Representations of Palestinian Grief

At The Feminist Wire, Yehuda Sharim writes about the ways in which Israeli media outlets construct Palestinian grief as violent, barbaric, and unworthy of empathetic understanding. Sharim argues that representations of Palestinian mourning as unruly and dangerous reinforce an Israeli rhetoric that portrays Palestinians as subhuman, savage, and incapable of participating in the peace process. These images perpetuate the widespread belief that Palestinians are not equal to Israelis and that any violence Israel unleashes is justified.

The circulation of Palestinian women’s pain, like the images of suffering of Muslim and Arab women around the world, is consumed by the West as a spectacle that exists outside time and space. Their cries are not located in space or specific geography, but rather they appear on Israeli TV as one “Palestinian” body. Their differences are erased in favor of an essentialized portrayal transfixed in a state of perpetual hysteria, seemingly since the beginning of history. Not only in their lives are Palestinians perceived as violent, but also when they are facing death. Depictions of their “unintelligible” ways of meeting death construct a clear understanding of Palestinian identity, immorality, and most importantly, dismissal of life. They are ready to die. Recycling the images of cryptic torment of those who are ready to die justifies, once again, the ostensibly rational claims of Israeli generals in favor of violence: “We have no partner (of the same ‘civilized’ and moral level) for peace.”
Israeli media does not engage Palestinian pain and grief in a meaningful manner. In particular, images of Palestinian women’s “uncontrollable” and “disruptive” laments propagate moral (and racial) division that has dominated Israeli and Western television. Along with rejection by the Israeli government of the Israeli NGO B’Tetselem to have the names of Palestinian children aired on Israeli television, the mourning of Palestinian women has no justification to the Israeli viewer. Israelis have no Gaza, no city of the displaced and maimed. Israeli depictions of Palestinian pain as barbaric are, in other words, a way to escape responsibility, to be accountable for their deeds, to recognize Palestinians as equal owners of the land and thereby imagining a life of peace and justice.
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