This is the second part of an article written exclusively for HonestReporting by Emily Gian, the Israel Advocacy Analyst for the Zionist Council of Victoria in Australia and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature.
In mid-June of 2011 it was announced that Fairfax Media had made “two significant editorial appointments designed to strengthen its coverage of overseas news (see more)”. Paul McGeough was appointed Chief Correspondent for both The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and Ruth Pollard was appointed to the role of Middle East Correspondent.
At the time I felt that the appointment of a woman correspondent to the region might bring about a more balanced coverage of the region’s problems and that rather than vilifying one side, a practice that only serves to widen the gulf between them, we might see the type of journalism that could actually help open doors to a resolution of the conflict.
Sadly, I was wrong and the result has been that Age and Sydney Morning Herald readers are now treated to only one narrative in which every story from the region must delegitimize Israel. Pollard seems obsessed with stories about Palestinian human rights whilst ignoring anything that might paint the Palestinians or their leadership in a negative light. There is little to no interest in the human rights of Israelis that are violated regularly by indiscriminate rocket fire over the border at southern Israeli towns or abuses by the Palestinian leadership against their own, particularly in Gaza against women, gays and the dwindling minority Christian communities. The scourges of honor killing and female genital mutilation are nowhere to be seen in this world view.
In a recent effort published on Good Friday, Pilgrims rent a cross to walk in Christ’s footsteps, Pollard was able to mount an obligatory attack on “the occupation” and even informed her readers that there “are 160,000 Palestinian Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories”, but omitted to mention that the number of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza is dwindling rapidly whilst growing at an increasing rate in Israel proper. She therefore spared herself the necessity to mention the reason for this phenomenon or the uncomfortable fact that Christians under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is becoming more and more uncomfortable. On matters such as the firebombing of churches, Pollard remained equally shtum.
Pollard’s “fluff pieces” always contain a sting in their tail at Israel’s expense, such as this story about female, Palestinian racing car drivers, “the speed sisters”, which managed to weave in the usual propaganda about Israeli occupation, prisons and the security barrier.
The number of important subjects not covered as a result of this obsession grows on a daily basis.
The rifts within the so-called unity government of Hamas and Fatah are given short shrift. The Hamas Covenant is ignored and the focus is never on the Palestinian terrorist (usually called “militants”) breaches of international human rights laws by indiscriminate firing of missiles at civilian populations. Recently, when southern Israel was bombarded by over 200 rockets in a number of days and Israel responded by taking out specific terrorist targets, Pollard chose to focus on the regrettable death of a 12-year-old boy, reportedly killed along with 16 terrorists. At the time, I noted that while his death was extremely sad, “by omitting to characterize the majority of the dead as war criminals bent on murdering innocent civilians on the other side, her piece paints a false picture of what is happening in the current conflict”. Two days after Pollard’s story went to print it was revealed that the boy was not killed by Israeli strikes, but by an errant bullet at a funeral procession, fired by Palestinian terrorists (see more). The Age failed to follow up this part of the story, yet again leaving its readers without the means to understand the truth about the clashes between the two sides.
We live in a world where social media is becoming the norm and Pollard, like many of us, tweets these days – @rpollard. Her disclaimer, like most journalists on Twitter is that “all views are my own etc”. All fine and nice, but if she routinely tweets negative stories about Israel and only Israel, then you have to wonder how objective she can be in her everyday reporting.