Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Pop-Up Propagandist

On the rare occasion when corporate press reporting of Palestine/Israel gets real an interesting pattern emerges:

Take, for example, Fairfax Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard's informative and harrowing snapshot of Israeli colonial metastization in the West Bank in Monday's Sydney Morning Herald:

First there's the statistics, giving the reader some idea of the overall scale of the problem:

" A 20% rise in settlement construction across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the past year has taken land critical to the creation of a Palestinian state and placed a two-state solution further away than ever a report has found. Building has started on at least 1850 housing units, while there were 3500 units already under construction, the Israeli settlement watch group Peace Now said. Eleven new settlements - home to 2300 settlers and 680 structures - were recognised by Israel last year when it legalised those outposts (outposts are created when a settlement expands to a new area of land). A further 1577 units were flagged as part of the Ministry of Housing's official list of pending tenders, the report found. 'The Netanyahu government is promoting several plans precisely in disputed areas which could prevent the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel', Peace Now found..." (Palestinians live in fear for their lives as two-state solution hopes fade)

Then there's the account of Israeli settler wolves descending on the Palestinian fold, giving the reader an insight into what life is like for Palestinians at the pointy end of the process:

"The West Bank village of Asira, just south of Nablus, knows too well the challenges of living under Israel's military occupation in the shadow of a settlement. Villagers said they were consistently attacked by residents of the neighbouring settlement of Yizhar, as often as once a week. But the house that bears the brunt of those attacks is the Maklouf residence. It is the last home in the village and closest to the settlement. The family has an extraordinary collection of home movies, shot by their mother on a hand-held video recorder, that depict life on the front line of settler violence. In video after video, seen by the Herald, armed settlers, their faces covered by scarves, charge down the hill towards the Maklouf home, firing guns, throwing stones and weilding iron bars, and screaming obscenities against the prophet Muhammad, the family and the village. One settler rampage that began at 12.15am on December 12 lasted at least half an hour, the family said. The family - mother Khadra, father Ibrahim and their 6 children - said they thought they would die. Desperate calls to the Israeli Defence Forces, stationed just kilometres away, went unanswered as the group of at least 100 settlers surrounded them, throwing rocks and bricks at their house and banged on their walls with iron bars. 'You cannot imagine the fear', Khadra Maklouf said, 'The girls were screaming... I was terrified somebody would get shot and killed'. Ibrahim, her husband, said: 'Now the younger boys are too frightened to use the toilet, and the girls will not even go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. We are worried whenever they are playing outside that the settlers might harm them'." (ibid)

Finally, along with the stats and human interest material, but always in the next day's edition and on the letters page, there's your pop-up Zionist propagandist, with his grab-bag of bald assertions, half-truths and evasions, taking Pollard to task for alleged sins of omission, the purpose being, of course, to somehow blunt the impact of her report. And in this instance, you'll be surprised to know, it's Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies:

"Ruth Pollard tells only part of the story. The reported attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers are condemned unequivocally by the Israeli government and perpetrators are regularly prosecuted. As for the settlements, Israel has demonstrated repeatedly that settlements have never been an obstacle to peace. It has withdrawn from settlements in Gaza, Sinai and the West Bank itself. And the last 6 Israeli prime ministers, including the incumbent, are publicly committed to a two-state solution." (More to the story, 17/1/12)

Mind you, the pop-up propagandist is really only an integral component of fair dinkum news stories on Palestine/Israel. Search for him following an item on any other international issue and you'll search in vain. Interesting, eh?

Now lest anyone accuse me of a bald assertion of my own, to whit, that Alhadeff's peddling propaganda here, I offer the following thoughts on his letter:

1) Reported attacks! Why, reported attacks are hardly attacks at all, right?

2) The Israeli government condemns the attacks and 6 Israeli PMs are publicly committed to two states, but given such supposed striving for what is right and proper, isn't it amazing how the prospect of a Palestinian state, as Pollard's report indicates, is receding at a rate of knots as the years roll by? Unless, of course, Alhadeff's really talking about an Israeli state and an Israeli settler state but is simply too shy to let on.

3) The key to Israeli condemnations, public commitments and like blather was brought to us back in 2004 by Pollard's predecessor Ed O'Loughlin, who quoted Peace Now's Dror Etkes' classic advice: "We shouldn't believe in anything that is said. We should just monitor what happens on the ground." (Israel ploughs on with huge settlement, 14/8/04)

4) Ploughing on, what about those regularly prosecuted perpetrators? What's really going on there? Are Israeli jails filling with settler thugs and pogromists? Hardly: "According to OCHA, 80-90% of the files opened against Israeli settlers following attacks on Palestinians and their property are regularly closed by the Israeli police without prosecution." (Palestine Monitor Factsheet-Update, 15/3/10)

But, you might say, that was then, what about today? These days your Israeli settler pogromists even attack their IDF minders. Surely, you'd think, for that they'd be locked up and the key thrown away, right? Think again: "[Major General Avi Mizrahi] expressed frustration at the treatment of the settlers who commit violence. 'The entire circle has to be closed from the police to the prosecution... If yesterday I had arrested 20 people here, it is clear to you that they would have been released next morning'." (Jewish settlers storm Israeli base, John Lyons, The Australian, 15/12/11)

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