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Media Week - Amateur hour

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Attempting to maximise its audience, the appallingly one-sided collaboration between the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent John Lyons and ABC TV "Four Corners" program (Feb. 10) claiming to expose the scandal of Israel's treatment of Palestinian minors enjoyed generous advanced promotion.

The ABC's video promo included a narrator ominously asking "are children the newest target in the Middle East's longest running conflict?"

Undoubtedly they are, but it is not happening to Palestinian children on the West Bank or anywhere else under Israel's control for that matter.

As reported on the ABC's own website (Feb. 6) days before Four Corners:

More than 10,000 children have been killed in the Syrian civil war, the United Nations says, while many more are subjected to "unspeakable" suffering, including rape, torture and recruitment for combat.

And surely the 1,300-year-old Sunni-Shi'ite conflict holds the dubious title of longest running conflict in the region?

On ABC Radio National "Breakfast" (Feb. 10) Fran Kelly interviewed Lyons and did her best to talk up the allegations, saying that the report "exposes Israeli forces adopting an insidious strategy of targeting young children" in what she described as "a new Israeli military strategy."

Kelly did not ask how many Palestinian children were affected and neither did Lyons offer the number.

And what was the new military strategy as revealed by Lyons to Kelly? That "children are being used for intelligence gathering by the Israeli army and the Israeli security services...on different communities through the West Bank".

Asked by Kelly whether "this is all about instilling fear in the broader community with the aim of driving the Palestinians out of the occupied territories for the settlers to take their place?", Lyons did not respond. The answer of course is "no"! With 2.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank, it's an astoundingly idiotic question.

Lyons told Kelly that he believed no change would occur in Israel's treatment of Palestinian children because "at the heart of the problem is the military occupation...and until that's resolved, by John Kerry or whoever, we're going to continue to get these sorts of problems."

And thus Lyons showed what this is really all about - a roundabout hit job on the Israeli "occupation".

For if there was one glaring hole in Lyons' Four Corners report, advanced publicity and accompanying newspaper articles, it was his failure to note the repeated commitment by successive Israeli leaders to establish a Palestinian state, and that three detailed offers for statehood were summarily rejected by the Palestinians.

Interviewed on ABC TV's "Breakfast" (Feb. 10) Lyons admitted to Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowlands that the number of Palestinian minors going through Israel's military justice system each year is approximately 700 in total. Hardly an epidemic. In Victoria, with just over twice the West Bank population, nearly 30,000 juveniles are arrested annually for violent crimes.

Perhaps nothing summed up the disgraceful shambles more than Lyons himself, who said that "what goes to air tonight is absolutely the Four Corners' program. They've decided what they run, what they don't run."

What an endorsement. Better hope Rupert doesn't find out!

Allon Lee

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