Media Week – Siege mentality; False flags; Labor pains; Hopeless headlines
Sep 4, 2014 | Allon Lee
Fairfax Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard’s roll call of one-sided reporting continued last week.
There was, of course, her predictable mantra that (30/8) “more than 2100 Palestinians were killed; most of them, human rights groups say, were civilians,” despite there being a considerable body of contrary opinion. Israeli analyses conclude that around 50% of those killed have been known fighters, and even analyses by the BBC and New York Times have questioned the reliability of the purported casualty numbers.
But where Pollard’s position did shift, and not in a positive direction, was in her now choosing to write of Israel’s “siege that has crippled the tiny coastal strip” (28/8) and its “siege… that has imprisoned the coastal enclave in an ever deepening humanitarian crisis” (30/8).
There has never been a siege of Gaza, which historically and according to the dictionary has meant cutting off “essential supplies” to compel surrender. During the recent war, the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel was the entry point for tens of thousands of tons of food, millions of litres of diesel and large quantities of medical supplies.
Israel ‘s blockade only targets a small number of goods with potential military application and lets in all other goods in unlimited quantities. Yet Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza has been shut almost completely.
Deliberately portraying the blockade as a “siege” makes Hamas’ wicked decision to wage war for 50 days seem nobler, rather than the cynical, callous exercise it actually was.
Since the Arab Spring turned rotten, Australian Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight have brought forth a stream of apologists arguing they are no different to Australian Jews joining the Israel Defence Forces.
On ABC TV “7.30” (27/08), Uthman Badar, spokesman for the extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir, said “why do [proposed travel bans] only apply to Muslims? Jew’s go abroad in large numbers annually, they train and fight with the IDF. We’ve seen what the IDF is capable of doing right now in Gaza… So it’d be very easy to come up with a narrative of saying there’s a massive threat from Jews returning to Australia, but would that be real?”
In the Canberra Times online (1/9), Joseph Wakim wrote “The differential treatment of Australians in the Israeli Defence Forces, which have killed over 2000 Palestinians in Gaza, remain a bone of contention for many.”
Thankfully, Age columnist Julie Szego (28/8) clearly understands the difference, writing, “until Zionists start calling for terrorist attacks in the West, the comings and goings of Australians trained in the Israeli military is irrelevant.”
Another who appreciated the qualitative distinction was veteran analyst Anthony Bergin, deputy director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who wrote in the Australian Financial Review (Sept. 3): “One of the requirements of Israeli citizenship is compulsory national service, and so Australians who migrate there will potentially be drafted whether they want to serve or not. But the comparison between the two groups is laughable: jihadists join armed groups that reject democracy and indiscriminately slaughter civilians. Our intelligence services have never indicated that Australian Jews who have served in the Israeli armed forces are a local terrorism risk.”
Meanwhile, on Channel Ten‘s “The Bolt Report” (31/8), Andrew Bolt asked “why is the ABC even giving Hizb ut-Tahrir a platform… when its leader here last month preached hatred of Jews?”
Bolt showed footage from July 25 of Ismail Al-Wahwah, head of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, at a Sydney rally in support of Gaza, telling the crowd, “The Jews will not thrive and will not live in safety, because they are the slayers of the prophets… Wherever the Jews thrive, corruption abounds.”
Michael Easson, veteran Australian Labor Party and trade union official, wrote he was “stunned at the erosion of sympathy and advocacy within the Labor Party in defence of the only democratic nation in the Middle East” and insisted it would be a mistake to “shrug… one’s shoulders and writ[e] off Labor as a lost cause” (Spectator Australia, Aug. 16).
Adamant that “there are many good people who want to support Israel, but lack arguments and debating experience,” he proposed “re-engagement with emerging, future generations of Labor.”
Easson identified “complacency… in debating opponents about Israel’s moral worth and right to exist” as a contributing factor to the drop in support, writing that “in politics there are no permanent victories.”
He offered “six perspectives to appeal to a new generation of Labor moderates,” including:
“First, the single greatest reason for continuing Israel-Palestine conflict remains Jew-hatred within Palestinian society… How can there be real peace in that atmosphere? Second, Hamas is pledged to destroy Israel, not negotiate any form of two-State solution…How can there be peace with opponents who do not believe you should exist nationally, collectively or individually? Third, Hamas is playing deadly games with human targets – its own. By firing rockets from amongst the Gaza populace, it provokes counter-attack… Fourth, within Palestinian society the battle is between those seeking peace… versus those seeking… perpetual religious war. Israel remains the best hope for the former. Fifth, most Israelis… back Israel doing what it has offered before – land swaps for peaceful co-existence… Sixth, a majority of Israelis crave peace but must have security of life. Even most of the Israeli right,including Netanyahu, would agree to a comprehensive peace settlement, if it could be guaranteed by a Palestinian partner serious about and capable of delivering one.”
On August 20, the homepage of the Age and Sydney Morning Herald websites featured the headline “Gaza ceasefire shattered as Israel retaliates.”
To the average reader this would suggest that Israel had broken the ceasefire.
But click on the link and it became clear that it was actually Hamas which had broken the ceasefire hours before it was due to expire by firing rockets towards Israel.
The headline was later changed to something more informative, but, unfortunately, Fairfax’s use of questionable headlines was not a one-off.
Other examples include the provocative “I do not want Jewish mothers to feel the pain that I feel” that ran across a double page feature from Ruth Pollard in the print edition of the Age/SMH (Aug. 16).
What was the inference? That Palestinians suffer because they are Palestinian and not, as is the case, because Hamas fires rockets from civilian areas, thereby necessitating Israeli military action?
Another shocker – “If this happened in Europe the world would not be silent” – ran on August 2, again above a double-page Pollard feature.
Where have world leaders or the media been silent?
More to the point, where were the Age and SMH on July 24/25 when 700 people were killed in two days in Syria? The papers’ silence on these deaths was deafening.
– Allon Lee