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Selective narratives and short-term memories

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Smoothing things over: Israeli President Shimon Peres hosts a Ramadan dinner Copyright @GPO

Last week, the entire world was engrossed in what was happening in Libya. Eyes were glued to the television screen as we watched the rebels march into Tripoli, cheered on by the international community in the ‘fight for democracy’.

While everyone was applauding Sky’s Alex Crawford for her ‘bravery and tenacity’ in reporting live from the back of a rebel pickup truck, 1200 miles away, however, there was no pause in the rockets in Gaza despite a cease-fire. Fighting resumed between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Gaza. This was barely mentioned in the mainstream media.

The conflict came about after two terror attacks on buses in southern Israel last Thursday killed fourteen people and wounded 31. The driver of the first bus claimed that the shooters were dressed in Egyptian military uniform. In addition Israeli forces shot five gunmen while Egyptian border police killed two more.  It appears that an Israeli military helicopter attempted to give chase and crossed into Egypt territory where it mistakenly attacked an Egyptian army unit, killing five and wounding several others.

Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak issued a statement expressing his ‘regret’ at the deaths, but the Egyptians were having none of it, stating that the apology was not good enough. And so begins another diplomatic crisis calling in the ‘big guns’, i.e. the Unites States. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman landed in Cairo late Sunday in an attempt to defuse the tensions.

Israeli President Shimon Peres further tried to bring about peace between the two countries by hosting a Ramadan dinner in Jerusalem. Perhaps Peres served truly astounding latkes and falafels that evening, for soon afterwards the countries decided to work together to investigate just what actually happened last week.

Israel blamed Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees for the attack and retaliated with Israeli missiles on 20th August, killing15 Palestinians, with 55 injured, including 12 women, 15 children, three elderly and one ambulance worker.

Egyptian security forces are reportedly searching the border region for the people connected to last Thursday’s terrorist attacks. According to a report in Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper, Egyptian forces are also mapping the tunnels underneath the Gaza border and intend to destroy them.

Does the blame actually lie with Gaza? Richard Lightbown, of the Palestine Chronicle, said that the Israeli government (unpopular at home) is trying to show that it can act with determination to protect her security, and ‘who better to blame than the residents of Gaza?’ While Hamas supposedly expressed delight over the news of the dead Israelis, they have yet to claim responsibility for the attacks. Both sides repeatedly attacked the other (ceasefire schmeasefire!) but unfortunately for Gaza, they do not have an Iron Dome to repel rockets.

An Arab diplomat told the AFP that Washington is pressing the Palestinians to abandon their plans to bid from UN membership next month. The general feeling among Palestinians is that this is the first ‘Israeli nail in the coffin’ for a state recognition, as they have ‘shot themselves in the foot’ and scuppered their chances once again.

When the media can be bothered to pay attention, themiddle-eastern narrative is quite interesting and ever changing. We want them to have democracy and freedom but we don’t think they can handle it. And what about those Islamists, it’s just a matter of time before they take over and fill the power vacuum, right? When Egyptians gathered on the streets in their thousands, we cheered them on but now Mubarak has been ousted the media is once again obsessed with potential Islamic extremists vying for power. The same is happening with Libya and now Palestine. Our memories have become shorter and our focus is more selective


Written by Iram Ramzan

August 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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