“They Don’t Show Gaza”: Gideon Levy on How Israel’s Press Is Failing to Cover the War’s True Toll
Written by GRB on 18/01/2024
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
From coverage of the war by Palestinian journalists on the ground, we turn to coverage by the Israeli media. What do most Israelis see on TV? How has the Israeli media’s coverage shaped opinions of war? This is a clip from i24NEWS of Israeli military commander Lieutenant Colonel Dotan talking about an alleged Hamas tunnel in an exclusive video shown by the network last week.
BENITA LEVIN: Now the IDF has found tunnels and weapons inside a child’s room inside the Gaza Strip. These visuals were obtained from the IDF, and i24NEWS is now going to be allowed to play that. Let’s take a look.
LT. COL. DOTAN: [translated] During our patrols in the area, we uncovered the entrance to a tunnel under this children’s bedroom, actually under this desk, exactly where the children were supposed to study. We can see very clearly the tunnel, which goes towards the tunnel gallery. We can also see here these RPG missiles, these munitions grouped in the same sector, including military tactical vests and grenades ready for use.
AMY GOODMAN: That was a clip from Israeli media outlet i24NEWS.
For more on Israeli media’s coverage of the war, we go to Tel Aviv, where we’re joined by Gideon Levy, an award-winning Israeli journalist and author, columnist for the newspaper Haaretz, a member of its editorial board, his most recent piece headlined “If It Isn’t a Genocide in Gaza, Then What Is It?”
Gideon, welcome back to Democracy Now!
GIDEON LEVY: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what Israelis see on television, where most get their news. We just did this whole piece on the killing of Gazan journalists, Palestinian journalists. We’ve never seen anything like this anywhere in modern history, where you have between 80 and over a hundred Palestinian journalists killed in just a matter of weeks. What do Israelis understand is happening?
GIDEON LEVY: The main question, Amy, is what they don’t see or what they are not being shown, because, as you know, and as your viewers definitely know, Israeli media is quite a free media, commercial-owned, quite liberal, no pressure from the government or secret services or army or things like this. Anything it does, it does voluntarily. And the Israeli media decided, almost wall to wall, maybe except of my newspaper, Haaretz, all the rest — it’s also the TV, also newspapers— they decided that they are part of the Israeli propaganda machinery. They stopped being journalists.
And this, they’re doing two ways. The first one is the most serious one. They don’t show Gaza. The Israeli average viewer doesn’t see Gaza at all. He sees the soldiers. He sees the families of the hostages. He is being told day and night about the Israeli sacrifice. He’s being told day and night how brave are the soldiers. You see it seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and only one thing you don’t see: the suffer of Gaza. And the media decided not to show it, not because anyone pushed the media not to do it. They do it because they know very clear that this is what their viewers don’t want to see, and they want to please them. And by this, they are betraying our first mission: to tell the full story. You know, there are Israelis who wouldn’t care less to see all those terrible images and say, “Hamas is to be blamed. The Arabs are to be blamed. They deserve it. They are barbarian. Everything is fine.” But they have to see what is being done on our behalf. So, that’s the first level.
The second level, which is less important but still must be mentioned, is that Israeli media speaks now only in one voice. There is no room for any critic about the war. There is no room for any question marks. I don’t remember a war in which after so many stages, still the entire media is just a pale echo of the propaganda machinery of the army.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Gideon, your newspaper, Haaretz, is somewhat different from the rest of the press. But how widely read is it within Israel, and who reads Haaretz?
GIDEON LEVY: Haaretz is not a big newspaper in terms of quantity, but it is still quite an influential newspaper, both abroad, as you know, because it’s being published both in English and in Hebrew, and also in Israel still parts of the elite are reading it. I don’t want to say that every Israeli reads Haaretz, but every Israeli knows about Haaretz. And through the social media, it has some kind of influence, but it is obviously very limited.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the levels in Gaza we’re hearing about of starvation, that every Palestinian is hungry right now? The babies being pulled from the rubble — I mean, we’re thousands of miles away from you. Tel Aviv is very close to Gaza. What do they see when it comes to casualties?
GIDEON LEVY: Nothing. They hear the figures, but figures are only figures. It’s only statistics. It doesn’t make you feel. It doesn’t make you understand the scale of the tragedy, the scale of the crimes, I must say. You know, you watch all the international networks, and you see Gaza. You see the children dying on the dirty floors of the hospitals, bleeding to death. You see the uprooted people. You see the destruction. You see the suffer of hundreds of thousands of people, and obviously the starvation. And in Israel, you see only the soldiers, only the families of the hostages, only the scenes where you don’t see Palestinians at all. It seems as if they don’t exist.
Now, Amy, that’s not new, because the Israeli media betrayed the coverage of — betrayed its mission by covering in the same way the occupation throughout so many years. It was always dehumanizing the Palestinians as much as possible. But this time we reach a level that I don’t remember such a level, because you can really watch for hours Israeli TV and have no clue what’s going on in Shifa Hospital or in other hospitals or in uprooted neighborhoods, and where are the people, how do they make their living, do they get some food — nothing of this, nothing which might remind us that the Palestinians are human beings. This is almost a taboo: Don’t mention them as human beings.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Gideon, Prime Minister Netanyahu keeps assuring the international community that Israel does not intend to permanently occupy Gaza. But what is he saying domestically to the Israeli people? He even has two Twitter handles, one that’s an official one and then another that is more geared toward sending out incendiary messages to the population?
GIDEON LEVY: Just this morning he was quoted in a private talk, I think, that the war will continue at least until 2025. And nobody sees the end. Nobody knows the end. There is no endgame. There is no plan what to do the day after. And the Israelis start to believe now that this might last for many years, at least the occupation of Gaza — obviously, without intention. Almost everything that Israel did in the last decades was without intention, but it always came out. It never intended to go for wars and always finds itself in war. It never intended to create an occupation of over 50 years, and it came out like this. No, no, the intention is one thing, and the results are another thing. Israel has no plan to leave Gaza in the coming months or years, which doesn’t mean that Israel will stay there, but I don’t see any alternative right now. What will they do?