Daily Archives: Sunday, 4 January, 2009

Where to go for Unbiased* News?

I don’t have a definitive answer to that question, but I’m very happy that, with the internet, we can easily read newspapers from other countries where the media doesn’t fall down on the job so much.

For Gaza coverage, I find that reading The Guardian is much better for my blood pressure. It is a nice change of pace from CNN, et. al. repeatedly telling us that Israel had no other choice except wholesale killing and destruction.

Here are some excerpts from Why Israel Went to War in Gaza:

It is a war on two fronts. Months ago, as Israel prepared to unleash its latest wave of desolation against Gaza, it recognised that blasting Hamas and “the infrastructure of terror”, which includes police stations, homes and mosques, was a straightforward task.

Israel also understood that a parallel operation would be required to persuade the rest of the world of the justice of its cause, even as the bodies of Palestinian women and children filled the mortuaries, and to ensure that its war was seen not in terms of occupation but of the west’s struggle against terror and confrontation with Iran.

A new information directorate was established to influence the media, with some success. And when the attack began just over a week ago, a tide of diplomats, lobby groups, bloggers and other supporters of Israel were unleashed to hammer home a handful of carefully crafted core messages intended to ensure that Israel was seen as the victim, even as its bombardment killed more than 430 Palestinians over the past week, at least a third of them civilians or policemen.

Israel portrayed Hamas as part of an axis of Islamist fundamentalist evil with Iran and Hezbollah. Its actions, the Israelis said, are nothing to do with [Israel’s] continued occupation of the West Bank, [Israel’s] blockade of Gaza or the Israeli military’s continued killing of large numbers of Palestinians since the pullout. “Israel is part of the free world and fights extremism and terrorism. Hamas is not,” the foreign minister and Kadima party leader, Tzipi Livni, said on arriving in France as part of the diplomatic offensive last week.

Also crucial was what was not said. Just a few months ago Livni was talking of wiping out Hamas, but that would be unpalatable to much of the outside world as a justification for the assault. So now the talk is of pressing Gaza’s government to agree to a new ceasefire. Occasionally someone has got off-message. A couple of days into the assault on Gaza, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, said it would continue for “as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely”. Infuriated Israeli officials in Jerusalem warned her that such statements could set back the diplomatic offensive.

The [Israeli] government’s national information directorate sought to focus foreign media attention on the 8,500 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel over the past eight years and the 20 civilians they have killed, rather than the punishing blockade of Gaza and the 1,700 Palestinians killed in Israeli military attacks since Jewish settlers were pulled out of Gaza three years ago.

And when the killing started, Israel claimed that the overwhelming majority of the 400-plus killed were Hamas fighters and the buildings destroyed part of the infrastructure of terror. But about a third of the dead were policemen. Although the police force in Gaza is run by Hamas, Buttu said Israel is misrepresenting it as a terrorist organisation.

“The police force is largely used for internal law and order, traffic, the drug trade. They weren’t fighters. They hit them at a graduation ceremony. Israel wants to kill anyone associated with Hamas, but where does it stop? Are you a legitimate target if you work in the civil service? Are you a legitimate target if you voted for Hamas?” she said.

Similarly, while Israel accuses Hamas of risking civilian lives by hiding the infrastructure of terror in ordinary neighbourhoods, many of the Israeli missile targets are police stations and other public buildings that are unlikely to be built anywhere else.

However, others say that the truce was thrown into jeopardy in November when the Israeli military killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid on Gaza. The Palestinians noted that it was election day in the US, so most of the rest of the world did not notice what happened. Hamas responded by firing a wave of rockets into Israel. Six more Palestinians died in two other Israeli attacks in the following week.

“They were assaulting Gaza militarily, by sea and by air, all through the ceasefire,” said Buttu. Neither did the killing of Palestinians stop. In the nearly three years since Hamas came to power, and before the latest assault on Gaza, Israel forces had killed about 1,300 people in Gaza and the West Bank. While a significant number of them were Hamas activists – and while hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by other Palestinians in fighting between Hamas and Fatah – there has been a disturbing number of civilian deaths.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says that one in four of the victims is aged under 18. Between June 2007 and June 2008, Israeli attacks killed 68 Palestinian children and young people in Gaza. Another dozen were killed in the West Bank.

In February, an Israeli missile killed four boys, aged eight to 14, playing football in the street in Jabalia. In April, Meyasar Abu-Me’tiq and her four children, aged one to five years old, were killed when an Israeli missile hit their house as they were having breakfast. Even during the ceasefire, Israel killed 22 people in Gaza, including two children and a woman.

Palestinians see it differently. Buttu says that from the day the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, they set about ensuring that it would fail economically. “When the Israelis pulled out, we expected that the Palestinians in Gaza would at least be able to lead some sort of free life. We expected that the crossing points would be open. We didn’t expect that we would have to beg to allow food in,” she said.

Buttu notes that even before Hamas was elected three years ago, the Israelis were already blockading Gaza. The Palestinians had to appeal to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and James Wolfensohn, the president of the World Bank, to pressure Israel to allow even a few score of trucks into Gaza each day. Israel agreed, then reneged. “This was before Hamas won the election. The whole Israeli claim is one big myth. If there wasn’t already a closure policy, why did we need Rice and Wolfensohn to try to broker an agreement?” asked Buttu.

Let’s all take advantage of the internet and get the real news, rather than what the US media is dishing out.

I see on Facebook that there are people who think The Guardian is a left-wing rag (and there are also people who think that people who read The Guardian think they’re better than them). Duly noted.

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