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  • Matilde Aranha

Interview: Izzy Coles

Izzy Coles

November 7th marked one month of the Israel-Hamas war, originated by the terrorist group´s surprise offensive on Gaza.  The war between Israel and Palestine is ancient and lengthy. Staying informed on it is oftentimes an undoable task given its complexity and seeming distance to western matters. Yet, the attacks on October 7th appear to have sparked a new and wearier focus on it. 

In conversation with Middle East based and specialised journalist Isabel Coles and Israeli citizen Noa Tellem, we attempted at dismantling the latest  events of this war. 

Here are the  unfiltered testimonies of the strains of living and reporting Israel versus Hamas. 

Interviewer: Do you fear a definitive shift of media-coverage from Ukraine to Israel? 

Isabel: Yes, I think we are already seeing that to some extent. (...) And that sort of thing can really impact the trajectory of a conflict. Especially when it comes to Ukraine, which is very dependent on the west´s attention and support. (...) People are fickle in their interests. Now they are more focused on Israel but their attention will swing back at some point. (...) But there is a responsibility to keep reporting those other settings, regardless of the tendencies. 

Interviewer: How did the brutality of these last attacks impact Israelis' perception of the conflict?

Noa:  I think a lot of Israelies have been experiencing an internal dwell. (...) We are obviously against killing civilians but we do understand this time it is necessary. And that there are going to be casualties in retaliation. (...) Sometimes it feels like we are going through the most difficult things we have ever endured and we still have to explain ourselves while trying to rebuild. (...) And it is even sort of beautiful to see people helping each other and volunteering and giving money to the people who had to evacuate their houses. I think the war itself often eclipses those things. 

Interviewer: Is it still possible to convey the idea of being pro Palestine without being anti- jew? Or have those lines gone completely blurry.

Noa: Good question…(...) You can but it is really difficult. I think that language is pivotal here. (...) Not only do I think you can but should have compassion for both sides. I know that it is enormously more difficult to be Palestinian than Israeli right now. (...) But I think that a lot of people don´t know the meaning behind what they say at times.  For example, many pro Palestine movements use the saying “From river Jordan to the sea”. Saying that would mean wanting the demise of the Jewish state. That's what it means. (...) Another thing is that people affected directly by this war can perceive compassion for the other side as if saying their hurt is not valid. Hence the need for meticulousness. 

Interviewer: Is it fair to say that there is an apartheid in Israel against Palestinians?

Noa: Yes there is but it is not the same thing as it was in South Africa, for instance. (...) But yes they have different rights than israelis. For example, if you are jewish, you can become an Israeli citizen. If you are Palestinian you don't have that right given to you. Nonetheless, I think this apartheid is more social than legal. This regards specifically to the Palestinians in Israel not in the West Bank or Gaza. That's a different story… 

Isabel:I have a  story that exemplifies this type of prejudice. When I was in Israel, a week after the attacks, a muslim taxi driver was telling me about how he couldn't get a ride. So yes I would say that in Israel, there was a vivid resentment and hatred that manifested socially. 

Interviewer: In the past months, Israelis have been successively demonstrating against Netanyahu´s government. Is any of this discontentment linked to his policy on Palestine?

Noa: He has been prime minister for so long- so definitely yes. His mistake and tragedy was to transfer money to Hamas for the past few years. He made them very strong and that has proven itself to have been a terrible move. Though it can also be seen as a strategy. (...) No one really knows when or what would make him cease fire now. It looks like he is going to prolong the conflict for as long as he can as a tactic to stay in office. (...) I also think that the anger towards him comes from his neglect of the south. Not giving the proper aid nor security. And only focusing on political games. 

Interviewer: What alliances in the Middle East should we look into to better understand this conflict?

Noa: Iran-Hamas. They share muslim origins and none of them want us here. Iran has worked on strengthening their proxy groups towards this goal, over the past decade. Whether it is Syria, Iraq,Lebanon. That's what you should look into. 

Interviewer: What is your method for reporting these settings?

Isabel: I always go against the tide. I seek for the stories and the places that aren't getting as much attention. (...) I like to talk with small groups to get really personal testimonies. I try not to get too caught up with politics and have these individuals explain to me and often dismantle some prevailing narratives. 


Media is a gun, loaded by money and fired by politicians. History, if  told by non-specialists, is nothing but a story suited to entertain the specificity of the audience. A sensationalist text that has been forwarded a million times on Whatsapp is not real news. 

It is at times like this that one must have the discernment to assess the reliability of their information. It is at times like this that we should listen to Historians- to understand the origins of this conflict- and to people on the ground- to know what it has come to be. 

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