The pictures of Omran Daqneesh, the 5-year-old rescued from the ruins of his home in Aleppo, Syria, made waves all over the world. It’s hard to be apathetic to the sight of the little boy covered with blood and concrete dust sitting quietly and alone in the ambulance. CNN anchor Kate Bolduan burst into tears on the air while describing what had happened to him. Other media outlets plastered his picture on their front pages, much as they did the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the little boy whose body washed up on the Turkish beach. That the picture that led to a change of European policy toward Syrian refugees, at least for a short time.
Daqneesh’s picture was widely circulated in the Israeli media as well, alongside questions and reproach over the world’s silence and apathy, implying Israeli compassion and solidarity with the Syrian people, who are being torn apart in a war between the regime and its opponents.
Behind this coverage lies quite a bit of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Hundreds of Palestinian families are now marking two years since the last war in Gaza. The Israeli media, which was so shocked by the picture of the wounded boy pulled out of the rubble of his destroyed home and wonders at the world’s silence, forgets that those same questions could be raised in response to the innumerable shocking images of the bodies of babies and children removed from the rubble of their homes in Shujaiyeh and Khan Yunis two summers ago. Those didn’t generate the same compassion and solidarity as the picture of the child from Aleppo.
Many will of course answer that there’s no comparison. Syria is engulfed in a civil war for which the regime is to blame, while Israel was conducting a war against terror in which Hamas uses civilians as human shields. But those are excuses meant to remove the cloud of blame for violating international law. Even in the deaths of the Dawabsheh family, whose Duma home was torched, and the horrible burning-alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, there are those who get defensive, saying the cases were investigated and those responsible were or will be brought to justice.
With every claim of this type, Israelis find an answer that enables them to live comfortably with the dissonance. But there’s no way not to notice that Israel relates differently to different reports of disasters and atrocities. When we’re talking about horrible pictures from Syria, they are published so we can enjoy a feeling of solidarity, play up Israeli mercy and feel like part of the family of nations. But when we’re talking about horrible pictures from Gaza, the ugly face of Israel that we want to hide might be exposed, and the hypocrisy mechanism gets activated.
The Israeli media needn’t look far for wars and crushed bodies if it wants horrific photos. Nor do the Palestinians need to harm innocent people and carry out terror attacks to shock the world and gain its attention. In Gaza and the West Bank there are enough children who have been traumatized by the daily policies of occupation and oppression. The Israeli media prefers to hide these pictures from the public. Otherwise, they might be shaken up and start to understand that Palestinian children are also suffering, and perhaps it’s time to put an end to the occupation and to their agony.
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