Ronan L Tynan
The apparent media bias in the coverage of Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza was brilliantly exposed by comedian Jon Stewart recently. Simply by lampooning the absurd way in which many networks try to present this egregious attack, making the TV reporters look like “cartoon” characters, he burst the illusion of impartiality. Cutting to the heart of the reason Israel’s campaign has been criticized as a rolling warcrime, he showed the lack of moral equivalence because Palestinian civilians: men, women and children have no where to flee, even if they do get “small bomb” warning on their homes.
He also showed just how relatively secure Israeli civilians are through an interview with Israel’s Ambassador to the United States who described how his fellow citizens can download a phone App which will warn them of a rocket attack and where they can go to take shelter. The contrast with how Palestinians find out they are about to be attacked could not be more shocking. Showing how those “little bombs” are fired at targeted homes to warn people to get out as they come under attack, and the criminally short time they get to escape could not be more chilling. But even if they do escape the bombing of their homes where can Palestinians flee? Stewart with appropriate dramatic effect showed that Israel and Egypt have Gaza’s borders sealed, underlining why Gazans – men, women and children might as well be slaughtered at will?
So does the BBC pass comedian Jon Stewart Gold Standard for Impartial Reporting on Gaza?
Does any media network?
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in a letter to the BBC offered an implied criteria to assess if the UK’s public service broadcaster was covering Israel’s pounding of Gaza fairly. The key test is does the BBC offer viewers “context and background” to allow them to even attempt to assess the legitimacy of Israel’s relentless aerial bombardment, and now potentially even more terrifying ground attack, that has already cost more than 260 lives in Gaza?
The reason Israeli spokesmen and women appear to get such indefensibly good coverage is because they are not asked about their illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and the creation of what many see as a virtual apartheid state. In other words, Gaza is under Israeli occupation and siege’ and unless that context is understood Israel merely seems to be seeking to defend itself instead of the brutal occupying force that has been indicted by many human rights organizations. And to underline just how brutal an occupying power Israel appears even to her very best friend the United States, no less a figure than Secretary of State, John Kerry recently warned Prime Minister Netanyahu of the danger of being seen as an ‘apartheid state’, an allegation normally made by campaigners and NGOs supporting the Palestinian people.
In the media coverage of any conflict or situation where warcrimes are being committed context is everything. Dr Norman Finkelstein’s very succinctly summed up that context the public never seem to receive: ‘Gaza has no army, air force or navy. Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world. Resistance to occupation is allowed under international law. Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.’ The Palestinians were turned into a refugee people when they were forced from their homes in 1948, and their humiliation has continued ever since.
Against that background is the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign right to call for an end to ‘biased coverage’ by the BBC?
Make up your own mind – key paragraphs from their open letter to the BBC follows:
“When you portray Israel’s shelling of a civilian population as a ‘response’ or ‘retaliation’ to rocket strikes from Gaza, we would like to remind you that these events flow from the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people from their homes and communities, with millions now corralled as refugees in the Gaza Strip. That initial injustice was compounded and continues with the ongoing occupation and siege.
“When you portray the occupier as the victim, and the occupied as the aggressor, we would like to remind you that resistance to occupation is a right under international law. And we would like you to remember that Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.
“And, finally, we would like to remind BBC journalists, when interviewing Israel’s spokespeople over the coming days, to ask the one question they have all failed to ask: “If Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, and allows the people of Palestine to live in freedom from Israeli domination, would that bring peace?””
Ronan L Tynan