Australia/Israel Review

Media Microscope: Rough crossing

Jul 3, 2024 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Since Israel gained control over the Gazan side of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt on May 7, the ABC’s coverage has followed a set narrative: Israel is held responsible for closing the crossing and keeping it closed, and thus has contributed to a precipitous drop in vital aid entering the Strip, leading to famine or at least risk of famine. 

This is despite the fact that it is actually Egypt that is refusing to allow the crossing to be re-opened, as the Biden Administration has repeatedly acknowledged. Moreover, after an initial decline following Rafah’s closure, aid is today surging through other crossings faster than the UN can collect it.

The ABC narrative was evident in several reports by Middle East correspondent Allyson Horn, including a May 21 online report claiming that “An Australian volunteer doctor in Gaza has become trapped… after Israel’s seizure and closure of the… crossing.”

Horn’s online report ten days later stated that “No patients have been medevacked since Israel closed the Rafah crossing.”

An introduction to a report by Horn on ABC Radio “AM” (May 31) said, “The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing with Egypt – but it remains closed.”

An exception was a Reuters/AP report on the ABC website (May 26) which accurately reflected reality: “Israel says it has kept the Rafah crossing open and has asked Egypt to coordinate with it on sending aid convoys through it, however Egypt has previously refused, fearing the Israeli hold will remain permanent, and demanded Palestinians be put back in charge of the facility. The White House has been pressing Egypt to resume the flow of trucks.”

Throughout June, ABC Global Affairs Editor John Lyons repeatedly spruiked the claim that the food situation in Gaza is dire.

On ABC TV “News at Noon” (June 4) host Ros Childs played tag team with Lyons, asking, “What is the humanitarian situation? Cause very little, if no aid, is getting in.” 

Lyons agreed, thus ignoring the 222 aid trucks that Israel facilitated entering Gaza through the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing on June 3 alone!

During Lyons’ appearance on ABC NewsRadio (June 7), he said, “Before the war, there was about 400 trucks a day. Now there’s nothing coming in through Rafah [crossing from Egypt] …  and very little coming in through the crossings into Israel.” 

Later that day on “News at Noon”, Lyons upped the ante, saying, “There’s just not, no food or water going in there because the Rafah crossing is closed.” 

On June 14, Lyons said on ABC NewsRadio, “We know there is widespread and growing famine.”

Meanwhile, on ABC RN “Breakfast” (June 17), UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said his own experience whilst accompanying an aid delivery showed how Israel makes it difficult to bring aid into Gaza. 

Elder claimed a 40-kilometre round trip to drop off “lifesaving… medical…and nutritional supplies” for 10,000 children in northern Gaza took 13 hours because of “arguments over paperwork… We waited, waited, waited. And after many, many hours, that truck was denied.” 

Israel released a statement accusing UNICEF of ignoring security protocols it was told about and providing false information.

Israeli Minister Ron Dermer’s appearance on ABC TV “7.30” (May 23) was a rare instance of the broadcaster airing a different perspective.

Dermer said claims made by “UN-related agencies [operating in Gaza] should not be taken at face value,” given that “most of those people are beholden to Hamas.”

He dismissed the popular claim about more trucks entering Gaza before the war as a pointless statistic, noting that most of the cargo going in on “trucks before the war was not humanitarian assistance. It was all commercial goods… humanitarian assistance is greater today than it was on October 7th.” 

According to Dermer, “You see [aid flows] reflected…  in the precipitous drop of prices in Gaza [which] are down 80% or 90%. Generally, markets don’t lie. When there’s more supply, the prices go down.”

On June 26, ABC Middle East correspondent Eric Tlozek offered a glimmer of hope that the broadcaster might include more nuance, noting on News Radio that “a key report has found that a famine is no longer imminent, but the report says a high risk of famine in the territory is continuing” (see p. 10 for details on the report in question). 

Three other reports on NewsRadio that day, however, followed the traditional ABC narrative.


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