The response to Channel 9's 60 Minutes program on the thuggery of Israel's West Bank settlers (Hate Thy Neighbour, 20/9/09) has been overwhelming. As of 7 am this morning, 128* comments had been left on the 60 Minutes blog, providing a rare insight into public perceptions of Israel/Palestine on those all-too-rare occasions when the mainstream news media, however inadequately and tentatively, exposes the reality of Israel's vicious and unrelenting colonization drive in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. [*As of 9/10/09, 301 comments!]
By my own count, 83 viewers were supportive of the 60 Minutes' expose, 35 had problems with it, and 5 were off with the pixies (I know that only adds up to 123, but I've got better things to do than recount). Pixies aside, that's a 70/30 ratio, and shows yet again that the uncritical and reflexive support of our political and media elites are out of step with Australian public opinion on this issue. A recent nationwide Roy Morgan poll found that only 24.5% of those surveyed sympathised with Israel, compared with 28% who sympathised with the Palestinians, 25% with neither, and 23% undecided. [See also my 16/2/09 post Blight Unto the Nations]
Some of the comments that attracted my attention:
"Everybody is full of praise for 60 Minutes. Yes, it was a relatively good report and one not expected on 60 Minutes that illustrated and revealed the Palestinian plight. However, as a Christian who has visited the Holy Land on several occasions, I don't think this should let Channel 9 or 60 Minutes off the hook. This report was too little, too late. What about 1) the Palestinian kid having his arms broken with boulders by Israeli soldiers; 2) footage of the American Peace Volunteers (ISM) shot by Israeli soldiers and prevented from getting medical attention; 3) footage of the 14-year old settler boys with machine guns (seen with my own eyes); 4) the wells poisoned, thousand-year old olive groves bulldozed, dogs and donkeys shot at by unprovoked Israeli settlers (my own eyes); the settler given SIX MONTHS for killing a kid with his rifle butt, and so on. No, after years of pointing the finger at Arabs, and repeating the 'they are terrorists' mantra, you have a lot more to do!" (60 min - why did you hold back? why hold back?, Camberwell) Amen, brother!
"This issue is central to many world conflicts, and the international community must demand that Israel withdraw to its international recognised borders as per countless UN resolutions rather than defending every act of Israeli military aggression. The Israeli Government does not want peace because any peace deal will mean a halt to the illegal settlement expansion and annexation of Palestinian land and resources in the quest for a greater Israel and it knows full well that it will continue to get away with these actions without international intervention. I spent almost 2 years with the UN on the Lebanese side of the Israel/Lebanon border, and hardly a day went by without unprovoked Israeli military (and their de facto forces) aggression towards the local civilian population and UN personnel. If the Berlin Wall came down so can the barrier to peace on this issue, starting with illegal settlements." (The settlements must go, David, Brisbane)
Not forgetting these little gems from those in deep denial:
"I'm a student attending a Jewish day school. I suppose I would be biased towards Israel because of this. I'm commenting on this article because I was exremely [sic] aggrivated [sic] when I watched the story on it about 5 minutes ago on 60 minutes. The story was completely biased towards the arabs as always on channel 9. I understand that they have a side to be shown, but the thing channel 9 never gets is that Israel too has a story that needs to be shown and a justified one too. Israel is constantly portrayed negatively across the media because their side is never shown. Not only does this aggrivate Jews like myself, but also influences the general Australian public to have negative views towards Israel. I don't know if this is the desired effect of the channel 9 network, but it is what results from their articles on Israel. So please in future when articles are written on the situation in Israel* show their side, as well as the arab side!" (Why is Israel's side never shown?, Mic, Western Australia) [*So the West Bank is Israel? Ah, the benefits of a 'good' private education.]
"as a member of the jewish community in melbourne, I have found this new report not only extreemly [sic] one sided. But extreemly inappropriate to show tonight. We the jewish comunity[sic] are currently celebrating our new year (Rosh Hashana). And I find it quite disrespectful that 60 minutes would choose this holy time to display the jewish people in a negative light. (An inapropriat [sic] time to show this artical [sic], Melbourne)
60 Minutes, the headmaster wants you in his office, NOW!