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Unnatural Disasters

Refugee camp in Iraq
Refugee camp in Iraq
Faten Dabis

For weeks after the calamity in Haiti took place, it dominated all media outlets and most social networking sites.  The recent earthquake in Chile garnered considerable, although not nearly as much, attention.  When Haiti was hit, many on Facebook posted the numbers to call and text to donate to relief efforts.  Some posted their sympathy for all of the Haitian orphans and asked others to donate.  Countries around the world sent food, medical aid and their people to help the population of Port Au Prince.

Anderson Cooper talked about the tragedy while standing next to a mass grave.  He seemed genuinely distraught noting that he had to plug his nose because the stench of death was so strong.  He also discussed how children who simply had broken bones were dying of sepsis because there was no medication to treat their wounds.  He rightfully stated how dying from a broken bone due to an infection resulting from inadequate medical supplies is just “stupid” and how it doesn’t have to happen.  On the Golden Globes this year, actors, writers and directors rightfully mentioned Haiti in most of their speeches and again during the after show.

The profound suffering in Haiti drew media attention, millions in donations and almost universal sympathy, as well it should!  By contrast, during the January 2009 Golden Globes, Gaza was literally on fire and barely a word was uttered about the stench of death or the Palestinian children who were dying of sepsis because they were intentionally being denied medication by Israel.  Likewise, the images of dead children being pulled from Gaza’s rubble were missing from the landscape.  There were few pictures of the thousands of refugees or the destroyed homes, businesses, schools, mosques, churches, zoos and warehouses.  The media barely discussed the bloodbath or the stench of death or the deliberate destruction of a hospital.  At best, it was mentioned in passing with blame being assigned largely to Hamas for Israel’s actions.

Similarly, when Israel attacked the Jenin refugee camp in 2002, there were mass murders and mass graves but again, no media coverage and no outcry.  In 1982, Lebanon saw the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps where over 3000 Palestinians were slaughtered in less than two days.  Nonetheless, most Americans have no idea that these events ever occurred as the media gave them little to no coverage.

In Iraq, the U.S. created a man made disaster with its 1991 and 2003 wars.  Hundreds of thousands were killed, cities were destroyed and millions of Iraqi children were orphaned.  The same is true in Afghanistan yet there is no outcry of sympathy for Afghani or Iraqi orphans.

While it is touching to see this outpouring of support for fellow human beings, where is the same outpouring of support for those suffering from genocide or war?  Where are the pleas to donate to those starving in Gaza or homeless in Afghanistan?  More importantly, where is the public outcry against allowing war and genocide in the first place?

The moral of the story seems to be that natural disasters are tragic and intolerable while suffering caused by war, genocide and state imposed starvation is perfectly acceptable.  Sadly, how much sympathy people get is directly related to who their oppressor is.  If it’s mother nature or a perceived enemy, then an outpouring of support is warranted.  If, however, the criminal is the state or an “ally,” then the victims apparently deserve minimal media coverage and apathy at best.


  • T.M. 5 years ago

    Even though both are very sad & unimaginable situations Faten. The media & attention given to both are a great comparison of how the "allied" countries are conciously & selectively oblivious to the happenings of the palestinian people. To me one of the hardest things is to watch people suffer & be disgraced in ways that 99% of us couldnt even imagine! The U.S. and others have not only witnessed it, but have turned their backs & worst of all havent exposed it in any way. Good for you for having the "balls" & the concious to write it!!! Good work Faten.

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