The South African Muslim Network (Samnet) has commended the media and online coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza, describing it as contrastingly different to the coverage received during the 2009 and 2012 outbreaks in the region.
This comes despite an intensive ‘hasbara’ campaign by Israel, aimed at spreading positive information about the state to counter any negative publicity levelled against them. Reports have surfaced of the Israeli government ’employing’ young Israeli supporters to take to social media, and actively spread propaganda about the state and its policies.
Samnet chairperson, Dr Faisal Suliman, said the positive response was down to the rise of social media as a news source, as well as a form of activism. He acknowledged the countless Palestinian sympathisers who took to platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to share information and express their views. He also highlighted the countless protest marches taking place as also having a major impact on media coverage.
“I think those images can’t be hidden to the extent that the hasbara campaign would have liked,” he explained.
He suggested running a similar campaign, aimed at educating the community about the true facts of the crisis in Gaza. He suggested this campaign could also be used to educate those in support of the Palestinian cause, on what and what not to say when debate or discussing the issue online.
Having paid close attention to the conflict over the past few weeks, Suliman personally viewed the shelling of four Palestinian youth on a Gaza beach, as the turning point in terms of media coverage. He said the incident seemed to have provoked condemnation from even the most biased of reporters.
However, despite the largely positive response from the media, Suliman was still concerned that the narrative of the conflict hadn’t changed at the local public broadcaster. Referencing an interview with the Palestinian and Israeli ambassadors on SAFM, he accused the public broadcaster of using an accusatory tone when addressing the Palestinian viewpoint, whilst taking a more sympathetic approach to the Israeli cause.
“In fact, I’ve launched complaints with the BCCSA on two occasions. I’ve called it on the fact that when the Palestinian representative was being interviewed, he was being interrogated. But when the Israeli ambassador was being interviewed, he was really given a chance to do P.R,” he asserted.
He also warned the community against taking a violent and hate fuelled approach to their activism against Israeli oppression, saying it would perpetuate every negative stereo type against the Muslim community.
“Apparently there was a march where young people were dressed like ISIS (Islamic State of Syria), and carrying ISIS flags and rockets. That is exactly the image that is playing into their hands,” he warned. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)