A Mea Culpa From The Media
11/18/2012 - 12:07
Helen Chernikoff
Palestinians search the debris of the al-Dallu family home after an Israeli airstrike on Nov. 18. Getty Images
Palestinians search the debris of the al-Dallu family home after an Israeli airstrike on Nov. 18. Getty Images

As Israel’s offensive in Gaza gathers momentum, many in the Jewish community have noticed international coverage of suffering in the strip.

They have accordingly seized the opportunity to again protest the media’s neglect of Sderot and other southern Isareli communities that bear the burden of daily bombardment.

The Jewish Week itself published such an article just last week, which describes in vivid and painful detail the plight of Sderot’s children. They start school late to avoid missile attacks. They suffer the anger and insomnia of war veterans. They are deprived of music, because it might block out the sound of the red alert.

“The very nature of a healthy life as set forth by the United Nations Rights of the Child has been turned on its head for the children of Sderot,” writes Joshua Altman, a psychotherapist who specializes in the mental health of children and adolescents.

In fact, there have been articles in the international media about the horrors of life in Sderot. Here’s a 2009 piece from the New York Times. Another from NPR, 2008. Reuters.

In a larger sense, of course, Mr. Altman is right. There aren’t enough of these articles. What goes on in Sderot is so tragic it merits much more attention.

But their absence isn’t the result of an anti-Israel bias on the part of the media, the proof being that there are also not enough articles about life for children in Gaza. There, the growth of 10 percent of children under five is stunted due to malnutrition, according to a 2012 report by Save the Children. Most schoolchildren there are anemic. In 2012, three children drowned in pools of open sewage.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child does not hold there, either. Yet Israel is a signatory.

Both of these travesties are under-covered by news outlets. The reason: they are daily life. News is change. The highest service news organizations provide is describing it. They – we – are by our very nature less able to depict what happens day in and day out. Gaza is receiving attention, but that’s because of the war. And Sderot is, too. 

This has always bothered me about my profession, but then no profession is perfect, and I think the world would be worse off without the press than it is with it. Also, I think the struggle to be fully present in our daily lives is rooted in human nature. Mr. Altman is far more qualified to reflect on this than I am (although I have been through years of therapy and periodically try to meditate), but isn't this a challenge for most of us? Don't we generally prefer instead to escape into fantasy or even some kind of addiction whether it’s TV or food or sex? That must have something to do with why people don’t want to read the same thing every day, or write about it.

Even -- or especially? -- when it’s outrageous, as daily life is, in both Sderot, and Gaza.

helenatjewishweek@gmail.com; @thesimplechild

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