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As Israeli forces massacred Palestinians in Gaza on May 14, representing the culmination of Israel’s fanatically violent response to the Great Return March, mainstream media reached a terrifying new level in justifying this genocide: they blamed Palestinians for their own deaths.

Mainstream media, particularly The New York Times, repeated this narrative over and over again, in covering the mass mobilization. In a piece from May 16, titled “Gaza’s Miseries Have Palestinian Authors,” columnist Bret Stephens claimed Palestinians were intentionally harming themselves in order to blame Israel. Falsely branding Palestinian culture as one “of victimhood, violence and fatalism,” Stephens repeated the spurious claim that the protests were executed by the “despotic killers of Hamas.”

Similarly, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that “extremism corrupts” and implied that Palestinians had a choice, and if they behaved differently they might be better off. The Times’ pro-Israel, neo-conBari Weiss claimed on MSNBC that Hamas sends its people “on suicidal missions to the border dying for a photo op.”

Rounding out the “self-genocide” narrative, The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman called the Palestinian protests an “active human sacrifice” committed by Hamas.

As these examples demonstrate, corporate media has moved from concealing Israel’s violence to openly justifying its genocidal acts as necessary counter-terrorism policy. As patently absurd as these narratives are, they continue to  be a potent and dangerous force in normalizing Israel’s ethnocratic settler-colonial project. Blaming Hamas and portraying it as an almighty force intent on destroying Israel is used to dehumanize and demonize all Palestinians, who are stripped of their agency. Through this rhetoric, outlets like The New York Times implicitly justify the extermination of the Palestinian people.

In adopting this rhetoric, the Times and other media outlets are, of course, taking their lead from Israel itself. The latest mass killing of  incarcerated Gazans is part and parcel of Israel’s continuing desire to maintain the Nakba and rid historic Palestine of its indigenous population. Israel has never hidden its intentions. Zionism has always been based on fantasies of racial supremacy. The elimination of the natives is at the core of its settler-colonial project.

To justify its murderous campaign, Israel has cynically manipulated global fears of terrorism, branding all Palestinians as deserving of elimination. Making all Palestinians synonymous with Hamas, the Zionist narrative effectively blames Palestinians for their elimination, or “self-genocide,” as Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett described it in 2014.

While on rare occasions a few commentators, like Professor Noura Erakat, are allowed to speak on mainstream media and effectively debunk these destructive tropes and Zionist myths, the broader discourse remains colonized by passionate Zionist apologists and overall disregard for Palestinian life.

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