupation even if it contradicts their set standards. The deliberate invisibilization of counter-discourse through the soft use of power damages the cause for trying to challenge the wrong.
Case Study of Israel & Palestine
Considering this narrative-building Israel-Palestine conflict, the case of Israel is very evidently supported by the United States, in particular, and other flag bearers of human rights. Israel serves the strategic and political interests of the United States and in return, it has historically received complicit facilitation for its occupational expansion into the Palestinian lands.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip comes under an “apartheid” according to the definition stated by the United Nations. But, the criminal silence of states which share interests with Israel and its very presence as a member state of the United Nations exposes the deceit of the champions of human rights. Since 1972, the United States has used its veto power at least 53 times in the United Nations Security Council resolutions in favor of Israel.
“Palestinian militants” and “terrorists” have long been referred to as “bad guys” by Western journalists. If they do not openly support Israel’s discourse on “security” and the “right to defend itself,” they draw misleading comparisons between Palestinians and Israelis, as if a military occupier and an occupied people have similar rights and obligations.
Western news sources are then utilized globally which blurs the original picture in front of the world. This media misinformation and bias legitimizes Israel’s not-so-rightful right to establish its state on another state’s territory through illegal means. The misrepresentation of facts is not the end of the story; any counter-discourse is eliminated through forceful means.
Media Manipulation and Misinformation
Very recently a Google employee, Ariel Koren resigned as she faced retaliation against her opposition to a $1.2 billion surveillance contract with Israel. With the largest search engine and a prominent multinational’s unapologetic bias towards Israel, it is not hard to predict the working conditions for pro-Palestine workers in the West. Similarly in May 2021, Canadian journalists feared retaliation for criticizing one-sided coverage of Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
Additionally, the misreporting during Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh’s brutal assassination by Israel’s army further clear off the dust from the targeted efforts of silencing counter voices. Even after the murder by an Israeli sniper shot, as reported by Walid Al-Omari—Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Jerusalem—Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett tried to cover it up by saying that Palestinians were responsible, clearly depicting his lack of contrition.
Media outlets such as The New York Times and BBC manipulate the facts, which then in the same manipulated form, disseminate around the globe, thus endorsing Israel’s illegal colonial occupation. The headline of the August 16th BBC article states, “Gaza’s Children are Used to Death and Bombing.” This problematic headline fails to particularly highlight the responsible Israeli forces right in the beginning and only portrays the bias of the Western media.
The plight of defenseless Palestinians continues to get ignored by the world despite Israel’s violation of several international laws. Conclusively, there is a dire need for counter-discourses to make their way in order to serve as that alternate voice present for Palestinians who are continuously and repeatedly resisting Israeli oppression.
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