Forwards and Backwards…writes Emily Gian

March 14, 2014 by Emily Gian
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Returning last week to my work desk after a long maternity break, I was reminded of the famous quote from Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”.

Emily Gian

Emily Gian

The newspapers strewn on the table told of the controversy stirred up by the ABC Four Corners program “Stone Cold Justice” which dealt with the supposed poor treatment by Israel of Palestinian children in the West Bank. The basis of the report came from unsubstantiated claims made to the Australian Newspaper’s reporter John Lyons and published in early February of this year. Much of that journalist’s work has been discredited and his own newspaper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan recently carried out a demolition of those efforts in ‘Evil and Deeply Untrue’.

It is important to note that Four Corners and Lyons failed to inform that Israel does not take such allegations lightly and has rightly taken a number of steps to deter instances of mistreatment of Palestinian minors and to deal responsibly with these claims and punish any offenders.

Despite the fallout from this affair, Lyons’ response in the Weekend Australian, entitled ‘Distant “experts” choose to ignore Israeli realities’represented little more than a shameful attack on the country’s Jewish leadership and completely missed the point about the appalling anti-Semitism the Four Corners episode elicited on an ABC website. Lyons’ crude piece exposed his own bigotry in failing to understand the hatred that his shoddily researched work encouraged and in neglecting to condemn what Sheridan described as the subsequent “shocking outburst of rank anti-Semitism”.

The controversy took me back exactly three years to the time of my marriage in Israel. As my family and I spent a quiet weekend in Tel Aviv before the wedding, Hakim Awad, then 17 years of age, together with his 18-year-old cousin, brutally murdered the Fogel family while they slept. Included among the victims were three-month-old Hadas (whose head was severed), her two young brothers and their parents. The murderers proudly confessed to their killings and showed no remorse.

Awad was then classified as a minor, making him one of Lyons’ Palestinian “children” and among the several hundreds of minors who have taken part in terrorist activities against Israelis since 2000 most of them encouraged and incited to act by the terror groups including members of the Palestinian leadership in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The Four Corners program somehow missed this, particularly ignoring the incitement to violence that routinely comes from within Palestinian official circles which many consider to be the root of the problem. This would however, provide context to this story but I suspect that doing so was never really part of the producer’s agenda or that of Mr. Lyons.

The day after our wedding three years ago, the main news item in Israel (but hardly anywhere else in the world) was the interception by the IDF of a cargo vessel “Victoria” en route to Egypt carrying 50 tonnes of lethal Iranian weaponry most certainly en route to Gaza. Just a few days later, Grad rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, just to remind us exactly what happens when these weapons fall into terrorist hands.

Times haven’t changed and moving forward to the present, another ship carrying arms was intercepted by the IDF last week and taken to Eilat where it landed at the weekend. The shipment from Iran, disguised as a cement shipment and carrying an alarming array of weaponry including 181 heavy mortars, 400,000 bullets and dozens of M-302 rockets capable of striking almost anywhere in Israel, was prominently displayed for the world’s media but again aroused little interest. Just like the previous incident, Gazan terrorists have fired over 70 missiles into Israeli towns and villages over the last few days – more war crimes against civilians targets.

The Melbourne Age gave prominent front page coverage to the events which took place on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in June 2010 and its sympathetic reports on the IHH terrorists killed on board that ill-fated ship as it attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza (later acknowledged as legal by the United Nations Palmer Report) somehow earned one of its journalists a Walkley Award (and a Dishonest Reporting award from our friends at Honest Reporting).

Given the prominence the Age gave to the blockade story, I scoured its world section on a daily basis this week in an attempt to find a scrap of information about the arsenal whose interception serves to justify the Israeli blockade but I found almost nothing. The Age has also seemingly lost interest in providing any context to the news from this region.

My conclusion after many months away from my work, sadly, is that our media’s coverage of these events is moving backwards, not forwards.

I would like to thank Gabsy Debinski for doing a wonderful job in my absence. I have no doubt we will see more from here in the future.

 

Emily Gian is the Israel Advocacy Analyst at the Zionist Council of Victoria and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature at the University of Melbourne

 

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