Saturday 26 July 2014

Helping Hamas?

The Israel-bashing Independent columnist Mira Bar-Hillel has been gloating this weekend:
...a YouGov poll this week found that only 15 per cent of Britons support Israel’s actions in Gaza. The credit for that goes to brilliant, brave reporters who have brought graphic images of the Gaza atrocities to our newspapers and television screens.
Mira forgets to mention that those those YouGov results show even less support for Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel (with 7% taking the David Ward line) and that more British people blame Hamas than Israel for the civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip.

Mira B-H, presumably, has the likes of Jeremy Bowen, Paul Adams, Yolande Knell, (etc) in mind when praising those "brilliant, brave reporters" for helping to turn the British public against Israel here.

If so, I think she's spot on. Their reporting, including their use of distressing images, must surely have had a - and, probably, the - major impact on the British public's apparent lack of support for Israel's actions, given that the British public still tends to see the news through their eyes.

On their use of graphic images and distressing stories, are they actually doing more harm than good though?

Spiked's Brendan O'Neill certainly thinks so:
The message that all this morally pornographic promotion of images and reports of Palestinian death sends to Hamas is this: victimhood works. The feverish Western marshalling of emotive imagery of Palestinian corpses to the political end of seeking sanctions against Israel or greater international protection for the Palestinian territories surely has the effect of encouraging Hamas to try to provide more of the same, more ‘telegenically dead’ Palestinians. There is a logic to Hamas’s alleged encouragement of great risk among the Gazan civilian population and certainly to its ‘parading’ of dead bodies before the press: it’s a response to the grotesque Western fashion for looking at, sharing and using as political tools images of dead Palestinians. Hamas is best seen as a kind of drug pusher to those in the West who have developed a very ugly habit of exploiting images of brutalised Palestinians both for their own needs (to advertise their emotional awareness) and for political purposes (to exert pressure on our leaders to condemn Israel).
And so does BBC Watch's Hadar Sela.

She appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live's Breakfast Show this morning (from about 1hr 51m in):  
I think one of the most significant factors has actually been what we aren't seeing. There's been dozens of Western reporters in the Gaza Strip for the last two weeks and more now, and yet we haven't seen one picture...I haven't seen one picture...of armed terrorists. I haven't seen one picture of terrorists shooting up RPGs, anti-tank missiles or mortars. 2,300 missiles fired. We haven't seen one picture of that in action in the Western media. Around 10-15% of those missiles fall short and actually land in the Gaza Strip and often, unfortunately, injure civilians there. We've seen no pictures of that. We've seen no pictures of injuries caused by shortfall missiles. There's been at least four summary executions taken place by Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the last week or two. We've seen no pictures of that. We've seen no pictures of Hamas people at all, even at the Shifa Hospital where they hide out, and yet we've seen journalists attending news conferences there, but nobody's actually talking about why these people are hiding and what's going on...
At which point the presenter, Rachel Burden, interrupted, putting the BBC/Mira Bar-Hillel point :
I suppose the story really is though the story of the 700+ people in Gaza, most of them civilians, many of them children, who've lost their lives and some of those pictures of children some people will find uncomfortable, others will find distasteful, others will say "That's very powerful and those are pictures that have to be brought to the world".
Hadar replied,
They are certainly very powerful pictures, and they're obviously very tragic and very sad pictures. I think there's a question here as well, you know...we've seen a lot you say..a lot of pictures of dead people, dead children, injured people. We've seen at least one BBC crew actually filming in a morgue! Now, one of the things that struck me is, would the BBC go and film in a morgue in the UK? I'm not sure they would. Would they show pictures of blood on the floor in a morgue in the UK? I'm not sure they would, and so you have to ask yourself, why the different standard and what does that actually say about the journalism?
Now, as you quite rightly said in the beginning, at lot of these pictures are actually intended to influence world opinion, and this is a very big factor in this conflict because Hamas and terrorist organisations know they can't win this war militarily...they just can' they seek to win it on the public opinion field - and on what we call the 'lawfare' field - and so pictures like this obviously, beyond the fact that they are obviously a terrible documentation of what is happening, but they also serve a purpose and...
And which point Rachel Burden interrupted again and brought Hadar's short but important appearance to an abrupt halt in order to talk to a Palestinian journalist.

This is a genuine moral dilemma, isn't it, though? Do you not show such powerful images in your reports and, therefore, risk being accused of censorship (and bias), or do you show them and help a terrorist organisation like Hamas win the battle for public opinion by putting their own people in harm's way? 

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