Sunday, November 12, 2006

Western media parrots Israeli narrative on Beit Hanun Massacre

A Great Comment
By Khalid Amayreh

"Occupied Jerusalem - On Wednesday, 8 November, the Israeli army committed another grisly massacre in the Gaza Strip, killing and maiming scores of innocent civilians, mostly sleeping women and children.

The new massacre is added to a long list of Israeli crimes against innocent Palestinians whose only “crime” is their enduring determination to rid themselves of decades of a demonic and dehumanizing Nazi-like military occupation that seeks to annihilate and expel them from their ancestral motherland.

Following the carnage, and as they usually behave in such circumstances, Israeli leaders from the prime minister downward switched into the damage-control mode, telling western news agencies and TV networks that they “regretted” and were “saddened” by the death of innocent civilians.

Ehud Olmert, who just a few months ago was quoted as saying rather brazenly that “Jewish lives are more important” was quoted ad nauseam, nearly by every major western media outlet, that the killing was the result of a “technical error” and that some ‘errant artillery shells” caused the bloodbath in Beit Hanun.

Interestingly, nearly none of these news media, “the voices of the free world,” bothered to ask or even wonder why “mistakes” and “technical errors” and “errant artillery shells” are invoked whenever Palestinian (and Lebanese) children and women are killed in the streets of their neighborhoods, while on vacation along the Gaza beach, while fleeing bombardments, as in Mirwaheen in southern Lebanon, or, indeed, while sleeping in their beds as were the latest victims of Israeli savagery.

Unfortunately, most western reactions to the massacre didn’t go beyond the usual platitudes and routine statements such as calling on both sides to show restraint.

Here are some examples, which show the extreme flaccidity with which the West treats Israeli criminality.

A statement issued by the White House on 9 November “regretted the deaths and urged both sides to show restraint.” Another wantonly depraved statement came from the outgoing US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who had the chutzpa to blame the killings in Beit Hanun on Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel. You see the moral depravity of these people, the brutal ugliness of their mentality!

Bolton on Saturday, 11 November, vetoed a draft UNSC resolution that would have created a UN mechanism to provide protection of Palestinian civilians from repeated Israeli attacks.

Even the conceivably more civilized European Union, while denouncing the massacre as a “profoundly shocking event,” had to dutifully remind us that “Israel had the right to defend itself,” thus giving the pornographically mendacious impression that nuclear Israel, not the nearly decimated Palestinians, was being under attack. Well, when will EU ever say that the Palestinians, too, are human and have the right to defend themselves? Probably when kosher pigs fly?

Similarly generally weak statements were issued by European officials, such as British Foreign Office Secretary Margaret Beckett who was quoted as saying that “it is hard to see what this action was meant to achieve and how it can be justified. Israel must respect its obligations to avoid harming civilians.”

Well, Bekett and her clearly duplicitous boss, Tony Blair, must be truly certain that Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, Dan Halutz and now this Avigdor Lieberman will take her words to the heart and immediately stop harming Palestinian civilians once and for all.

Parroting the Israeli story
While western reactions to the massacre remained within the “normal routine,” much of the western media outlets sheepishly and unsuspectingly parroted the Israeli narrative that the bloodbath was unintentional and caused by some errant artillery shells.

For example, CBS News reported on 9 November that “Tens of thousands of grieving Gazans, weeping in anguish and screaming for revenge, crammed into a cemetery on Thursday to burry 18 civilians killed by an errant Israeli artillery barrage.”

Similarly, Richard Boudreaux, writing in the Los Angles Times, Nov. 10, 2006, parroted the same mendacity:
“It took 15 minutes of errant Israeli artillery fire into a row of apartment buildings to kill 16 members of the clan and push surviving relatives, once aloof toward armed struggle, into vengeful fury.”….yes, “errant fire” from Israel and “vengeful fury” on the Palestinian side!

The same pattern of reporting, where the Israeli account of the massacre is taken at face value, was adopted by the bulk of the American press, except for the Christian Science Monitor, which attributed the statement to Israeli military and political officials but without endorsing it itself.

Well, how could the writers of such reports, including the Associated Press whose Jerusalem Bureau is staffed with fanatical American-Israeli Zionists, who always seek in their reports and dispatches from Palestine to portray Israel in good light as much as possible and portray the Palestinians in bad light as much as possible, find out that the artillery shells were “errant”?

Did they carry out an independent investigation to establish the truth of their claims? Did they consult third-party experts to corroborate these claims? Is taking Israeli army claims for granted in such circumstances compatible with professional journalistic ethics?

In truth, this is a highly-biased reporting since the writers of such reports and especially their editors back in New York and California readily volunteer to exonerate the killers of any malicious intent.

Yes, news writers have every right to voice their views whenever they like, but they have no right as journalists to print Israeli propaganda and mendacity as “hard news” and “indisputable facts.”

Unfortunately, it is such tendentious, irresponsible and unethical reporting by most of the American and some of the European media of Israeli atrocities and Nazi-like treatment of Palestinians that keeps the bulk of the American and much of the European peoples in the dark about the scandal of the Palestinian plight.

Even the BBC, which often seeks to portray itself as the paragon of objectivity and truth, always makes sure that the Israeli “viewpoint” is prominently featured even at the risk of creating an intended or unintended impression of symmetry between the murdered and their murderers.

Indeed, in its report on the burial of the massacre’s victims in Beit Hanun on 9 November, BBC News devoted hundreds of sound-bites (six paragraphs in the report’s printed form), see, to Israeli claims that the bombardment was carried out by mistake.

The report, among other things, quoted Olmert as claiming that the killings were the result of “technical failure,” that he was “uncomfortable with the event” and “very distressed,” that he “checked and verified it” and that “it was not the policy.”

Well, where is the balance in this kind of reporting? Where is the “other view,” namely that the shelling was likely to have been carried out deliberately since the Israeli army knew quite well that it was bombarding a densely-populated area? Besides, doesn’t this view, that the killing was deliberate, merit reporting by the BBC especially in light of the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including dozens of children, the Israeli occupation army has killed since its so-called “withdrawal” from Gaza in August, 2005.

Or, does the BBC believe that the Israeli army is not capable of committing atrocities and massacres, knowingly and deliberately and Israeli leaders and officials are not capable of lying to cover up or extenuate the savagery of their crimes?"

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