Sunday, 6 September 2009

Media Control, Israeli Style

We've been here before; when journalists say - or are deemed likely to say - disobliging things about Israel, the Israeli government and Israeli policies in the occupied territories, it is reasonable - necessary, even - for the Israeli government to counter by clarifying misapprehensions, misunderstandings, distortions and out and out lies. But the way the representatives of the Israeli people go about it however...

Exhibit A - Cite the Blood Libel

These was a bit of a fuss whilst I was on holiday in England, when The Voice, a small circulation (and even smaller impact) weekly serving the black Caribbean population of the United Kingdom, ran a less than kind assessment of the manner in which we darker skinned people are treated by the Israeli penal system. (Headline - Hundreds of Black People Being Held in Israeli Jails)

It should be pointed out that the story was the work of an obvious charlatan; the chap who was interviewed for the piece - a filmmaker accompanying the Gaza bound aid/propaganda boat intercepted by the Israeli Navy last June - wrote back the next week to deny pretty much everything that was said in his name. The editor of the newspaper, an even bigger charlatan, was quoted after the fact as saying that he "regretted the inaccuracies", but added that the "nature of journalism is to make things sensational". (Sadly, the piece is no longer on the newspaper's website. I wonder why?)

However: Ron Proser, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, then weighed in mightily, stating that The Voice should be a "responsible, articulate voice for black Britons" (fair enough), and that "on this occasion it has chose to be the voice of slander, disinformation and lies."

So far, so good. Now, this would be the opportunity for Mr Proser to set the record straight; to discuss the mechanics of Operation Oz, and the intent at the time to deport foreign nationals willy-nilly, including children who were born here and know no other home than Israel.

(I accept that this is a truncated and biased assessment of Israeli immigration *policy*. On the other hand, the retards responsible for it don't seem terribly interested in rational discussion, and instead are happy to sleepwalk into the same problems experienced in Britain and elsewhere, cheerfully demonising migrants to score cheap points. So I don't particularly feel up to being 'fair and balanced' at the moment.)

But I digress. So does Mr Proser set the record straight, by exploring the challenges faced in managing a fair policy towards migrant workers? Hell, no! Rather, he continues by saying that "...this article is less in the spirit of being blood brothers and more in the spirit of a blood libel."

I see. Or, perhaps I don't. The Blood Libel is a particularly egregious allegation; it should only be wielded when absolutely justified by the facts. Here, in my humble opinion, it ain't. And it makes Proser look like the boy who cried wolf, irrespective of the shoddy partisanship exhibited by The Voice

Exhibit B - Cite the Blood Libel, with bells attached.

There isn't anything really to add to the palaver following the nonsense masquerading as investigative journalism (I am picking my words very carefully here, and I should say that this is a personal opinion) in Aftonbladet, other than to note that no one came out of this covered in glory. Especially dear Avigdor (whom I believe is actually visiting my native Nigeria today - hope he has fun!).

I read somewhere a very powerful argument, about the piece being a modern manifestation of the old stories about Jews murdering Christian children, one which I pretty much accept wholesale (unfortunately, I can't remember where. If anyone's interested, I can go look it up). It's also pretty clear that people whom are inclined to believe the worst of the Jewish people will lap up this abhorrence; that said, people like that probably go out of their way to find anything to confirm their worst prejudices.

Even so, I really don't think that bullying the Swedish Government into accepting responsibility for the nonsense spewed forth by its newspapers is the way to go. Think about it; should Bibi and company take responsibility for everything printed in the Israeli press? Would he want to? Nah, I don't think so either.

(Side issue - for the people whom are advocating for a boycott of IKEA, two things: Firstly, I think that IKEA is run in Israel by an Israeli-owned franchise, and in any case employs lots of nice Israeli people to sell their nice tchotkes. Do you really want to add to the unemployment figures in the country at the moment? And, more to the point, doesn't this legitimise the calls - which, no doubt, this same group of people vehemently oppose - to boycott Israeli goods? Think about it...)

Exhibit C - When everything else fails, shoot at the buggers

In relation to the clip below, I should say that I don't particularly warm to the journalist's editorial line. "Expropriation" and "Confiscation" of Palestinian land, I can live with, but words like "Theft" and "Stealing" - even if absolutely justified - are highly charged, and ought to be explored - or explained - further, rather than being chucked about like confetti. Anyway...

A few things to consider. It is reasonable to assume that TV crews 'coordinate' their positions with the IDF before they start filming. Which is to say, it is fair to assume that the soldiers ought to have known that they were shooting teargas near a TV crew, one - unfortunately for them - on a live feed

Also, it isn't the first time it has happened. A CNN correspondent had to scurry for cover in similar circumstances a couple of months ago.

And then people wonder why the foreign press *is* institutionally anti-Israel. Oh well, never mind...

As an aside: As far as the convoluted, complicated and generally bewildering events in this part of the world go, the Bil'in issue comes as close to a just cause as anything. The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that the Security Fence/Separation Wall here illegally expropriated land from Palestinian nationals...two years ago. The Israeli army continues to ignore the ruling of the highest court in the land. As I understand it (I should say that I haven't been to any of the demonstrations, so this is all hearsay, albeit informed hearsay) the protesters are relatively non-violent; they chuck stones, but not Molotov cocktails, aren't trying to blow themselves - and others - up, and subscribe, at least in principle, to the notion of non-violent resistance.

At some point, the IDF is going to be dumb enough to badly hurt (or worse) someone on live TV (There has been at least one Palestinian death, and an American lies in critical condition in a hospital not very far away from me, after getting a teargas cannister in the head). If they are really dumb, they will manage to get a journalist. (No loss, some may argue. But one shouldn't be flippant...)

I actually do not think that army is deliberately going out of its way to scare, threaten or harm journalists, even if they are reporting for Al-Jazeera (boo, hiss). But I do think they are pretty reckless about their presence, something very worrying in itself. And at some point, it is only inevitable that something will happen that will drive home the point that facts will ultimately prevail over spin.


Adam E. said...

Interesting stuff.
As someone who seems to oppose operation Oz, you might like to reconsider the terms in which you criticise it. If all the thanks that the Israeli government can expect for allowing refugees to seek temporary shelter in the country is utter condemnation for not allowing them to simply settle here forever, they may well act considerably more harshly next time. I don't see Egypt or any of our other neighbours being criticised for deporting their illegal aliens...mainly because they were never foolish/humanitarian {circle as you think applicable}enough to allow any to settle even temporarily...

Goy said...

Hi Adam.

My main problem with Israeli immigration policy is that it doesn't exist; there isn't a coherent policy at all, and it's all done off the cuff. (As it happens, I read a couple of days ago that a group of eminent jurists and other Good People had submitted a report to Shim-Shim Peres saying just as much - and pointing out the medium to long term social problems that are inevitable as a result. Whilst I'd like to think that I am ahead of the curve, it's clearly not the case; their conclusions merely state the bloody obvious).

I think my position can be summed up thus: Israel does not have any greater responsibility towards refugees - genuine or not - than any other country; but its history gives it a unique opportunity to be more sensitive to their plight. Operation Oz, in conception, implementation and intention is, to my mind, the equivalent of saying "we don't give a flying fuck about all this crap; they ain't Jews so they can't stay here."

I could go on pretty much for ever about how this issue allows for a completely untrue narrative about migrant workers and refugees to evolve, but I won't. Too depressing. But I will say this: It ain't a good idea to compare Israel with Egypt, as you do. Everyone knows that their attitude is barbarous - no more, no less. So saying "but we are better than the Egyptians" scores no brownie points. We are often told here that Israel is "a light amongst the nations"; I'm not going to ask for proof, just for a sign that someone up there (in the government, that is) recognises the complexities of the subject and tries to engage with them. That's all I ask.

Adam E. said...

Israel's history does certainly give it a unique opportunity to be sensitive to the plight of these refugees, but I think that even a brief glance at it's history and prehistory in the ideology of the Zionist movement shows that, of the various ways that Israel could actually express this sensitivity, absorbing or even holding these refugees is not one of them.
From the inception of Zionism until now, a Jew anywhere in the world has had two choices when faced with oppression and exclusion: (a) Fighting to be included, (b) Creating a state and a system of his own, in which there is no "other" to exclude him. The very nature and logic of Zionism - rightly or wrongly - is based on the second option. {Many Jews have gone for option (a), as the history of the Bund and the socialist movement shows, but that's another story}. While sensitive to the plight of others who have suffered therefore, the Israeli - living in a state designed by Zionism - has to follow a particular line in helping these others; he has to help them build a strong and stable government in their own countries, he has to provide them with aid, food and weapons, he has to do everything he can...except for absorb them into his own state. It is in this that Israel's current policy (or lack of it) really falls down - in so utterly running contrary to the very logic that is Israel.

Secondly, the idea that "we all know that the Egyptians are barbarians" isn't really all that true in my experience. It is a sad reality, but it is a reality nonetheless, that as long as what you do isn't newsworthy, it isn't condemned. And I think this may negatively affect how Israel acts in the future, but such is life...

Goy said...

To be clear, I meant that the attitude of the Egyptian government to refugees is barbarous, rather than they (Egyptians) are barbarians...

Your points are interesting, but I do not wholeheartedly agree. I am not for a moment suggesting that Israel has a higher obligation or duty of care towards migrants - whether seeking refugee or seeking work, or both - than any other country; what I am saying is that for a variety of reasons, Israel has the capacity to act differently - by considering the claims fairly and in timely fashion, for instance.

Because Israel is dependent upon cheap migrant labour - like most other Western countries - the issue of illegal immigration, whether from people whom have overstayed their work permits, or from people whom are seeking to make a better life for themselves here will not go away. And because Israel - on the balance - is nicer to African refugees than its neighbours, they will continue to seek refuge here. There is an almost unique opportunity here to shape the debate in a positive, humane fashion, one that does not necessarily suggest that everyone who crosses the borders is welcome to remain here indefinitely but does not pander to ethnic chauvinism and isolationism either. Oz is not the way to go.

That said, I respect your opinions, and they introduce elements to my thinking that hadn't actively featured previously - thanks!