ABC Radio “Triple J”‘s Sophie McNeill is probably quite proud of a half hour “special” aired on the “Hack” program she hosts dedicated to a recent visit she made to Gaza (May 2). But she really shouldn’t be.
The veneer of balance is there, with Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor featuring frequently. However, her choices of what to include or omit, and the language she employed led to a blatantly one-dimensional depiction of the conflict.
There was the old chestnut that Gaza “is one of the most densely populated areas on earth” – but Gaza’s 8,666 people per square mile compares favourably with Monaco’s 41,608 people per square mile or Cairo’s 82,893 people per square mile.
We hear the same old lines – Gaza has been called the “world’s largest prison” and “the international committee of the Red Cross has labelled this blockade…a violation of international humanitarian law” – but not that the UN’s Palmer Commission determined it was legal.
The narrative that Gazans are prisoners with Israel their jailers wobbled briefly as McNeill informs us that “since the radical Islamic group Hamas took power here five years ago there’s been a blockade imposed by Israel. So people can’t leave Gaza without permission from either the Israeli or the Egyptian authorities.”
You mean that Gazans can come and go through the southern border with Egypt? Listeners would know this only if they listened extremely carefully.
What McNeill does dwell on are the Palestinian civilians who died during last November’s war, which she explicitly blamed on Israel, saying “Last November, for the second time in four years Israel declared war on Gaza.”
Two Palestinians whose homes were hit during Israeli raids resulting in civilian deaths are interviewed. The numerous Palestinian deaths resulting from Hamas rockets that fell short were of course ignored.
A Palestinian who builds and fires rockets tells McNeill that he is not a terrorist and all “we are doing is fighting for our… legitimate rights to reclaim our lands and rights which have been stripped away from us by the Israelis.”
Of course, McNeill doesn’t ask which land or rights he is referring to.
The asymmetry in deaths was stressed repeatedly. McNeill tells us that last November’s war caused three Israeli deaths to 174 Palestinians.
A lawyer from Gaza’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights tells us that the IDF carried out 1,486 F16 air raids and were using drones, gunboats and other delivery systems. Palestinian rockets are dismissed as “homemade” by interviewees – which is not true, as many were smuggled in military designs including Grads and Fajr-7 – and listeners are never told that Palestinians fired 1,500 of them at Israel.
Israeli efforts to minimise casualties via building bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system are also something listeners don’t need to know about.
And at the end, comes the false moral equivalence. Hamas and the IDF are cut from the same cloth because both claim they “don’t intend targeting civilians but it is certainly the civilians who are suffering.” Much like the thinking listener.