In July, ABC TV refused to screen the Australian doco Hope in a Slingshot, about the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, because, in the words of its head of television to the film's distributor, it is an "opinion program" and deals with a "contentious subject."
Incredibly, however, the same ABC TV had no such qualms about airing the BBC's Panorama 'investigation' of the Mavi Marmara massacre Death in the Med (rebadged Collision Course) last night on Foreign Correspondent - one of the most blatant Israeli propaganda pieces ever to darken our screens.
We were treated to the spectacle of embedded presenter Jane Corbin exulting in her "unique access" to the "top secret unit Naval Commando 13," which had "never been filmed by the media before." And, boy, did she do them proud. These young braves were pitted against the sinister and shadowy Turkish IHH, which, intoned Jane darkly, "isn't just known for their humanitarian work," seeing as "Western authorities" - Western authorities?!?! - "have accused them of having links to terrorist organisations." Oh, and, "They strongly deny this."
Well, they would now, wouldn't they, Jane? Cut to terrorist, sorry IHH, leader telling his troops, sorry aid activists - see what happens when you drop the 't' word, Jane? - that if our Israeli heroes attempt to board the ship, they will be resisted. Shiver me timbers, hearties, the 'r' word! Gee, don't these dumb Turks understand that if the pirates are Israelis, they're not supposed to defend their ship? If they're Somalis, OK, but if they're Israelis, you bring out the tea cups and serviettes, right? And besides, as the rest of us know, Israel has long cornered the market on self-defence.
What occurred on the Mavi Marmara 0n 31 May was nothing more nor less than the bloody murder of unarmed aid workers by highly-trained and armed thugs, so, if you're doing PR for the latter, the sting has to be taken out of the 'm' word. Adhering to the strategy of 'sow doubt and the viewer will hopefully consign the matter to the too-hard basket', Jane says authoritatively: "The question of who shot first remains disputed and unresolved."
However, she scrupulously ignores the growing volume of data which fingers Israeli war criminality. Data such as:
a) Three days before the raid, Israeli military officials declared publicly in the Israeli press, "If the people aboard the boats will not agree to turn around, the operation [named Operation Sky Winds* BTW] will transfer to the stage of force."(1)
b) "Several of the victims of the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla were shot in the head from above, presumably from a helicopter, according to the forensics report released Monday..." (2)
c) "Autopsy results on the bodies of those killed during the assault on the Gaza aid flotilla reveal they were peppered [euphemism alert: riddled] with 9 millimetre bullets, many fired at close range and into victims' backs." (3)
d) "Although Israel successfully controlled news of its deadly commando raid on the Free Gaza flotilla during the first crucial 48 hours of media coverage, emerging evidence from witnesses and survivors is challenging the Israeli government's version of the events. These include claims of medical treatment being withheld; beatings and abuse of passengers who never resisted; and the IDF doctoring audio and selectively editing videos." (4)
e) "Israeli Navy officers have attacked their government's version of events related to last week's capture of flotilla ships in international waters... 'First and foremost, we protest the fact that responsibility for the tragic results was immediately thrust onto the organizers of the flotilla', wrote the reserve officers who served as commanders of Navy ships. 'This demonstrates contempt for the responsibility that belongs principally to the hierarchy of commanders and those who approved the mission. This shows contempt for the value of professionalism, the purity of weapons and for human lives'." (5)
Of course, there's heaps more to deal with in Corbin's hatchet job on the Mavi Marmara victims, but rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll refer you to the excellent critique Corbin on the Mavi Marmara: a BBC-hasbara production at johnhilley.blogspot.com.
To state the bleeding obvious, no one should have any illusions about establishment outfits like the BBC or our own version, the ABC. When, for example, was the last time ABC TV ever screened a worthwhile doco on Palestine?
Now I don't know whether the ABC's treatment of the Iraq War has ever been subjected to scrutiny, but if it were I wouldn't expect it to be all that different to the following assessment of the BBC:
"More recently, a 2003 Cardiff University report found that the BBC 'displayed the most 'pro-war' agenda of any broadcaster' on the Iraq invasion. Over the 3 weeks of the initial conflict, 11% of the sources quoted by the BBC were of coalition government or military origin, the highest proportion of all the main television broadcasters. The BBC was less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 news to use independent sources, who tended to be the most sceptical. The BBC also placed least emphasis on Iraqi casualties... and it was least likely to report on Iraqi opposition to the invasion. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Andrew Bergin, the press officer for the Stop the War Coalition, told Media Lens: 'Representatives of the coalition have been invited to appear on every TV channel except the BBC. The BBC have taken a conscious decision to actively exclude Stop the War Coalition people from their programmes'... In a speech at New York's Columbia University, John Pilger commented: 'We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by MI6, the secret intelligence service. In what was called 'Operation Mass Appeal', MI6 agents planted stories about Saddam Hussein's WMDs - such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All these stories were fake'." (Newspeak in the 21st Century, Edwards & Cromwell, 2009, pp 28-29)
And how about this, on Gaza?:
"Despite this carnage [following Israel's 2008/2009 22-day turkey shoot in Gaza], and despite the fact that 89% of Gaza's 1.5 million residents had received no humanitarian aid since Israel began its assault, the BBC refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities. By refusing to give free airtime to the appeal, the BBC made a rare decision to breach an agreement dating back to 1963... A January 22 BBC website article defended the BBC's refusal: 'The BBC decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story'." (ibid, pp 41-42)
The Beeb's impartiality! How cute.
I leave the last word to ex-marine Ken O'Keefe who was on the Mavi Marmara and featured in Corbin's 'story'. O'Keefe's restrained but devastating Open Letter to BBC Panorama's Jane Corbin says it all:
"Aloha Jane, As you know Panorama aired Death in the Med this week. Well Jane, I have been in the media game long enough to know that moral depravity and lack of integrity are qualities that are rewarded rather than discouraged in your field of work. With such experience it is impossible for me to take commitments from someone like yourself seriously, and that is why I recorded our conversation clandestinely, a conversation in which you confirmed the agreement that was made between the BBC and myself, with yourself and Alys as BBC representatives. In that agreement it was clear that I would agree to the interview only if you included the fact that we let the commandos go. Knowing that was the agreement, and anticipating that I was going to confirm it once more after the interview, you said: 'Well, it's the point about we didn't kill the commandos, we had them in... that will be in there don't worry. (laughing) That's, that is important for us because obviously they would say they felt their lives were in danger but we let them go. I think that's a very strong point'.
"So, instead of your team honouring its commitment to me, you instead aired a farcical report with multitudes of half-truths, lies, omissions, and importantly, Israeli commandos who escaped rather than being set free. Let us be frank, Jane, the reason for that is because it is impossible to square the whole angle that we are 'terrorists' and 'extremists' and 'killers' if we let them go. It just doesn't fit. So for the BBC in this case, when the facts do not work, you lie. In an attempt to justify this, the BBC has written an insulting letter in defence of your fallacious fairytale; this is due to the torrent of complaints that have resulted from Death in the Med.
"I mean what I say here, Jane. I feel sorry for you. From what I can tell you do pretty well for yourself financially. The BBC lauded you as one of its top journalists, and no doubt you have the respect of many influential people, but when you get right down to it, you have become nothing but a propagandist. I would be willing to bet it didn't start that way. I am sure that when you were starting off the idea of selling your soul for the purpose of justifying murder with Orwellian skill was not in the plans. But somehow you have reached this point, and unless you decide to commit career suicide and admit your true role and the pressures that made you what you are today, you will die with the accolades from the powers that be, but your integrity will have died long before. I mean it, Jane. I feel for you and hope you find the strength to do the right thing.
"I do not expect a response from you, any more than I expected you to honour your commitment to me, or more importantly, honour the tenets of the profession we call journalism. But if you can speak the truth, I would be happy to get a response from you.
"In parting, Jane, 9 people were murdered on that ship. Eight of them were fathers. The youngest was aiming to become a doctor. They were on that ship for the same reason I was, to help the people of Gaza, people that include over 800,000 children, innocent children. The world largely sees them as bright lights and humanitarians and your program will have done nothing to erase that. Instead, you have tarnished yourself and the BBC all the more. Deep down, Jane, this is the truth. Programs like yours give the insanity of blockading and bombing and otherwise terrorising innocent people more time. What you are doing in literal effect is aiding and abetting mass-murder. I could not say that but for the fact that you know as well as I that you and your Israeli producer, Israel Goldvicht, went out of your way to produce some first class propaganda for the Zionist project known as Israel. To be blunt, I hope what is left of your conscience pains you to such a degree that the only way to relieve the pressure is to come clean. Not only will you benefit in ways that money can never provide, but you will do a service to the innocent people you currently condemn to futher outrage.
"It is up to you, Jane. Make no mistake, there are BBC insiders who are so disgusted with what you have done, they are making their moves from within the organisation because the benefits of prostituting themselves has finally reached its breaking point. Think about where you stand, think about the world your children will inherit, think about your legacy, and then act with your heart. That is my advice to you. Either way I wish you the best, Jane. I am sorry that I lied by recording you without your knowledge; I do not like doing such things. Truth*Justice*Peace Ken O'Keefe, Aloha Palestine - Managing Director"
[* OMG, how poetic! And when the Israeli military starts assigning poetic names to operations, you know you're in trouble and it's time to head for the hills.]
(1) The flotilla raid was not 'bungled'. The IDF detailed its violent strategy in advance, maxblumenthal.com, 3/6/10
(2) Flotilla victims 'shot' from Israeli chopper, Turkish report shows, hurriyetdailynews.com, 29/6/10
(3) Flotilla dead shot at close range: autopsies, Robert Booth, Guardian/The Age, 6/6/10
(4) IDF beatings, abuse, doctored evidence emerge, Mel Frykberg, original.antiwar.com, 7/6/10
(5) Israel Naval officers say flotilla organisers not to blame, story.birminghamstar.com, 7/6/10