Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media MIcroscope: Siege Mentality

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Jamie Hyams

The media predictably commemorated the anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza with pieces and reports bemoaning the continuing state of “siege”. Many failed to blame Hamas for this situation, which would be remedied if Hamas renounces violence, recognises Israel and accepts existing agreements, as the Quartet has been demanding. And despite the fact that Israel allows in adequate food, fuel and medical supplies, many implied the blockade was total, or nearly total.

Ursula Malone, on the Dec. 28 SBS TV News, reported that Gazans were unable to rebuild because Israel was restricting the supply of materials. She concluded that, with Egyptian efforts to seal off smuggling tunnels, “Humanitarian groups are worried this will close off Gaza’s only lifeline.” A long Dec. 22 Age feature by the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood also dealt at length with the psychological and other effects on Gaza’s children. UK Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg, in a piece published in the Dec. 24 Canberra Times, described Gaza as a nightmare, the blockade as “near total” and complained “the international community has done next to nothing to lift the blockade.”

In a Jan. 8 Jason Koutsoukis article for the Age and Sydney Morning Herald about an “international aid convoy” seeking entry to Gaza through Egypt, British MP George Galloway, a member of the convoy, claimed an Egyptian requirement that some of the trucks enter through Israel was refused “Because nothing that ever goes to Israel, ever arrives in Gaza.” On the ABC TV “Midday Report” on Dec. 28, Katya Adler stated, “Israel says it never aimed to hurt ordinary citizens, but that’s what its ongoing blockade does.” On the Jan. 1 edition of SBS TV News, Vesna Nazor stated protesters were “united in their cause for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip,” while in the Jan. 6 edition, Rena Sarumpaet stated that Egypt’s underground wall “could cut off the last lifeline to the blockaded and impoverished Gaza.”

In the Dec. 28 edition of “AM” ABC Radio reporter Anne Barker played Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad saying, “All the crossings are closing, all the gates. People found nothing here, no milk, no food, no medicine.” These assertions were not challenged anywhere in the report.

In an article from the British newspaper, the Guardian, which appeared in the Jan. 9 Age, about Israel agreeing to pay the UN compensation for damage caused to its buildings during Operation Cast Lead, Rory McCarthy referred to Israeli shelling near a UN school in Jabaliya, which, he said, killed between 30 and 40 people. He said, “Israel at the time claimed Hamas had fired mortars from inside the school, the UN inquiry found this was untrue.” In fact, Israel had only claimed Hamas was firing from inside the school when UN spokesmen falsely claimed the school had been hit, and Israeli authorities believed them. Israel disputes the number killed, and it has been confirmed that Israel was returning fire near the school, and most of those killed were Hamas fighters – all of which McCarthy failed to mention.

In the Dec. 27 SBS TV News bulletin, Cathy Novak reported, “The violence… ended with the deaths of almost 1,400 Palestinians. Israel says that figure is closer to 1,200.” In fact, Israel says the figure is below 1,200, and it’s interesting that she quoted the Palestinian figure as fact, whereas the Israeli figure was just something “Israel says”.

In the Jan. 10 Canberra Times Natasha Rudra reported on radical Australian activist Donna Mulhearn’s protest visit to Gaza. She wrote, “Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in January 2009, cutting off supplies and communication. Palestinian supporters say… Israeli troops have killed more than 1,400 people… since the walls went up.” Aside from the errors about when the import restriction began, and the false implication that new “walls” had been built by Israel as part of it, there was no mention that Egypt also has an even more tightly-closed border with Gaza. Except for a token reference to Israel’s claim that its actions were to stop “Palestinian terrorist groups from attacking Israeli civilians”, there was also no mention of rockets or Hamas rejectionism.

One ray of light was a Ben Knight story for the Dec. 28 “7.30 Report” on ABC TV, in which Yohanan Plessner, from the Knesset EU Relations Committee, stated, “In the new kind of warfare today, civilians are more likely to get hurt, as long as terrorist organisations and their sponsors are relying or situating the centre of gravity of their forces within the civilian population.” Knight noted, “That’s exactly what Hamas did in Gaza.” Philosopher Asa Kasher explained, “If you try to apply the ordinary rules to such circumstances, then you reach the conclusion that you’ve lost your ability to defend yourselves, which is absurd.”

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