This critique was written by Emily Gian, the Zionist Federation of Australia’s director of media advocacy.
UPDATE August 4: The Sydney Morning Herald apologized for the cartoon illustrating Mike Carlton’s column.
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Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer was in the news last week after telling a CNN interviewer that its correspondent on the ground in Gaza had done its viewers a disservice by omitting to mention the fact that Hamas uses its own people as human shields.
Dermer was referring to a report by CNN’s Karl Penhaul on the deaths of 16 Palestinian civilians at or near an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. He pointed out that UNRWA had twice in the previous week accused Hamas of hiding weapons in its schools and that only a day earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had condemned this practice. The number has now gone up to three schools with more rockets being found in a UNRWA school since the interview was conducted.
Penhaul may well have been smarting from the criticism when he responded to the IDF’s suggestion that the tragedy was caused by an errant Hamas rocked, dismissing the claim and saying “… we went down there and found no (such) evidence”. Strangely enough, there is also no evidence of Pernhaul’s forensic expertise and the vision his cameraman showed of the area suggested attempts had already been made to clean up the “evidence”. Subsequent reports indicate the IDF claim was correct and there have been more instances of Palestinian terrorist rockets falling short into Gaza, damaging hospitals and other civilian areas.
While Pernhaul was quick to provide cover for the Hamas backsides another reporter, now safely out of the area and free from the grip of Hamas tweeted, “Out of Gaza far from Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday [sic] in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris”. While that’s old news now and everybody’s attention has moved on to other things, the pattern keeps repeating and the issue of intimidation of journalists covering the conflict is still very much a live issue.
In a New York Times interview Dermer was tellingly quoted as saying that the “price of sovereignty is imperfection,” a view that resonates considering not only its long history of conflict with its neighbours but also the consequences of being a melting pot of different cultures and views that have often seen turmoil within its own society. Israel has had to fight to survive constant attacks from neighbouring armies and terrorist groups as well as some open hostility from commentariat world-wide, and more often than not, that hostility stretches to the questioning of its very right to exist.
And, as Dermer went to great lengths to point out to his interlocutor on CNN, many of Israel’s critics invert the truth by conveniently omitting or distorting vital facts.
The starting point for Israel’s detractors is always the horrible scenes of death and destruction caused in an asymmetrical war fought in a heavily populated region which is the choice of Hamas and not Israel.
While everyone should know that the fighting was started by Hamas, reporters rarely tell that its written down aim is to eliminate Israel and kill Jews everywhere.
Everyone should know that Hamas is militarily inferior so why does it pick a fight? Because Hamas fights this for an entirely different purpose than that for which most wars are conventionally fought. This is a war to first win over the minds of the people, particularly those in the west in order to force Israel into a diplomatic defeat, in order to buy it time to slowly build up its strength for the next battle and the one after that . . .
Therefore, while everybody should know that Israel is fighting on the battlefield and working assiduously to save the lives of its own and to minimise damage on the other side, the Hamas end game is far into a future in which a thousand or so Palestinian lives lost today is more meaningful as a public relations tool and that is why the people have neither bomb shelters nor food and why millions have been spent on missiles, rockets and the construction of a labyrinth of underground tunnels from Gaza into Israel and under its towns and villages for the purpose of attacking Israeli citizenry.
The time will come when the Israelis have significantly depleted the Hamas arsenal of missiles and obliterated the tunnels and the fighting will stop. Countless Palestinian lives will have been lost (and there will be arguments as to what percentage were Hamas fighters and how many civilians actually died on their side) and Israel will also have lost many of its sons and a small number of civilians. Therefore, Hamas will by its failure to inflict enough casualties on its enemy and by its incompetence in battle claim victory in this war with thanks to its foot soldiers and sympathisers in the media.
There can be no better examples of this than this week’s shamefully one-sided 60 Minutes programme aired on the Nine Network (my critique will be published next week but in the meantime, check out ECAJ’s here) and the dual performance of Fairfax commentator Mike Carlton and cartoonist Glen Le Lievre in the weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald in an article entitled ‘Israel’s rank and rotten fruit is being called fascism‘. One wonders how this newspaper, once revered for its quality journalism, could have stooped to such poorly produced undergraduate standard agitprop.
The offending cartoon resembles something pinched straight out of the pages of Der Sturmer and is so outrageously vile that it should be the subject of racial discrimination action against Fairfax.
The Carlton article is no less repulsive. It accuses Israel of genocide, ethnic cleansing and having a wanton desire to kill Arabs. Carlton produces no evidence for this because it doesn’t exist. He doesn’t produce one of those famous Fairfax scoreboards of deaths to give his readers an idea of how many Arabs were killed by other Arabs in the past week (1,700 in Syria alone, many others in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and elsewhere in places where they don’t have a CNN or BBC World talking head on every street corner) which he deigns not to mention.
Carlton’s descent into his own cesspit of race hatred comes when he invokes the Holocaust which by any measure does not even sit remotely close to the situation in Gaza in either its scope or breadth. The Jews of Europe never provoked the Nazis with rockets fired at German homes, schools and hospitals; they never used their own children as shields against the storm troopers and they never threatened to annihilate the German people. Carlton knows this and he also knows that the only commonality between this and Gaza is the fact that the aims of Hitler and Hamas are identical.
Yet Carlton can’t avoid giving Hamas a slap because, well … almost everyone should know about those rockets, each one fired with the intent of killing Israeli civilians but thankfully thwarted by the Iron Dome and a policy of requiring bomb shelters in every new home built in the country. So he hits them with a wet lettuce and excuses their war crimes but only because of their inability to inflict damage in the same proportion as that to which Hamas and the other terrorist groups have exposed their own people. Even here, Carlton shows an astonishing level of ignorance as to what proportionality in war is about – a sad indictment on his credibility and capacity to discuss this conflict in any meaningful way.
Giving Hamas that free pass is bad enough but in doing so and omitting to mention Israel’s efforts to minimise the loss of lives by giving prior warnings which Hamas often encourages its people to ignore and by ignoring the Hamas policy of using its own people as human shields (which can’t be denied because its own people boast about it), the Sixty Minutes programme and the Sydney Morning Herald have committed the very sin of omission that Ambassador Dermer was explaining to CNN.
They have done their viewers and readers a disservice by not properly informing them or telling them the truth, they have done nothing to dampen the anti-Semitic violence of the mobs on Australian streets and they have entered a very dark place giving succour to the militant, fascist government of Gaza and thereby helping to thwart the ever-receding possibility of achieving peace for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people.
Image: CC BY-NC-SA flickr/Alesa Dam