Sunday 15 May 2022

The haters are back


You may have noticed - I certainly have - that the lull in vociferous Israel-bashing is finally over.

What turns out to be a temporary diversion from the anti-Israel status quo may have been because the media’s current focus on Putin’s war against Ukraine has effectively paled other conflicts into insignificance; it may simply be the fallout from the near-miss of a Corbyn government. Whatever caused the haters to beat a temporary retreat, the Israel-bashing hiatus has now reached its natural sell-by limit. Back to abnormal; the haters are back in full force.

The BBC hasn’t had much to say about the resurgent and ongoing violence in the Middle East recently. The dearth of BBC reporting on the matter is becoming conspicuous by its relative absence. In the unlikely event that one were to rely on the BBC one would not know of the intifada-like flare-ups that resulted in the killing of Shireen Abu Aqla (also spelled Akleh) - few western reporters seemed interested in the prologue to the shooting itself. 

Several subtle and not-so-subtle differences between “pro" and "anti" media have obscured the facts. Predictably, the pro-Palestinian press has stoked the Israel-bashing flames. The BBC and The Times, to give just two examples, regurgitate the ‘Palestinian’ version, which not only ignores the ‘context’ but is pitched from the premise - the assumption - that the fatal bullet was fired by the IDF. The Israelis want the chance to analyse the bullet before formally accepting or denying responsibility for firing the fatal shot, but the Palestinians won’t let the evidence out of their sight; they’re grimly hanging onto the bullet. 

Worse still was the actual funeral. Although the ‘slain’ journalist was a Christian, she was fiercely politically pro-Palestinian, so the decision to follow the Muslim practice of burying the dead immediately would be acceptable - were it not for the fact that so much store is being (unnecessarily I think) set upon the identity of the shooter; obstructing potential forensics is not a good look.

Much of the reporting focuses on the brutality of the Israeli police, who were filmed attacking the pall-bearers and using batons with such violence that the coffin almost fell to the ground.  Describing a frenzied mob plainly revelling in the drama as ‘mourners’ is stretching it a bit.  The emotion on display hardly strikes one as ‘grief’. 

We have to look at the ‘Jewish’ press to find a fuller description of the event. It’s alleged that the family had agreed not to have the coffin ‘paraded’ through the streets; instead, it was to be driven by hearse in order to avoid the very scenes that transpired.


However, Abu Akleh’s brother disputes the Israeli account, and he has “slammed the Israeli police for “extreme, vicious and brutal force”. 

The British media (notably The BBC "Shireen Abu Aqla: UN condemns killing of Al Jazeera reporterand The Times) took the al-Jazeera approach, in the case of the Times they actually shared a reporter, Anchal Vohra .

The comments section of the Times clearly shows that the antisemites are back. The truce is over and the unleashing of all that pent-up Israel-bashing is further demonstrated by the enthusiastic reception of a film everyone’s raving about. It’s called Eleven Days in May and has been widely praised for the very thing it shouldn’t have been doing, namely “not contextualising”. The very thing it makes a virtue out of is the very thing it should have been ashamed of. Why would anyone be genuinely proud of stoking hate?

"Trying for a two-sided overview of this particular spate of bombardments would probably have doomed any documentary: no striving for editorial balance could ever be universally embraced.

The huge virtue of Eleven Days in May is avoiding any such attempt. It concentrates, with devastating simplicity, on the deaths of Gaza’s children, and only Gaza’s children, in that fray: the 60 of those innocent lives lost from May 10, 2021 until the ceasefire on May 21, amid an overall death toll of at least 243 people, according to Gaza’s health ministry."

Not contextualising is dangerous. It stokes hate. The film critic uses the “innocent face”. tactic.  Michael Winterbottom’s justification for wallowing in decontextualised misery reminds me of a lyric from the 60s.

"I’m just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."

Well, I don’t think the intentions are good. Misguided at best, and probably not misunderstood at all. 

“Assembling a memorial to the dead is all this film is doing, and everything it needs to do. We’re not embroiled in disputing anything: in terms of what’s strictly on screen, there’s nothing to dispute.”

Memorials to the dead are well and good. One-sided, egregious, mawkish wallowing in tragedy amounts to incitement to hate, and hate has certainly been incited.  Lone comment btl:

Of course it's appalling and tragic that children are killed in conflicts - still are in Ukraine and other places. But how about having a word with those children's fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles etc. Perhaps they could refrain from starting (most of) these fights.

The Jewish press has a different take on this but I can already hear the famous words of Mandy Rice Davies echoing in my head. 

Kate Winslet Gaza film ‘is Hamas propaganda’  

Co-director Mohammed Sawwaf was presented with an award by Hamas leaders for his work "countering the Zionist narrative". On social media, he has celebrated the launching of rockets against civilian targets and effectively called for the destruction of the State of Israel, saying that the map of Palestine should extend “from the sea to the river”.

Distinguished British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom is co-director, but did not visit Gaza for the making of the documentary.

On the other hand, Government severs ties with NUS over ‘antisemitic rot at its heart’ At least the majority of the responses here are encouraging. At last, the government has ‘done something’ but I fear the ever-increasing normalisation of “Muslimness” in GB does not augur well for some of us.

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