Saturday 15 May 2021

Conversations about Gaza [I]

SUE - We’re making this comeback, possibly a one-off - due to the exceptionally problematic media coverage of (how to put it) the current ‘Israel / Gaza’ war.

The BBC’s ‘domestic’ bias is capable of looking after itself on ITBB but we both think this topic merits special attention.

Unfortunately for the argument that we are about to make, most of the complaints are from people who like to believe that the BBC isn’t pro-Palestinian enough.

Global Chinese Whispers plays out like this. The media sets the stage. Feelings trump facts, and an inflammatory message travels around the world before the truth has time to put its boots on. We’ve covered much of this issue over the years, both on ITBB and (before 2012) over at Biased-BBC. It’s Remember the Hamas Bunny? MEMRI?

Alan M. Dershowitz goes down memory lane: This article was originally published in a slightly different form in 2009. Nothing has changed. And it’s déjà vu all over again again with the estimable Matti Friedman.

Not so long ago the many forms of media bias cited and defined by bias-watching fanatics like us would fall on deaf ears. Not so much now; we are no longer alone. The BBC is coming under much wider and closer scrutiny, partly due to the public’s belated recognition of the BBC’s left-wing, some say Marxist, agenda.

The comments in the non-left-wing press show how frequently that particular problem is alluded to in comments by interested members of the public. The bias is almost universally accepted as a given, which arguably downgrades ITBB to the status of self-indulgent irrelevance.

Obviously, the BBC is conscious of the criticism and perhaps it suspects its future depends on more rigorous compliance with its charter obligations, but even if it’s forced to adopt a genuine policy of impartiality over its output, other broadcasters (i.e., Sky, Channel 4) ain’t necessarily bovvered and can stir up trouble with impunity. The new BBC DG may have been ‘trying’, but his influence looks distinctly lip-servicey. When we get the obligatory ‘other side' of the story it’s delivered at arm’s length - impersonal - and framed with the disclaimer “Israel says”, which smacks of cynicism and a sarcastic voice comes on in my head as I read it.

The most pungent flower plucked from the bouquet of biased reporting is ‘omission’ where vital information is tacitly omitted or concealed, especially that concerning the religious indoctrination that underpins Palestinian rhetoric and incites violence against Jews.

And a close second, florid emoting. Gratuitously dwelling on the misery of one side. Loaded language; lazy, repetitive, and economical with the actualité.

[CRAIG - What follows are various parts of Sue and my email exchanges over recent days. Exclusive free, PREMIUM, director's cut material.]

CRAIG - You may already know this, but did you spot that Naz Shah returned to type? I've just not seen anyone commenting on it yet - though someone probably has and I've just missed - but I myself spotted three falsehoods from her in a single just-over-a-minute video, and I think it's newsworthy.

1. Israeli forces didn't attack innocent worshippers on the holiest of nights, in the holiest of places. [Those 'worshippers', stirred up by rhetoric from Palestinian leaders, had stocked the holy al-Asqa mosque with stones, firecrackers, and the like ready for violent protest]. 

2. Thousands of Israel weren't celebrating and chanting the burning of a place of worship. [It was a tree that was on fire, not the mosque, and it was accidentally set alight by the Palestinians, and the Israelis were celebrating an annual national day]. 

3. Settlers didn't illegally occupy or forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes. [The Palestinians are still there pending a Supreme Court ruling].

So, she made three statements, all wrong, and all attacking Israel.

Why has a Muslim Labour MP, who had to apologise for antisemitic anti-Israel tweets and was then widely portrayed in the media as being genuinely repentant, now reverted to blithely spreading lies about Israel?


I'm thinking that Naz Shah may have got her take on things from watching Aleem Maqbool's  misleading piece on Wednesday's Newsnight which chose its words so carefully as to make one side appear almost entirely in the wrong:
Though the focus is now on Gaza and southern Israel, It was events in Jerusalem that led to what we are seeing now. 
[CRAIG -  And what of the possibility, approaching certainty, that another key cause [perhaps THE main cause] is an intense power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, fuelled by elections cancelled by Fatah, with Hamas ferociously attempting to outbid Fatah in terms of inciting violence against Israel in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, in the hope of reaping the rewards, and that this ultra-heightened level of incitement has been strongly encouraged by Iran and Turkey, emboldened by a weak US president? Shush!!]  
An Israeli court decided it was right to evict several Palestinian families from their homes 
[CRAIG - So, an Israeli court put in the dock by Newsnight. Whether those homes really are their homes and whether they were reneging on the terms of their occupancy by refusing to pay their rent, suddenly, for some reason, right now, being just a few questions ignored by Newsnight. 
in occupied east Jerusalem.  
[CRAIG - The Israelis didn't evict anyone. It's now gone to the Supreme Court - something else unmentioned here].  
Last Friday those families and others had gathered to break their Ramadan fast
[CRAIG - nice and peaceful family stuff, with lots of invited onlookers]. 
but Jewish settlers came to make their presence felt and stake their claim to the homes. 
[CRAIG - Israeli settlers - boo! - joining that Israeli court in the Newsnight dock]
It quickly led to scuffles. The UN and US condemned any forced evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem  
[CRAIG - which didn't happen anyhow].
but the issue had already sparked more confrontation in Jerusalem,  
[CRAIG - so that's just the Israeli side in the dock then, so far]
Israeli police using rubber bullets and stun grenades and water cannons.  
[CRAIG -  Ah, now the Israeli police are in the Newsnight dock].  
But it was Monday when things escalated so dramatically. Israeli nationalists   
[CRAIG - Israeli nationalists, step into the Newsnight dock please!]  
prepared to march through the Muslim quarter to celebrate their country's capture  
[CRAIG - ''capture'', eh?]  
of east Jerusalem 54 years ago. Palestinians had been in the al-Aqsa Mosque, some ready to oppose the march  
[CRAIG - BBC understatement! They stocked this holy site with rocks, Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and the like],  
when Israeli police stormed  
[CRAIG - ''stormed'', eh?]  
the mosque compound, once again using force  
[CRAIG - ''using force'', eh? Unlike the violent, well-stocked protestors inside the sacred mosque, spoiling for a fight, ]  
in the form of sound bombs and rubber bullets but now at the doors of one of Islam's holiest sites.  
[CRAIG - Must remember to stock my parish church with rocks, Mototov cocktails, firecrackers and the like. Not sure if my vicar would agree though. Should I ask Jeremy Bowen if he can recommend an imam from a mosque in and around Jerusalem?].   
Around the compound Palestinians threw rocks and bottles   
[CRAIG - yeah, and the rest Aleem]
and more that 300 were injured and as well as 21 Israeli police.  
[CRAIG - Imagine how that would sound the other way round ''More than 21 Israel police were were injured, as well as over 300 rioters'].  
Later, when a fire broke out 
[CRAIG - Just 'broke out', did it? Wasn't started by Palestinian rioters accidentally setting a tree ablaze with one of their firecrackers, Aleem?] 
at the mosque compound, Israelis were seen celebrating. 
[CRAIG - ''Seen celebrating'', eh BBC? Leaping to conclusions without fact-checking, BBC? As it was the annual Jerusalem Day celebration, where thousands of Israelis gather each year, were the several foregrounded Israel people filmed dancing actually celebrating the fire around al-Aqsa, or just celebrating and getting filmed against a background of a burning tree on the Temple Mount? Not that bigoted, vicious Israeli Jews have been absent from the recent violence - unfortunately, far from it -  and I'd been full for admiration for how the pro-Israel people I follow on Twitter have both brought up their actions and damned them unequivocally. But I can't find any evidence that these people were rejoicing at fires on the Haram esh-Sharif / Temple Mount complex rather than just rejoicing as they do, every year, even amid the horrors of recent days. Wrong place, wrong time, perhaps, for the people featured in that 'viral' footage, dancing as a tree burned on the night sky as the backdrop of their celebrations? Or maybe, entirely guilty as charged by the like of Labour's Naz? But shouldn't the BBC do a huge amount of due diligence by trying to find out and not spouting off in a potentially inflammatory way without evidence?]

SUE - I did hear a leek Maqbool (autocorrect struck) speaking the other day but I’m thinking it was an abridged version, or maybe I was half asleep. The language he and his colleagues use is typically loaded and you are right that this kind of thing is where Naz and her ilk get their inspiration. Even in the first section of that transcription [below] there are clues that anyone with an interest in language could pick out:
This is not a story about buildings coming down, or a rocket count. It is about civilians suddenly being thrown into despair. A boy in Gaza running to a coffin, after his father and elder brother were killed. Dozens have now died. Panic and fear etched on the faces of those in Ashkelon in Israel as the warning sirens go off again and where the number of dead rises there too. Today started with more air strikes in Gaza, this tiny densely packed territory, just 25 miles long, five miles across, given a deadly wake up call. And the day was punctuated with more massive bombardment, Israel saying it is targeting places associated with senior figures in Hamas. And while militants have been killed, many civilians, including children, are known to be among the dead. And if they haven't lost relatives, more and more of those living in this impoverished strip are losing their homes and belongings, and are in fear. Overnight, militant groups in Gaza sent a huge barrage of rockets into Israel. And while most were stopped, many did manage to get through, some hitting buildings. In Rashon LeTsizon a 50-year-old woman became one of six Israelis who have now been killed. So how did we get here?
I mean Palis are always defined as ‘families’, usually with empathetic adjectives, whereas Israelis are held at arm’s length without “personalisation’. The lip service that is half-heartedly paid to balance is shamelessly gratuitous. Then there are the half-truths that have embedded themselves into the language such as ‘densely packed’. Then every single utterance about Israel’s action is reported as ‘Israel says” which implies reluctance at the compulsory obligation to ‘put the other side’. In fact, I’m sure that’s actually passive-aggressive.

And that’s even before the ‘how did we get here’ section.

The terms used are always emotive. Jewish Settlers. Right-wing. Etc. Not to mention the lazy, sloppy, malicious, deliberately misleading emoting throughout.

CRAIG - As we've quoted two-thirds of that report from Leeky Maqbool, as I'll think of him from now on, we might as well finish it off. This is how he ends it:
Several rockets were fired from Gaza, and although they were shot down Israel decided to hit back hard, with air strikes across the Gaza Strip. It said it was targeting militants but of nearly 30 people were ten children including a four-year-old and 6-year-old. By Tuesday, it felt like a point of no return had been crossed and Gaza had, as has happened so many times in the past, become the cauldron of conflict. For the most part, Gazans do not appear to blame the Palestinian militants or the rocket fire for bringing this catastrophe on them, saying it their occupier that is the aggressor. But Israel says this is entirely the fault of Hamas and that it will continue its military action. With neither side backing down, the funerals look set to keep coming for days.
First sentence, for starters: Just ''several'' rockets. Then Israel deciding to hit back hard ''although they were shot down'', making the Israeli response sound unreasonable, even disproportionate. And then comes another of those 'Israel says' phrases followed by a ''but'', i.e. language of contradiction. And another ''Israel says'' comes later, this time after a ''but''.

And there was a good example of Jeremy Bowen doing an ''Israel says'' on Thursday's BBC Breakfast. The ''they call'' bit was HIS emphasis:
You mentioned appeals for calm coming from abroad, but this is not going to end, I think, until both sides can find a way of declaring a victory that they like. Hamas will want to be able to say that they defended Palestinians and Jerusalem, and Israelis want to do something that they call "restoring deterrence", which essentially means giving a good hammering to anybody who raises a hand against them. So I think that this has got some way to go at the moment. The ''disproportionality'' charge was there too, of course, in his sneer about Israel ''giving a good hammering to anybody who raises a hand against them''.
What's happening in and around Israel at the moment is horrible, and worse than ever this time, with sectarian violence inside Israel adding to the usual story of genocidal terrorists trying to kill as many Jews as possible (and not caring how many of 'their own people' die in the process) and Israel robustly defending itself and being demonised for doing so. 

And then, as if things couldn't get any worse, Jeremy Bowen - the man with a deep personal grudge against the State of Israel, one he's been nursing for a couple of decades - pops up at Heathrow Airport announcing to the world that he's on his way.


"Heart of stone not to laugh!"

CRAIG  - David Collier just replied to AP about that; ''If AP, Al Jazeera and co didn't know that the very building they are reporting from in Gaza is used by Hamas to hide military assets - then maybe they should change jobs?''

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