As the people of Gaza find momentary respite to survey the impact of Israel’s brutal terror, our ‘leading’ media show no let-up in its selective demonisation of Hamas.
You don’t have to support Hamas to see the way in which its vilification is being used to mitigate Israel’s mass crimes and justify Western support.
Nor do you need approve armed violence at all to recognise that a people being murdered and imprisoned will rightfully fight back, just as resilient Jews did in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Yet, despite the most graphic evidence of Israeli war crimes, and a unified mood of Palestinian resistance, our liberal media still display an inverted hubris in castigating Hamas rather than Israel.
Last week, the Guardian decided to carry an advert by Elie Wiesel and other Israel-supporting figures depicting Hamas as biblical equivalents of sacrificial child killers.
Posing as vanguards of ‘free speech’, it was a disgraceful act by the Guardian, condemned by Stop the War and many others.
The Guardian familiarly proclaim ‘comment is free, but facts are sacred’.
Yet what, in their invocation of Zionist CP Scott, was remotely ‘sacred’ or ‘factual’ about the message being presented by Wiesel? Why did the UK’s ‘leading radical paper’ feel the need to accommodate such distortion?
Would it have printed such smears or hate-speech had it been a brazenly anti-Semitic advert, or, say, that which compared Israel to Nazi Germany?
What the Guardian actually provided, in allowing this full-page spread, was respectable status for a virulent piece of hasbara. That kind of editorial permission is highly valued by Israel.
In a frank admission, the Guardian Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott has concluded that the advert was, indeed, repugnant, and that, contrary to the justifications and decision of editor Alan Rusbridger to run it, he would not have approved:
I agree with the readers that whatever the intention, the biblical language, the references to child sacrifice, all evoke images of that most ancient of antisemitic tropes: the blood libel. The authors may believe that they have steered a careful course by aiming these matters at an organisation, Hamas, rather than all Palestinians, but the association is there.
If an advertisement was couched in similar terms but the organisation named was the IDF rather than Hamas, I can’t imagine the Guardian would run it – I certainly hope it wouldn’t. I think that’s the issue.
But while Elliott’s conclusion is commendable – and, perhaps, part of a damage limitation exercise, it’s vital to note the reasons listed by Rusbridger for publishing the advert – advertisers’ interests, Wiesel’s ‘public standing’, other leading US titles had printed it, previous claims that Hamas had used children as shields, legal clearance on ‘standards’ and ‘guidelines’ – all corporate considerations and liberal posturings which tells us much about Rusbridger’s ‘morals’ and the Guardian’s priorities.
The Guardian could, instead, have adopted a specific editorial defence of Gaza and Palestinian rights, refusing to be party to such propaganda. The ensuing ‘row’ would, no doubt, have guaranteed Wiesel’s advert the same or even greater prominence. But at least the paper could have stood as an honourable ally, rather than – as with the dedicated platform its editors give to war criminal Tony Blair – a willing facilitator of Wiesel’s toxic lies.
With the British state media already giving so much loaded space to Israel, isn’t there a vital need for that kind of moral positioning?
Consider, for example, the BBC’s Wyre Davies interview with Israeli ‘dove’ Shimon Peres, in which, having listed Israel’s ‘bountiful legacy’ in ‘departing’ Gaza, Peres claimed that killing all those civilians in Gaza was “not our choice”. It was ‘Hamas’s fault’, he insists. It was Hamas, using children as human shields, that ‘forced us to do it’.
Davies could only respond with a warning about the “danger of Israel losing its democratic tradition”, and a question over whether it should now move to “finish Hamas”.
Beyond token reminders to Peres about the extent of civilian deaths, where was his serious challenge over the claim that Hamas had deliberately endangered children, causing all that killing?
Such omissions and circumvention reflect deeper ‘imperatives’ about Israel’s ‘vital security’, ‘self-defence’ and ‘provocation’ over Hamas rocket fire.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has been perniciously assertive in these regards, cajoling the reader towards viewing Gaza’s destruction as a ‘two-sided problem’, planting the idea of ‘equal Hamas culpability’, appealing that we must comprehend Israelis’ ‘terrible fear’ of Hamas tunnels, and repeating these kind of hasbara-friendly lines:
And in the quiet years, when Hamas finally got hold of long-demanded concrete, it used it not to build bomb shelters for ordinary Gazans, but those tunnels to attack Israel, and bunkers for the organisation’s top brass.
The obscenity that such sparsely-permitted materials should actually be used for making bomb shelters at all seems not worthy of mentioning by Freedland.
In seeming ‘balance’, Freedland bewails Israel’s turn to ‘disproportionate military responses’, a ‘concern’ framed primarily as such action being ‘counter-productive to Israel’s security’.
Whatever the ‘humanitarian’ undertones, the regret over lost lives, we can be reasonably sure that the suffering people of Gaza would take no comfort in these kind of anguished equivocations, or the vacuous Guardian editorials Freedland seemingly influences.
In their tortured rationalisations, Freedland and his fellow liberal commentariat help service the default-line story of Israel as the ‘still-decent settler state’, the ‘plucky homesteader’, ‘reluctantly forced’ to protect itself from hostile neighbours.
Ali Abunimah offers a fitting analogy:As Joseph Massad observes, Israeli and American politicians, including Obama, frequently describe Israel as “living in a tough neighbourhood” where Iranian and Arabs “are the ‘violent blacks’ of the Middle East and Jews are the ‘peaceful white folks.'” (Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Haymarket Books, 2014, p9.)
In truth, observes Abunimah, Jews living in an apartheid, violence-defined Israel can never find either meaningful security or proper democracy, something that will, ultimately, only be realisable under “a single democratic and decolonized state” (ibid, p58).
Nor does this ‘right of self-defence’ even stand up to logical scrutiny. As Seumas Milne – perhaps the Guardian’s only real critic, even if that still excludes open criticism of the Guardian itself – points out:”Israel does not have a right of self-defence over territories it illegally occupies – it has an obligation to withdraw.”
Yet, still we’re fed the relentless myth that Israel left Gaza with ‘benign intent’, ‘gifting all those greenhouses’, all that ‘goodwill infrastructure’, to those ‘thankless’ Palestinians, who only went on to support Hamas and dig tunnels rather than ‘use the opportunity’ to turn the place into a ‘Mediterranean paradise’.
As with Davies’s indulgence of Peres, it’s amazing how often this kind of crude propaganda is trotted-out without the mildest corrective from interviewers, or standard reminder that Gaza is subject to an illegal siege and ongoing state of occupation.
That’s all routinely ignored in favour of the ‘primary threat’: those ‘provocative’ rockets from Hamas ‘militants’ – rather than Palestinian fighters – as ‘impartially’ labelled by the BBC.
There’s little or no mention here that Hamas was originally supported by Israel as an expedient bulwark to Fatah. Forget, too, that Hamas has regularly intimated its approval of a ‘two-state solution’.
And, as Mondoweiss reminds us, while being denounced for rejecting an Egyptian-brokered truce in which they weren’t even consulted, Hamas were, not for the first time, trying to construct a more durable one:
Much less noticed by the Western media was that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had meanwhile proposed a 10 year truce on the basis of 10 – very reasonable – conditions. While Israel was too busy preparing for the ground invasion, why didn’t anyone in the diplomatic community spend a word about this proposal? The question is all the more poignant as this proposal was in essence in line with what many international experts as well as the United Nations have asked for years now, and included some aspects that Israel had already considered as feasible requests in the past. There’s also that ‘damning’ Hamas Charter, as invoked by Freedland – again, with liberal hubris. In truth, this outdated and rhetorical document is a virtual irrelevance to the much more complex realpolitik of Hamas, as intimated by Chomsky at Democracy Now:
Chomsky also addresses the widespread focus on the Hamas charter platform calling for the destruction of Israel. “The only people who pay attention to it are Israeli propagandists, who love it,” Chomsky says. “It was a charter put together by a small group of people under siege, under attack in 1988. And it’s essentially meaningless. There are charters that mean something, but they’re not talked about. So, for example, the electoral program of Israel’s governing party, Likud, states explicitly that there can never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. … And they don’t only have it in their charter, their electoral program, but they implement it.”
Thus, we forever hear of Hamas’s determination to create an ‘Islamic state’, but rarely the determination of Netanyahu, Likud and other Zionists fanatics to maintain Israel as an actual Jewish state. We hear constantly of Hamas’s notional ‘pledge’ to ‘drive Israel into the sea’, but very little contextual mention of Israel’s actual imprisonment of Gaza by land, air and sea.
No endorser of Hamas, Mehdi Hasan has also expanded on the most prominent myths, distortions and misconceptions over Hamas and the current bombing of Gaza, including corroboration that while no serious evidence exists of Hamas using children as human shields, Israel are in regular, gross violation of such acts.
Beyond Freedland’s superficial ‘examination’ and Davies’s cloying questions, real analysis on Hamas politics and Israel’s motives over Gaza abound across an alternative media.
Dan Glazebrook, for example, offers the persuasive interpretation that Israel’s real target is not Hamas at all – even if a key objective is to weaken its capacity. Rather, using the constructed ‘provocation’ over the killing of three Jewish settlers, the real purpose of the bombing has been to wreck any prospects of Palestinian statehood emerging from the current Hamas-Fatah rapprochement.
Yet, notes Glazebrook, even here: Despite its current ability to rip thousands of Palestinians to shreds on the flimsiest of pretexts, all is not well for Israel. Even their short term goals have not been met in this latest attack. Despite everything, the unity government has not broken, and Fatah and Hamas are currently presenting a united front in the ceasefire negotiations.
Likewise, Hamas has not been defeated, even militarily (let alone politically) by this attack, and has been able to continue its military resistance right up until the beginning of the various ceasefires that have taken place.
As the latest ‘ceasefire talks’ proceed, once again it’s Hamas, rather than Israel, that has sought ways of achieving a meaningful peace, again, quite rightfully, based on that most basic humanitarian demand: an end to Israel’s illegal blockade.
With almost two thousand dead, over ten thousand more injured, and so many more displaced and traumatised amid a despairing landscape of decimated structures, how appallingly Gaza has suffered just to get Israel and the West to ‘engage’ on these most elementary conditions.
John blogs at Zenpolitic While making sanctimonious calls for ceasefires and aid, Obama-Cameron ‘diplomacy’ still ensures the flow of arms and military equipment to Israel, a corporate-military mega-industry profiting from the slaughter of Gaza.
Following Vince Cable’s feeble ‘review’ of UK licences, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and law firm Leigh Day are now challenging the British government’s ongoing sale of military components to Israel.
All of which requires the US/UK and other protectors of Israel to keep issuing the ‘Hamas menace’ line as political cover.
Perversely, while this current attack on Gaza is intended to break the Hamas-Fatah unity government and further terrorise the population into submission, Israel and the West still need Hamas, battered but intact, in order to justify the military ‘deterrent’ and containment.
This dominant, enduring message of Hamas as a ‘terrorist organisation’, rather than a democratically-elected government, is deeply imprinted in the media’s own contorted framing – including that ugly Guardian advert. Despite growing global condemnation of Israel, it’s still an open-season vilification, one that even allows ‘respectable’ space to calls for Israel to murder Gaza’s civilians just for being voters of Hamas.
While the staggering scale and wickedness of Israel’s violence is treated with effective impunity – ‘it’s a sovereign state, after all’ – spineless editors and stenographer ‘journalists’ are still paying lip-service over ‘Israel’s security’, while agonising over whether ‘we’ should even be speaking with, or recognising, Hamas.
Such is the reality of Israeli terrorism, Western subterfuge, and the media’s sacrificing of truth over what’s repeatedly deemed the ‘darker Hamas threat’. Predictably, almost none of this is up for serious discussion at the Guardian or BBC.
By John Hilley, ICH