This is the most interesting and important post this year. Please read this long piece through to the end and distribute widely. I will be following up.
“Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental human rights, notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using Palestinian children in armed attacks. Children are susceptible to recruitment by manipulation or may be driven to join armed groups for a variety of reasons…” Who said that? Some reactionary Israeli apologist attempting to cover up Israeli “crimes against humanity?” No, it came from Amnesty International, certainly no friend of Israel.
For those harbouring deep-seated hatred of the Jewish state or simply ideologically committed to the paradigm of Israel as an apartheid clone, the past few years have been a challenge. Approximately 125 000 deaths so far in the Arab Spring and, while it is difficult to get good figures, it is estimated that 5500 children have been killed in Syria alone. The Middle East is in flames from the confluence of religious and political extremism, oppressive and corrupt governments, technological backwardness driving severe poverty and social dysfunction ranging from tribalism to the subjugation of women.
So how to keep Israel in the spotlight? Well for this one needs a compliant or complicit media, considerable propaganda skills honed over years as activists and good funding. It also helps if the dominant discourse in your society runs to political grievance, entitlement and colonial-Western-Imperialist guilt. All this pertains in South Africa and, it must be said, in many other parts of the Western world.
And so we come to the article in the Cape Times this morning, one of many anti-Israeli articles and reports in that newspaper recently. It appeared top of page two under large black headlines: “ISRAEL ACCUSED OF TORTURING CHILDREN” followed by smaller but prominent subtext “Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police subject to systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture”. Above the main headline was yet another heading “Also used as human shields, says human rights body”. By now you really didn’t need to read further unless you were a glutton for punishment or interested in veracity. Finally, the article itself was more-or-less the full text of a Reuters report on the findings by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
I will get to the article and the source itself shortly but first let’s peek at how an ideologically slanted newspaper can slant news while maintaining high levels of deniability. Alone each of these techniques is effective in creating bias; but it is much better when used in combination.
Firstly, by distancing. The most common way of doing this is by simply reproducing, with as much publicity as possible, a report by some other person or news agency or organisation. If challenged on the veracity or balance of the report, simply shrug your shoulders and throw up your hands in total innocence. Of course it is much better if comes from a recognised agency and the report emanates from a body with a plausible aura of credibility, both criteria being met in this article.
Secondly, by uncoupling: an extremely valuable technique when it comes to Israel. By uncoupling the reports on the melt-down and atrocities in the Arab-Muslim states of the Middle East and North Africa from the fact that these states are Israel’s next door neighbours and sworn enemies, the illusion that Israel exists outside of its geographical and political context can be maintained. The fact is that the Palestinians and Israel are part and parcel of one of the most backward and dysfunctional regions on the globe; a context in which Israel stands out as beacon of democracy, human rights and simple political sanity.
But that context and Israel’s role as scapegoat for the manifold ills of the region has necessitated a powerful military and an uncompromising stance on security. As the contagion of jihadism spreads other countries will be forced to adopt similar measures; in fact the process has already started quietly in many Western States. But media complicit in the delegimisation program, deliberately fail to connect the dots to maintain the fiction that Israel has the option of being another Denmark – or as Denmark was 30 years ago. It doesn’t.
Thirdly, besides uncoupling, anti-Israel propaganda is promoted by systematically excluding information which puts Israel’s actions and politics in context. To confine ourselves specifically to the offending (and offensive) article here are some reports on the actions of Palestinian “children”.
“Two civilian employees of the Defence Ministry are recovering from a near lynch attempt on Monday. The two were travelling to Mount Scopus in Jerusalem when they accidentally made a wrong turn and ended up stuck in a traffic jam between two Arab cars. A crowd of Arab youths then showed up and began throwing rocks at them. At one point the rock throwers, some of whom were students from a nearby school, approached the vehicle and slammed a large stone into the windshield. The rock struck the driver, Yehuda Attias, in the head…and the two Israelis then fled toward a nearby hotel… Attias was since hospitalized several times because of the severe head injuries.”
“ During a search done on 29 June 2002, of a house belonging to a Hamas militant in the town of Hebron, The IDF claims to have found a photo showing a 18-month infant standing wide-eyed in a baby suit, Red wires strapped to his waist, with a pretend explosives belt, and across his head tied a red bandana of Hamas. According to BBC News the baby’s grandfather, Redwan Abu Turki, said that the dressing of the infant baby as a bomber was from a rally at the university and that “the picture was taken just for the fun of it”
And further in the same report: “While Palestinian officials dismissed it as a propaganda trick, Haaretz reported that a Palestinian journalist in the Hebron area said she did not believe the picture was a fake and expressed surprise at the furor it caused in Israel.”I can find you many, many photos like this,” she said. “Many kids imitate adults and wear toy masks and guns, especially during marches. It’s not strange at all”. She added that she had seen children as young as the one in the photograph wearing similar costumes: “In our society it happens a lot. It’s a kind of phenomenon.”
When did anyone see such reports appearing in our media? – A rhetorical question to be sure, but the obvious answer, never! is revealing. And that goes for the myriad documented reports of systematic anti-Israel incitement and gross anti-Semitism which defaces many of the Arab and Muslim states and the constant and ludicrous denial of a Jewish presence in the Middle East until the 18th or 19th centuries.
So before even looking at the article, by the systematic use of distancing, uncoupling and selective reporting over time, compliant and complicit media can set Israel up as the villain. Coupled with the uncritical use of the highly emotive word “children” or “child” and blaring headlines and sub-headlines the casual reader (99% of the total) will form a highly negative picture of Israel – as intended.
Now to briefly glance at the Reuters article itself. Let’s start with the following paragraph taken directly verbatim from early in the report “Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the UN Committe on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said.”
It is difficult to make any sense whatsoever out of this. If we take it at face value it refers to children captured in the 1967 war. A 14 year-old “captured” in the 1967 war would be a 60 years pensioner by now. If so, what does the report conceivably mean by “denied registration of their birth”? Were they denied access to schools, clean water etc at the time or has Israel continued to give them dirty water for the next 50 years? etc, etc.
What about the word “capture”? Were these “children” combatants? If so, was Israel responsible for placing Arab “children” into high-risk military situations? If they were simply innocent civilians, why on earth would Israel wish to take Arab children and house and feed them for the next 50 years for no apparent reason whatsoever?
The paragraph would make some sense if it refers to “children” “captured” in the 1967 war and then released. But if that is true, the report has nothing to do with the current situation but with alleged events nearly a half-century ago. Or finally it could refer to children currently resident in Gaza and the West Bank, “captured” by Israel in connection with alleged criminal activity. But Israel hasn’t been responsible for the registration of children born in Gaza for nearly 10 years. And I suspect that the Palestinians are responsible for registering the births of most children born in the West Bank. Likewise for schools and clean water. And, as for health care, Israel supplies expert health care to thousands of Palestinian children resident in both those territories
The paragraph as it stands is meaningless, indeed ludicrous. Did anyone actually read it? It is tedious but here is just one other paragraph, breathtaking in what it omits: “Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of the state party military operations, especially in Gaza where the state party proceeded to (conduct) air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus ignoring the principles of proportionality and distinction“.
Somehow the report omits the fact that 1000s of rackets and mortars were fired in the preceding years directly and deliberately into Israeli civilian populated areas. One cannot say “indiscriminately” since they were fired at times designed to maximise the threat to Israeli children on their way to school or at school. Loss of life was limited by the erratic quality of the weapons and by the Israeli early warning system and distributed shelters, which severely disrupted the lives of those exposed and caused considerable trauma to young and susceptible children. And where did the report entertain the question as to why Hamas chose to conduct its operations from highly populated civilian areas – if not precisely to use the civilians as human shields – including their children. Nor does it see fit to mention that Israel dropped tens of thousands of leaflets and took other precautions to limit civilian casualties.
Although I have just scraped the top of this particular barrel it is suffcient to show that the entire “Report” is nothing more than a partisan and dishonest political tract.
And, finally, does a recent UN Committee for the Rights of the Child (CRC) Report exist at all in the form and containing the allegations made by Reuters and eagerly published by the Cape Times and by other segments of the MSM? I ask this since I visited the relevant website and put in the search term Israel which led me to the following URL http://search.ohchr.org/search?site=default_collection&client=default_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&Entqr=0&ud=1&sort=date%3AD%3AL%3Ad1&proxystylesheet=en_frontend&q=israel%20report.
A search of this page (and other pages) revealed nothing that resembled the Reuters “Report”. Did Reuters construct a fictitious “Report” out of whole cloth or was it cobbled together out of snippets here and snippets there? Was it oral and/or preliminary findings?
I simply don’t know so I went to the Reuters site itself, located its “Report” at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/20/us-palestinian-israel-children-idUSBRE95J0UJ20130620 and looked for a link to its original source. Lo and behold there wasn’t one. So here is a supposedly reputable global news agency which reports on serious human rights abuses by a sovereign nation and FAILS TO PROVIDE A LINK TO ITS SOURCE MATERIAL ALLEGEDLY FROM A PUBLIC UN COMMITTEE.
So besides the propaganda element built into the entire process of media coverage I believe that this specific episode requires more RIGOROUS INVESTIGATION, NOT EXCLUDING THE POSSIBILITY OF LEGAL ACTION. The sooner the better!
I will be distributing this widely.