Guardian quotes Gaza ‘protester’ claiming new night time riots are meant to save lives

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

You don’t need to be a journalist, Mid-East analyst or expert of any kind to come up with a list of practical steps ‘protesters’ participating in the Hamas organised Great Return March can take to save Palestinian lives.

Here are just a few: 

  1. Stop firing at soldiers on the border.
  2. Stop throwing grenades and other explosive devices at soldiers on the border.
  3. Stop attempting to damage the security fence and infiltrate into Israel in order to kill Jews.

We don’t mean to be cheeky, but to introduce a larger point: that the Guardian’s coverage of the region is defined, as much as any other factor, by the denial of Palestinian agency, with reports invariably attributing Gaza’s woes to some sort of act of nature or, much more often, Israeli malevolence. 

Reports on Palestinian deaths and injuries during the Gaza border riots which have taken place since March 31st are a case in point, with their correspondents at pains to obfuscate Palestinian responsibility for initiating the deadly confrontations with Israeli soldiers.

A recent article (Two children among seven people shot dead by Israel, say officials, Sept. 29) by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Oliver Holmes, on the most recent border riots, noted an alternative idea for saving lives, one that doesn’t rely our ‘conventional wisdom’.

Here’s the relevant sentence:

During the past two weeks, the Hamas-led Friday rallies have grown in size and also moved to evenings and night-time, a move protesters say is to save lives as people can move under the cover of darkness. Piles of tyres have also been burnt to obscure the snipers’s vision.

Reports elsewhere note that Palestinians have called this new strategy – which involves the usual riot tactics, such as throwing incendiary devices towards soldiers (and sound bombs that can be heard in nearby Israeli communities), but doing them when it’s dark, “night confusion units”. 

By “saving lives”, the ‘protester’ of course was referring to the hope that, by operating under the cover of darkness, they could engage in violent actions on the border with greater impunity.

However, a report in The National included a quote by a Israeli military official who said “the night protests do not pose a new challenge” given the night vision equipment used by soldiers.  So, it seems, despite the Palestinian claim uncritically cited in the Guardian, the new tactic of engaging in violence against soldiers or attempting to infiltrate the border at night will not “save lives”.

But, beyond the narrow claim regarding whether such new tactics will save lives, it’s remarkable that reporters like Holmes never seem interested in exploring the more vital questions concerning the impact of a Palestinian culture which encourages civilians – including young children – into situations likely to result in serious injury or death. 

As former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman wrote in his landmark 2014 expose on institutional anti-Israel media bias and the liberal racism of low expectations, “Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate.”  “The story mandates”, Friedman added, “that they exist as passive victims” of Israel, the only party that matters.

This failure of media outlets such as the Guardian to recognize that Palestinians are more than just victims, and have the capacity to resist such destructive behavior, continues to deny news consumers an accurate understanding of the factors driving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman discusses media coverage of the May 14th pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border:

“About 40,000 people answered a call to show up. Many of them, some armed, rushed the border fence. Many Israelis, myself included, were horrified to see the number of fatalities reach 60.

Most Western viewers experienced these events through a visual storytelling tool: a split screen. On one side was the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem in the presence of Ivanka Trump, evangelical Christian allies of the White House and Israel’s current political leadership — an event many here found curious and distant from our national life. On the other side was the terrible violence in the desperately poor and isolated territory. The juxtaposition was disturbing.

The attempts to breach the Gaza fence, which Palestinians call the March of Return, began in March and have the stated goal of erasing the border as a step toward erasing Israel. A central organizer, the Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, exhorted participants on camera in Arabic to “tear out the hearts” of Israelis. But on Monday the enterprise was rebranded as a protest against the embassy opening, with which it was meticulously timed to coincide. The split screen, and the idea that people were dying in Gaza because of Donald Trump, was what Hamas was looking for.

The press coverage on Monday was a major Hamas success in a war whose battlefield isn’t really Gaza, but the brains of foreign audiences.”

BBC World Service radio of course does not have a literal split screen but the May 14th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ – presented by Razia Iqbal – certainly managed to create an audio equivalent of that “storytelling tool”.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. The clashes came as the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem. We will hear from both Palestinian and Israeli voices.”

The overwhelming majority of that hour-long programme was devoted to those two concurrently presented topics: the inauguration ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the May 14th rioting along the Gaza border. In addition to Iqbal’s own commentary, listeners heard live excerpts from the ceremony at the new US embassy along with a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and interviews with one Israeli MK, one Palestinian politician, one Palestinian demonstrator, a former US Senator and an American member of a political NGO.

In the two parts of this post we will look at how the former event was presented to BBC audiences and in a future post we will discuss the programme’s presentation of the second topic.

Razia Iqbal introduced the broadcast (from 00:11 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Our programme is dominated today by the city of Jerusalem – a city which embodies that very potent mix of religion, politics and history. Today – as we speak – the United States is inaugurating its embassy there following President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December last year. It could mark the beginning of a seismic shift in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The status of Jerusalem is among the issues which remain open for negotiation in any final peace accord; as a recognition of how contentious it is. The Israelis regard the undivided city as their capital and the Palestinians – as well as international law – regard the east of the city as territory occupied by the Israelis after the 1967 war and there for the Palestinians to make as their capital of any Palestinian state. The new US embassy will be located in west Jerusalem but President Trump has said that his unilateral decision to recognise it as Israel’s capital takes it off the table. It is among several issues which now separate the United States from the rest of the international community. We’ll be getting views from all sides about what’s happening today, right now, and also what it means for a peace process which has long been dormant.”

Already in that introduction the themes which would be repeatedly emphasised throughout the rest of the programme were apparent. Despite the fact that, even as Iqbal spoke, tens of thousands of Palestinians were literally demonstrating the fact that they are not interested in a peace agreement by participating in an event promoting efforts to eradicate the world’s only Jewish state, for the BBC it was the placement of a new plaque on an existing US mission in Jerusalem which was the “seismic shift” and the factor which would affect the ‘peace process’.

Iqbal’s partisan portrayal of ‘international law’ was likewise a theme repeated throughout the programme, as was that of US ‘isolation’ from a touted ‘consensus’ within the ‘international community’. Notably, on the two occasions that she mentioned the name of the Jerusalem neighbourhood in which the US embassy is now situated, Razia Iqbal could not even be bothered to get its name – Arnona – right.

03:20 Iqbal: “Not very far from what’s happening in the Arona neigbourhood of Jerusalem where the new US embassy is going to be is quite a different scene.”

30:06 Iqbal: “In the past few minutes as the ceremony has been taking place in the Arona suburb of Jerusalem…”

At 08:26 Iqbal began a live interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel, asking her first for her thoughts on the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. When in the course of her answer Haskel pointed out that “you cannot separate Jerusalem from the Jewish identity” and that the move is “very exciting”, an audibly hostile Iqbal (and one has to listen to it to appreciate the level of aggression) interrupted her.

Iqbal: “OK. So very exciting from your perspective. Arabs have also lived in Jerusalem for millennia. The Palestinians regard East Jerusalem…please let me ask a question Sharren Haskel. Please let me ask a question. And Arabs regard…Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as occupied territory – occupied illegally by Israel – and they see it as a possible future capital for a Palestinian state. What do you think about the view put by many people, including many in the international community, that the United States is joining the occupier in violating international law?”

The source of that “view put by many people” which Iqbal promoted became apparent minutes later when – at 16:05 –Iqbal introduced a notably less aggressive pre-recorded interview with BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti which will be discussed in part two of this post.

 

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

As readers no doubt recall, at the beginning of this month the BBC produced three items on various platforms promoting a collection of anonymous ‘testimonies’ issued by the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’. In clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, none of those reports provided audiences with any meaningful information about the organisation’s political agenda.BtS written

BBC editorial guidelines flouted in promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’ booklet

Another breach of editorial guidelines in yet more BBC promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

Writing at the Mosaic magazine, journalist Matti Friedman brings some crucial context not only to the issue of the claims touted by ‘Breaking the Silence’ but also to the wider – and no less important – topic of the mainstream media’s uncritical promotion and amplification of the story.

“As a reporter, you wouldn’t be able to get away with publishing purely anonymous testimony that you have collected, but it is one of the peculiarities of Israel-related journalism that you are allowed to use anonymous material if it has been pre-packaged for you by a political NGO. […]BtS audio

The vast media coverage devoted over the past week to this little piece of agit-prop from a little country—its claims parroted without proof, shorn of context and comparison, and presented as journalism to people around the world—must lead us to ask what, exactly, is going on. What is motivating all of this? No one observing our planet of violence and injustice in 2015 can claim any longer that Israel is covered the same way other countries are covered; that the coverage is proportional to the scale of events; or that the tone of moral condemnation—growing in its hysteria, and crawling from the fringes deeper and deeper into the mainstream press—is in the realm of reasonable reportage.

In all the talk purporting to be about the Gaza war, many are beginning to see more clearly the outlines of another war entirely. What is the nature of this war? That is where the real silence lies.”

Read the whole article here

 

Media and Israel: Friday night long reads

1) Over at the Fathom journal is a transcript of a speech titled ‘The ideological roots of media bias against Israel’ given by journalist Matti Friedman at a recent BICOM dinner.candles

“As one BBC reporter informed a Jewish interviewee on camera several weeks ago, after a Muslim terrorist murdered four Jewish shoppers at a Paris supermarket, “Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffered hugely at Jewish hands as well.” Everything, that is, can be linked to the occupation, and Jews can be blamed even for the attacks against them. This isn’t the voice of the perpetrators, but of the enablers. The voice of the enablers is less honest than that of the perpetrators, and more dangerous for being disguised in respectable English. This voice is confident and growing in volume.”

Read the whole thing here

2) Hebrew speakers can find an article written by Yiftach Curiel in which he discusses the British media’s “obsession with Israel” here.

“After more than a year and a half in the role of spokesman for the embassy in London, I am still more surprised not by negative or inaccurate coverage […] but mainly by the volume of coverage and the unexplained level of interest in what happens in our little corner in the Middle East: in the great hopes hung upon us (such as an end to the conflict between extreme Islam and the West if only we would end the dispute between us and the Palestinians) and in the disappointment when we do not conduct ourselves like Sweden or Finland in the face of challenges which European states themselves have not experienced for tens of years.”

3) Anyone still in need of an antidote to the crass Tweet sent by the BBC’s ‘The Big Questions’ to promote its Holocaust Memorial Day edition can find an exceptionally moving piece by British journalist Hugo Rifkind here.

 

 

Matti Friedman sheds more light on the reporting of the summer conflict

Back in the summer we noted an article written by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman which shared some important insider insights into why so many of the news reports coming out of the Gaza Strip lacked the context and content essential for audience understanding of that conflict between Israel and Hamas.TV camera

Now, Matti Friedman has written a follow-up article which sheds even more light on the issue of the way in which that conflict was reported by the Western media – and why. For those of us who closely followed BBC coverage of the summer conflict, his insights have a disturbing familiarity.

“Most consumers of the Israel story don’t understand how the story is manufactured. But Hamas does. Since assuming power in Gaza in 2007, the Islamic Resistance Movement has come to understand that many reporters are committed to a narrative wherein Israelis are oppressors and Palestinians passive victims with reasonable goals, and are uninterested in contradictory information. […]

Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. […]

In previous rounds of Gaza fighting, Hamas learned that international coverage from the territory could be molded to its needs, a lesson it would implement in this summer’s war. Most of the press work in Gaza is done by local fixers, translators, and reporters, people who would understandably not dare cross Hamas, making it only rarely necessary for the group to threaten a Westerner. The organization’s armed forces could be made to disappear. The press could be trusted to play its role in the Hamas script, instead of reporting that there was such a script. Hamas strategy did not exist, according to Hamas—or, as reporters would say, was “not the story.” There was no Hamas charter blaming Jews for centuries of perfidy, or calling for their murder; this was not the story. The rockets falling on Israeli cities were quite harmless; they were not the story either.

Hamas understood that journalists would not only accept as fact the Hamas-reported civilian death toll—relayed through the UN or through something called the “Gaza Health Ministry,” an office controlled by Hamas—but would make those numbers the center of coverage. Hamas understood that reporters could be intimidated when necessary and that they would not report the intimidation; Western news organizations tend to see no ethical imperative to inform readers of the restrictions shaping their coverage in repressive states or other dangerous areas. In the war’s aftermath, the NGO-UN-media alliance could be depended upon to unleash the organs of the international community on Israel, and to leave the jihadist group alone.

When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. […] Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying.”

Read the whole article here.

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Matti Friedman discusses Gaza media coverage on CNN

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part five

Matti Friedman discusses Gaza media coverage on CNN

A few days ago we noted here the important insider insights on Western media coverage of the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip which appeared in an article by former AP journalist Matti Friedman.  

CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter interviewed Matti Friedman on his show ‘Reliable Sources’ which sets itself the task of “[e]xamining how journalists do their jobs and how the media affect the stories they cover”.