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The Racism of Selective Sympathy: Western Media Coverage and Palestinian Deaths

Western pundits like Ben Shapiro enable Israel’s occupation through innate bias. Over 20 years ago, Shapiro argued Afghan lives are worth less than American ones. Old habits die hard as today, he continues spreading hateful rhetoric devaluing Palestinian civilians while circulating AI-generated misinformation. This agenda-driven coverage reflects wider media double standards on Israel-Palestine.

The current escalation of violence has again exposed these double standards. Whilst no one denies Israel’s right to self-defence against rocket attacks, its disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of civilians are clear violations of international law. However, Western coverage downplays Israeli abuses within the 75-year historical context, while framing Palestinian resistance as “terrorism”.

Nowhere are double standards more apparent than in the vastly different treatment of casualties. Western outlets diligently humanise Israeli civilian deaths with emotional stories and photos. Yet exponentially higher Palestinian deaths are reduced to statistics or omitted entirely.

Another air strike, another Palestinian family wiped out. Parents mourning children, children orphaned. Barely a footnote in many outlets. This dehumanisation even as death tolls rise is a longstanding feature of biased pro-Israel coverage. Palestinian lives simply do not engender the same sympathy and outrage as Israeli lives in the eyes of many Western journalists.

Prioritising Israeli suffering furthers the narrative that Israeli lives matter more. This feeds directly into Israel’s propaganda about avoiding civilian casualties while Palestinians deliberately target civilians.

Yet human rights investigations show Israel frequently uses indiscriminate and disproportionate force in crowded urban areas, leading to high Palestinian civilian deaths. Nearly a quarter of all Palestinian fatalities are children (although this has risen to a third in the current conflict), though their stories are rarely personalised or humanised.

In the past 24 hours alone, over 320 Palestinians were killed, including civilians in air raids on convoys fleeing south of Gaza. Despite assurances of safe passage, multiple civilian convoys have been bombed in recent days – an act human rights groups call a war crime. One such attack killed 40 civilians and injured 150.

Gruesome videos circulate on social media showing overpacked hospitals filled with Palestinian bodies and dead babies – some with missing limbs. But this horrific footage finds little space in Western news coverage, which prefers sanitised narratives.

Israel’s claim of avoiding civilian casualties is rarely challenged, despite contrary evidence. Over 2,200 Palestinians have died and 8,700 wounded since last Saturday, 7th October with numbers rising exponentially. Yet the scale of suffering finds scarce mention in Western media. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vow to continue retaliation got more coverage than his explicit war crimes.

When an Israeli missile killed a Reuters cameraman in Lebanon, there was little prominent reaction – even Reuters’ own portrayal shrewdly omitted who fired it. Nor was there outcry over confirmed reports of illegal white phosphorus use by Israel against Palestinians. Pro-Palestinian protests worldwide also find scarce mention, with nations like France banning them. This selective coverage highlights innate media bias on Israel-Palestine issues.

In contrast, Palestinian armed resistance against overwhelming Israeli firepower is branded “terrorism”. But when Ukrainian civilians resist Russian invaders, they are called heroic. This racist double standard legitimises armed resistance in alignment with geopolitical interest and needs.

Additionally, Israel has cut off Gaza’s water and electricity, depriving 2 million residents of basic needs. Even more worrying, hospitals have run out of medical supplies, leaving people unable to receive treatment. The UN decries these actions as violations of international law. Yet EU and other Western leaders condemned Russia for similar actions in Ukraine while ignoring Israel’s precedent.

This is more than just unequal sympathy – it is active dehumanisation. Stripped of their full humanity, Palestinians become statistics, not people. Lives and voices colonised and displaced to conform to dominant political interests.

Make no mistake, this is not about disputing any nation’s right to ensure security for its people. Nor is it meant to minimise or trivialise the loss of civilians on any side of a conflict.

All human life carries equal significance, bearing divinity inside. One cannot be weighed against another. Any child or unarmed civilian killed unjustly deserves prayers, not politics.

But for too long, media coverage has participated in an unjust hierarchy of grief that places certain lives on higher rungs. This sanitisation and silencing of Palestinian anguish amid disproportionate state violence enables the occupation and strips a people of their dignity.

As talks emerge of a potential Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, the world must find the courage to confront these stark double standards. Failure to do so risks enabling another chapter of human ethnic cleansing akin to the collective trauma the oppressors’ ancestors endured not so long ago.

The time has come to recognise the equal worth and shared bonds of humanity cutting across all borders. Only through principled justice and compassion can this crisis be resolved. To deny one side’s truth is to undermine peace for all.


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