Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fairfax's New Girl on the Block

You may have noticed that Fairfax has a new Middle East correspondent, replacing Jason Koutsoukis. However, far from being an improvement on the latter, Ruth Pollard's piece on the Palestinian (?) resistance attacks in southern Israel, Hezbollah cited in deadly hit on Israel (SMH, 20/8/11), reveals her to be, if anything, even more of an echo chamber for the Israeli line than her predecessor.

The Palestinian attackers are, of course, "gunmen," while their victims are "holiday-makers and Israeli soldiers going home for the weekend... " In similar vein we are told that "[e]ight Israelis - 6 civilians and 2 soldiers - died and at least 31 were injured in the attacks... after gunmen opened fire on 2 buses, 2 cars carrying civilians and a military unit that responded to the attack."

The emphasis on civilians is telling. While Pollard claims that 6 of the victims were civilians, Israel's Jerusalem Post reports that "5 people were mortally wounded" in an attack on "a bus and private vehicle," and that "a number of soldiers were among the casualties." (At least 6 dead, 25 hurt in terror attacks near Eilat, 21/8/11)

Although the Israelis have never let the prospect of 'collateral damage' get in the way of rubbing out Palestinians they've taken a particular dislike to, there is obviously enough ambiguity here for Israeli PR to make hay while the sun shines. The Angry Arab, commenting archly on the same emphasis in The New York Times of the day before, had this to say: "The professional liars and fabricators of the Israeli military initially admitted that all those killed were soldiers. Only later did they adjust the news to make this claim. In Israel - I kid you not - an Israeli soldier is counted as a civilian even if he's carrying weapons so long as his shirt is unbuttoned, or his shoelace untied, or he's not wearing his cap." (Israeli propaganda lies,, 19/8/11)

Whatever the correct designation of the victims, it's the sheer one-sidedness of Pollard's 'report' that makes it so bad. A Hamas spokesman gets just one short paragraph to tell us that "The Israeli accusation against Gaza is an attempt to export Israel's internal crisis to Gaza." This is followed by sound bites from "security analyst and former government official" Avi Melamed (4 paragraphs); Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1); Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev (2); the chairman of Israel's Herzog Centre for Middle East Studies, Yoram Meital (1); and Defence Minister Ehud Barak (1).

Finally, there's the complete absence of context. It would have taken Pollard mere seconds to access data showing the extent of Israel's violence against Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank in the past few weeks, none of which, to my knowledge, ever made it into the Herald. The United Nation's Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (, for example, reveals that, from 28/6/11 to 16/8/11, 8 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and 178 injured. But then, where blatant propaganda is concerned, that kind of information would only be a distraction.

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