GCC Hasbara: “Zionist-y Rhetoric” Pervades Reporting on Gaza War

Gulf media dutifully covered events on the ground when the Qatari Emir visited Gaza last month, but have been less comprehensive in their coverage of Israel's attacks on the Strip. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed Abed)

Media commentators in the Arab Gulf and beyond are using social media to push the press there to be more aggressive in its Gaza coverage, as most major outlets tried to remain as circumspect as possible.

Twitter on Thursday was rife with criticism over Gulf media reactions to Israel’s assault on Gaza – particularly that of al-Arabiya, much of it aired under the hashtag tafkeek al-khitab al-mutasahien (dismantling the Zionist-y rhetoric).

Print coverage of the attacks on Gaza focused on official condemnations from the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab leaders, but conspicuously avoided evocative details from the ground or mentions of popular reactions. Yet again, the GCC states have gotten themselves in an awkward position and are hoping media scrutiny of Israel’s war in Palestine will not widen to include their own role in contributing to the current crisis.

Many observers took issue with what they saw as the sterilization of the media’s language, such as the preference for the neutral term qutila (killed) rather than istashhada (martyred) when talking about Palestinian deaths.

Ahmed bin Rashed bin Saeed, a communications professor at King Saud University with over 60,000 Twitter followers, has been outspoken in his criticism of the Gulf press, tweeting:

Al-Arabiya: second day of operation ‘Cloud Column’. Borrowing the Zionist term is propaganda, and, like the word ‘targets,’ spurns the victim and marginalizes the issue of life and death.

Ibrahim al-Shami, a Lebanese journalist for Quds TV, responded, noting that even when an al-Arabiya correspondent used the word “martyrs” the news anchor continued to say “killed.”

Bin Saeed went on to call out an article in the pan-Arab, Saudi-funded al-Sharq al-Awsat for repeating Israeli newspaper claims that assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jaabari was responsible for the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, as well as quoting Israeli sources referring the targeting of “armed organizations” inside Gaza, as opposed to “the resistance.”

Meanwhile, Abdullah al-Athbah , managing editor of the Qatari newspaper al-Arab, who has over 40,000 followers on Twitter, lightly criticized the GCC, but with an eye to Gulf interests and geopolitics:

“[The GCC] must respect its peoples and fulfill its historic duty along with Egypt to stop the Zionist assault on Gaza and put a halt to the Iranians,” he tweeted.

Al-Arab’s leading headline today was: “Qatar Calls for Punishment of Israel.”

Meanwhile, outrage erupted over comments made by Dubai police chief Dhahi Khalfan two days ago that Israel has a right to live in security and is not a threat to the Arabs.

In response, Alaa Asaad al-Saftawi responded: “Are the Palestinians not Arabs?”

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