The July 14 New York Times online presented a film, “So They Know We Existed,” about the recent Israel-Hamas mini-war. Gaza residents shot it using their phones. The film is touching. It’s also misleading.
First, highlights: An opening title states, “Palestinians in Gaza captured the conflict as it unfolded.” They did, and the film is filled with real images of collapsed buildings, the wounded and the dead. Gazans, who have names and faces, tell their stories.
“This was the most difficult moment of my life,” says Sma Ahel, 15, interviewed with her older sister Tasneem, 17. Moamen Jarad, a young musician, relates how his dreams were ruined when a bomb destroyed the building housing his studio and office. “I went from successful to unemployed.” A young girl, Amal Naseer, relates, “We heard terrifying sounds like missiles and shells.” She and her family fled in the night.
Associated Press and Al-Jazeera staffs evacuated the building housing their offices after receiving a notice that it would be bombed in one hour. According to journalist Safwat Al-Kahlout, “Everything just vanished.” He adds, “Our whole life is built on emergencies.” Alaa Al-Nuaizi shows the difficulty brave men face rescuing people in collapsed buildings.
More heartrending accounts of destruction and death follow. Areej Abu Aoda, 23, gave birth to a son the day before the ceasefire. She says, “I want my children… to have a future.” Without question, Gazans deserve better.
The film ends with a Times statement that Israeli officials said, “. . . they were targeting Hamas military infrastructure, not civilians.” The closing title states that 260 Palestinians were killed and 13 people in Israel.
Yes, the film offers a perspective regarding the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. One. What’s just as important is the other that it leaves out.
“So They Know We Existed” fails to deal with the cause of the strife. Hamas is sworn to destroy Israel. This goes beyond the political for which compromise can be found. As to aggression’s consequences, deaths in Gaza make news. Hamas hopes these will work against Israel in the international press and social media.
No one asks why Hamas again rocketed Israel, understandably provoking a response. No one wonders that “only” 260 Palestinians—not all civilians—were killed given Israel’s massive firepower.
And no one mentions Israelis’ right to dream and look to a better future.
Obviously, Gazans weren’t able to video Hamas rocket launches—usually adjacent to or within civilian structures—destruction in Israel and the bodies of the thirteen people murdered there. No one places responsibility on Hamas. And no one ponders whether Israelis would prefer not to be on the receiving end of rockets—launched indiscriminately by the thousands, unlike Israeli bombs and artillery—and incendiary balloons sent over the border to start fires.
Gazans express only their own plight—truly sad—because mentioning Israelis in a sympathetic tone could lead to death.
The Times, not threatened, provides no context. Even the numbers of dead on each side are misleading. Israeli casualties were minimized thanks to the country’s Iron Dome air-defense system. Should Israel have voluntarily suffered more deaths?
I feel Palestinians’ pain. It exists. If only Hamas did. And if only the Times would have honestly acknowledged the pain suffered by Israelis, whose pain also exists.
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