Media Microscope: ABC under the Microscope

Media Microscope: ABC under the Microscope
Barrie Cassidy: Blind to UNHRC overreach on Gaza

Media bias against Israel and those who support it was the subject of much comment during May, with particular attention paid to the ABC and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

In the Australian (May 23), columnist Janet Albrechtsen attacked the UNHRC and the ABC TV “Insiders'” May 19 program, for criticising the Australian Government as one of only two UNHRC members to vote against a resolution establishing an inquiry into the deaths of 62 Palestinians in Gaza.

As she explained, “Nowhere among its 800-plus words does the resolution mention the role of Hamas. And note to [host Barrie] Cassidy: the inquiry’s geographical mandate stretches – beyond the Gaza border with Israel to the entire Gaza Strip, the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem – and it covers an unlimited time period.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, she noted, had said Australia would have backed a genuine, independent inquiry. But this “resolution overreaches, presumes the outcome and continues to embed anti-Israeli bias at the UN” and “Australia’s ‘no’ vote was the only principled position. Malcolm Turnbull deserves credit for his quick and honourable response, as does Bishop.”

Albrechtsen condemned “Insiders” guest ALP MP Anthony Albanese for suggesting a Labor government would’ve backed the resolution, saying, “He was either clueless or deliberately misrepresented facts when he said that ‘ongoing expansion of (Israeli) settlements’ in the West Bank and Gaza undermine a two-state solution. In fact, Israel withdrew every last soldier and settler from Gaza in 2005.”

Yet Labor’s position might not have been as solid as Albanese claimed.

According to Australian Financial Review‘s Andrew Tillett (May 20), Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong was “asked whether a Labor government would have voted against establishing the UN investigation, [and] signalled that might have been a possibility.”

The next day the Guardian Australia – no stranger itself to accusations of anti-Israel bias – ran Albanese’s comments as the lead story in its digital edition.

The same Guardian Australia edition attracted the ire of pro-Israel NGO UK Media Watch for an opinion piece by left-wing Australian writer Jeff Sparrow titled, “There is no justification for firing into crowds of protesters”.

UK Media Watch said “the headline itself is a lie. Characterising thousands of violent rioters attempting, at the behest of a proscribed terror group, to breach the border of a sovereign democratic state as placard-waving ‘protesters’ is the height of dishonesty” and condemned Sparrow’s assertion that “if you retain the ethical impulses of an ordinary human being, you might wonder why anyone needs to inquire into the rights and wrongs of firing live bullets into crowds of protesters.”

In the Daily Telegraph (May 19), Piers Akerman attacked the ABC’s coverage of the protests, accusing it of ignoring how Hamas uses civilians as human shields. He criticised ABC TV “7.30” host Leigh Sales who “promoted the fictional conflation that the deadly protests were linked to the official foundation of the US Embassy in Jerusalem by the Trump administration, although successive US presidents had declared Jerusalem to be the Israeli capital since Bill Clinton promised he would recognise Jerusalem during the 1992 presidential race.”

He noted that the “7.30” segment included an Amnesty International representative condemning Israel for its “completely disproportionate response”. Akerman countered that, “as health workers reported the overwhelming nature of the wounds were to the legs, it would seem to indicate that the Israeli forces took pains to deliver non-lethal shots at the assailants.”

On May 21, ABC TV “Q&A” host Tony Jones displayed gobsmacking partisanship during a discussion on Israel and Gaza, repeatedly cutting off Australian Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan’s attempts to answer Egyptian-Palestinian Australian author Randa Abdel Fattah’s rabid and garrulous anti-Israel propaganda. Her litany of misrepresentations included claiming that Palestinians “tried peaceful, you know, non-violent resistance in the first and second intifada, which was brutally, brutally shut down”, calling Gaza a “concentration camp” and blaming Israel for Gaza not being able to build a water desalination plant even though it is Hamas who opposes it.

On Sky News‘ “Bolt Report” (May 22), Andrew Bolt and fellow News Ltd columnist Sharri Markson criticised Jones’ conduct and the ABC’s Middle East coverage in general.

On May 16, ABC Radio “774” host Jon Faine was particularly combative, repeatedly and loudly interrupting when AIJAC’s Jamie Hyams tried to explain the principles of proportionality and the evidence of Hamas violence.