Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Sound off; Clear as mud

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Sound off

ABC Radio National's "360documentaries" series (9/9) featured a 50-minute program from Australian anti-Zionist activist Peter Slezak with interviews he recorded on a recent trip to Gaza and the West Bank.

The program's producer was Cathy Peters - the Marrickville Councillor from the NSW Greens party who was instrumental in proposing the notorious BDS motion in 2010.

Despite this pedigree, ABC presenter Kirsti Melville meekly introduced Slezak as a "Jewish writer and commentator" without mentioning his activism.

The program itself is the equivalent of "the best of the worse of the anti-Israel" NGO and UN brigade featuring the usual array of one-sided claims. Neither Hamas nor any Palestinian violence was so much as mentioned.

However, even more concerning is the 360documentaries website which uses language some might understand to imply official ABC endorsement for Slezak's allegations, such as the introductory line asking "How are Palestinians living under the Occupation in the West Bank and Gaza?"
 
Gaza is not under Israeli occupation following Israel's withdrawal in 2005 according to the accepted definition under international law, which requires "effective control", something Israel clearly does not have. Moreover, Gaza's southern border is shared with Egypt, meaning that there is an entry and exit from the Gaza Strip totally separate from Israel's control, in which circumstance Gaza is not under Israeli occupation. There is also no legal international obligation on Israel to open its borders to an enemy state that calls for its destruction and refuses to recognise its existence.

The website claims the visit by Slezak "the son of holocaust survivors, was confronting and harrowing as he witnessed what this Occupation means in terms of the human rights abuses that occur routinely". Intentional or not, the capitalisation suggests the Holocaust was routine but that Israel's occupation of the West Bank is unique, mirroring the Palestinian narrative.

A website teaser for the subsequent episode included 360documentaries executive producer Claudia Taranto's interview with Israeli Foreign Minsitry's Paul Hirschson who "discussed the Israel Defence Force's attempt to intimidate the Palestinian population and Palestinian children being detained under military rule in the West Bank." (see a Google cached version of the page here).

Claims about "the attempt to intimidate the Palestinian population" are allegations and should be treated as such in ABC reporting, which explains why the wording was corrected to now state "the alleged attempt to intimidate the Palestinian population".

Clear as mud

Sydney Morning Herald/Age correspondent Ruth Pollard (4/9) ran an unsubstantiated allegation from the Palestinian so-called "human rights group" Al-Haq that Israeli cosmetics firm Ahava is committing "war crimes" by supposedly extracting mud and salt from the part of the Dead Sea on the West Bank.

Ahava and Israeli Foreign Ministry spokespeople quoted in the story categorically denied the charges. In the Herald version, the extraction is reported as fact.

Perhaps Pollard should have demanded some photographic evidence or attempted to go to the West Bank and look for herself.

The lack of substance to the claim might explain why a Google news search showed that the only other global media to cover the report was the notorious anti-Israel Guardian, Iran's Press TV and the Palestinian Authority's WAFA news agency.

Al-Haq is run by Shawan Jabarin (who allegedly has links with the PFLP terrorist group) and is a key player of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions campaign whose agenda never includes a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Pollard described the Dead Sea as "part of the world's most disputed territory", which is a tad Western-centric, considering uninhabited islands in Southeast Asia are the scene of tense stand offs between China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia.

- Allon Lee

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