Many Israelis who flip through Tuesday morning’s newspapers will likely come to the conclusion that Hamas has decided to declare war on Israel, and that like in previous rounds, Israel itself is the victim.
Only those who take the time to read — and perhaps do some more research — will discover that according to reports, Israeli forces killed 24 Palestinians, nine of them children, and wounded many more the evening prior. They will also discover that, while terrorizing thousands in southern Israel, no Jewish Israeli was killed yesterday (Hamas rockets launched after the newspapers’ publications have since wounded at least 20 people).
In fact, from the right-wing Israel Hayom to the mainstream Yedioth Ahronoth, the fate of Palestinian children bombed from the sky while living under the cruelty of a 14-year siege is barely an afterthought for the Israeli press. The top stories in Israel’s four major newspapers today — Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz, Maariv, and Israel Hayom — all essentially followed the same pattern: Hamas rockets dominated both the headlines and the featured photo for each story.
The Israel Hayom freebie, long considered a pro-Netanyahu outlet, ran a headline quoting the prime minister’s threats that “Hamas will pay a heavy price.” The subhead refers only to the “rioting” by Palestinians across the country and the “rocket barrages” fired at Israel. The paper decided to bury any mention of the children toward the end of the article, which also appeared on page three.
Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most popular broadsheet, published its story on page four under the headline, “150 launches in five hours.” The dead Palestinian children are mentioned once in the middle of a relatively short article, couched between reporting on an Israeli attack on Hamas’ military wing and that reportedly also killed eight members of the movement. To its credit, the Yedioth subhead mentioned a Palestinian report according to which 20 people in Gaza were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
The Maariv daily published a piece under the headline “Red South,” a pun referring to the Anemone flower blossoming in Israel’s south, and a subhead that states only 10 Palestinians were killed (it’s likely the paper went to press before all the dead were accounted for) and a threat by the IDF Spokesperson that “Hamas will pay a heavy price for its behavior.” Maariv reports the number of children killed by the airstrikes at three, mentioning them once in a story that ran on page four.
Lastly Haaretz, which has a much smaller circulation than either Israel Hayom or Yedioth Ahronoth, published two pieces on the violence in Gaza. The first appears on page three and carries the headline: “Dozens of rockets fired into Jerusalem and the communities around Gaza; the IDF prepares for several days of fighting.” Alongside it is a photo of rockets being fired into Israel. The nine Gazan children who were killed are mentioned once in the story at the end of the first paragraph.
Haaretz also published a separate piece on the 20 people who died in total in Gaza, with direct reference to the children, on page five. The photo that accompanies the second piece is identical to the one published in Maariv.
Unlike the other three papers, which chose to feature images of rockets being fired from Gaza, Maariv’s editors opted for a photo of a nighttime Israeli airstrike in the heart of what appears to be a residential area in the strip. The terrifying, jellyfish-shaped blast lights up the surrounding buildings in an orange glow, as smoke billows from an adjacent building that appears to have been struck just moments earlier.
Leafing through the newspapers, one can’t help but conduct a brief thought experiment. Imagine for a moment a situation in which nine Jewish Israeli children were killed by Hamas rocket fire in the span of a few hours. The item would open every single television news show, in Israel and abroad. Newspaper editors would not think twice about running the story on page one of every single paper, each headline telling the harrowing story of the children killed by rocket fire. Israelis would know their names, their faces, their fears, their dreams, and the stories of the families left behind.
And yet, the Palestinian children who were killed on Monday — for no reason other than being born into a reality of siege and apartheid — died another death when Israelis picked up their newspapers and learned absolutely nothing about them beyond the fact that they had, in an instant, turned into a nameless, faceless statistic.
This is far from the first time Israeli newspapers have buried or erased the stories of Palestinians killed by the military, including children. And it is certainly not the first time Israeli media has portrayed such escalations as being instigated by Palestinian terrorists, rather than the campaign of state violence that Israel has waged on Palestinians including in recent weeks.
But this erasure, which spans far beyond the pages of Israel’s broadsheets, has a cumulative and lasting effect on the Israeli psyche. Consuming media that convinces Israelis that they are the perpetual victims of Palestinian aggression only serves to dehumanize Palestinians, whether they are dead or alive. Journalists and editors working for Israeli and international outlets have a responsibility to change this narrative.
It means that most Israelis will continue refusing to reflect on the consequences of their control over the lives of Palestinians. It means, in short, only more bloodshed.