Media Microscope: The Knife’s Edge
Oct 30, 2015 | Allon Lee
The upsurge in Palestinian terror and Israeli countermeasures received mixed media coverage.
Fairfax correspondent Ruth Pollard (Oct. 18) held both Israelis and Palestinians guilty of incitement, but largely downplayed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ responsibility.
“Israeli security forces have said [Abbas] is not inciting his people to violence, [but he] has still used deeply offensive language in stating that… ‘[The Jews] have no right to desecrate [the Temple Mount] with their filthy feet’,” she wrote.
This is splitting hairs. Israeli intelligence believes senior Palestinian Authority officials are fanning the violence with their language. Moreover, in the speech Pollard quoted, Abbas clearly legitimised violent acts, exhorting Palestinians “to do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem”, adding, “we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem.”
ANU’s Amin Saikal claimed the violence stemmed from “Israel’s colonial settler occupation”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration “that there will be no…Palestinian state under his watch” and rebuff of “all US peace-making efforts under… Obama.”
Since 2009 Netanyahu has repeatedly committed Israel to a two-state solution and peace talks. It was Abbas who cut short negotiations in March 2014, Canberra Times (Oct. 19).
A photo caption in Fairfax’s three metropolitan newspapers (Oct. 18) falsely implied Israel had summarily executed a Palestinian terrorist, stating that “a Palestinian assailant… is held by Israeli soldiers before being shot dead on Friday.” Video shows the terrorist in question – who had already stabbed one soldier – was killed because he kept trying to stab soldiers.
The Advertiser and Daily Telegraph (Oct. 19) revealed the incitement by reproducing an illustration from a Palestinian terror manual demonstrating where to knife a person.
On Oct. 21, ABC Radio National “Religion and Ethics” host Andrew West accused Israeli government “coalition members” of having “even courted the idea of blowing up the Mosque at times, haven’t they?” This allegation is just false.
ABC Radio “PM” host Tim Palmer (Oct. 18) seemed to suggest the Temple Mount’s status quo was threatened, saying, “some blame… plans to change the governing of Jerusalem’s religious sites”. Former Israeli Labor minister Yuli Tamir responded, “the situation… hasn’t changed dramatically, certainly not to the extent that should’ve caused such an uprising.”
The Australian (Oct. 19) blamed the violence on the “anger among Palestinian youths [which] is part of a deep-seated culture of hatred being cultivated in mosques, schools and on social media.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Alex Ryvchin recounted how “Jordan… illegally… occupied [east Jerusalem] during the 1948 war…barred Jews from access to their holy places, desecrated…graves and destroyed scores of synagogues.” But “within hours of military victory [in 1967, Israel]… forb[ade] Jews from praying on the Temple Mount,” Daily Telegraph (Oct. 16).
Academic Myriam Francois-Cerrah, expert on Moroccan Islamic movements, claimed “settlement expansion has surged at a rate of 23% under Netanyahu’s watch.” In fact, under Netanyahu, construction in settlements is at the lowest level since 1995, ABC “Religion and Ethics” (Oct. 12).
Visiting Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari said the violence originates from “youngsters who do not remember… the previous intifada… and… have lately had… a lot of propaganda… that the Israelis were out to divide control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque… which has no basis in reality,” ABC TV “Lateline” (Oct. 21).
ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill’s television report of Oct. 15 parroted Palestinian claims that increased Israeli security measures, including temporary roadblocks are “only going to increase tensions.” Far-left Israeli activist Hagit Ofran was quoted in her story attacking Israel’s government as having no “political answer so they take horrible measures.”
Later, on ABC News24 “World”, Jerusalem Post analyst Gil Hoffman said Israelis had expected the military to enter Arab neighbourhoods but instead it limited itself to taking “preventative steps”, which appear to be reducing the violence. He castigated Abbas’ false TV claim that Israel had executed 13-year-old terrorist Ahmed Manasra when he was clearly alive.
Bizarrely, Anne Barker’s earlier report on ABC Radio “World Today”, which reported Abbas’ speech, ignored this fabrication. In fact there seemed to be little or no ABC coverage of Abbas’ calumny. Ruth Pollard (Oct. 18) and Prue Lewarne on SBS TV “World News” (Oct. 16) did report Abbas’ flagrant lie.
This article is featured in this month’s Australia/Israel Review, which can be downloaded as a free App: see here for more details.