Toxic effects of censorship on Gaza

Jan 31, 2024
Bandaged mouth of a man with the word censored in English

Doctors, Teachers, Journalists, Academics are being disciplined, hauled before disciplinary bodies and even sacked for criticising the slaughter in Gaza and, most heinous sin of all, for mentioning genocide. Arrayed against those professionals is a lobby promoting the notion that criticism of Israeli government policies is anti-Semitic, hence the need to censor commentary about the massacres in Gaza.

Censorship ensures that professionals with strongly held views about freedom for Palestine, starting with a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank, should be stifled. If that happens, the public remain ignorant of the extent of depravity in this so called war.

Censorship may be widespread in Israel and the US where in public discourse the words apartheid, genocide, are forbidden. The same stifling of freedom of speech should not be allowed to fester in Australia, but it takes courage not to buckle to the demands of a Zionist lobby which behaves as though it knows best, is entitled to influence policy and should be able to control what is said and published.

A group of 156 Lawyers for Israel complained to the ABC about the broadcaster’s alleged one sided coverage of events in Gaza. This invisible group, mostly privileged men I assume, seemed to hate not being in control, hence their determination to gain access to those with power in the national broadcaster. The journalist Antoinette Lattouf became a target for re-posting a Human Rights Watch report on Israel’s use of starvation as a weapon of war. The unnamed lawyers gained their victory for censorship. Lattouf was sacked.

Behaving like an anti-Semitism watchdog, an influential commentator for Sky News brings to the attention of the NSW Department of Education the pro-Palestine stand of a school principal Erin Dib, who happened to be the wife of State Minister Jihad Dib. An excited Sky News reports as though at war: they have an ‘explosive video’ which shows a school principal planning pro Palestine protests in public schools.

If a concocted humane image of an Israel whose army does not target civilians is disputed, the questioners must be disciplined. Really?

Similar efforts to control and censor are occurring in medical practice. The Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) is reported to have received 59 complaints about doctors who may have commented on social media about killings in Gaza and the destruction of hospital facilities. Complainants, who say that the media posts are anti-Semitic, racist and support terrorism, are anonymous yet the AHPRA regulators are making inquiries about supposed deviant doctors who must prepare written responses to charges made by these unknown accusers.

The extent of this out of touch bureaucratic absurdity is illustrated in the case of the trainee doctor in Gaza who had lost five relatives and commented on the genocide in his country. Under the assumption that doctors’ freedom to share their observations must be limited, the offending practitioner is the subject of an inquiry.

Silence is golden. Doctors can be reprimanded for breaking the silence. Really?

Faced with 25,000 deaths in Gaza, with an Israeli Prime Minister determined to continue annihilation of a people, until he achieves complete victory, there remains a very strong case for professionals speaking freely and without fear. In the case of health care professionals, the Hippocratic oath shows why.

That oath obliges doctors to stick to the essential principle to abstain from all intentional wrong doing and harm. If a doctor knows about the spread of a disease and fails to report it, that could surely be construed as harm. On similar grounds, doctors who have observed end of time slaughters in Gaza and say nothing, would be ignoring their professional obligations. Under the terms advised by Hippocrates, they have a responsibility to tell the world about Gaza and should be thanked for doing so.

In the run up to the Second World War, the social scientist Robert Lynd, scolded his colleagues for not commenting on the Nazi expansion and the impending dangers of discrimination against Jews. In ’Knowledge for what?’, he accused social scientists of keeping their heads down, avoiding trouble by concentrating only on their career interests. Despite awareness of growing inhumanities in Europe, academics stayed silent. They were, he said, ‘lecturing on navigation while the ship was going down.’

Depiction of a ‘war’ in Gaza presupposes the grossly inaccurate, therefore immoral picture of two sides, hence censorship to asses whether a commentator is pro Israel or pro Palestine. This lazy binary illusion ignores the life and death interests of a common humanity, Israeli and Palestinian.

A common humanity will have to be resurrected after the bombs have stopped falling, after the carnage in Gaza has ended. That resurrection can start now by fostering freedom of speech, by encouraging observations about racism, apartheid, genocide and by ceasing censorship of the gutsy professionals who take principled stands.

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