Gaza: The Media Accompaniment to a Genocide

The head of the Al Jazira office in Gaza, Wael Al-Dandouh praying at the funeral of his son, a journalist killed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah on 7 January 2024

‘For 90 days now, I’ve failed to understand. Thousands of people are killed or mutilated, overwhelmed by a storm of violence that can scarcely be called a war, except for a lazy mind.’ In his letter of resignation after twelve years of good and faithful service, in protest against the way his paper was covering the situation in Gaza, Raffaele Oriani, the correspondent for the weekly supplement of the Italian daily La Republica, denounced the ‘unbelievably guarded approach of most of the European press,’ La Republica included – ‘today, the massacre of two whole families is mentioned only on the last line of page 15’. And he mentions the ‘media accompaniment’ which makes these massacres possible.

There was a time not long ago when Western media were not so timid. No one refrained from denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it would never have occurred to anyone to use the term ‘Russian special operation’ , except derisively. Today, the Israeli expression ‘Israel – Hamas war’ has become the rule, as if two equal sides were facing off, or as if most of the casualties were soldiers of the Al-Qasam brigades.

The newspapers use various expressions, but Hamas is almost always called a ‘terrorist organisation’ – when only the USA and the EU regard it as such – thereby exonerating Israel a priori of all its crimes. ‘If you’re up against absolute evil, anything goes, doesn’t it?’ A CNN reporter revealed the instructions handed down by his editorial staff:

The words ‘war crimes’ and ‘genocide’ are forbidden. The Israeli bombings in Gaza are to be reported as ‘explosions’ for which no one is to blame until the Israeli army admits or denies responsibility. The quotes and news provided by the government tend to be approved quickly whereas those provided by the Palestinians tend to be examined closely and handled cautiously.1

‘According to Hamas’

We all know how suspiciously the death-toll figures provided by the Gaza Ministry of Health are greeted, qualified to this day by the expression ‘according to Hamas’, when in fact it appears that they are underestimated. The way Palestinian hostages are treated, stripped, humiliated, tortured, is relativised, the suspicion of Hamas membership justifying ‘emergency measures’. On the other hand, the fake news items bandied about after 7 October – women’s stomachs ripped open, babies beheaded of burned alive in ovens – were repeated the world over because they had been ratified by Israeli officials. Once the fraud had been exposed, no publication had felt it necessary to admit it had been guilty of helping spread Israeli propaganda. In France the Israeli army spokesperson is a welcome guest on every news channel and if per chance a journalist ventures to do his job and really question him, he is reprimanded by his employers.

In the meantime, shamefully racist rhetoric, bordering on incitement to hatred or violence, aimed at those who criticise the Israeli army, goes practically unnoticed. Not to mention the suspicion cast on racialised journalists, guilty of ‘communitarianism’ when they present a different point of view.2

While Israel refuses to allow foreign journalists into Gaza – except for those who choose to be ‘embed’ for a guided tour, which many correspondents accept without the least critical distance –, few protests have been raised against this exclusion. Nor has the profession protested the killing of 109 Palestinian journalists, a figure never equalled in any recent conflict. Had those reporters been Eurpean, what would we not have heard? Worse yet, in its yearly review, published on 15 December 2023, Reporters sans frontières (RSF) mentions ‘17 [Palestinian] journalists killed in the line of duty’, a piece of ‘news’ taken up by several French media. The formulation is shockingly indecent, especially when we recall that the Israeli army is in the habit of deliberately targeting journalists, as we were reminded by the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh.

On Sunday 7 January two more Palestinian colleagues were killed when an Israeli guided missile struck their car, West of Khan Younes. One of them was none other than the son of Wael Dahbouh, head of the Gaza office of Al-Jazira. Half of his family was massacred by the Israeli army, and his cameraman was killed as well.

And it is to those Palestinian journalists that we owe most of the images that have reached us. And though some of them have already worked as ‘fixers’ for French correspondents, they remain a priory suspect simply because they are Palestinians.

Meanwhile, their Israeli colleagues, with very few exceptions (+972, a few Haaretz journalists), echo reverently the army’s talking points.

Ethnic cleansing … why not?

In recent days, we have witnessed uncanny debates. Is it possible to discuss serenely, calmly, ‘normally’, in radio and TV studios, proposals for the displacement of the Palestinian population to the Congo, to Rwanda or to Eastern Europe, without pointing out that these would be war crimes and crimes against humanity? Not to mention the fact that people who make those proposals, here or out there, should be indicted for advocating war crimes or crimes against humanity?

According to the UN, the Gaza Strip has become ‘a place of death, uninhabitable’. Every day the news of more deads comes in (over 23,000), of more wounded (over 58,000), of bombed medical facilities, summary executions, large-scale tortures3, schools and universities pulverised, homes destroyed. So many of these that a new term has been coined, ‘domicide’ to describe the systematic destruction of people’s homes. It is rare that any of these crimes are investigated by correspondents. Yet the memorandum alone submitted by South Africa to the International Court of Justice in The Hague4 would suffice to supply the media with dozens of scoops. These would help give the victims (not only those of 7 October) a name, a face, an identity. They would oblige Israel and the United States, which arms it unabashedly, as well as the other Western countries and France in particular, to face up to their responsibilities, which does not mean parachuting a few supplies to a dying population or expressing ‘our concern’ in a press release.

For the first time ever, a genocide is taking place live on certain pan-Arab news channels or social networks, which was not the case for Rwanda or Srebenica. At the same time, it is disconcerting to observe how easily this massacre is gradually being pushed off the front pages of our newspapers and the openings of our TV newscasts to become a secondary subject. And yet just as the countries that signed the Genocide Convention are obliged to take steps to prevent one, so too journalists are expected to do their best to put a stop to the crime being committed in Gaza.

Caption: In order not to be party to this genocide, France can contribute to stopping it: by suspending its military cooperation with Israel, by enacting sanctions against the French citizens participating in the crime sin Gaza, suspending the right of the West Bank settlers to enter our counter, suspend the importation of Israeli goods, some of which come from the colonies, commercialised in contravention of European decisions.

At the end of December, following a Russian attack on Ukrainian cities which had caused some thirty casualties, the US government condemned ‘those frightful bombings’, while Paris denounced the ‘Russian strategy of terror’. The headline in Le Monde was: ‘The Russian campaign of terror.’ How long is it going to take to describe Israel’s war on Gaza as terrorism?

1Daniel Boguslaw, ‘CNN Runs Gaza Coverage Past Jerusalem Team Operating Under Shadow of Idf Censor’, The Intercept,, 4 January 2024.

2Nassira Al-Moaddem, « TV5 Monde: “the Kaci affair” shocks the editorial staff. », Arrêt sur image, 30 November 2023.

3Read investigation in Israeli magazine +972, Yuval Abraham, ‘Inside Israel’s torture camp for Gaza detainees’.