With the collapse of an Egyptian cease-fire proposal, the horror of Israel’s latest Gaza assault continues. At least 185 have been killed, almost 80 percent of them civilians. Almost half are women and children. At least seventy homes were specifically targeted and destroyed. Five healthcare facilities, including a hospital, have been damaged in air strikes. There was a direct attack on a center for profoundly disabled people. It was one of Israel’s much-bragged-about “carefully targeted” bombings, including the now-iconic “knock on the roof” message from the Israeli bombers—the small bomb that signals much worse to come. It wasn’t an accident. Three people, two patients and a caregiver, were killed there. It goes on.
And Congress—indeed almost all of official Washington—is speaking
with almost one voice: we stand with Israel. Israel has the right to
“defend” itself. No country would stand by and allow this. But
something is different this time. And not only that the assault is different, and worse.
The difference is the political environment in which this attack is
happening, especially the political environment here in the United
States. For those of us who’ve been working on changing US policy in the
Middle East for decades, the bad news is in front of us every day: that
policy hasn’t changed, and billions of dollars in aid money
and uncritical political, diplomatic and military support for Israel
But there is some good news. It’s only obvious when you can back up
for a moment to look past the daily bad-news reality. The good news is
that the discourse has shifted dramatically—in mainstream news coverage,
punditry, pop culture and more. It's much better than ever. They don’t
get it right, still, but things are changing. Twelve years ago, during
the siege of Yasir Arafat’s compound in Ramallah and the surrounding of
the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, we didn’t hear many Palestinian
voices in the mainstream press. In 2006, during Israel’s attack on
Gaza, The New York Times and NPR didn’t send their reporters to the Khan Younis refugee camp or to Gaza City.
But the coverage had already begun to shift during Cast Lead, the
three-week Israeli war against Gaza in 2008–09, and we realized then how
much the media changes reflected the overall discourse shift. Despite
Israeli efforts to exclude the international press, Al Jazeera and other
Arabic channels were broadcasting live out of Gaza. The Times had
a terrific young stringer, Taghreed el-Khodary, filing hour by hour.
Israel probably wouldn’t have allowed her into the Strip, but they
couldn’t stop her, she was already there—born and raised in Gaza and
living with her family.
Most importantly, cellphones and computers were already ubiquitous,
even in impoverished Gaza refugee camps. So when the electricity flicked
on for an hour or two, the first thing people did was to power up their
phones so they could send their photographs, videos, stories and
heartbreak out into the world. It transformed how we understand what an
occupation looks like, what a siege does to a town, what white
phosphorous bombs look like when they hit a school.
These messages haven’t reached everyone in the United States, and not
all those it has reached have shifted their opinion. But the new
discourse has changed an awful lot of minds. Polls have a limited
value—at best they’re a snapshot, a moment in timhttp://www.thenation.com/article/180653/room-criticize-israel-grows-are-policy-changes-table