Peeping back in time, on August 19th 2011 Eliat attacks occur. At least 7 Israelis dead. No one knows who did it. Everyone is in shock. The news ate this news story up; from CNN, to NBC all the way to Al Jazeera.
A few hours later, Israeli politician Ehud Barak accused Gaza “militants” to be behind the attack without providing any information or facts to back up his claim and promised that Gaza would “pay”. But suddenly then, everyone forgot about this important story that was only developing into something worse.
Perfect timing for Israel. Or was the silence deliberate?
It was only a matter of time before Israel started bombarding the strip on all corners: North, East, West, South. By the end of the day, 7 were killed, including 2-year-old Islam Qreiqe on his birthday, and many critically injured. All this information, I found via Twitter; a source I have been turning to for quite some time especially since the Arab revolutions began. Citizen journalism was definitely one of the ways to go for me, but I still needed that hardcore journalism. You know- reporters in helmets and bullet proof PRESS vests, working tirelessly to provide information that I so desperately needed to know.
So I frantically turn on my favorite news channel, Al Jazeera English, which had impeccable coverage of the Gaza massacre in 2008-09. I thought- well, if something is happening in Palestine, AJE has got my back right?
Turn on the TV. A documentary is playing. “Oh okay” I said, “I’ll read the scrolling headlines”. Nothing. Zip. Nada. But oh wait, they’re talking about the Egyptian soldiers that were killed in a brawl between Israeli soldiers. Phew, so they are paying attention. But why no Gaza? Where is Gaza?
So I did something that was unlike me- I started flipping to other news channels. BBC, CNN, SKY and NOTHING. Perhaps by now there would have been a mention of it in the scroll bar, but it was probably so small of a mention that I forgot or the words went by too fast…
Were Gazans making this up? No way. I mean why would they? Not one news station was playing any sort of reportage from the strip, I started becoming skeptical. But I shook it off my skepticism because I know Israel and I thought it was a one day thing where they went completely ballistic and took out all it’s aggression on Gaza like it typically does. I thought it was over. I let the media silence slide. Then the “BREAKING” tweets start reappearing on my timeline from average Palestinians living in the strip and it went on for 2 days into the attacks on Gaza. More deaths, more injuries, still no evidence by Barak that Palestinian militants were behind the Eliat conflict.
Again, I quickly open my TV and see the headlines, “Libya, Syria, more Libya”. Very important news. Gaza is just as important right? Oh look, Gaza reportage…I can’t wait to see what they’re about to repo..
“Hamas has broken the 2 year truce. Gaza rockets are now being fired into Israel, we are now going to speak to an Israeli spokesperson…”
Gaza has been getting bombarded for nearly 3 days in a row, the death toll had been risen to 15 by then and 40 people were critically injured and NOW all of a sudden they feel like reporting about it? When Hamas breaks the so called “truce”? Maybe the news forgot that the night before the Eliat attacks, Israel bombed Rafah? Oh but that’s not breaking the truce until a homemade rocket is fired, right?
So I drag myself back onto my computer and see minute to minute updates on the situation in Gaza. Every explosion reported, every injury acknowledged, every person murdered was given a name. I’m shocked. Not only by what’s happening, but the fact that these unpaid average civilians were doing a better job than any top notch news agency who apparently think some news stories are more important than others.
Five days into the bombardment, I had stopped watching the news. My journalism dreams= dead. My love for the news was gone. I found a new source of information: Citizen journalism. I too took part in this, yet did not more than confirm reports with other Gaza tweeps and retweet on Twitter. It was so easy to get news now, but I underestimated how hard it would be to get it heard. While I have to give credit to average people around the world WANTING to learn more about the situation and wanting to help out: the lack of actual TV coverage was disheartening. It basically meant that if people didn’t search for Gaza, then everyone who didn’t wouldn’t know what was going on. I know that if I hadn’t signed onto Twitter, I wouldn’t have known.
So is Gaza’s story exclusively for twitter now and for people who feel like reporting on it? Because personally, I’d think that 5 days of heavy bombardment (which is slowly halting, but still occurring as I type this) seems like important news to me.