Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: Remembrance and Revisionism

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Jamie Hyams

Remembrance and Revisionism

On the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, many journalists and commentators revisited the war and its consequences. While much coverage was reasonable, unfortunately many rewrote history, unfairly attacked Israel’s occupation or claimed that the war damaged peace prospects. Many pieces, such as a lengthy Ed O’Loughlin feature in the Age on June 2, bemoaned the lack of peace, but failed to mention that immediately after the war, Israel offered to negotiate and return most of the land, but was rebuffed by the Arab League with its infamous three noes - no recognition, no negotiation and no peace. The same day, Jonathan Freedland complained, “The victory of 1967 turned Israel into a military occupier, and occupied people will always fight back eventually.” In arguing that Israel should negotiate with Hamas, he called it a “grievance-based nationalist movement with an Islamic hue.” In fact, as recent events have proven, it is an Islamist movement that happens to be Palestinian.

Perhaps the most egregious rewritings of history came from the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer. Bowen, in a report shown on SBS TV “News” on June 5, claimed, “The myth of 1967 is that the Israeli David beat the Arab Goliath. In fact, the Israeli generals and Britain and America were confident Israel could destroy the Arab armies in short order.” In fact, Israel was vastly outnumbered and outgunned, surrounded by enemies determined to destroy it and most observers at the time believed Israel was in genuine danger. Bowen also claimed that “450,000 Israelis now live on occupied land against every reading of international law other than Israel’s own.” In fact, many international law authorities argue that, as Israel took the land in a defensive war from countries with no legal right to it, Israel’s settlement are not illegal.

Fischer, in the May 27 Sunday Age revived his conspiracy theory that Israel attacked the US surveillance ship USS Liberty deliberately. All the evidence suggests the Israelis thought they were attacking an Egyptian ship, as several US and Israeli enquiries have concluded, yet Fischer did not even mention this in his article. Instead, he claimed the Israelis wanted to prevent the US alerting Syria to Israel’s impending attack on that country.

Bowen also claimed that the war made the Arab-Israeli conflict worse. The same day, on ABC Radio’s “PM”, Mark Bannerman claimed the war “Set up the Arab-Israeli conflict as a flashpoint in the region and the world,” and Anton Enus claimed on SBS TV’s “Late News” that the war “reshaped the Middle East, sowing the seeds for decades of conflict.” They neglect that the violence in the Middle East predated and caused the war, not the other way around, that if Israel had lost the war, which was forced upon it, there would have been no more Israel, and that the war, together with 1973’s Yom Kippur War, convinced Egypt and Jordan that Israel was there to stay, facilitating peace agreements.

Taimor Hazou, Deputy Chairman of the Australian Arabic Council, let fly in the June 5 Herald Sun with a rant that showed scant regard for the truth. He bemoaned “40 years of a brutal democracy that has brought no political freedom, no freedom of religion or education and no economic development… Israeli democracy to Palestinians means, very simply, Israeli brutality.” In fact, the standard of living in the West Bank and Gaza skyrocketed between 1967 and 1999 according to all the statistical indicators, the number of universities has gone from zero to 11 and, while before 1967 Jews were denied access to their holy sites, freedom of religion is absolute.

On the June 5 SBS TV “News”, Stan Grant interviewed Israeli left winger Menachem Klein, suggesting to Klein that the “unresolved issues” are the “right of return of Palestinians and the existence of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.” Both of these propositions are disputed, and it is interesting that Grant did not see Palestinian terrorism or rejectionism as “unresolved issues”. On June 7, he interviewed Palestinian analyst Daoud Kuttab, who complained about Israel’s “illegal occupation” and dismissed the 2000 Camp David peace offer as “way below the minimum expectation of the Palestinians and the Arabs.” It was not all bad though. On June 6, ABC Radio’s “The World Today” marked the anniversary by interviewing Israeli peace protestors. However, they also interviewed Eli Yerushalmi, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, who gave his recollections of the war and explained that Arab intransigence is responsible for the lack of peace.

On “Late Night Live” on June 7, Phillip Adams interviewed respected Israeli historian Michael Oren, who explained the Arab provocations that led up to the war and noted that Israel did not go to war until it had exhausted all its diplomatic options.

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