Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dec 25 Media Critique: "Bethlehem-Abusing the Christmas Story"

I thought we may enjoy some respite from HonestReporting’s absurdities at this time of the year, but there’s no rest for the wicked.

Todays target – the British newspaper, The Independent. A good article from Johann Hari on the implications of the occupation and movement restrictions on women in labour.

As usual HR goes for some outraged hyperbole,

The media employs seasonal religious symbolism to attack Israel
Yes, Israel is being beaten with a statue of the Virgin Mary by a British newspaper. How crass.


In a tasteless affront to one billion Christians worldwide, the Independent, a leading British daily, describes the Virgin Mary as a "Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem", and present-day pregnant Palestinian women as "21st century Marys" who "have been giving birth in startlingly similar conditions to those suffered by Mary 2,000 years ago."

Horrendous. How can anyone make such a shocking comparison. As all good apparatchiks know, these pregnancies will result in the birth of the devils spawn, who will dedicate their lives to the slaughter of Jews. This journalist makes them sound almost human.

Who can blame HR, sticking to the facts would just undermine the point they’re trying to make. And that point is…, I’m not quite sure either. Maybe that it is “biased” to report what is actually happening in the Occupied Territories.

Oh no, forgive me, this is the point,

Yet, readers must scroll down halfway through this 1,500-word piece to discover the real cause of Palestinian suffering:
"Following the election of Hamas, the world choked off funding for the Palestinian Authority, which suddenly found itself unable to pay its doctors and nurses. After several months medical staff went on strike, refusing to take anything but emergency cases."
Nasty, nasty, Johann Hari, hiding the fact that the death of Fadia Jemal’s baby in 2002 was caused by the election of Hamas in January 2006. Thanks HR for exposing this deceit.

Hari provides some detail of the scale of the problem (1.),

Since Fadia's delivery, in 2002, the United Nations confirms that a total of 36 babies have died because their mothers were detained during labour at Israeli checkpoints.

But HR knows the real problem,

The Independent blames Israel for checkpoint security measures, but fails to provide context with the well-documented Palestinian abuse of ambulances and medical facilities to transport and harbor terrorists. Nor does the Independent mention the 2002 arrest of a Palestinian terrorist recruited to carry out a suicide bombing disguised as a pregnant woman -- a graphic reminder of the depths that terror groups will sink in their efforts to bypass Israeli security.
Yes, Israeli has no choice but to detain pregnant Palestinian women at checkpoints, because they might be terrorists in disguise! Poor Israeli soldiers, they can’t tell the difference between a pregnant woman and someone with a pillow stuffed up their shirt!!

B’Tselem point out the real reason for the existence of the checkpoints,

One of the main purposes of the movement restrictions policy is to protect Israeli settlers. Given that the settlements are illegal, the policy only aggravates the situation: it comprehensively and disproportionately impedes the freedom of movement of an entire population in order to perpetuate the settlement enterprise.

Yes, Palestinian women and babies die at checkpoints for the convenience and comfort of Israels’ illegal settlers.

As for the “well-documented Palestinian abuse of ambulances”, this is typical HR fantasy. There is none. HR provides a link to an Israeli Govt website that claims to detail several incidents. The most serious one is the claim that a suicide belt was transported in an ambulance, a claim over which there is serious doubt. Just remember the Qassam in the ambulance story, where the Qassam turned out to be a folding stretcher. However, there is evidence of the mis-use of ambulances by armed groups – the IDF. The IDF used an ambulance to take soldiers into the West Bank to arrest Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in 2002, as well as on other occasions.

But wait, there’s “More Abuse of the Christmas Story”.

The Chicago Tribune also “engages in abusing religious symbolism”.

The problem, yet again, is its “one-sided criticism of Israel”. HR would much prefer that someone else was blamed (Martians perhaps?) for the 6m high concrete wall and the travel restrictions that are making life hell for the residents of Bethlehem. Worse still, the Chicago Tribune fails to note the real reason for the difficulties of the Christian population of Bethlehem- HR knows it is “Muslim persecution”, of course. Isn’t it funny how the Christian population of Bethlehem flourished for around 1300 years despite Muslim persecution”, but has been suddenly affected by it over the last 50 or so. I really can’t figure this out…..

It’s just more of the same – factual descriptions of life in the Occupied Territories are beyond the pale. Blame can be apportioned, as long as journalists remember that Israel is completely blameless. Stories must be ‘balanced’ with liberal helpings of Israeli hasbara, otherwise they are biased. Well actually, no they don’t. Journalists are meant to go beyond the competing claims and official pronouncements and try to describe reality. A reality that HR finds disturbing, preferring it to remain buried under an avalanche of obfuscation and distortion.

1. BBC News "UN Fears over checkpoint births", 23/9/2005.