There is an excellent article on the DeClassified website which I would recommend all Critical Mass readers to check out. It is not particularly hot news in that it says many things we have pointed out already. Indeed, last week I went through in some detail a BBC report on marches for a ceasefire and illustrated how ‘balance’ is simply another word for taking sides.
Hamza Ali Shah, writing for DeClassified UK, notes that every spokesperson for the Palestinians who appears on the TV or radio is immediately asked to condemn Hamas. In one case, as Shah points out, the Palestinian Ambassador, Husam Zomlot, revealed on Newsnight to Emily Maitlis that six members of his family had died in the bombing of Gaza. She showed no human empathy at all and simply repeated her question as to whether he would condemn Hamas.
But it is not just this obsession with condemnation that damns our media, it is that it is entirely uneven-handed. No Israeli spokesperson is ever asked to condemn Israel — not for the bombing of civilian areas resulting in thousands of deaths, nor for the illegal occupation of land that had previously belonged to the Palestinians, nor for cutting off food, water, electricity, and electronic communications to 2.2 million people.
The failure of the western media to ask questions of those defending Israel is shameful in its own right; but it also means that the public, who rely on broadcasters to keep them informed, are being given what amounts to Israeli propaganda in place of news. This is not good for political debate, but neither is it good for humanity. If the destruction of 2.2 million people through bombing, starvation and terror is normalised, then what is happening there now could very easily happen here later.
What questions should the massed ranks of journalists be asking?
They could start with asking exactly what Israel’s objectives are? At the moment, we are simply being led to believe that bombing is revenge for the 7th October attack by Hamas — but if that is the case, how many lives do they need to claim before they say enough is enough? And how many lives are acceptable losses to western politicians supporting the daily bombardment?
They might also be asked whether Israel was in any way itself responsible for the 7th October attack? Did Israel do anything in the period leading up to this that might have made Hamas, or any other group, feel that they had the right to attack their civilians? This might require a bit of teasing out. Any journalist with an interest in the truth might want to know whether perhaps Israel had itself been responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians prior to 7th October? Presumably television journalists are incapable of using a search engine, for if they did so they would find that between 2005 and 6th October 2023 over 6,500 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military. They would also find that on a daily basis Israeli settlers, supported by the Israeli Defence Force, were forcing Palestinians from their homes, often with great violence, so that Israeli settlers could take the land for themselves.
Perhaps these acts do not justify the Hamas tactics — but do they not in any small way start to explain them?
Journalists doing their job might also ask whether the description of Israel as an apartheid state is an apt one? Israel and its apologists like to ignore the fact that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and the United Nations have declared it such. But surely any journalist worth the name would be aware of Israel’s Basic Law: “Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People”, passed on 18th July 2018, which describes Israel as a Jewish state. Is such a law not the very epitome of apartheid in which people are divided along racial grounds?
And journalists with any concern to contextualise what is happening in Gaza might question the intentions of the ruling parties in the Knesset. The right-wing coalition, sworn in on 29th December 2022, came in determined to assert the Jewish people’s “exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel” and pledged to bolster Jewish settlement in the West Bank, both policies that were bound to lead to conflict with the Palestinians, whose lives they care so little for.
Perhaps if Netanyahu had genuinely wanted peace he might have avoided appointing Bezalel Smotrich, an ultranationalist, as finance minister. He has stated openly his ambition to annex the West Bank. As well as being finance minister, he also serves as a minister within the defence ministry, responsible for agencies dealing with the construction of Jewish settlements and civilian life in the occupied territories. A journalist with an interest in the truth might ask whether such an appointment was not an indication to Palestinians that their lives, already dominated by the Israeli military, were to be made much worse?
Sometimes, for journalists, it is not the questions they ask that are the key to the editorial policy being promoted, but the questions they omit. By constantly asking pro-Palestinian guests to condemn Hamas, the message is reinforced to viewers that only one side needs condemning. By never questioning the motivations of the Israelis, even as they slaughter thousands of civilians by constant bombardment, the message is reinforced that they are simply responding to the violence from the other side.
It is a travesty of truth and of journalism, and whilst many journalists should hold their heads in shame at their antics prior to this, almost every journalist working on British TV currently should find it difficult to look in the mirror, knowing that they are facilitating a genocide. That they won’t is where their real shame lies.
Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.