Today’s Comment is Free (or should I say “Comment is Not Free”) had an eye-opening column by Carmel Gould, the editorial manager of Just Journalism, a pro-Israel UK media-watch website. The column is entitled “The end of the media’s Israel fixation?” and is a rather optimistic take on the media’s reporting on the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring. I am astonished that the Guardian gave column space to this article, particularly as it seems to target the Guardian itself with its never-ending obsession with Israel.
A recent report by Just Journalism documents how in 2010, when the stirrings of mass discontent were surely detectable across the region, Middle East coverage by the British broadsheets and the BBC News website was disproportionately focused on Israel. Across all outlets and in news, comment and editorial categories, Israel was by far the most discussed country. In the case of the BBC, coverage of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia combined and doubled still amounted to less than was produced about Israel.
Recently, Greg Philo of Glasgow University Media Unit complained on these pages that having pored over 4,000 lines of text from main UK broadcast bulletins during the 2008/9 Gaza war, not enough was said about Palestinians killed by Israel prior to the events being reported. Nothing could better illustrate the media obsession with Israel than the presence of such quantities of material for Philo to wade through. It is highly doubtful that 4,000 lines of text from main UK broadcast bulletins exist in relation to the closing weeks of the Sri Lanka war, also in 2009, in which up to 40 times more civilians died than in Gaza.
It’s also worth noting that for all the dozens of headlines last month about Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “defiance” and “refusals” regarding taking the necessary steps for peace, the fresh proclamations by Hamas about how they have zero intention of ever accepting the existence of Israel attracted virtually no coverage.
The battle for control over the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to accusations that Zionists control the media. This is hard to believe, given the daily offerings of Jerusalem correspondents about settlement expansion, the Gaza blockade, loyalty oaths, racist rabbis, demolitions, checkpoints etc. If anyone is leaning on these reporters it plainly has no effect. It’s a different story in Gaza where Hamas thugs recently beat a Reuters journalist with a metal pole and threatened another with being thrown out of a tall building.
The reason I call this report optimistic is that in the very same issue of the Guardian, their Israel-obsession is out there for all to see. They have a disgustingly biased interactive-video gallery called “Living in East Jerusalem“. In the Guardian’s own words:
Four Palestinians and two Israelis used cameras provided by the Guardian and B’Tselem human rights organisation to record video diaries about their lives and experiences in East Jerusalem.
Just seeing the words “Guardian” and “B’Tselem” together tell me all I need to know: it will be yet another diatribe against Israel, the settlers, the IDF, all the usual leftist bogeymen.
I watched the first video made by a Palestinian resident of Silwan who had fixed up security cameras around his house. He mentioned “problems” between the residents and Jewish settlers without mentioning what those problems are. He mentioned an ongoing “legal process” regarding Beit Hadvash, but again did not elaborate. He did not dare admit that the Jews have legally bought the property and that they have strong legal grounds to the title of that property long before Palestinians ever appeared on the scene. The same applies to Beit Yonatan. He complains about the Israeli security guards and police who guard the settlers without mentioning the reason for the need for these guards – Palestinian violence against the Israelis.
As “Elder of Ziyon” so aptly puts it in my link above:
Why does the world consider the anomalous 19 year period of when Jordan made the eastern part of Jerusalem Judenrein, or the scandalous time period when even relatively new immigrant Jews were forced out of their homes in the 1920s and 1930s, to be the “status quo?”
I admit I did not have the stomach to watch all the videos made by the other three Palestinians. I am sure they are all equally miserably oppressed by the eeevil settlers, ably assisted by the eeevil Zionist entity’s police and army. It was quite enough watching the videos by the two Israelis. The first is by archaeologist Yoni Mizrahi who leads “alternative” tours of Jerusalem’s City of David archaeological park, all the while decrying that a “settler” organization, Elad, controls this park. However he does not bring any solid complaints against Elad in the video, besides the fact that it is a “settler organization”. He certainly did not mention the fact that Elad has sued the leftists for defamation:
The Elad organization filed a libel suit against 15 activists in the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. The suit, demanding NIS 500,000 in damages, claims the activists sullied the good name of Elad during an activity they held on Passover at the gate to City of David, an archeological site in East Jerusalem operated by Elad. The activists handed out information materials to visitors and held alternative tours of the site, stressing the damage they said was being caused to local Palestinian residents by Elad’s operation of the site.
Elad was particularly incensed by Solidarity’s claim that a security guard employed by the organization shot dead a Palestinian resident of Silwan, Samer Sirhan, eight months ago. They stressed that while Solidarity activists linked the guard to Elad, he was, in fact, employed by the Housing Ministry. In the last year the movement has filed libel suits against a number of activists and leftist groups.
This both relates to the video by the Palestinian that mentioned above, and it also ties in with the second Israeli video, by a Solidarity (ISM?) activist named Sarah Benninga who takes great umbrage at the thought of eeevil Jewish settlers moving in to the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, aka Shimon Hatzadik. Once again, no mention is made of the legal rights to the properties there, which were once owned by Jews. On the other hand, Sarah has no such compunction about showing us her parents’ house in Baka which she cheerfully admits was an Arab neighbourhood whose residents fled in 1948. What, you’re not asking your parents to vacate their illegally occupied house Sarah?
The hypocrisy is so blindingly obvious that I am surprised the Guardian allowed Carmel Gould to publish her article in the same issue. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
In any event, I’m reckoning there is no chance of the Guardian or B’Tselem giving video cameras to “regular” Israeli citizens then. Or even – gasp! – settlers to get their view of the situation. That would never do! It might make people think, and possibly even change their minds.
So Carmel Gould, your work is nowhere near finished. Keep on watching and monitoring the media. There are plenty of us out here to help you.