Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ed v Abraham

While mainstream news reports on Palestine/Israel are not as amenable to pro-Israel propaganda as mainstream opinion pieces, the inclusion or omission of vital contextual information can certainly be used to reveal or conceal the true nature of this settler- colonial conflict.

It's worth contrasting how the Fairfax and Murdoch press report the same events.

In Bush to land in Israel as Annapolis hopes fade, 8/1/08, the Sydney Morning Herald's (and Melbourne's The Age) correspondent in Jerusalem, Ed O'Loughlin, opens with, "The US President, George Bush, is due to land in Tel Aviv tomorrow for his first presidential visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories..." The key contextualising word here is "occupied." If we didn't already know it, the 'o' word informs the reader that the Palestinian territories are under Israeli military occupation, with all that that implies in terms of international law (occupations are illegal), the balance of opposing forces in the Palestinian territories (grossly assymetrical), and the nature of those forces (occupiers v resistance fighters).

In Israel lacking proof on nukes, 8/1/08, The Australian's Abraham Rabinovich merely has Bush visiting "Israel and the Palestinian Authority..." No contextualising 'o' word, just two sides, falsely implying a symmetrical balance of forces.

O'Loughlin describes the Palestinian Authority as a "rump Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank." This tells us that the PA is a lesser entity than we might otherwise assume from Rabinovich's failure to use such a qualifier.

O'Loughlin explains the PA's beef thus: "The Palestinians are angered by Israel's announcement in the immediate aftermath of Annapolis of plans to extend several big Jewish settlements in the West Bank, contrary to international law, rather than honouring its committments to curb settlement growth..." And so we learn that Israel, the occupying power, is further violating international law by building settlements on occupied Palestinian land. O'Loughlin even refers in his report to "West Bank colonies."

Rabinovich explains the fly in the ointment as "The escalating confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip [which] has soured the atmosphere" and reports that "Mr Olmert said Israel would step up its attacks in response to the rocket salvos from Gaza." No illegal Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, just Israeli armed forces understandably retaliating against a prior Palestinian aggression emanating from the Gaza Strip. No hint that the Hamas Government there had proposed a cease-fire in December which would have ended the "rocket salvos" in return for an end to Israel's military incursions into the Strip and its 'targeted' assassinations of Palestinian leaders. And no hint that this was rejected out of hand by Israel. Seemingly as an afterthought, Rabinovich eventually gets around to mentioning Bush's expectation that "Israel live up to its pledge to dismantle illegal settlement outposts in the west Bank..." Oh, so only "settlement outposts" are illegal, not settlements as such?

And that's all from Rabinovich, except to point out that his first 6 paragraphs are on Israel's current bogey, Iran, and the last 2 on that old standby, al-Qa'ida. Poor little Israel - as if those nasty Palestinian "rocket salvos" weren't bad enough. Sheesh, what a neighbourhood!

But there's more from O'Loughlin: there's the "scores" of Palestinians "arrested or wounded" by "last week's Israeli security operation in the West Bank city of Nablus..."; and there's Israel's peculiar idea of a Palestinian state- "no military forces," "limited independence," Israeli "control of its borders, air space and the Jordan Valley," and "Israeli security forces continuing to enjoy a free hand to operate in Palestinian areas."

Clearly, where O'Loughlin reveals, Rabinovich conceals. Sadly, the former may not be with us much longer.

Federal Labor's 'Minister for Israel', Michael Danby, has written in The Australian Jewish News [14/9/07] that "Like many people, I have given up subscribing to The Age because of its primitive coverage of the Middle East. Getting angry over breakfast spoils my day. Fortunately, other people make it their business to monitor O'Loughlin's writing and expose his errors of fact and interpretation."

According to the same edition of The Australian Jewish News, O'Loughlin was going to be replaced as Middle East correspondent at the end of 2007 by Jason Koutsoukis, The Sunday Age's Canberra correspondent. The grooming of Koutsoukis had, it seemed, already begun, with a "briefing" by the Israeli ambassador, and a "meeting" with "various Jewish communal groups." "There are two sides to every story," Koutsoukis was quoted as saying, "and I think we've got to tell both sides. Perhaps we've only been telling one side. That's been some of the concerns expressed to me by Jewish community leaders so far."

Sounds ominous. Still, as I write, Ed remains with us. We live in hope.

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