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Arab Spring: Male-on-Female Atrocity in Gaza Disappeared by the Western Media

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Posted on April 1 2011 4:16 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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Asma Al-Ghoul, a Palestinian journalist beaten and tortured by Hamas

Last month, at least eight Muslim Palestinian female journalists were physically beaten with clubs, iron chairs, and fists, stabbed, and tortured with electric shocks by male Hamas security forces in the Gaza strip.  Their cell phones, laptops, documents, and cameras were confiscated. They were also arrested. Some were forced to sign a document “pledging to refrain from covering such events again.”

The “events” were a series of pro-unity rallies organized by Palestinian youth on Facebook (!) which demanded an end to the dispute between Islamist Hamas and a presumably more moderate Fatah.

So much for the Arab “spring,” and the purposefully misguided Western (and these heroically naïve youthful demonstrators’) belief that the increasingly well organized Islamist Middle East will really rise up on behalf of human rights and women’s rights—without which there can be no democracy.

But this is not my main point.

The mainstream media did not cover this male-on-female atrocity in Gaza. In the English-speaking world, only a handful of journalists, including two Israelis, one writing in the Jerusalem Post, one writing at Big Peace, covered it. A few smaller newspapers in America and an English-language Egyptian paper did so as well.

To be fair, Reuters had an article which featured their own agency in Gaza having being attacked by “armed men.” Later on, we learn that these “armed men” were Hamas officials. And near the end of the piece, we also learn that Hamas also beat “photographers and camera men.” They do not mention female journalists, nor do they give us their names.

Slate also had an article about how Fatah is undermining Islamism on the West Bank. Parenthetically, later on, they mention that Hamas raided the offices of Reuters and destroyed equipment. They do not mention the attack on the Palestinian women journalists.

It did not happen, it is not important. The mainstream media does not really care about what happens to Arabs, Muslims, or Palestinians—not even when they are fellow or sister journalists, women, and feminists. The media only cares when and if Israelis are allegedly the perpetrators, the murderers, the checkpoint “humiliators.” Even when Israelis kill an armed Iranian-backed Palestinian member of Hamas in self-defense, even when Israelis accidentally, with no malice aforethought, kill a British journalist or an American “activist,” the Israelis are not only blamed—films, plays, and documentaries are made about the “martyred” American Rachel Corrie or the “martyred” British filmmaker James Miller or British “anti-war” activist Tom Hurndall. Countless demonstrations have been held. In Miller’s case the British government insisted on an investigation, and his family brought a civil lawsuit against an Israeli soldier.

The media was all over this even though an investigation strongly suggested that James Miller was killed by Palestinians “from the direction of the populated Rafah.” Although people know that Palestinians routinely hide behind civilian hostages, deliberately target Israeli civilians, especially children, create their own “martyrs” (the Muhammad al-Dura case as well as the Rachel Corrie case immediately come to mind)—nevertheless, the media refuses to hold Palestinians accountable and refuses to believe that the Israelis are innocent. The media knows full well that they will be killed or not allowed to “report” in Palestinian areas if they publish anything negative, anything true. By now, this habit is ingrained.

One of the recently beaten, tortured, and arrested Palestinian female journalists, Asma Al-Ghoul, is someone whom I first interviewed in 2009. Al-Ghoul is a secular feminist and a journalist who has written brave articles about honor killings on the West Bank and in Gaza. She asked me to edit and publish some of her work and I proudly did so. Al-Ghoul has been harassed and arrested by Hamas before. Why? Ostensibly because she dared to laugh, wear jeans on the beach, and entered the sea, fully clothed, to swim. These were her crimes—plus the fact that she was a single woman (divorced, actually), out in public, not wearing hijab, and relaxing on the beach with—unbelievably—male friends.

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