Australia/Israel Review


Media Microscope: Crossed Lyons

Mar 28, 2024 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

ABC Global Affairs Editor John Lyons’ episode of ABC TV “Four Corners”, “The Forever War” (March 11), had the veneer of balance, but this barely disguised Lyons’ overarching message – Hamas’ October 7 massacre happened because Israel has refused to create a Palestinian state and denies Palestinians a decent future (see also this article). 

Lyons almost said as much in his introduction, asking: “Would the war jolt the international community into pushing for something that Israel’s leadership had for so long resisted: a Palestinian state?”

Lyons went into minute detail about Israel’s counter-terrorism infrastructure on the West Bank that restricts millions of Palestinians who live there. He said, “Israel says it’s for security”, but offered absolutely no detail about the decades of terrorist violence which Israel says forced it to put these systems in place.

Lyons said of Gaza that “Israel’s [16-year] siege condemned… 2.3 million Palestinians to slow suffocation in what many describe as the world’s largest open-air prison. Every so often, Gaza would erupt – with public protest or barrages of rockets – and Israel would come down even harder.”

That this was the proximate cause for the October 7 massacre was a message that was repeated over and over.

Former Shin Bet heads Ami Ayalon and Avi Dichter both said if they were in the same situation they would fight against Israel. 

Israeli far-left activist Yehuda Shaul said, “What did we think is going to happen after 16 years of siege?” while far-left Israeli journalist Amira Haas said, “I kept warning that… somehow there will be an explosion.”

Palestinian academic Dalal Iriqat said, “As long as Israel continues to occupy the Palestinians and deprive them and suffocate them… they should not expect, but for more violence.” Another Palestinian academic, Abdaljawad Omar said, “What was the choice of Palestinians?”

The alternative proposition – October 7 happened because Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organisation openly committed to the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of its Jewish population which Israel has had no choice but to try to contain – was never even broached. 

The question of whether Israel’s military operation in Gaza to degrade Hamas and its terror infrastructure was proportionate was not addressed by any expert on military practice or International Humanitarian Law (IHL) but solely by Yehuda Shaul, who is neither a lawyer nor an expert in military strategy, yet was given the longest commentary of the episode. He predictably said the claim “that the IDF is doing everything to avoid civilian casualties is a … straight lie.”

The last section of the program saw Lyons present a bleak future, implying that “Netanyahu’s war,” as Lyons called it, is all part of a long-term plan to expel Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank in pursuit of the dream of Greater Israel.

Lyons asserted the far-right Israeli ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich are “driving Netanyahu’s Gaza policy, pushing an agenda that would force Palestinians off their lands.”

The last word went to Lyons himself who repeated what he said at the beginning, “If Israel agreed to end its occupation and Palestinians guaranteed Israeli security, then this most intractable of all conflicts could end.”

But Lyons’ conclusion explaining why the conflict persists was totally manipulative because of the context he deliberately omitted.

Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak was interviewed and could have explained how Palestinian President Yasser Arafat rejected his offers in 2000 and 2001 to create a Palestinian state that included most of the West Bank, all of Gaza and a capital in east Jerusalem. But the subject never appears in the program.

Likewise, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was interviewed and could have talked about former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s offer to create a Palestinian state in 2008 which was even more generous, as well as her role in US efforts to broker a deal under Netanyahu in 2014. 

But these events contradicted Lyons’ thesis that Israel has never offered the Palestinians a reasonable future, leading to October 7, so the program pretended they never happened.

The omission of this vital information made a mockery of ABC Radio National’s “Breakfast” host Patricia Karvelas’ claim on March 7, when she ended her interview with Lyons by saluting ABC reporters who, she said, do their job without “without fear or favour.” No one who looks dispassionately and in detail at Lyons’ work since October 7 can possibly say he does any such thing. 

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