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Western media influenced by decades of Israeli propaganda

May 08,2019 - Last updated at May 08,2019

Following last weekend's violent exchanges between Israel and Gaza, US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib asked, "When will the world stop dehumanising our Palestinian people, who just want to be free?" She was criticising media "framing", and rightly blamed media for contributing to Israel's "continued oppression and targeting of Palestinian children and families". Her accusation this time round was specifically aimed at last Saturday's New York Times headline stating, "Gaza militants fire 250 rockets, and Israel responds with airstrikes."

This headline creates the impression that the "Gaza militants" were responsible for this bout of violence and that Israel was simply defending itself. The exchanges began after the killing by Israeli snipers of two Palestinians taking part in Friday's weekly protests near the fence surrounding Gaza, and gunfire from southern Gaza that injured one Israeli soldier moderately and one lightly. Israel responded to this incident by conducting airstrikes on central Gaza, killing two Hamas fighters and wounding 60 Palestinians. Friday's death toll was four Gazans.

On Saturday morning, Palestinians fired rockets into Israel. The situation escalated over that day and Sunday with Israel conducting air, mortar and artillery strikes on 350 sites in Gaza, and the Palestinians launching 690 largely ineffectual rockets into Israel. Its Iron Dome anti-missile defence system took down 150 rockets: not an impressive record. Falling debris from at least one wounded Israelis.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC reported that four Israelis and 23 Palestinians had been killed, putting Israeli deaths first, although they were far fewer than Palestinian fatalities. This demonstrated, once again, that even respectable and generally responsible media continue to adopt an essentially racist "us" and "them" approach to the enduring conflict, with the Israelis being "us" and the Palestinians being "them". This line harks back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which Britain promised to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine while referring to the 80 per cent Palestinian Arab majority as "non-Jewish" communities. For Balfour and his colleagues, only the 20 per cent minority Jewish community counted.

The Guardian, which once had been a strong supporter of Israel, Al Jazeera and some Western news agencies put Palestinian deaths first. Latest count from Palestinian sources is 25-27 dead, including the unborn babies of two slain pregnant women, and 170 wounded.

The State Department, naturally, condemned the "barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza upon innocent civilians and their communities across Israel", called the attacks "abhorrent" and dubbed Israel's disproportionate action "self-defence". Donald Trump tweeted his 100 per cent support for Israel.

More than 200 Palestinians, including 50 children, have been slain by Israeli snipers since the March 30, 2018 launch of the Great March of Return by Palestinians demanding an end to Israeli occupation and their return to homes and lands Israel conquered in 1948-1949. One Israeli sniper has died.

Along with the article with the slanted headline, The New York Times published a map showing that the range of Gaza's rockets had been extended from 2001-2012. Initially, these rockets could reach only areas near Gaza's borders, but this has increased so these homemade weapons can reach beyond Tel Aviv. The authors of the map did not point out that Gaza's homemade rockets have no guidance systems and strike at random. There was no comparable graphic showing that Israeli aircraft and artillery can reach every inch of Gaza with bombs and shells equipped with the latest targeting devices.

This means, of course, that Israel deliberately targets civilians and civilian objects in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines limitations on attacks on civilians and civilian objects during conflicts. Both Israel and Palestine are signatories of the convention. Both violate it, but Israel's violations are far more blatant and destructive.

Israel's siege and blockade of Gaza, the proximate cause of the weekly protests, is also a major breach of the convention, which prohibits collective punishment. By limiting imports of food, medical supplies, building material and other essential goods into Gaza, Israel has impoverished the vast majority of its 2 million citizens and wrecked the economy of Gaza de-developed by Israeli policy.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad insist that Israel must honour pledges made repeatedly since its 2014 war on Gaza to lift the siege and blockade, and allow Gaza freedom to import necessities and trade with the outside world. Israel has, instead, granted "quiet for quiet", while ramping up and relaxing the blockade at will while maintaining the siege by land, sea and air.

There are many causes of the pro-Israel slant in Western media. Lingering colonial attitudes toward Palestinians and Arabs, Israelis are seen as "Europeans like us", guilt over the Holocaust and fear of being accused of "anti-Semitism". Following Israel's invasion and occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan, Peregrine Worsthorne wrote an article in the Telegraph newspaper headlined the "Triumph of the civilised". Worsthorne, who moaned over the loss of the British empire, argued, "...last week, a tiny Western community, surrounded by immensely superior numbers of undeveloped peoples, has shown itself able to impose its will on the Arabs today almost as effortlessly as the first whites were able to do on the Afro-Asian native in the imperial heyday."

Media have been influenced by decades of Israeli propaganda, which argues that Israel is a small "David" pitted against the Arab giant "Goliath" of the Old Testament, and that Israel made "the desert bloom" in Palestine, although it was always a rich agricultural land, regarded by the ancient Jews as the "land of milk and honey". Arabs have long been denigrated and demonised as villains in popular books and films. For example actor Oscar winning Rami Malek, whose parents migrated to the US from Egypt, is to play the villain in the coming James Bond film featuring Daniel Craig.

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