- [PRESS STATEMENT] Gag order on banknote bribery case shocking
- Israel’s propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- What’s the use of the word ‘balance’ in such an asymmetric war?
Posted: 04 Aug 2014 12:44 AM PDT
4 AUGUST 2014
Gag Order On Banknote Bribery Case Shocking
The recent gag order prohibiting mention of Asian government officials who may have been offered bribes is both unprecedented and shocking.
Apart from violating a fundamental principle of press freedom, the suppression order also runs counter to the practice of good governance which, among other things, prescribes transparency in dealings among public officials and accountability for their actions.
We fail to see how such a prohibition would advance the cause of good governance aside from serving to protect certain vested interests. In this regard, the continued pursuance by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the gag order must be seen as condoning corruption in high places.
Not only has the Australian public a right to know but considering that it may involve ‘no less than 3 generations of Malaysian Prime Ministers’, the people of Malaysia too have legitimate expectations that all relevant facts and details be made known in the most transparent manner possible.
Read more: Australia bans reporting of multi-nation corruption case involving Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam https://wikileaks.org/aus-suppression-order/
Posted: 04 Aug 2014 12:34 AM PDT
Israel’s ‘dream of Israeli and Palestinian children playing together’ is somewhat hypocritcal when you look at the 230 children killed in Gaza
To many readers the New York Times coverage of the war in Gaza comes across as neutered or as having a pro-Israeli bias. But not to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, who lambasts the paperfor failing "to mention that a million Israelis were in bomb shelters yesterday as 100 rockets were fired at our civilian population."
Mr Dermer is considered so close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has been called "Bibi's brain". He is also a former student and employee of Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist who produced a confidential booklet in 2009, promptly leaked, advising Israeli spokesmen how best to manipulate American and European public opinion. "Don't confuse messages with facts," Dr Luntz advises the spokesmen as he explains how facts should be selected and best presented to make Israel's case.
It is a sophisticated document based on wide-ranging opinion polls, suggesting, for instance, that the removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank should be denounced as "a kind of ethnic cleansing". Dr Luntz stresses that spokesmen must demonise Hamas, but above all emphasise that they feel for the sufferings of Palestinians as well as Israelis. As a sample of what they should say, he gives: "The day will come when Israeli children and Palestinian children will grow up together, play together, and work together side-by-side not just because they have to but because they want to."
The problem about this approach is that it sounds particularly hypocritical when, according to Unicef, 230 children have been killed in Gaza, an average of ten a day, and 2,000 have been wounded by Israeli bombs, shells and bullets. Israeli spokesmen are now denying their responsibility for the most notorious and televised atrocities such as the strike on the UN hospital last week. This is an old PR tactic, though not one recommended by Dr Luntz, which is sometime referred to as "first you say no story, then you say old story". In other words, deny everything in the teeth of the evidence on day one and, by the time definitive proof of the massacre comes through, nobody notices when you have to admit responsibility.
A problem here is that propaganda that works in a short war comes back to haunt you in a longer one. This is now happening in Gaza. Israeli air and artillery strikes and Hamas mortars and rockets are often presented as if they balanced each other out in terms of lethality. But the most important statistic here is that some 1,100 Palestinians have been killed as opposed to three civilians in Israel.
Despite his tutoring by Dr Luntz, Mr Dermer only speaks these days to the converted. Attending a Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington he replied to protesters who called him a "war criminal" by saying that "the truth is that the Israeli Defence Forces should be given a Nobel Peace Prize". Stuff like this may explain why a Gallup poll shows that among Americans aged between 18 and 29 some 51 per cent said Israel's actions were unjustified while only 23 per cent said they were.
For all the good advice of Dr Luntz there are signs of Israeli leaders getting rattled. Mr Netanyahu complained on CNN that Hamas wants "to pile up as many civilian dead as they can" and "to use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause." Even the best propaganda machine cannot explain away massacres of civilians as happened in Lebanon at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 and at Qana in 1996 and 2006.
Posted: 04 Aug 2014 12:33 AM PDT
Actual context should have a bigger say in the BBC’s coverage
The war raging in Gaza is the third in six years. War is probably the wrong word to describe the confrontation between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement that rules the Gaza Strip, given the huge asymmetry of power between them. Nor does “asymmetric warfare” adequately convey the full measure of inequality between the two sides.
The biblical image of David and Goliath comes to mind, except that the roles have been reversed: a tiny and vulnerable Palestinian David faces a massively armed and overbearing Israeli Goliath. It is this asymmetry that makes the notion of “balance” problematic.
Invariably, the allegations of bias in the BBC’s coverage come from both the supporters of Israel and of the Palestinians. Listeners and viewers have complained in equal numbers that the corporation’s coverage was biased either towards Israel or towards the Palestinians.
BBC bosses say that if complaints are coming from both directions, they must be striking the right balance. But lack of balance is only one of several charges levelled at the broadcaster. Failure to put current events in their proper historical context is another.
Twelve days ago, some 5,000 people protested outside the BBC’s headquarters, demanding an end to pro-Israeli bias in its reporting. The demonstration was staged by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War, CND and others. A further 45,000 people signed an online petition, claiming that the corporation’s reporting of Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza was “entirely devoid of context or background”.
The importance of context was also noted in a 2006 report commissioned by the BBC governors from an independent panel, chaired by Sir Quentin Thomas, to assess its coverage. While exonerating the BBC of the charge of systematic bias, the Thomas report found “identifiable shortcomings, particularly in respect of gaps in coverage, analysis, context and perspective”.
The report noted the “failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation”. It also stated that “given this asymmetry, the BBC’s concern with balance gave an impression of equality between the two sides which was fundamentally, if unintentionally, misleading”.
To counter this tendency, the report recommended that the BBC “should make purposive, and not merely reactive, efforts to explain the complexities of the conflict in the round, including the marked disparity between the position of the two sides”.
The BBC’s coverage of the current crisis reflects a serious attempt to rectify some of these shortcomings. Reporters regularly highlight the unequal nature of the struggle in Gaza and the devastating impact of the Israeli offensive on the enclave. Israeli spokesmen still receive more than their fair share of airtime but, as civilian casualties mount, they are challenged more robustly.
Nevertheless, presenters too often stick to the “justified but disproportionate response” paradigm, espoused by the UK government. Pressure on the BBC governors by Israel’s vocal supporters in Britain continues to play its part in inducing self-censorship and inhibiting criticism.
This last issue is one faced by the media in general. Israel is infinitely stronger than Hamas not only in military terms but also in its capacity to wage the propaganda war. It is sometimes said that history is the propaganda of the victors. Because it is the stronger party, Israel is better placed to impose its narrative not only on the past but also on the present. And to me, as a revisionist Israeli historian, this narrative appears fundamentally flawed.
The origins of the current war in Gaza is a case in point. As always, Israel claims to be acting in self-defence, blaming the victims of its military aggression for their own misfortunes. Yet the basic cause for this war is the 47-year-old Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
True, in 2005 Israel carried out a unilateral disengagement of Gaza. But, under international law, it remains the occupying power because it continues to control access to the strip by land, sea and air. An occupying power has a legal obligation to protect civilians in the areas it controls, yet Israel has been shelling and killing them.
Israel claims its most recent incursion into Gaza was a response to Hamas rocket attacks. Here are some facts that do not fit comfortably into the narrative of a peace-loving nation that is up against a fanatical, murderous terrorist organisation. In 2006, Hamas won a fair and free Palestinian election and formed a government, seeking a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel refused to negotiate.
In 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government with the same agenda. Israel resorted to economic warfare to undermine this government and encouraged Fatah to stage a coup to drive Hamas from power. Hamas pre-empted the coup with a violent seizure of power in Gaza.
In flagrant violation of international law, Israel then imposed a blockade (still in force today) on the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza. Four months ago, Hamas reached an accord with Fatah, and another national unity government was formed, this time without a single Hamas-affiliated member but with the old agenda of negotiating an end to the conflict with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hysterically attacked it as a vote for terror, not for peace. He used the abduction of three Jewish teenagers on the West Bank as an excuse for a violent crackdown on Hamas supporters there, although Hamas had nothing to do with it. The Hamas rocket attacks were a response to this provocation.
The last thing Netanyahu and his right-wing colleagues want is a united and moderate Palestinian national leadership. Undermining the unity government is one of the undeclared objectives of the current assault. Israel’s spin doctors trumpeted its acceptance and Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian ceasefire proposal. Hamas, however, could not accept this proposal because it left the savage siege in place.
It is difficult to resist the conclusion that Israel’s real objective in unleashing this offensive is to bomb Hamas into a humiliating surrender. Israel’s ultimate aim seems to be not a just peace but the reimposition of the status quo with a fragmented Palestine and with itself as an imperial overlord. The BBC may be forgiven for having difficulty in explaining this staggeringly unequal conflict in all its complexity. It is an extremely tough conflict to cover well.
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