02/01/2009

Gaza and the British Media

Special features of this campaign

Of all the military adventures started by Israel, the current one seems to recieve the nicest treatment from the British media. One is taxed to find an intelligent or searching question from any of the anchors towards Israeli spokesperson; one is taxed even harder to hear a Palestinian speaking, not to mention a Palestinian from Gaza. Why is this wholesale surrender of journalistic practice, and squandering of standards of fair reporting taking place, and what can we do about it?

The Israeli propaganda machine

One of the explanations for this is the launch of an Israeli press and media onslaught, planned for a long time together with the military campaign, and run insynchronism with it. Israel have flooded the air with simple slogans, all of them false, but catchy enough to have the great minds of the British media fall for them. The British media have not given Israelis a hard time: as opposed to other countries’ media:

Quoted from the article below:
Israeli diplomats and spokespeople working with the British media have said that so far “most of the hostility has been in the print media, especially in The Guardian and The Independent. The electronic media, including also the BBC, have made more of an effort to seem even-handed. “The coverage is definitely less hostile to Israel than what we saw during the Second Lebanon War two-and-a-half years ago.”
“Israeli diplomats and spokespeople working with the British media have said that so far “most of the hostility has been in the print media, especially in The Guardian and The Independent. The electronic media, including also the BBC, have made more of an effort to seem even-handed.”

It also seems that the long planning of both the military atrocities as well as the media control has paid dividends:

“The months of preparation and the increased intensity of the media efforts have also shown results in Britain. Senior diplomats in the London Embassy, headed by Ambassador Ron Prosor gave an unprecedented 25 interviews to national television and radio channels, in the first three days of the operation.”

Israel claims success in the PR war; Anshel Pfeffer

December 31, 2008
“Whenever Israel is bombing, it is hard to explain our position to the world,” said Avi Pazner, Israel’s former ambassador to Italy and France, and one of the officials drafted in to present Israel’s case to the world media. “But at least this time everything was ready and in place.” One of the decisions taken following Israel’s failure to explain its case during the Lebanon War was the formation of a National Information Directorate within the Prime Minister’s Office, tasked with coordinating the efforts of the press bureaus in the various government departments.
The Directorate, which has been up and running for eight months, began planning six months ago for a Gaza operation. A forum with representatives of the press offices of the Foreign and Defence ministries, the IDF Spokesman Unit and other agencies held numerous meetings to decide on the message. The forum held two system-wide exercises in the past two months, one aimed at foreign media and, last week, one dedicated to the Israeli press.”

Antisemitism is always useful

But sometimes, with the best preparation in the world, one still meets some hard-headed, unreasonable individuals who would not accept Israel’s claims that in bombing people to smithereens it intends to help them, and to bring peace and calm through explosions and death. For such ocassions exactly, Israel and its allies have a trump card. Any criticism which is too sharp of their actions and brutalities, can always be countered by claiming it is antisemitic. “you are attacking us because we are Jewish. In the case of any other country, you would not attack them in this way.” Most liberal media workers, especially if they are not Jewish themselves, fear this accusation like the plague; after all, how exactly do you prove you are not antisemitic? In Israel, the popular assumption is that ALL Goys are antisemtic, whether they know it or not, whether they admit it or not. The Engage group, operating against the proposals for a boycott of Israeli instiutions, has used this argument for years. It becomes an “antisemites under the beds” hunt, in which the media cannot win. The powerful Jewish establishment, in the UK, France or the USA alike, are able to raise hell on the basis of such false accusations, and to claim that the only reason why Israel “is singled out” for special criticism, as they see it, is because it is a Jewish state. The BBC is especially prone to such attacks, and as a result has adjusted its coverage over the last decade, so as to make criticism from this corner unnecessary. The Zionist lobby is also fond of attacking papers they consider (for whatever strange reason…) leftist or liberal, such as The Guardian or The Independent, which take a more autonomous line on Israel than the papers which are part of the media conglomerates. The BBC has now acknowledged that there is indeed a propaganda war being fought, following reports from Jerusalem:

Propaganda war: trusting what we see?

By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website
Israel has tried to take the initiative in the propaganda war over Gaza but, in one important instance, its version has been seriously challenged.

The Blond Offensive

“One of our lessons from the Lebanon War was that there were too many uniforms in the coverage,” says Yarden Vatikay, director of the National Information Directorate, “and that doesn’t come over very positively.” The next clip demonstrates this clearly, but the IDF has made it impossible to embed it (sic) withinga webpage, so please use the link to view it:

BARAK CLIP

Anyone who has listened to Ehud Olmert, or the other Ehud – Barak, will not immediately find them either effective, likeable or trustworthy. Hardly any Israeli trusts them, anyway. This can be seen very clearly in the Barak clip I included, where he speaks to InfoLiveTV, an interent news channel working for some two years, placing Israeli propaganda on the net, mainly on YouTube. This was well understood by the planners of this military campaign, and from the start, a new policy of propagating the Israeli agenda, views and terminology has been developed over the last few months, as the military plans were being perfected, and the trigger for the operation prepared. One of the first rules seems to have been to award the task of fronting the Israeli position to a series of peroxide Brunhildas from a galaxy galaxy, speaking in faux sincerity about children in Israel having to face rockets every day. I really hope that none of my readers is denuded enough to criticise this as sexist, which it isn’t. It is a description of a process which affects our attitude to what we hear, and this is exactly the intended effect. The use of women is a sharp move indeed – they cannot be easily connected to those who drop the bombs, and have been well-trained in speaking evenly and without raising their voice, and appealing to our better side. That they never discuss their victims, that they never mention the starvation of 1.5 million people in Gaza, is marginal and unimportant; they only need to repeat the formulations which have been crafted for them, to look unthreatening, and to spend time on camera – enough time, in effect, to allow the killing to go on unhindered. The anchors are unlikely to pair them with a Palestinian woman in Gaza, after all… Speaking a calm voice, they can get away with inanities such as in the next clip, where Livni claims that this operation is planned to “bring calm and peace into the region”. No questiong of her statement follows.

The second important feature of the Brunhildas, is the fact that many of them are of Anglo-Saxon origin, and they speak without the harsh, Israeli accent. This helps the average presenter to feel that here is a woman who speaks sense, after all, she does not sound like someone from the Middle East, and certainly does not sound like an Arab, which is all good news. The Brunhildas are trained in screen-hogging, so can go on speaking for quite a while before the anchor feels the need to cut them off, as cutting them off, while they are in mid-flow of their even delivery, seems almost like an act of violence. The Brunhildas can afford to speak like that – after all, their children are not dead as a result of aerial bombardment, neither are they likely to be – they do not display emotions, but are trying to be the voice of feminine reason. Major Avital Leibowitz, another Brunhilda, is one of the leading spokespersons, always wheeled in on difficult cases.

The language used is extremely important, as is the poise – Tzipi Livni always speak of returning the ‘calm and peace’ to Israel, and to ‘let the Israeli people live peaceful lives’ at the very point that her forces are destroying life on an industrial scale, after having starved them for two years. The other line which ALL Israeli propagators have used is: “No nation on earth would tolerate rocket being hurled at its civilians”, a sentence which Netanyahu, in the clip included here, is able to express with hat mock sincerity and friendliness which is his trademark facade. While he is one of the few Israeli males giving interviews at the moment, he has been so well trained, that he always gets out what he wants:

The relaxed manager in his/her office

As opposed to the many pictures of bloodshed which come from Gaza or Lebanon, in the wake of Israel’s war crimes, the interviews with spokespersons for the Israeli government or the IDF are always are conducted in the privacy and peace and quiet of an office, with both sides in the conversation seated and relaxed, and with the Israeli interviewee doing their best to smile and be pleasant. Sharp as reporters may be, and most of them are far from it, this nice and friendly atmosphere makes it almost impossible to be critical, to ask searching questions (even if they had any) and to question seriously what they are being told. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Netanyahu clip, as it was with Avital leibowitz, IDF’s best propagator of feminine calm and fairness, and well trained at uttering lies most sincerely.

In a more recent clip you can see Avital doing her job again, after Israel has killed eigh Gazan workmen in gas truck, a fact exposed by B’Tselem, the human right group. This clip is especially interesting.

How different this looks from the crying mothers, shrieking ambulances, blood spilt on the road, paramedics running with half-dead bodies – we immediately feel a deep sense of calm on cutting to this civilised person in a civilised office. It seems that our reaction may well be one the reporter has experienced before us, after they ran under fire from the Israeli forces, if they were ever near Gaza. Of course, most of the reporters have never been to Gaza, and would run there even if they were allowed to enter. One cannot blame them and hereby lies another mechanism of information control, used by Israel.

Blocking any reporting from Gaza

Of course, the best method of controlling viewer views, is to block their sight, not allowing them to see what is not a good idea for them to be witness to, so they cannot develop an independent view. This is why blocking entry to reporters is the standard tool of control Israel uses in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Without reporters, who could really say what actually took place? After all, Britain played the same game in the Falklands, and later, the USA and UK invented the ’embedded reporters’ to avoid independent reporting. It works.
However, not always do the reporters accept this stoically, like they are meant to. Yesterday, the foreign reporters in Israel demanded in an injunction at the High Court, to be let into Gaza. The Court found them justified, but they are still not allowed in, but only according to times and rules the army dictates, so we are back to embedded reporting, almost. But, of course we now live in different times, with the internet allowing just about anybody with a simple camera and computer to upload images into the most public domain. This has typified the conflict in Palestine for some years now. While the material may be fuzzy, lack a structure, and lack the voice of authority, it is probably more real as a result, rather than less so. The fact that such images can be shared and forwarded with ease and great speed, also means that there are chinks in the iron ring Israel has drawn around Gaza.
Of course, on the established media channels, such images will be stopped at the door, and most of the public, here as well as in Israel, are protected from reality by the machinery of media control, which is obviously ideologically oriented and run.

In the next blog I shall be dealing with complaining about media bias, and the terminology to use when speaking/writing to media channels, making a case for Palestine.

Filed under Blog, Gaza Carnage, Public Meeting by

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