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Liam Mitchell during the panel. Photo by Afaf Ghazi.

Israel and Palestine Panel Discussion at Trent Speaks Truth to Power

Written by
Afaf Ghazi
and
and
November 10, 2023

Israel and Palestine Panel Discussion at Trent Speaks Truth to Power
Liam Mitchell during the panel. Photo by Afaf Ghazi.

While the Canadian government continues to shy away from calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing attacks by Israel, Trent University is among other Canadian institutions that do not mirror that sentiment. 

The university played host to a panel discussion titled “Israel and Palestine: What is Happening and What Might Happen Next?” on November 7th, covering the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the West Bank. 

The panelists included Trent University professors from different departments, offering critical analyses of the occupation and its media coverage. 

Feyzi Baban from the Department of International Development Studies (IDST) and professor of Middle East studies said while the condemnation of the Hamas attack should be universal, international law applies to everyone equally.

“Since Israel’s attacks on Gaza, we see a terrible double standard on a part of our governments, world leaders, the media and larger political establishments to acknowledge what’s really happening here,” Baban said.

Israel has violated international and humanitarian law and the proof has been documented for more than three weeks now. 

“International law states that you cannot target civilians, you cannot indiscriminately kill civilians and you cannot collectively punish the civilian population,” Baban said, noting Israel’s campaign is doing just that.

Israel has cut access to basic necessities for Palestinians, including food, water, fuel and medical supplies. Humanitarian aid is restricted into Gaza, and meanwhile, people and buildings—including two universities— have been bombed.

Dr. Anne Meneley, a cultural anthropologist who has worked with activists in the West Bank said, “Palestinians have lived under occupations for decades but this is the worst it has been.”

Photo by Afaf Ghazi.

Baban also read out statements from Israeli officials and their political establishments, highlighting the plan of the Israeli government. 

The Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly;” IDF spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, made the admission that “hundreds of tons of bombs” had already been dropped on the Gaza strip, adding that “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.” 

Ghassan Alian, head of The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said “Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

However, Israeli officials and their statements are never condemned in the media.

Panelist and professor in the Cultural Studies Department, Liam Mitchell, offered a criticism of mainstream media in their coverage of the crisis and how social media is shifting the narrative for Western youth.

“The mainstream media is losing the viewership battle, certainly with the younger generations, as most folks under 40 are not necessarily going to CNN and such, and [are] getting their news from Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other such outlets,” Mitchell said.

Slide from Liam Mitchell’s presentation.

He points out the many techniques mainstream media takes in, either showing bias or neutrality. For example, the National Post covers their pages with Israeli victims, but calls pro-Palestinian protests “terror rallies.” 

Another tactic is the “missing subject,” where the reporters fail to name a possible perpetrator, saying the “blast did it.” Or additionally, the passive voice used in the media when it comes to Israel’s occupation and war crimes: headlines such as “family members were killed in Gaza” instead of saying Israel dropped bombs or “the entire population of the West Bank village of Zanota is moving” instead of saying they are being expelled from their land.

Slide from Liam Mitchell’s presentation.

The media is leaning into the uncertainty of the truth.

As the youth take to Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for their primary source of news, the bias of mainstream media is less convincing. People can directly “see what is happening with their own eyes,” Mitchell said during the panel. 

There are efforts by pro-Israelis on social media to increase Israeli support, such as parody skits of Palestinian supporters, sexualizing women in the IDF or falsifying evidence by the Israeli intelligence. However, Mitchell said their efforts are not reaching the younger audiences who also see live occupation footage from the likes of social media journalists Motaz Aziza and Plestia Alaqad.

“These are ineffective and incompetent propaganda efforts because they are resolutely non-metaphorical, they don’t admit any ambiguity that would open them to understanding the conflict in non-Zionist terms.”

A Palestinian international student at Trent, who wishes to remain anonymous shared her own experience as a Palestinian native who is unable to return to her birthplace in the West Bank. 

“The points at the panel were all well said,” she noted. “It would also be more beneficial to have more diverse voices on the panel.

Another attendee was Karen Uwimana, a student in International Development Studies.

“It was a great panel and there shouldn’t be any disparities on what side to be on,” Uwimana said. “It’s not a complex issue, it’s a humanitarian issue.”

Hannah McCammom, a Cultural Studies student was said it was an opportunity for students to talk and learn about the issue.

“It is a space for Trent students to come and make it clear that we are demanding a ceasefire and we do not stand for genocide of the Palestinian people.”

A newspaper with a collage of peopleDescription automatically generated
Taken from the National Post.
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