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Israelis aren’t seeing the devastating pictures Australians see from the war in Gaza. They’re watching a sanitised war

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10 December 2023, ABC, by John Lyons

This is the tale of two wars.

There are two wars going on in Gaza right now — the one the Israeli public is watching and the one the rest of the world is watching.

Each evening, Israelis are sitting down to watch their prime-time television news programs to see what happened that day in this war.

And each evening, the pattern is much the same — night after night pictures of Israeli soldiers walking through streets of Gaza; Israeli tanks driving across fields in Gaza; interviews with families of hostages taken by Hamas on October 7; a military progress update by Israel’s Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.

There will rarely, if ever, be a picture of a Palestinian. If there is, it will likely be a picture of a Hamas commander. The Palestinians portrayed are terrorists, not civilians who are victims. Watching Hebrew-language TV at night over recent weeks, I’ve never seen a Palestinian victim of Israel’s attack on Gaza.

It’s the whole Israeli media, not just television. The newspapers – with the exception of Ha’aretz – are much the same. Thursday’s edition of the mass-selling centre-right Yedioth Ahronoth, for example, had page after page on the war – I counted 50 war-related pictures of Israelis, including seven on page 1.

There was one picture of a Palestinian – Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar.

And social media – as social media does around the world – gives Israelis the feeds they want.

All of which means that most Israelis do not see pictures of injured Palestinian women and children or the destruction of Gaza into kilometre after kilometre of rubble to the point where it will be difficult to rebuild it.

They will rarely if ever see a child trapped in that rubble, or a mother carrying her dead baby. They don’t see the screaming children, or the toddlers who cannot open their eyes.

Bewildered Israelis aren’t seeing what we do

Israelis are watching a sanitised war. They are not watching the same war as Australians, or anyone else.

They are not watching the same war that US Vice-President Kamala Harris is. And so when Harris says too many innocent Palestinians are being killed they don’t understand why the US is pushing back on this war.

They are bewildered at why the world is increasingly uncomfortable at the high civilian death rate.

Inside Gaza, a devastating new term has emerged: WCNSF

Inside Gaza’s overwhelmed hospital system, an influx of injured children arriving alone without any family has prompted doctors to coin a new term: Wounded Child, No Surviving Family.

It’s important that we note this because it explains that Israelis are thinking completely differently about this war than much of the rest of the world. They cannot see the problem with this war continuing.

In terms of sheer numbers, rarely, if ever, has any country killed as many women and children as quickly as Israel is doing so today.

But Israelis are getting no sense of this. They are living in a bubble of sanitised news in which the Israeli Defense Forces is conducting a careful, clinical military operation in Gaza.

The Yedioth edition with the pictures of 50 Israelis came on a day that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the situation in Gaza as apocalyptic.

Apocalypse, what apocalypse?

Generally, the Israeli public dismisses all comments as typical of the UN – the general view here is that the UN is biased against Israel and will say whatever it can to hurt Israel.

But aid group after aid group is starting to use the same word. In the main Israelis do not see the pictures of screaming children running around looking for their parents.

These pictures tell an important story – such as the four-year-old boy who had lost both his legs. He was still in shock, and traumatised, and the stumps that were his legs were so heavily bandaged and he was so traumatised that he had not realised he had lost his legs. He was numb from the waist down.

He had also lost both his parents. The doctors at the hospitals made a decision not to tell him his parents were dead until he recovered as much as possible from his other injuries.

They thought that telling him that he’d lost both his legs and both his parents would be too much for a four-year-old to bear.

‘Quiet, we’re shooting’

It’s important to remember that the horrible pictures you are seeing on your TV screens are the ones suitable for broadcast. Those of us covering this war see far worse – I will not even attempt to describe in words some of the pictures we see coming out of Gaza.

What is going on in Gaza right now is infinitely worse than even these pictures run on international news bulletins – the really gruesome ones are never making it to air.

The Israeli government should keep in mind that at the end of this war they will still be neighbours. Gaza is only 68 kilometres from Jerusalem — just over an hour’s drive.

The United Nations is saying that as much as 60 per cent of the accommodation in Gaza has been destroyed or damaged. When this is all over Israel will have a long-term humanitarian catastrophe on its doorstep.

To have a million or more homeless people living next door will not augur well for the long-term future.

Israelis have an expression for the mindset that they tend to adopt when at war — Sheket, yorim. This is a Hebrew expression that translates to “quiet, we’re shooting”.

What they mean by this is that during a war they want to focus – and not be distracted by outside noise and considerations.

There’s another saying that many Israelis like to use about Gaza – that every so often they need to “mow the grass”. When you ask them what this means, they explain that Gaza is like their backyard: every so often they need to tend to their yard, to keep the weeds – Hamas – under control.

In the six years I lived in Jerusalem there were three wars with Gaza – three times they mowed the grass. But this war is different. This is more than mowing grass – this is destroying most of the garden and killing many of the people who live in it.

This time it is different

Israelis concede this war is different. The horrors of the October 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel have emboldened Israelis to the view that never again can this happen.

But if the Israeli government and public does not realise that the growing international backlash over the way they are conducting this war is something they need to heed, they risk alienating much international opinion.

Gaza’s health system is collapsing. International aid agencies say they can no longer do their work. The United Nations says there is no longer any humanitarian assistance worthy of the name humanitarian.

And as winter sets in, aid agencies are worried that disease will take hold, with few medicines or drinking water to try to stave off a health crisis.

As they sit down to watch their war update at nights, any sense of Sheket, yorim – quiet, we’re shooting – is unlikely to hold.

Article link:
Article source: ABC | John Lyons | 10.12.13

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000