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Uncovered narratives of the war in Palestine | The Triangle
Opinion

Uncovered narratives of the war in Palestine

On Sunday, Feb. 11, I saw a person hanging from a metal rod by her shirt. The shirt, caught on the rod, covered her face and exposed her torso. To the left, beneath her, two people were trying to take her corpse down. Her left arm dangled, while her right arm was folded across the top of her head. Both her legs were torn off below the knees. Above her knees, the skin that once covered her hamstrings was torn, with parts of it dangling, exposing her flesh and bones. To her right, a wall was stained red with her blood. 12 hours before her tragic death, she appeared vibrant and hopeful, adorned in a rainbow tie-dyed hoodie, smiling, despite the horrors unfolding around her. Her name is Sidra Hassouna.


I also saw a video of a journalist, with a blue “PRESS” vest, lying on the ground with a bloodied face. His left leg was blown off, nowhere to be seen in the video, while his right leg was barely intact. The pavement around his legs was covered with his blood. There were four people around him panicking, some barefoot and some in flip-flops, distressed, trying to help, but not knowing what to do. I do not know if the journalist survived. His name is Ismail Abu Omar.


While Sidra and Ismail bled to death that Sunday, Americans tuned into Super Bowl Sunday, dubbed by some as “a weapon of mass distraction.” In Gaza, displaced Palestinians living north of Rafah heeded the Israeli army’s message to go south, to Rafah, as it was a designated “safe zone.” The Palestinian civilians, desperate, listened and went to Rafah to seek refuge. Rafah became the most densely populated place on the planet. Overall, about 1.5 million Palestinians were squeezed into the small city, which is estimated to only be roughly 25 square miles—about two-thirds of Disney World (which is about 39 square miles), or one-fifth of Philadelphia (which is about 135 square miles). In Rafah, displaced Palestinians set up a tent city. Israel bombed them by air, sea, and land, as it aired propaganda commercials during the Super Bowl.
Since Oct. 7 2023, Israel has been conducting collective punishment on the civilian population, pushing Palestinians living in Gaza south by launching deadly bombs and chemicals. In each instance, Israel assures the safety of the next southern city for evacuation, only to have Palestinians move there and shatter these assurances by continuing to bomb the designated safe zones, leaving widespread destruction and carnage wherever Palestinians seek refuge. Israel has now killed over 30,000 Palestinians, with thousands more missing and presumed dead under rubble. This is but a tiny glimpse of a long history of massacres that Israel has been committing upon Palestinians, a reality Palestinians have faced for over 75 years.


For nearly half a year now, tens of thousands of Philadelphians have protested against Israel’s continuing annihilation of Gaza, calling for a permanent ceasefire and an end to Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation. But these protests have been largely ignored by Philly’s mainstream press, except when they received negative criticism from public officials or caused some sort of inconvenience — like when activists protested at the 30th street station and caused train delays, or when a protester was arrested for putting a sticker on a cop car. The lack of coverage from the local press led some to protest against Philly news outlets, yet even these actions received scant attention. On Oct. 21 2023, between 7,000-10,000 Philadelphians marched from City Hall to the Museum, protesting for Palestine. Amazingly, CBS 3 News reported only “dozens” marched.


The local press has, however, successfully spread misleading statements made by political leaders. Pennsylvania state and federal politicians have repeatedly made distorted statements about pro-Palestine demonstrations by labeling them as celebrations of violence, when in reality, these demonstrators are demanding an end to violence and illegal occupation, and to end sending their tax dollars to fund these atrocities. Last December, pro-Palestine protesters were marching west and stopped to demonstrate outside of Goldie restaurant for a few minutes before they marched on along. That night, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro misled the public by alleging that the “restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli.” Pennsylvania federal-senators Bob Case and John Fetterman repeated similar allegations. John Fry, President of Drexel University, also chimed in and distorted the peaceful protest, which he said was “aimed blatantly offensive and threatening chants at its owner — a brazen display of antisemitism.” The “threatening” chant was “Goldie, Goldie you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”


Employees at the restaurant, however, told a contrasting account. According to June, an employee who worked that evening, “no one inside [the restaurant] was bothered. I didn’t feel unsafe. There were orthodox Jews taking part in the protest. We even had a customer come into the business.” Protesters say the chant was to highlight the fact that Goldie’s restaurant owner, Michael Solomonov, sent money to an organization that supported the Israeli military, which has been implicated with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians for over 75 years. Protesters also mentioned stopping at Goldie briefly because it fired two employees expressing support for Palestine. Despite minor disturbance to those who are indifferent to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the protest was evidently non-threatening. Remarkably, in addition to nearly 900 scholars’ warning of Israel potentially committing genocide, both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California have held that there is a plausible case of genocide being committed against Palestinians. Notably, no officials from Pennsylvania have even raised an eyebrow to these facts.


While officials worked to smear the protest as antisemitic, in South Philly, a small, Jewish-owned café has been getting harassed on an almost daily basis by pro-Israel supporters because the store owners expressed solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians. Beyond yelling and verbal harassment, pro-Israel individuals have also, in bad-faith, placed posters specifically at the electric pole right outside of the café to deter customers. The posters are meant to imply that the owner of the café supports violence against Jews, even though the owners themselves are Jewish who just happened to support a free Palestine. The owners have been called “self-hating Jews” and “terrorists” by pro-Israel individuals. On their Instagram account, an individual commented that she was “so distressed by [their] uneducated bias against Israel. A better approach would be to invite customers in to have real conversations over a cup of coffee.” The commenter also asked, “Why alienate potential or current customers with a political stance? Isn’t it better for your business to open it up to in-depth discussions? We need to listen to each other and be respectful of differences.”


Notably, statements that call for maintaining political neutrality are nothing more than mere platitudes that ring hollow. The fallacy of the premise is that, by avoiding affiliations with specific political positions, a business appears more inclusive and welcoming to a broader customer base. However, businesses are composed of individuals with their own beliefs, values and perspectives (even the Supreme Court views businesses as individuals). It is a misleading notion to believe that businesses, however big or small, can remain apolitical. Considering that social and political issues are intertwined with individual and group values, expecting a business to be — or appear to be — entirely apolitical is not a realistic demand but only a bad faith effort to bolster one’s sense of moral superiority. Remaining silent on certain issues, in and of itself, can reasonably be interpreted as a political stance. Platitudes that call for businesses to “remain apolitical” — to “listen to each other and be respectful of differences” — often conceal deeper motives. At surface level, it appears as a plea for neutrality. However, on a broad level, it inherently manifests as a tool to uphold the status quo and resist confronting social and political issues. On an individual level, it is arguably an effort to protect one’s worldview from being disrupted; to reinforce a comfortable echo chamber; to shield oneself from uncomfortable truths that challenge one’s core values.
The Philadelphia local press, through consistent failure to offer unbiased coverage of those advocating for Palestinian freedom, perpetuates continued aversion to acknowledge the uncomfortable and ugly truths that force individuals to confront or reconsider their long-held beliefs. The press’s deliberate omission of reporting on pro-Palestine demonstrations except when distorted with negative critiques from public figures, suggests a clear editorial alignment with a specific political stance — opposing Palestinian freedom and self-determination. This selective reporting not only prompts concerns about journalistic integrity, but also implies an editorial position that supports and contributes to the narrative of a bloody military campaign responsible for the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.