Chris Agbedo, Professor of Linguistics, is a contributor to USAfricaLive.com and its interactive platforms. Exclusive commentary to USAfrica
In the current Israel-Hamas/Palestine war, as characteristic of many other conflict situations, truth often becomes a victim. The fog of war, coupled with the deliberate dissemination of misinformation and propaganda, can obscure the real events and create a complex landscape where it is challenging to discern the unvarnished truth. In such a context, verifying facts and seeking multiple perspectives becomes crucial to understanding the realities of the conflict.
On Tuesday, October 17, 2023, a massive blast rocked al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. The hospital was packed with wounded Gazans and other Palestinians seeking shelter and medical care. At least, 500 people were killed as claimed by the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Whereas Hamas blamed an Israeli airstrike, the Israeli military blamed a rocket misfired by other Palestinian militants. This cycle of accusations, often laced with inflammatory rhetoric, perpetuates the conflict and hinders efforts for a peaceful resolution.
The devastating impact has been accompanied by familiar and disheartening companions: the politics of disinformation, propaganda, and blame game.
Ten days earlier, in the early hours of Saturday, October 7, the Hamas militants inflicted terror attacks inside Israel. They killed — within a couple of hours — more than 250 persons at the Tribe of Nova Festival in Re’im, Israel. More Israeli deaths occurred, thousands were injured and hundreds were kidnapped by Hamas.
Unfortunately, in the midst of dire human suffering, the blame game takes over, diverting attention from the real issue of the loss of our humanity.
Those and other horrifying incidents expose the stark reality of the dark side of human behavior. They represent an egregious violation of our collective values for compassion.
Hospitals are universal symbols of compassion, where lives are saved, and suffering is alleviated. They stand as a testament to our shared commitment to preserving and caring for life. However, in the chaos of conflict, empathy often gives way to brutality..
The international community’s inability to protect a hospital and the lives within is a poignant testament to the inadequacies in our collective responsibility to safeguard the most vulnerable during times of conflict. Surely, the Israel-Hamas conflict, a seemingly endless struggle, has claimed a relentless toll, with the most tragic casualty being our shared humanity. It is an avoidable tragedy that shocks the conscience and leaves us questioning the state of our humanity.
The international community, too, finds itself divided along political lines in assigning blame, fueling war propaganda, and riding the crest of spins and twisted narratives to lend extra verve to the belligerence of the dueling parties, all leading to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Some nations support Israel’s right to defend itself, while others condemn Israeli actions and demand justice for Palestinians. This international division makes it increasingly difficult to find common ground and facilitate peace talks.
Experience has shown that the Israel-Hamas/Palestine conflict is not only a struggle on the ground but also in the realm of international media coverage. The international press is not helping matters with their real and perceived biased reportage. Two major news outlets, CNN and Al Jazeera, have come under scrutiny for perceived biases in reporting this deeply complex and contentious issue. CNN, one of the world’s most prominent news networks, has faced allegations of pro-Israel bias in its coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Critics argue that the network’s reporting tends to favour Israel’s narrative and often emphasizes the security concerns of the Israeli state. They point to instances where Palestinian voices and perspectives are underrepresented or presented in a less pathetic light. Supporters of CNN, on the other hand, argue that the network strives to maintain balanced reporting but faces inherent challenges in doing so due to access restrictions and the nature of the conflict. They contend that CNN provides a platform for diverse viewpoints.
In the same vein, Aljazeera is accused of bias in its reporting of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Critics claim that the network’s coverage tends to highlight the suffering of Palestinians while downplaying Israel’s security concerns. They argue that Al Jazeera’s reporting sometimes employs emotional language and grisly video footages that evoke sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Proponents of Al Jazeera assert that the network serves as a vital platform for amplifying the Palestinian perspective and provides an essential counterbalance to what they see as mainstream media’s pro-Israel bias. They argue that Al Jazeera’s reporting helps shed light on the plight of Palestinians.
Hospitals, particularly in times of conflict, should stand as neutral sanctuaries where the injured and sick can seek care without discrimination. However, in the bombing of a Gaza hospital, this neutrality was shattered, and the political argumentation began to eclipse the stark tragedy. In the face of propaganda, media literacy is an invaluable tool for the public. Critical thinking, fact-checking, and seeking diverse sources of information are essential in navigating the information landscape and forming a more accurate understanding of the situation. Unfortunately, the tragic stories of innocent civilians who lost their lives or sustained injuries, and indeed their collective humanity are often reduced to collateral damage in the rhetorical warfare between the parties.
In such excruciating circumstances, it is indeed humanity that suffers the greatest loss. The sad incident has raised an agonizing question that reverberates across the globe: where has our humanity gone? The horrifying incident serves as a stark reminder of the depths to which humanity can descend when conflict rages on. The Israel-Hamas conflict is a harsh reminder of the beast that resides within human beings – the capacity for violence, hatred, and the pursuit of revenge. The loss of lives in such a setting is an affront to our shared values of compassion and empathy. It underscores the stark reality that in times of conflict, humanity can take the back seat in deference to political and military exigencies.
The Israel-Hamas/Palestine conflict is deeply rooted in historical grievances, territorial disputes, and a web of religious and political complexities. Over the years, it has defied attempts at resolution, perpetuating a cycle of violence that takes an ever-increasing toll on human lives. The international community has struggled to find a solution to this long-standing conflict. Diplomatic efforts and ceasefires have been short-lived, leading to a sense of helplessness in the face of such unyielding violence. The most distressing about this conflict is the way it is eroding our collective sense for empathy. Hence, the primal instinct for vengeance often overtakes the capacity for understanding and compassion.
The question remains whether the world is doing enough to prevent the erosion of our shared humanity. After all, it is only through cooperation and dialogue that the cycle of violence can be broken.
We must work tirelessly to ensure that humanity takes precedence over conflict and that the casualties of war are the values we hold dear. In this moment of despair, we must come together to rekindle the flame of empathy and compassion. We must ensure that such acts never happen again and work toward a world where our shared humanity takes precedence over hatred, violence, and cruelty.
We should demand accountability from those responsible and work towards a world where such heinous acts are unthinkable. As the world watches, hoping that one day, the cycle of violence can be broken, and the beast in human beings can be tamed, it behooves us human beings to transcend these primal instincts and seek to build a saner society anchored on peace, empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding.