Western press and addressing grievances in Gaza

In 2006, the Israeli authorities imposed an overall siege on the Gaza Strip forcing 1.6 million Palestinians to live under miserable conditions. Since then, Gaza, depending on the degree of instability in the area, has been largely covered in the world media, sometimes enjoying the status of a quasi-main theme.

However, many of these subjects dealt with by the Western press are quite unimportant to deal with publicly. The only importance they have seems to be that of their context.

One needs though to be as critical as not to fall victim to any deliberate misrepresentation of facts or any other well-handled, yet ill-timed treatment of any of these controversial subjects.

The real oppressor of Gaza women’s rights

Only last night, a fellow journalist and I had an argument over the recently recurring theme in the Western press of the oppression of women’s rights in the Gaza Strip. We both came to an agreement that one can confidently state women’s rights are flagrantly abused in Gaza but, unlike how Western press tends to show it, the question remains who the real oppressor of women’s rights in Gaza is.

The issue of women’s rights in Gaza is one part of a larger— to avoid the word “propaganda”—  misinformation scheme that should be seen as an attempt to divert the world’s attention from the indispensable issues which need to be constantly and unfalteringly addressed in the Western press.

Take this for example. “Sorry, Hamas, I’m wearing blue jeans” is an article that, on the surface of it, seems to be a credible and well intentioned attempt to encapsulate how women’s rights are abused a daily basis in Gaza by the government, the people, their religion and customs. It features the resentment of “a defiant Palestinian feminist from Gaza reflect]ing[ on being secular in a religious land.”

Reading through the article, one can’t but feel irritated at the blatantly Orientalist character of it. It is indeed one of the most deeply flawed and misrepresentative articles that falls into this exact category of misinformation that I have spoken of earlier.

I will not go further to reply to this article since the real resentment felt toward it and generated by its blatant inaccuracy has already been highlighted by several responses which none has written but Palestinian women (and men) from Gaza refuting its baseless arguments and countering what it displays as “facts”.

The unfortunate “Gaza Youth Manifesto”

Likewise, recently a group of Palestinian youth from Gaza has issued a “manifesto” on their Facebook  page called Gaza Youth Breaks Out. It outstandingly highlighted the anger and frustration that have grown so immense inside the chests of young Gazans that they cannot be any longer suppressed. Unluckily, however, its writers poured out their fury indiscriminately at every possible cause they deemed as conducive to their miserable conditions instead of carefully underlining the principal source and prime perpetrator of this unendurable suffering.

Hence, the true causes for this suffering, i.e. Israel, its 2008/09 invasion of the Gaza Strip, the five-year relentless blockade, and its daily heinous crimes against Palestinian civilians, were (unintentionally, I assume) relegated and not as much accentuated as the uncommendable behavior of the Hamas government in Gaza toward its people which replaced Israel as the originator of Gaza’s youth distress.

That said, the GYBO manifesto has received worldwide attention from Western press and media outlets including the Guardian and the BBC. But did any of them take the time to listen to the grievances the manifesto itself prompted in a considerable portion of Gaza’s youth due to its misguided content and damaging quality?

Of course, not. Because simply that is what Western press had been looking for and now that it rose from within Gaza youth itself, they wouldn’t hesitate to embrace this unfortunate manifesto. (Note: under great deal of criticism, the group had to issue a second manifesto, which appears on the group’s Facebook page).

Whether deliberate or not, digressions as such only harm the Palestinians and are aimed at diverting the world’s attention from the base injustice the Palestinians are forced to live under besides the daily crimes committed against them by the Israeli armed forces. Moreover, they do seem to attract the attention of an audience, that has become used to  prosaic coverage of continuous and flagrant Israeli violations of basic human rights.

Still, this does not mean issues of human rights’ abuses should be disregarded. The suppression exercised by the government and other violations of human rights should always be brought to light to help fight against it.

But there is still a huge difference between objective reporting of  incidents of human rights violations and other obviously subjective and unrepresentative or misleading publications.

The “rising middle class” and addressing minor grievances

Similarly, a newly published Associated Press feature story throws light on the widening gap between a very tiny (rising?) middle class and the majority of the people who live under the poverty line, as the article illustrates.

Well-written, objective, and supported with facts and figures as it might seem, the article should nonetheless be dismissed as misleading and lacking in analytical interpretation necessary to explain the real origins of the discontent the people of Gaza have.

“A budding middle class in the impoverished Gaza Strip is]…[fueling perhaps the most acrimonious grass roots resentment yet toward the ruling Hamas movement.”

The introductory statement of the article is inaccurate since, from the beginning it presupposes the presence of this “resentment” toward the Hamas government in Gaza, and it doesn’t go further to place this feeling within its greater context which is that of the Israeli occupation and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The only and real grievances the people of Gaza have is those toward Israel and its blockade of the Gaza Strip which has fuelled in them so much anger and despair to the extent that, like the GYBO, they started to resent everything around them, on the top of which is the Hamas government. So even this sense of dissatisfaction toward the government is basically a form of grievous indignation toward Israel itself.

Quite normally people would hate the government under whose control they have had to endure the most miserable conditions. It is true the government in Gaza isn’t doing enough to at least alleviate the people’s Israeli-inflicted suffering. It’s also true that there is so much corruption inside the government itself to be concealed or ignored any longer, but trying to make these issues as the prime source of people’s anger is dubious since it ignores the fact that what people are enraged about, above all things, is the Israeli siege.

However, since this siege is something the people of Gaza has started to take for granted,  criticizing the government, blaming it, and feeling resentment toward it has become a trend. It has become much easier and, indeed, practical for them. (One feels obliged to praise Israel for how it could relieve itself of the burden of taking responsibility for the people it occupies).

Although, the article makes it clear the majority of the people are discontent and frustrated, at some point it seems to ridiculously question the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza while there are others— a very small minority— who live in self-indulgence. It also never accounts for the so called “rise of the middle class” in Gaza except by simplistically relating it to the attitudes of the Hamas government and the “corruption” of some of its “loyalists”.

The only thing this article seems to do is deflect the readers’ attention from the real origins of frustration in Gaza represented in Israel’s overall inhuman policy toward the Palestinians to few, indeed, unimportant issues.

Israel’s siege and crimes are always the issue

While in other countries, which seem to enjoy wealth and maintain stability, suppression is exercised by governments on a larger scale and women’s rights are abused at a more serious level, little attention is paid to them. Likewise, the grievances toward  an assumed middle class rise in Gaza is a completely preposterous issue to discuss when only a few days ago Israeli airstrikes killed 15 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. (update: 11 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes during the past two days).

At a time when the people of the Gaza Strip, both wealthy and poor, are woken from their sleep by Israeli warplanes bombing their neighborhoods, grievances, suffering and anger of this sort is all what the world needs to know about Gaza.




First of all, I do not live in Gaza, never been there but hope to go there one day, even if the siege goes on. So I have to acknowledge that I can not share in the same day-by-day experiences Mr. Suliman has.

However, as a progressive I was shocked to read this blog. Who is Mohammed Suliman to decide that "the only and real grievances the people of Gaza have is those toward Israel and its blockade of the Gaza Strip"? Why can't people have grievances both about the blockade, but also about women rights and the repressive character of the Hamas regime? Who are you to decide those grievances are not only, it seems, 'minor', but even hurtful! In an open society, people should be allowed to speak out on all grievances they have, not only about what supports, in this case, the struggle against Israel's siege? Instead of criticizing them, embrace them! You can make clear that Israel and the siege is still the main thing most Gazans have on their mind, while also acknowledging that other issues need to be resolved, instead of discrediting those who apparantly 'are hurting the cause' with their other grievances.

Sad, this could have been such a good blog.

Mohammed Suliman's picture

I think I made it clear in my post that yes, such grievances against the government and any suppression of human rights, including women’s, should be addressed and always brought to light. I’m quoting myself, 

Still, this does not mean issues of human rights’ abuses should be disregarded. The suppression exercised by the government and other violations of human rights should always be brought to light to help fight against it.

But there is still a huge difference between objective reporting of  incidents of human rights violations and other obviously subjective and unrepresentative or misleading publications.

However, what I have against the examples I have put forward in the article are those that meant to tackle issues in an absolutely subjective way. What is meant by talking about the grievances of people in Gaza against a rising middle class at a time when all the world is paying attention to is how many Palestinians are killed in Israeli airstrikes every day? What is the point of always talking abuse from within about women’s rights while the real oppressor of women’s rights is actually the occupation, and yes, oppressing women’s rights by Hamas is but a minor issue to have this overdue attention by Western media. 

Not one of these newspapers bothers talking about women’s rights abuse in other “third-world countries” while in Gaza this issues has been raised many times. 

Mohammed Suliman's picture

followign up on my above reply: *What is the point of always talking about abuse of women’s rights from within when the real oppressor of women’s rights is actually the occupation.


Mohammed Suliman

Mohammed Suliman's picture

Mohammed Rabah Suliman, 22, is a Palestinian student and blogger from Gaza. Mohammed currently undertakes graduate studies at the London School of Economics. He blogs at Gaza Diaries of Peace and War, and can be followed on Twitter.