The first response to my call for articles is from Wassim – thanks Wassim, read his blog here.
In “A choice of words”, Wassim looks at the way the sympathies of Western analysts show in the language they use. He picks the example of the Hamas-Fateh conflict in Palestine.
A choice of words
While commuting to work this morning, I was reading an article in the Economist on the situation in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah. As most articles written on the matter lately, they have been tinged with a sorrowful ‘Whither to now Palestine’ attitude. Apart from the fact I have reservations about whether I should feel sad as to what is happening (I don’t) I have a few observations which might be useful to anybody else reading Western media. The Economist presents Hamas as ‘failing to meet the conditions’ set by the ‘great outside powers’.
We hear this often, but why do we (myself included) uncritically accept the framework of the argument. ‘Failing to meet the conditions’ is when somebody eager for something is expected to jump through all sorts of loops to receive something from another: A student in school ‘fails to meet the conditions’ necessary for a pass; An immigrant ‘fails to meet the conditions’ for a visa; so on and so forth, you get the picture. Now, Hamas did not ‘fail to meet the conditions’ of anybody, it refused the demands of the ‘International Community’ (otherwise known as the West), there is a crucial difference.
I don’t necessarily agree with Hamas’ ideology or methods, but the reason I bring this up is because this framework of description of events is presented often in news and analysis and can misguide the layperson reading them in the Western world to think they come from countries which are somehow superior to those they are dealing with, a throwback to the days of Empire? That I don’t know. We see the same framework with Iran, Syria and Hezbullah amongst others. These actors always seem to ‘fail’ to meet ‘requirements’, ‘conditions’, ‘criteria’ etc etc. The language instantly tells you who is setting the conditions and who these are ‘set’ upon. This logic is flawed and unacceptable. When somebody you don’t like wants to make you do something and you refuse, you do not ‘fail to comply’. You refuse and stand your ground, ‘go ahead, make my day’ basically. The same applies with what is happening in the Middle East at the moment.
These ‘outside powers’ the Economist is referring to have helped create Israel, arm it and continue to fund and support some of the most corrupt regimes in the region (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia), yet these countries are labelled with terms which make them softer for the reader, ‘secular’, ‘moderate’ etc. In stark contrast, actors opposed to the ‘international community’ (remember, this stands for the West) are portrayed as ‘hardline’, ‘Islamist’ , ‘authoritarian’ etc etc, even though in terms of human rights abuses and governance, they are no better than the so called ‘moderate’ countries. However, the criteria for judgement is never about the benevolence and effectiveness of government or human rights, it is always the position of these countries with regards to the ‘international community’ and in particular Israel, which is the basis for judgements. Under the illusion of objectivity, you are presented with a framework which, if accepted, can only lead you to one viewpoint.
Finally, the token bogeyman. The article also included a fleeting implication that a Gaza under Hamas would allow al Qaeda another fertile ground, ” If the Islamists of Hamas win this round, the spectre will loom of a failed statelet where al Qaeda,” etc etc. No mention is made of the fact that the ‘statelet’ might fail precisely because the ‘international community’ will blockade and starve it while funding and arming the pro-Israel Abbas (remember he is a moderate, never mind about corrupt). I assume that Hamas in such a scenario would again ‘fail’ to meet the stringent ‘requirements’ of these countries and so it, as well as the people who elected it, have only themselves to blame. That is the picture we can expect to be presented with at some stage if not already.
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