The Australian’s Khalik spins women’s flotilla report

The Australian’s Khalik spins women’s flotilla report
Picture: Wikipedia

On October 7, 2016, The Australian featured a report by Jennine Khalik about the recent interception of a boat of anti-Israel activists attempting to reach Gaza -“Israel picks up boat captained by Tasmanian out to break Gaza blockade”.

While the printed edition of the paper contained a shorter and straight report on the events, the longer online version was highly problematic. It lacks context and is rife with inaccuracies and omissions. We will examine those, but first the question must be asked why Khalik was assigned the story in the first place. Surely the editors of The Australian, a publication that is usually nuanced and balanced on matters relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would have thought to assign this assignment to a journalist who hadn’t previously declared the following on the ABC’s Q and A program:

“I am of Palestinian descent. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents were refugees. The state of Israel was established on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and displacement of three-quarters of Palestinians in 1948. Palestinians since have been subjected to apartheid, a military occupation and the continued confiscation and dispossession of their land and resources. How can we confront the popular pro-Israel narrative that it is a democracy?”

On to the issues with the story then:

Israel’s navy has intercepted a boat captained by a Tasmanian woman attempting to break the blockade on Gaza.
The Women’s Boat to Gaza, with 13 women on board including Hobart local and professional sailor Madeleine Habib, was intercepted in international waters this morning once they entered what Israel deems a “military exclusion zone” 100 nautical miles within the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Khalik omits here that the United Nations Palmer Report, the result of an investigation into the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish militants were killed while trying to attack Israeli forces who boarded their ship as it was attempting to reach Gaza, found that Israel has every right to enforce its military blockade of Gaza in international waters. The omission of this piece of context falsely paints Israel as an aggressive and rogue state with no regard to international norms.

Among the 13 woman on the boat were 1976 Nobel Peace laureate from Northern Ireland, Mairead Maguire, and retired US army colonel Ann Wright.

Respected and celebrated members of society. But who were their shipmates that Khalik chose to leave out?

  • Jordan-based Ola Abed is one of the people behind the video game Gaza Man, in which players shoot as many Israelis as they can, with extra points given for headshots
  • Malaysian Norsham Abu Bakr is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood who has accused the Mossad of being behind recent terrorist attacks in Munich and Nice
  • Canadian Wendy Goldsmith has featured as a guest on conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad radio show, which promotes the idea that Israel was behind 9/11 and other attacks
  • Also Malaysian, Fauzia Hasan has called to ban Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s group working for gender equality.

In 2010, nine activists were killed during Israel’s military raid on a flotilla to Gaza in international waters on the Turkish ship MV Mavi Marmara, which led to a breakdown in diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey.

Khalik leaves out the much needed context – that the Israeli soldiers were attacked with baseball bats, steel bars, and live fire, and acted in self-defence – to leave the impression Israel was the aggressor. Also, as above, the UN Palmer Report found Israel was in its rights to intercept the Mavi Marmara in international waters.

Gaza, which is inhabited by over 1.9 million Palestinians, is under a land, air and sea blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt since 2007, following the election of Hamas.

Khalik’s vague description here may leave the reader understanding that Israel’s military blockade was imposed merely in reaction to an election. Israel did not commence its blockade until a year later, when Hamas seized control of Gaza in a violent coup that saw many opposition Fatah members murdered, and then increased the frequency of its rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians. The blockade is intended to stop arms and military material falling into the Hamas’ hands.

United Nations officials have continually called for the blockade to be lifted, and have said conditions are deteriorating in Gaza.

There may well be UN officials who have called for this but the UN’s own Palmer report has found the blockade to be legal. Khalik also joins two separate elements in this sentence to give the impression the blockade is the reason conditions might be deteriorating in Gaza. If conditions are so bad, why did Hamas release a video recently portraying Gaza as a paradise, featuring beautiful mosques, modern apartment buildings and shopping centres, and glittering beaches? And if they are, Khalik completely absolves Hamas itself of any responsibility. The same Hamas that diverts cement and other building materials meant for civilian projects to its military infrastructure, that faces allegations of diverting international aid money into its own coffers, and commits systematic human rights violations such as suppressing free speech, executing citizens suspected of “collaborating” with Israel and using Palestinians as human shields.

Vivienne Porzsolt, who was on a flotilla to Gaza in 2011 with former Greens parliamentarian Sylvia Hale, said the boat to Gaza belonged to a “long line of efforts to break the illegal blockade of Gaza”.

Khalik uses Vivienne Porzsolt’s quote to repeat the false claim that the blockade is illegal, a falsehood that we’ve already pointed out is at odds with the Palmer Report. It is also questionable why Porzsolt is the only Australian source quoted. She has a long history of anti-Israel activism, including participating in rallies, speaking at events and supporting the anti-Israel boycott movement. In a 2010 speech at a rally following the Mavi Marmara incident, she called the activists who attacked the Israeli forces “brave”.

“Gaza blockaded because the people elected the Hamas government, which is not accepted by Israel, the US, and the rest of the quartet,” Ms Porzsolt said.

Also as above, the blockade was imposed not to punish the Palestinian people for voting for Hamas, but to limit weapons reaching the terror group after it increased its rocket fire at Israeli civilians in 2007. But why not repeat this blatant inaccuracy?

The Israeli government, opposed to Hamas, has said if it lifts the blockade it would allow Hamas fighters to smuggle weapons.

Finally the last line of the story actually addresses the real reason for the blockade. But it’s not all hunky-dory. Khalik says the Israeli government is opposed to Hamas. She doesn’t tell the reader why this is so, but we will. Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organisation, is sworn to the destruction of Israel, advocates the murder of Jews and is constantly trying its hardest to achieve both. That little tid-bit might explain Israel’s opposition some.

Gareth Narunsky