Media Microscope: A Gift that Keeps Giving

Allon Lee

The extraordinary media coverage surrounding Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s historic recent visit is well and truly over. Yet, even in a quiet month, the media found Israel and its relationship with the Palestinians a gift that keeps on giving.

The Age (March 26) ran Gareth Andrews’ full-page feature highlighting the Australian-funded “Project Rozana”, which helps pay for the costs of not only transporting Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank to receive free medical treatment at Israeli hospitals, but training of Palestinian medical professionals too.

On March 27, the Age, Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald ran a full-page feature on the difficulties faced by Palestinians who live in or have fled war ravaged Syria to neighbouring Jordan. Presenting the Palestinians as perpetual victims, the article gave an insight into the “uneasy relationship” between Palestinians and the Jordanian Government, which had accepted “thousands of Palestinians who fled or were displaced… in 1948 and 1967.” It noted that the “PLO under Yasser Arafat staged an uprising” in Jordan in 1970 and said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2015 wanted to bring refugees to the West Bank. Actually, Israel proposed doing just that in 2013 but Abbas refused because it was conditional on the refugees giving up their refugee status.

Then on April 9, the Age ran a full-page feature from extreme anti-Israel writer Antony Loewenstein on Gaza that was all about the Palestinians as victims and their utter lack of culpability.

Falsely calling the blockade a “siege”, the piece quoted IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot out of context making him sound like he admitted Israel uses disproportionate force when responding to Hamas terror. It also gave the benefit of the doubt to Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ new leader in Gaza who “reportedly opposes reconciliation with Israel” before quoting another expert who said Hamas doesn’t hate Jews, only Israel.

The nadir was reached when Loewenstein quoted a Gaza expert blaming a string of social problems, including domestic violence in Gaza, on Israeli occupation. The occupation ended in 2005!

Saturday Paper columnist Hamish McDonald (April 7) welcomed recent media reports that Hamas is supposedly “sharply moderating its charter that has called for the obliteration of Israel” and that “religious minorities would be accepted in a Palestinian state. The only struggle would be against Jews settling in the occupied territories.”

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph (April 5) condemned the NSW Young Greens for boycotting a non-partisan Australasian Union of Jewish Students event on the basis it “supports Israel’s occupation of Palestine”.

The editorial said “you’d expect an adult to step in… perhaps point [out]… the reason for Israel’s foundation – with a focus on European history from, say, the early 1930s to the mid-40s. It might also be useful to explain Israel’s continuing struggle to simply exist.”

In the Spectator Australia (April 15), Federal MP Michael Danby panned ABC Middle East reporter Sophie McNeill’s reporting of a DFAT statement in response to her questions about the ongoing trial in Israel of World Vision’s Gaza chief Mohammed El-Halabi, who is accused of funnelling millions of dollars to Hamas.

Danby said DFAT had merely stated that its staff were not aware of any alleged wrongdoing, but that McNeill then reported this as suggesting DFAT had investigated and found no evidence of diversion of Australian taxpayer funds to Hamas. Pointing out a number of stories not reported by McNeill, he questioned her priorities.

Also noteworthy was an article on April 20 from ABC veteran Emma Alberici who travelled to Kuwait on a study mission. She used the country’s leader Emir Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah’s refusal to recognise Israel as a barometer of its Western values.

Meanwhile, the Australian (March 23) praised the Trump Administration’s threat to cut 50% of its annual $US5.4 billion in UN funding unless the UN Human Rights Council “which includes pillars of democracy such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China and Cuba… stops hammering away at the only nation in the Middle East that has democracy and the rule of law.”

On April 3, the paper dismissed the overreaction to Israel’s plan to build the first new settlement in 25 years, writing, “the Palestinians need to recognise that the only way the settlement building will stop is if they cease their prevarication and start negotiating. Time and again, Mr Netanyahu has offered talks without preconditions; the Palestinians have refused to do the same.”