TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hazem Almassry, a Palestinian scholar from Gaza conducting research in Taiwan, said that the Western media is providing a skewed coverage of the Israeli-Hamas war that is mainly from the Israeli perspective.
Almassry, who was born and raised in the Gaza Strip, received a scholarship for a PhD program in Australia. After receiving his doctorate, he applied for a position at a university in the West Bank and was initially approved.
However, when school officials found out that he was a resident of Gaza and did not have a foreign passport, the West Bank University rejected his application. They said they could not sponsor his visa.
When his brother communicated with Palestinian officials on getting him permission to enter the West Bank, they said that even if they could obtain the permission, it could be withdrawn at any time by Israeli soldiers. He instead opted for an opportunity at an institute in northern Taiwan, which he preferred not to mention due to the current political sensitivities amid the war.
Almassry said there are no official ties between Palestine and Taiwan, and exchanges only take place on an individual basis, such as study programs in Taiwan. He said that Taiwanese mainly go to Palestine for tourism, make pilgrimages to Bethlehem, and visit holy places there.
Almassry said that the Palestinian community in Taiwan is quite small. He said he knows a few other Palestinians in Taiwan, but he is one of only two people from Gaza that he is aware of.
When asked about the ways in which the Western mainstream media was not providing balanced reporting on the Israel-Hamas war, Almassry said that the tendency is to fixate on Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the Israeli point of view, while neglecting the history of the occupied territories and the Palestinian perspective. He said while there is footage of demolished buildings in Gaza, there is not enough coverage of the toll on civilians, with over 10,000 killed, including 4,000 children at the date of the interview on Nov. 2.
Almassry claimed that early reports of beheaded babies, rapes, and other alleged acts of savagery by Palestinian militants were later disproven. For example, he said the White House walked back on previous comments by Biden that he had seen images of babies beheaded.
He said that the Western media's fixation on Oct. 7, misses the underlying cause of the conflict: the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. According to Almassry, after Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza during the Six-Day War in 1967, it seized Palestinian identities from the civil registry and nullified them, preventing many Palestinians from ever returning to the occupied territories.
Although Israel espouses the desire for peace, Almassry said that it is seeking to maintain the status quo by forcing Palestinians to constantly deal with smaller problems. This included navigating checkpoints and retrieving corpses under its "indefinite military occupation and an apartheid system," rather than negotiating bigger issues such as statehood and national sovereignty.
He said that Israel has control over the West Bank's tax revenues and will impose punitive deductions from those funds in retaliation for any deaths of Israeli soldiers allegedly caused by Palestinians. He said that such penalties mean that Palestinian government employees may only receive 60% of their salary during a given month.
Almassry said Israel employs a strategy of "bread and circuses," with the "bread" being basic life necessities, while "circuses" are entertainment to distract the masses from their problems. However, at this stage, he said, Israel is only providing rations of the "bread."
Deterrence theory is a strategy Almassry said Israel used to prevent Palestinians from rising up through scorched-earth "shaving" and "mowing" military campaigns. During one of these campaigns, he said that his family farm in Gaza was destroyed, severely affecting their livelihoods.
According to Almassry, Israel has coined the term "social incubator of Hamas" to describe civilian zones that support militant activities and used that as justification to target civilian areas. He said that the bombing of civilian buildings in Gaza by Israel Defense Forces is a result of them being designated as social incubators.
However, he said that the result is that nearly all the casualties are civilians while the Hamas fighters live to fight another day, safe in their underground tunnels. He said the Israeli doctrine of dealing with its enemies with violence and escalating the violence, if it does not have the desired effect, leads to a vicious cycle.
Almassry confirmed claims that Gaza is the "world's largest open-air prison" because it is so difficult to obtain permission from Israel to leave the territory, even to go to the West Bank. He said that many people have been unable to leave the enclave for 30 to 40 years, and yet many residents are highly educated with advanced degrees.
The following is a transcript of select sections of the interview with Almassry:
Speaking of Gaza, you wanted to share with us some aspects of the situation in Gaza that are not being covered as much by the Western media. Is that correct?
Yes. I have a lot to say about that, especially in the Western media. The mainstream of the Western media, their coverage is unfortunately unbalanced.
They focus on one side. They focus on what happened in Israel on the Israeli side on Oct. 7. They cover all aspects of that event.
I even saw a report on Fox News about a puppy that was left or lost.
So that is their focus, but on the other side, they have nothing. They only give aerial photos showing the demolished houses without showing any photos or any footage that makes people sympathize with Palestinians.
They only want coverage that will make viewers sympathize with Israel. And the reality on the ground is horrible, massacres, a lot of massacres every day, daily.
So far, Israel killed more than 10,000 people, and about 4,000 children were killed in these massacres. So there is no balanced coverage in the Western media.
They also fabricated some news about what happened. Even President Biden recruited himself to be the spokesperson of the Israeli government, but not to tell the truth, just to spread lies, like the story about beheaded babies. Actually, this news was not true.
The White House walked back from this news. The same thing about the story about the raped women. There is no such incident. No one confirmed that news.
We have a lot of stories to tell the people or to show them how savage Palestinians are. All these stories are not correct.
Because what happened on Oct. 7 didn't start on Oct. 7. If we just focus on the event of Oct. 7, we take the event out of its context.
The story started a long time ago. The main problem or the core of the problem is the Israeli occupation.
In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians fled from their land and Israel was established at that time. So after 19 years, in 1967, Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.
When Israel occupied this territory, it intended to not leave this land. And when they say, we want peace, we want peace.
They say that only by talking, only speaking, but on the ground they destroy any chance to achieve peace. The question is not about whether Israelis or Palestinians want peace.
Actually, everyone wants peace, but the question should be: "What is Israel's approach to achieving peace?" Here is the question.
The Israeli approach to achieving peace is to maintain the status quo, to maintain the Palestinian indefinite military occupation and an apartheid system. This is their approach.
To distract them from demanding their right to their independence, statehood, sovereignty, and other big issues. They make them busy with small issues with the needs of daily life, like how to move.
They put a lot of checkpoints in the Palestinian areas. Even though the checkpoints are not needed, they put it just to make the Palestinians come to them and negotiate with them about these checkpoints.
If they needed, for example, a checkpoint for security purposes, they established 4 or 500 checkpoints to make Palestinians' lives hard.
In this case, the Palestinians, instead of going to Israel to negotiate about the big issues like statehood and national sovereignty and others, go to negotiate with the small issues like this, and everyone is not allowed to move.
For example, I am from Gaza, I am not allowed to go to the West Bank. And the same thing, those West Bankers are not allowed to go to Gaza.
They need permission from the Israeli army. They also use other policies and tactics to control the Palestinian people.
For example, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, all the people, the first thing Israel did was to control the civil registry, the information on the people here, their ID numbers, their addresses, locations, and everything. Israel controlled it. Took it over.
So what did they do? All the Palestinians who happened to be outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, their identification numbers were nullified for all of these people. For many Palestinians who were outside Palestine, all of their identification was nullified, and they dropped their ID numbers.
So when they come back, they are not allowed to come back to Palestine. They will treated just like foreigners.
A lot of people, a lot of my relatives are like this, including my father-in-law. So they found themselves to be refugees suddenly without any reason, and the Israelis used the civil registry to control the Palestinian's lives.
No one can move. No one can change his address from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. For example, I told you, I cannot go to the West Bank. If you are not a Palestinian, you can't go there and work there.
But for me, I can't, even though I am Palestinian and that university is a Palestinian university. All of these, you cannot do that.
Among the other policies Israel uses to control Palestinians is to withhold the Palestinian corpses. The Palestinian dead people and if Palestinians attack Israelis and Israelis manage to kill them.
After they kill him, they don't return his body to his family. They withhold it and they put it in a cemetery. They call it a cemetery of numbers.
They give his body a number and keep it in the grave or, now, in the refrigerators. Why? Because the Palestinians will come and negotiate with us later.
So we will not allow them to have a space to discuss the big issues. Just discuss matters such as "Please return this body, this corpse. Please open that road. Please remove this checkpoint. Please give us some water."
And now for salaries. The Palestinian people, the employees who work in the Palestinian Authority, don't receive full salaries. Why? Because Israel deducts from the tax revenues of the Palestinian Authority.
Israel collects the tax revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and then transfers that fund to the Palestinian Authority. But now they deduct any Israeli killed by a Palestinian or in a Palestinian attack and give that money to the family as compensation.
From where? From the Palestinian tax revenues.
Because they say the West Bank situation is different from the Gaza Strip. So anyone killed during the Palestinian attack, we give compensation from the Palestinian tax. So we deduct that.
The Palestinian Authority, you know, helps to keep the situation in the West Bank under control.
They don't want any armed resistance against Israel. So Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to stay there, to stay strong, even though they deduct from the salary, so the Palestinian Authority cannot pay full salary to its employees.
Sometimes they pay 60%, sometimes 70%. I don't know last month, maybe 90% or so. So that makes the Palestinian Authority go and beg the international community to just help us to pay the salary and to pay the other expenses in the Palestinian territories.
And Israel doesn't care. So the main goal of Israel is to make the Palestinian people's lives hard.
In that way, they will not look beyond that. If they have a good life, the Palestinians will start to look beyond that, beyond that means statehood and other big issues.
They want their independence and self-determination. Israel doesn't want to do that.
It doesn't want Palestinians to have this. It wants to make them always busy with these issues, small issues.
Actually, it is taken from an idea called "bread and circuses." Bread and circuses to make the people for any corrupted authority busy with two things: How to secure their living — bread — and to make them busy with circuses — entertainment, like games and other things.
But unfortunately, Israel only provides the bread half. Entertainment is not included in their dealing, only bread.
So Palestinians, the Palestinian people are always busy with their bread or their living security, their living. This is the situation in the West Bank in general.
In the Gaza Strip, we have a different situation. In the Gaza Strip, we have had a siege for 16 years now, and the ruling party is different from the ruling party in the West Bank. They have a different approach.
The Palestinian Authority, as I told you, rejects the use of an armed struggle against Israel. But Hamas, the ruling party, believes in armed struggle against Israel.
Because of that, Israel deals with Hamas as a hostile entity. So they want to make the people's lives in the Gaza Strip as hard as possible, but without letting them die. The people there.
They have had a siege on the Gaza Strip since 2006 and 2007, on that date. How has Israel dealt with it?
Israel developed a theory called "deterrence theory" to deter any attack or any Palestinian attempt to resist the occupation militarily. So in this theory, Israel targets the Palestinians, the armed Palestinians, the militant, and the non-militant.
For example, in 2001, Ariel Sharon who was the Prime Minister of Israel, launched an operation called "shaving." Shaving means to describe the Palestinian areas like a scalp.
If any attack on the Israeli targets came from the Palestinian area, it needs to be shaved, they will shave it. To shave the Palestinian land and area is a scalp and everything on it, houses, farms, wells, and any facilities, should be destroyed.
So they shave it. By the way, during this operation, the Israeli army destroyed our farm and it affected our situation in Gaza. It has had a severe impact on our financial situation there.
They also had an operation "mowing the grass" to destroy anything or any attempt by Palestinians to resist. According to the deterrence theory, Israel targets militants and the so-called "social incubator" of the militants.
This gives Israel the right to target the militant and non-militant, the surrounding areas, or even the civilians. So all of these people you see now, Israel considers them to be social incubators.
Oh, so when there are these bombings that occur in Gaza, they are considering them social incubators?
Yes, social incubators.
Yes, Israel mainly doesn't have much information about Hamas, where the Hamas militants are located. I think most of them hide in the tunnels waiting for the Israeli army.
But all of the people Israel targets now, all of them, or most of them, are civilians and Hamas is still intact. The only way to cause harm for Hamas is to go and destroy these tunnels.
But all of these strikes we see now target only civilians under the Israeli doctrine saying that or describing them as social incubators. So, the Israeli doctrine says that the best way to deal with any armed enemy is to use violence.
If, that violence didn't work, use more violence with them. This is the Israeli strategy toward the Palestinians.
At the same time, if they accept to not resist or to calm down, and to ease, we can give some facilities, we can increase the number of people who can move out of the Gaza Strip because no one can go out of the Gaza Strip without Israeli permission. So, for example, last month Israeli authorities agreed to grant the Palestinian (workers) more than 1,500 permits. So the total will be 20,000 Palestinians who can go out of the Gaza Strip (into Israel for work).
You know that the Gaza Strip is described as the biggest open-air prison. Actually, it is true. Can you believe that some people in the Gaza Strip now, it's been about 30 or 40 years that they have never left the Gaza Strip?
Why? Because there is no reason. They don't have the justification to leave the Gaza Strip.
You cannot say those people are not the sort of people who live under a rock. They are educated, and they have a high level of education.
Some of them have master's degrees. They never left the Gaza Strip. And the Gaza Strip is only 360 square km.