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  • samchris51

Reality always wins

In the past several days I have been hearing and reading about how the Israeli media is self-censoring regarding what it shows and writes about the war in Gaza.  Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper I rely on for news from Israel, reported on December 10 that the Israeli military had finally made an announcement regarding casualty figures from the war against Hamas, after resisting the newspaper’s requests for this information.  This was the first official report on the subject since the war started on October 7.  It stated, “that 1,593 Israeli soldiers have been wounded during this period.”  Haaretz noted that the policy of withholding this information is different from traditional IDF practice which has been to “provided reports on injuries alongside publications about the soldiers' combat activities and rehabilitation.”  The change in the procedure is being justified by the IDF as a "desire to protect the dignity of the wounded and their families."  As of December 10, 425 Israeli soldiers have died in Gaza.

Haaretz further reported that the IDF is strictly controlling the ability of hospitals to report on wounded soldiers insisting that “every press release regarding wounded soldiers, as well as replies to media queries, must receive their approval.”

It is worth mentioning that “An examination conducted by Haaretz with the hospitals where the wounded soldiers have been and are treated, shows a considerable and unexplained gap between the data reported by the military and that from the hospitals. The hospitals' data shows that the number of wounded soldiers to be twice as high as the army's numbers.”

At the same time Israeli mainstream media barely shows images of what's happening in Gaza and isn't regularly reporting on the dire situation in the Strip.  In an interview aired by Haaretz today Anat Saragusti, a well-known Israeli journalist photographer and social activist, talked about the power of images in reporting.   She spoke about how the images that are being shown on Israeli media, mostly images of the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7 as well as carefully selected images of the destruction in Gaza which the IDF wants Israelis to see, impact current Israeli perceptions of reality.  She argued that the striking visuals of the attack Israelis have been exposed to since the October 7 massacre, the stories those images tell are designed to justify the war in Gaza and feed the Israeli desire for revenge.

Israelis don’t see the rubble don’t see the destruction, don’t see the humanitarian crisis that the Palestinians in Israel see, that the Arabs who surround Israel see, that the whole world sees.  The reason is that there exists in Israel a strong impulse within the media toward self-censorship when they decide to avoid legitimate stories, not because of their professional judgments, but on nonprofessional grounds. When they take it upon themselves to act as concerned members of society, editors and journalists are of one mind when it comes to protecting the public from exposure to issues, they consider too difficult and too painful at this time.   Ilana Dayan on “Unholy: Two Jews on the News” talked with Yonit Levi and Jonathan Freedland about this very issue during the latest podcast as she explained why there are very few images shown of the conflict in Gaza on Israeli television.

I understand that a barbaric massacre was perpetrated by Hamas along the border with Gaza on October 7 and the impact has been devastating.  I acknowledge that most people in Israel continue to feel a sense of devastating sorrow, and despair combined with concern for the hostages that remain in Gaza for the people who have had to evacuate their communities in the south and in the north, and for the safe return of the soldiers fighting in Gaza.  By shielding themselves from the realities on the ground in Gaza, Israelis continue to deny the truth of what their soldiers are experiencing on a daily basis  as well as the humanity of the Palestinians who are also suffering devastating losses.  Tens of thousands have been killed, some of those are undoubtedly combatants but most likely are not.  Most of the population has been displaced, they lack adequate food and water and are unable to access basic necessities. This bubble of denial also serves to keep Israeli's peceptions of reality about the war seperated from how the rest of he world sees the war, and intensifies the sense of isoltion and betrayal many feel in relation to the world.

I know something of the effects of well-intended deception born from the pain of trauma.  My parents after surviving World War II in Poland made the decision that being Jewish was simply too dangerous.   As a result, they did not to share their Jewish heritage, or their Jewish families with me or my brother.  Despite their protective impulse the consequences of their decision were painful.  Both my parents lived most of their adult lives unable to be themselves, that certainly impacted how they parented and the quality of their relationships with each other and with me.  I have been left to sort out my own identity, a process that has had its challenges.  I would not have picked this time in history to learn how to be a Jew.

There will come a time when Israelis will have to reckon with what the IDF did in Gaza.  When the war ends Israel will be confronted with a destroyed Gaza that will be home to about 2 million Palestinians most of whom will be homeless and have no services. It is not likely that any foreign power will assist with the rebuilding of Gaza as long as Israel wants to maintain control.  They will also have to integrate thousands of physically and emotionally wounded young men and women.  Some will require intensive services initially and many will require support throughout their lives.

I had to come to terms with my parents’ deception, get past my anger and hurt before I was able to carve out a new identity for myself.   My challenge was to integrate what I knew to be true about myself with what I had learned after discovering my parents’ true story.  Today I feel quite comfortable saying I am a Polish Catholic Jew.  Israel will have to do the same. Israelis will have to set aside the very human desire for revenge that comes from so much pain and loss.  They will need to acknowledge and reverse the effects of oppression, violence, and dehumanization of the Palestinians, which have fueled the conflict with them for decades.

I continue to hold out hope that what emerges from the ashes will allow for Israelis and Palestinians to acknowledge each other’s humanity and live normal lives.

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