Commentary. The mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, will remain in the European imagination because of the effort of the political leaders who visited it. Those at Khan Younis and Al Shifa will not. One can hardly find them mentioned in the newspapers.

Israel is leaving mass graves of women and children and the world is silent

On Sunday, an Israeli air strike on Rafah killed 16 children and six women. Meanwhile, a new mass grave was discovered, at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, after the long Israeli siege that ended on April 7: 283 bodies inside plastic bags, many tied up, many killed at close range, probably executed. Including women, children, elderly people.

When the offensive finally ends, wherever one walks in Gaza, one will be walking on corpses.

It’s not the first time such a discovery was made. It already happened at Al Shifa Hospital. Mass graves make the blood run cold, cementing the horror in the global imagination: it is the ultimate form of abuse. It’s not just the death inflicted, but also the humiliation it entails: the outrage of being consigned to oblivion without dignity. The mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, will remain in the European imagination because of the effort of the political leaders who visited it. Those at Khan Younis and Al Shifa will not. One can hardly find them mentioned in the newspapers; and if they’re talked about at all, they’re questioned: the dead must have been fighters, it must be a doctored video, maybe Hamas did it.

The downplaying of war crimes committed by Israel – if not their outright concealment – is one of the defining traits of this offensive. It has historical roots, here and elsewhere. Ever since its origins, the Israeli-Palestinian question has been a clash over land. But it has also been, and still is, a clash between different narratives. One’s self-narrative is both the source of identity and the voice of that identity, all the more so in a colonial context in which the denial of the other, of the subordinate, is a structural element of the dispossession and subjugation.

At the beginning of the 1900s, when the Zionist movement arrived in the land of Palestine, the Palestinian people already had a strongly-rooted national and nationalist sentiment and a complex collective (political, cultural, social) identity. With their self-determination continuously denied, the need for external recognition came through the use of a universal and shared language: the vocabulary of international law.

In the academic world, settlement colonialism, apartheid and now genocide have been the conceptual tools used to describe the nature of the Israeli state – amid indifference among the wider public. Until today: that lexicon has become global, to the point that it is being echoed in the courtroom of the International Court of Justice.

It finds no echo in the Western media system, where semantic violence serves to justify concrete violence perpetrated in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In Italy, the dynamic is blatantly obvious: the uncritical adoption of the Israeli narrative, in addition to being dictated by sympathy with Tel Aviv’s claims, is functional to the support for a model of unequal citizenship, racialized securitarianism and self-appointed moral superiority.

A good part of the Italian press is reproducing this model based on a racist and neo-colonial attitude. Palestinian lives don’t matter, just as the lives of migrants or second-generations immigrants matter less.

The effects are obvious: the repetition of Israel’s language, even when in blatant contradiction with the dictates of international law, the absence of those who are perpetrating the violence (against the Palestinians dead from war and from exile), the questioning of Palestinian testimonies, the omission of historical context.

But more than anything else, there is the concealment of Israeli war crimes – and this is what creates more bewilderment and pain. The slaughter of children, the targeted strikes on schools, churches and mosques, the vilification of hospitals, the attacks on safe corridors as displaced people pass through, the closure of border crossings to cause famine, artificial intelligence to paper over the slaughter – none of this is recounted to its true extent by media outlets that in other contexts have rightly voiced their outrage. The images of prisoners stripped, bound, blindfolded, piled up in stadiums or squares don’t seem to generate the same outrage.

Such lack of representation doesn’t only affect the Palestinians. It also affects us: it is the run-up to the criminalization of those who dissent, accused of anti-Semitism (at best), beaten with batons at worst.

It makes one wonder that the same media system that chooses to cover the student movement by conjuring up the specter of the “Years of Lead” and political terrorists brandishing five-pointed stars, when faced with war crimes being committed on live TV and the transformation of Gaza into a place unfit for habitation, is still only engaging in pointless babble about whether or not one can call it a “plausible genocide.”

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