Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Choking on My Falafel.

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Song for Gaza by Michael Heart

I cannot document this. Channel 10's website doesn't even bother with a summary account of its 5 pm news bulletin, let alone a transcript. Yet, this is what I saw on its 12/1/09 evening news: overseas correspondent Danielle Isdale was standing in the grounds of a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Two Palestinian (?) patients, allegedly from Gaza, whose cuts and bruises had been lovingly attended to by hospital staff, were out in what appeared to be the hospital's garden, smiling beatifically in gratitude as a small group of Israeli musicians (I seem to remember a guitarist and a violinist among them) serenaded them. I was so gobsmacked I can't remember anything Danielle said, but thanks to her and Channel 10, Israel's beautiful soul was there for all to see.

Also on display (on the AM program) that day were the remarkable reporting skills of Radio National's Middle East Correspondent Ben Knight. The subject: Anger mounts in Arab world as Israel's goals 'nearly achieved'. "Each day that passes," intoned presenter Brendan Trembath, "provokes more anger in the Arab world." Cut to our Ben: "This is the Yasser Arafat Square in Ramallah, it's the market centre of the town. There are shops here selling everything from clothes to jewellery to falafal. And in almost every one of them, there's a television. And that television is invariably tuned in to one of the Arab news networks, where for 24 hours every day it's all Gaza all the time. Over lunch in this cafe, people are seeing a constant feed of graphic images. Many of which could never be shown on Australian TV screens [Could never be shown? Wouldn't want to put our listeners off their food now, would we Ben?] 'We've become used to seeing pictures of killing', says this man, 'But this time the Israelis are going over the top'. [And that, folks, is the only Angry Arab that gets his tuppence worth in Ben's report on Angry Arabs. But more of that later.]

Now, are you ready for this? The flash of Ben's blinding insight that is? "The Arab news networks are punishing Israel." Zounds! How? "For the past week, they've been running and re-running pictures of horribly wounded children, dead bodies and overflowing morgues. In their news reports, they don't refer to the dead, but to martyrs. And the Arab world is glued to it. Not just here in the West Bank, but in the cafes and markets of Egypt and Jordan." Did you get that? The Arab news networks are punishing Israel! The heroes of the Israeli Occupation Forces, one of the planet's deadliest military machines, are slashing and burning their way through the wretched, destitute population of Gaza, the body count soars by 100 a day, the wounded are too numerous to count, and our Ben, sipping coffee in a Ramallah cafe, is telling us that Arab television is punishing Israel!

I did say more of that later, that being our Ben's seeming inabilty to find, with one exception, any Angry Arab to talk to slap bang in the centre of Palestine's de facto capital. But not to worry, help is at hand! General Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of of analysis with Israeli military intelligence, just happened to be sauntering by and, seeing Ben's microphone, just couldn't help himself: "If this war ends up with the Hamas giving up their (inaudible) whenever they don't wake up under the right side, they launch rockets against civilians in Israel, that's a major victory for the moderate enemies in dabau (phonetic). And they can withstand the protest in the area. I think that if we aren't successful, those who protest are going to be weakened with them." Enlightening, no? And it doesn't get any better with a second, third or fourth reading either.

Now what's our Ben to do, all dressed up and nowhere to go in Yasser Arafat Square? But not to worry, help is once more at hand! Here's Major Barak Rimon, a reservist in the Israel army and a Gaza vet. Just sauntering by? But of course! "I can't think about dangerous place to be in the world right now than in Gaza Strip. And then it becomes like a wild west. If somebody is jumping, you don't have enough time to think, you have to react, and that's the main problem." "That makes it highly likely there'll be more civilian deaths," remarks Ben sagely.


Anonymous said...

Re your piece below on Paul Sheenan. I wrote to the SMH:

'In Paul Sheehan's piece "It's too easy just to blame jews" (smh 12th
January) he presents his usual islamophobic diatribes which have no
place in any decent newspaper.

What he does not state, however, is that his trip to Israel last
November which he mentions was sponsored by the NSW Jewish Board of
Deputies (JBOD) and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Is it not now considered necessary for journalists in the SMH to note
possible conflicts of interest, or at least to acknowledge funding?

I received the following reply from the SMH :

Thanks for your letter. There has been no change in the Herald's policy
on this that I am aware of. I gather Paul Sheehan will be addressing the
issue in next week's column.


Mike Ticher
Letters editor
Sydney Morning Herald
02 9282 2984
0420 219408

That might be interesting to read.


Anonymous said...

Words fail me.