I was going to submit a far longer piece on the Israel / Gaza conflict but in the end chose against it. I've been a little quiet on this blog for a while which has in part been down to my refusal to allow anything to cut into my family time, in part down to work commitments, and in part due to being a little burned out on this whole issue. Yes, I know there are plenty of other things to write about but this one nags at me like a rotten tooth. Not so much the conflict itself, that' s an inevitable and depressingly regular occurrence. Instead it's the reaction this time around and the way it has been used that nags almost constantly.
Let's take a very simple statement of what's happening.
Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at Israel in retaliation for Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza. In response Israel started shelling rocket launch sites and attempting to dismantle the tunnel network which leads out of Gaza into Israel. As a result of these actions many Palestinian civilians have died.
No history, no right or wrong, nothing but exactly what's happening. If you think you can dispute the above statement then you're misleading yourself and looking to gild the lilly in order to justify the actions of either side. As I have said, I don't want to touch the rights and wrongs of it just the here and now.
The press response to this has been interesting to say the least. I've been informed on many occasions that the press is provably pro-Israel. Apparently it can be easily proven. Nobody shows me how easily apart from a bit of research into talking heads but I digress. I'll take their word for it as it matters not. Thing is, I'm not really seeing it this time no matter how much a variety of light entertainment talking heads agree. In fact, I'm seeing the opposite for the most part as I believe Hamas are playing a very clever media campaign this time around. You can accuse me of being a "Zionist" or "Pro-Israel" at this point if you like, we can talk about the West Bank another time and the other side will get a chance to tell me I'm anti-Israel.
No reporter has so far mentioned the fact they are under strict reporting restrictions by Hamas. Now, you might think "So what?" but it's actually incredibly important. in every previous situation I can recall if there were restrictions the reporter would mention them thus informing the people watching that they might not be getting a terribly balanced view of how things are on the ground. Instead we have a stream of images showing injured or dead women and children - rarely men you might notice - and reports of civilian death tolls but never how many Hamas fighters might have been killed. There is also only at best a cursory mention of rockets being launched and almost none at all of tunnels being used. We're shown an indiscriminate slaughter of Palestinians by Israelis. This plays directly into the following:
The Israelis are guilty of genocide. They are indiscriminately murdering Palestinians in a disproportionate response to rockets which are almost harmless.
The Israelis are shelling residential areas in revenge.
Neither of those statements is true (I know, I know it isn't hearts and flowers in Gaza. Believe me I know, but have a little patience). However the media we are being fed directly plays into that. Do I believe the media is purposely playing into the hands of Hamas? No, but only because I don't want to think that. I think it's more of an effort to feed the British hobby of supporting an underdog. Well, supporting an underdog if we're told to.
The lack of information from the media and the lack of desire on their part to put forward an honest and accurate assessment of what's going on is genuinely terrible. I don't say this to exonerate the Israelis, far from it in fact as I see the Israeli government as a partner to Hamas in prolonging the misery of people on the Gaza strip, but to point out the repercussions. This is directly feeding an ever-growing anti-Semitic movement here in Europe. We downplay it and that's to our detriment. Every time we fail to arrest a Muslim male who shouts that all Jews should be killed we embolden those who would say the same against Muslims. There is a normalisation of anti-Semitism going on and we simply don't know what to do. Combat it and we make the opposite side even more annoyed, allow it and we'll probably see more innocent Jewish people of various countries suffering as a consequence of the Israeli government's actions. Hardly fair is it?
The media are feeding this with a never-ending parade of dead children without perspective. Why were these children there? How many children did Hamas force back into certain areas? How many people do Hamas risk by launching rockets from the most densely populated areas? It's about honesty, it's about telling the truth, and it's about not whitewashing either side and certainly not being used as a propaganda mouthpiece for an organisation that actually has support for the murder of a religion in its charter. Hamas don't harbour any love for the Palestinian people, don't be fooled.
One last thing I want to leave you with and it's something you cannot dispute and you'll see it yourself if you look. When it comes to news media the amount of innocents killed is not in the least relevant. They're selling you product. Here's a simple formula.
Jews killing Muslims = Massive news. Mention it constantly.
Muslims killing Christians = If the whole "jews killing muslims thing" dies down then we should focus on this and get some outrage going.
Muslims killing muslims = Meh, who cares? Only run with this if it's something sensational and there are no better stories such as "cat stuck in tree" to run on the news.
Our media has ignored horrors in the Middle East lately, at best they've earned a small mention. Thousands upon thousands injured, murdered, raped and mutilated. How much did you hear of that while Israel and Hamas have been having their regular head butting competition? Heard much about Libya on the news lately? No? Must be going pretty well over there since we helped topple Gadaffi, right? Right?
Don't be fooled guys, we care about that which we're told to care about. You have all the information at your fingertips and yet we're still being led around by the nose. If you want the final piece of proof wait until this current conflict is over. See how quickly nobody cares about the Palestinian people again. If that doesn't depress you nothing will. Do your own research, read even that with which you disagree, read the propaganda from both sides, and then make your mind up. Even at that point you should remain flexible, there's always more to any situation than the obvious after all.