I’ve been quiet recently because people on other websites have tackled specific instances of unfair reporting more assiduously than I have been able to.
BBC Watch in particular regularly highlights errors and thoughtless statements made by interviewers and reporters, which are apt to compound misunderstandings and confuse the public in the name of clarification and impartiality.
Yolande Knell and Jeremy Bowen have been particularly unhelpful recently. Knell is in Gaza to “tell your story” like Alan Johnston before her, but that shouldn’t mean spouting untrue propaganda such as the mistaken claim that shortages of vital supplies, particularly of medicine and food, are due to Israel’s malevolence. Israel doesn’t block medicine or food - such shortages are due to the way Hamas and the PA mismanage their affairs.
Elder of Ziyon is always a rich source of information about Israel and the surrounding region, the site is continually updated. Israelly cool the same.
David Vance is usually sharp on matters concerning Israel and Palestine but Biased BBC is exasperatingly slow to load these days.
Several people have detected a shift in the media’s presentation of the current escalation in violence between Israel and Gaza. Suddenly news reports are adding certain phrases into and onto their pieces. Hints that indicate that they have at last grasped the fact that Hamas is the architect of its own (the people’s) misfortune. “If you stop sending rockets into Israel from Gaza, all this would stop” they seem to be saying - sometimes they actually are saying it. I thought Kevin Connolly seemed a lot fairer than he used to be, and quite a bit fatter.
An edition of Hardtalk with Zeinab Badawi and Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan was unusual. Zeinab is hardly known for impartiality where the I/P conflict is concerned. Her tone of voice when speaking to Israeli spokespersons has been notably disdainful and harsh, but the questions she put to Hamdan were reasonable, even if she let him get away with handfuls of fanciful and disingenuous remarks. “Why doesn’t Hamas stop sending rockets into Israel? was her opening gambit. Hamdan, with the kind of face you just long to punch, answered thus: “well the question I believe, is supposed to be why the Isra-elis stop the attack against the Palestinians? (Yes he did leave out “don’t” but we’ll put that down to language problems)
He kept prefacing his outrageous fantasies with “everybody knows,” which, of course is the diametric opposite of reality, and so much so that it was comical. Towards the end, after asserting that two of the three murdered Israeli teens were soldiers in the IDF, he accused PM Netanyahu of orchestrating their kidnap and killing to provide an excuse for the Israelis to attack Gaza.
Harry’s Place is the site for nuanced discussion, it’s like the Moral Maze on speed. You get criticism of Israel within an umbrella of loyalty and affection. Under present circumstances it’s almost too public an arena for airing personal dirty linen. There’s currently a must-read post by Marc Goldberg, one of Israel’s many angst-ridden citizens who is normally wracked with a mixture of empathy for his enemy and loyalty to his country. The reality of the current crisis has had a temporarily galvanising effect on him, and his piece entitled “Hamas is this the best you can do?” clearly articulates the frustrating questions that trouble and mystify those who see Hamas for what it is. He speaks for a wide spectrum of Israel-supporters, uniting people who may not agree on much else.
“You are the Palestinian tragedy. You are the killers of your own people. You are the ones who are unable to create anything and for all your talk are barely even capable of destroying. Since the time you seized control of Gaza you have managed to do absolutely nothing to help your own citizens. Your disastrous management of Gaza has seen a blockade imposed upon you and poverty rivaling the worst slums on the planet. Your use of media and children’s camps to indoctrinate your own populace into hatred of the Jew at all costs has succeeded only in sickening right thinking people all over the world.You have insisted upon putting every means at your disposal towards attacking Israel when what you should have done was leave Israel well enough alone and concentrate on building up Gaza. But you knew that and you chose not to anyway.”
The principles in this kind of war could be likened to a football match - not that I know anything about football, or could care less. But there are two important factors each side has to attend to. Attack and defence.
Israel devotes considerable resources to both. Hamas devotes what resources it has entirely to attack.
For defence Hamas relies entirely on Israel’s reluctance to harm non-combatants. It exploits Israel’s preventative warnings, which give Hamas just enough time to assemble all available human shields to protect prospective targets, performing a collective act of deterrence.
That shows two things. One, that Hamas recognises Israel’s reluctance to harm non-combatants even though the rest of the world prefers to sneer at that claim, and two, it clearly shows that Hamas values the lives of its own civilian supporters even less than Israel does.
On Today this morning there were the inevitable ‘balanced’ reports, one from Israel, the other from a Palestinian. In the intro, James Naughtie included the BBC’s favourite ‘emote mantra‘ - “In Israel no one has died” . He also used an odd phrase about mothers / babies / children who have been killed “These people may well take a view of Israel which you don’t approve of ” , which I’d say rather makes light of the widely-held Palestinian view that Israel should be eliminated, but still.
An Israeli spokesman, Yaacov Peri MK, was speaking from a wind-tunnel which seemed to be underwater. On my bedside radio it was borderline unlistenable, but it sounds more or less okay now. (Could they have cleaned it up before it was uploaded to “listen again?”)
In the studio, though, was that rogue Manuel Hassassian, about whom I’ve written before. He made many questionable assertions, which I thought could have been more robustly challenged. “Mr. Peri is an occupier.” he asserted. “People are living in Gaza with no medicine, no food supplies in an area totally sealed” said he. “Israel is occupying the Palestinians” “Killing indiscriminately, as you have said” and so on.
James Naughtie apparently accepts that Gaza is so highly populated that Hamas is forced to launch rockets amongst civilians. Someone should show him how to use Google Earth. Surely the BBC knows about Google Earth?
The BBC seems to be left with the one and only remaining and persistent argument against Israel. The amount of Palestinian civilians that have been killed. The more babies children and women they can call upon the better.
I saw Ron Proser being grilled on al Jazeera, after his speech at the UN the other day.
The female interviewer tried to do a Jeremy Paxman by repeatedly asking him to state what she thought was a killer question. “How many children has Israel killed? “she asked, over and over again. That was the one and only weapon in the media’s propaganda war; a last resort. A trump card. But it’s one that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Because of course war is terrible. The more babies, women and children are killed, all the more reason for Hamas to stop firing at Israel.