Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Dress the Israel Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

A Palestinian weeps as he attends the bodies of Shaher al-Najar and his brother Bassem, killed in an Israeli strike, at the family house during the funeral in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian weeps as he attends the bodies of Shaher al-Najar and his brother Bassem, killed in an Israeli strike, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

There was a time when our politicians and media had one principal fear when covering Middle East wars: that no one should ever call them anti-Semitic.

So corrosive, so vicious was this charge against any honest critic of Israel that merely to bleat the word “disproportionate” – as in any normal wartime exchange rate of Arab-to-Israeli deaths – was to provoke charges of Nazism by Israel’s would-be supporters.

Sympathy for Palestinians would earn the sobriquet “pro-Palestinian”, which, of course,  means “pro-terrorist”.

Or so it was until the latest bloodbath in Gaza, which is being so graphically covered by journalists that our masters and our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic, but fear of their own television viewers and readers – ordinary folk so outraged by the war crimes committed against the women and children of Gaza that they are demanding to know why, even now, television moguls and politicians are refusing to treat their own people like moral, decent, intelligent human beings.

Yet still – every time another blood-soaked child appears on the screen – the news presenters talk about the “blame game”. BLAME GAME? Do they think this is a bloody football match? Or a bloody tragedy? It goes like this. Civilians are killed. Reporters call it “tank fire”. (Hamas has no tanks.) Israel says it is a misfired Hamas rocket. Hamas says it is Israel’s work. So it’s a “blame game”. No one can actually BE blamed – and thus we can shrug off the responsibility and shake our head at it all.

And we must forget we did the same when US bombs killed civilians in Tripoli in 1986 (a “misfired Libyan anti-aircraft missile”, I recall, was to blame) or when the Nato attack on the Shuala district of Baghdad killed civilians in 2003 (a “misfired Iraqi anti-aircraft missile” was to blame, of course).

Several Americans have called me to point this out, adding that the US Senate vote of 100-0 in favour of Israel sounds a bit like the 98 per cent that Arab dictators claim for their presidency – except that the US vote, which does not represent them, really was the true figure! Now to the get-out clause of all of us.

Yes, Hamas is corrupt, cynical, ruthless. Most of its “spokesmen” are so prone to bawling abuse at the top of their voices, that they far outdo the ever-so-gentle Mark Regev in turning the world against Hamas. But the world is turning against Israel, as EU ministers repeatedly (though ever so gently) tell the Israelis. And it’s turning against our politicians and media masters who go on insulting them.

How many times does The New York Times expect its readers to tolerate editorials like last week’s pusillanimous effort? There had been “deadly attacks” in Gaza, readers were told. The total dead came to 750, “a vast majority being Palestinians”. And then the get-out: there were “competing charges” – Israel or Hamas or a Hamas ally – over the attack, and thus “what really matters now is that some way be found to stop this carnage”. So that’s OK, then. “Blame game” equals “no blame”.

France, there’s been derision at the way the government has reacted to Gaza’s calvary. François Hollande wanted Israel to “correct” its aim “a bit” (un peu)! He criticised Hamas’s aggression and Israel’s reprisals. But then an angry Benjamin Netanyahu came on the blower to the Elysée. Change of tune.

Palestinian relatives of Islamic Jihad militant Shaaban Al-Dahdouh, which was found under the rubble, during funeral in Gaza City, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Israeli reserve solders gather in a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli reserve solders gather in a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Palestinian supporters of Hamas clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank.   (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Palestinian supporters of Hamas clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Hollande uttered the usual mantra. “Israel has the right to take all measures to protect its people.” But then French Assembly members became so sickened by the “collective punishment” of the Palestinians that Hollande urged an end to the “escalation” in violence. Phew.

In Ireland, traditionally pro-Palestinian, The Irish Times, alas, has been playing the same tune as its New York namesake.

On the day after Israel bombed a UN school, killing 19 civilians, it ran a front-page article which began with Israel’s declaration of a ceasefire, continued with a paragraph of the truce details, then ran a paragraph that Hamas had no reaction – and then told its readers about the 19 dead.

A reader castigated the paper for “balancing” its letters page with correspondence designed to make the Palestinians look as guilty as the Israelis.

“Such disinterest is really a kind of moral apathy,” he said. And said it rather well. The world can at least thank the journos in Gaza – even if their bosses are still on the run.

Further reading

Israel's propaganda machine is starting to misfire 

MPs' concern over violence in Gaza 

Israel and Hamas agree 3-day truce 

US resupplies Israel with grenades and mortar rounds from War Reserve Stockpile

Swastikas and 'f*** Gaza' graffiti attack by loyalists on Catholic church sparks anger

Penelope Cruz among Spanish stars to sign open letter condemning Israel for 'genocide'

Israel-Gaza crisis: More reserves to join fighting 

UN accuses Israel of possible war crime after school shelling kills 19

Penelope Cruz among Spanish stars to sign open letter condemning Israel for 'genocide' 

Video: Moment UN spokesman breaks down in flood of tears discussing Israeli attacks on Gaza

At least 109 Palestinians killed and power station shut down as Gaza pulverised by the Israeli military in heaviest day of bombardment yet

China 'hacks data' from Israel's Iron Dome missile shield, says report 

Surgeons deliver baby girl by Caesarean section after mother is killed in air strike 

Israeli bombs blast Hamas media hub

Fury at Sinn Fein 'boycott Israel' call

Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire

Unionist Lord Kilclooney under fire as he attacks Israel’s blitz on Gaza  

John Prescott condemns Israel's bombardment of Gaza as a 'war crime' 

Pope Francis issues desperate plea to fighters - 'I ask you with all my heart, stop please' 

The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts 

Gaza war rages despite truce vows

Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins

Robert Fisk: What would we do if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli? 

Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home

Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza, says UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay

Civilian casualties in Gaza tell stories of death and heartbreak 

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza 

The myth of Hamas’s human shield 

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushing for ceasefire

Gaza bloodbath claims 500 Palestinian lives in relentless Israeli onslaught

Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza suffers its deadliest day after ‘heinous massacre’ in Shuja’iya

Scores dead in Gaza ground battle 

Gaza action 'must be proportionate'

Israel more brutal than Hitler: Turkish PM

Thousands gather for Gaza protest

What if British had treated Northern Irish like Israel treats Palestine?

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive as four more Palestinian children are killed including a five-month-old baby

Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Gaza children killed as they played football on the beach

Israeli government insists it does not target civilians – the day after four children are killed by shelling

Israel actions 'disproportionate'

Gaza: Four Palestinian boys killed in Israeli rocket attack on beach

The deep-lying racism fuelling the Israeli onslaught

Alexei Sayle: Israel is Jimmy Savile of nation states

'Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

From the archives

Students offered grants if they make pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets  

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds 

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

 Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

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