THE eyes of the world focus on Paris and the atrocity which unfolded on Friday evening.
The civilian death toll from the ruthless killings now stands at 129, with 352 others wounded, 99 of them critically.
It is a carnage of almost unimaginable proportions in our so-called “civilised” Western society.
And it has stirred emotions of sorrow, sadness, love, anger and prejudice rarely seen on such a scale.
But while everyone’s talking about Paris, hardly anyone’s talking about Lebanon.
On Thursday, two ISIS suicide bombers attacked a Beirut shopping district at rush hour, killing at least 43 people and wounding at least 239. However, this atrocity was more or less ignored by the Western media and social media.
Earlier this year in Kenya, 148 students were murdered by four armed terrorists of al-Shaabab.
The clothes of their families are no less soaked in tears than those of the Paris victims. The screams of their sorrows echo around the streets, churches, mosques, homes and fields of their country with no less anguish.
Yet, the world does what to combat, acknowledge, condole or seek retribution for their murders?
There were no foreign leaders’ photo opportunity or Je suis… hashtag. Most newspapers didn’t even run their tragic deaths on any front page.
Meanwhile, in a country dear to my heart, 86 innocent Palestinian civilians (the majority children and teenagers) have been murdered by the Israeli military since 1 October.
Where are the tears for them?
As I look around me I can understand why many of my Facebook friends have draped their profile pictures with the French flag, but did they do the same with the Palestine flag, the Lebanese flag, the Afghan flag or even the Iraqi flag for all the wanton murders carried out there by ISIS, the USA, Israel, Assad and even Britain?
The air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has killed more than 450 innocent civilians, according to a new report, even though the US-led coalition has so far acknowledged just two non-combatant deaths.
More than 5,700 air strikes have been launched in the campaign, which nears its first anniversary this Saturday, with its impact on civilians largely unknown.
Now Airwars, a project by a team of independent journalists, is publishing details of 52 strikes with what it believes are credible reports of at least 459 non-combatant deaths, including those of more than 100 children.
One of the attacks investigated was on Fadhiliya, Iraq, on 4 April where witnesses and local politicians said a family of five had died, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old girl.
My heart goes out to all those people who are shaken by violence and grieving their lost loved ones. And it goes out too, to those who are embattled and just getting by from one day to the next, and that includes those who have fled from violence and now have to confront biting chill of winter of northern Europe.
With Paris in mind, it is natural that people emote and relate to something terrible happening close to home. This is close to our home, this is what we see.
But, what we are witnessing at first hand – led by our governments and national media – is racism, where a Western life is more important than any other.
And it exists because our collective media does nothing to challenge it.
In 2001, I was working as chief investigative reporter on The Chronicle – a daily tabloid newspaper in Newcastle upon Tyne. On 11 September, I returned from a routine job in the town to watch in horror – on the newsroom TV – the atrocities of 9/11 unfold in front of our eyes, some 3,000 miles away in New York and Virginia.
The next day, the newspaper’s senior management determined that all employees should stand and observe two minutes silence for the innocent victims of the terror attack.
Not because I did not feel pain or sympathy for those victims, but because my company had never observed even one minute’s silence for the hundreds of thousands killed by Allied military action in Iraq in 1991, the one million murdered in Rwanda, or the thousands killed in Bosnia, just a few years earlier.
Instead I went to the newsroom toilet, sat in a cubicle and cried.
The newspaper’s reaction to 9/11 – and the wall to wall media coverage over the ensuing months – typified everything I had witnessed in my previous 16 years in journalism.
Now, 14 years later, nothing has changed.
If I take Bosnia, Iraq and Rwanda out of the equation, a few other examples may clarify what I mean:
- Three French skiers are lost in an avalanche in the Alps. The next day there are lengthy reports in most UK national newspapers. Each of the victims is named and in-depth family stories are written.
- A lone gunman goes berserk and kills children in a US high school. The next day it is front page news in almost every newspaper in the UK and Europe. In depth analysis of the gunman and tributes to each of the victims and their families ensues.
- A mad man kills hostages in an Australian restaurant. It is front pages news in every newspaper in the UK, USA and Europe. Extensive coverage about the killer and each of his victims finds itself across western media.
- An earthquake in Northern Pakistan kills thousands of inhabitants. Over the ensuing weeks there is barely a mention in any UK or western newspapers.
- Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are murdered by US and UK bombing in Afghanistan. But there are few reports of these atrocities in UK and western newspapers.
- Flooding in Bangladesh kills thousands of people. Over the following weeks there are just a few lines in UK broadsheet newspapers.
You don’t need a microscope to see the differences in the reaction and news reporting. It has nothing to do with distance from our shores. It is all to do with white Western values.
So our news media – even enlightened newspapers like the Independent and The Guardian – value the life and story of a suited, white, Western person quite differently to that of an African black or Urdu speaking Asian person.
We give ‘ours’ names, identities and lives, but the ‘others’ just nationality, religion and race. It is so much easier to avoid reporting the lives and deaths of these people if we don’t identify them as human beings the same as us.
This racism runs deep and has been entrenched more deeply with the Islamophobia which has perpetuated within Western society since 2001.
The white mass murderer, Norwegian, Anders Brevik is reported simply as a ‘madman killer’ – despite the fact he was a zealot Christian with a white supremacist agenda.
In contrast any killing carried out by a person of even dubious Muslim faith is reported as the act of an Islamist Extremist!
Sorry for the pun, but it is as clear as black and white.
But we have 800 years to overcome.
Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Portugal have been colonialists since the so-called Holy Crusades to Jerusalem in the 13th century, the colonial exploitation of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries, to the dissection of Africa, South America and Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Our imperialist ancestors conquered peaceful countries, imposed western values and Christianity upon them, murdered millions and took millions more into slavery.
Now we have been joined by our ‘allies’ the USA, which since the end of World War 2 has:
- Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
Interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
Our nations have sown war and hatred all over the world – now tragically there is a heavy harvest as we are seeing in Paris.
People around the world all belong to the same human race; they share the same tendencies to fear, domination, and subjugation.
We need to let everyone know, we are the same, no matter what language we speak, whatever the colour of our skin or the religion we follow.
Well, I cried for you – now it’s your turn to cry awhile.