Media Opinion

ABC watches its language concerning alleged Israeli genocide

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ABC managing director David Anderson (Screenshot via YouTube)

ABC boss David Anderson announced last week that it was not the broadcaster’s job to use terms such as “genocide” and “apartheid” in its coverage of the ongoing attacks by Israel on Gaza and the West Bank.

Anderson told ABC radio:

“When it comes to the use of those terms, the ABC won’t report using them ourselves. What we do is report other people using them.”

Anderson went on to state that genocide is a serious crime and one that Israel and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) deny is being committed by them in their war on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The fact that Israel and the IDF deny allegations of genocide should surprise no one, and neither is that denial sufficient reason for the broadcaster to refrain from usage of the term.

Anderson insisted that it is not the ABC’s job to “accuse either side of alleged crimes,” a rather bizarre claim given that daily, alleged perpetrators of alleged crimes are identified in the media along with their alleged offences. This is not considered by anybody to be “accusing” them of anything. Allegations are just that and remain that until they are proven, disproven or dismissed.

Why is it different for Israel?

Perhaps the ABC could point to the United Nations' definition of genocide and the number of criteria IDF operations currently fulfil:

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 

  1. Killing members of the group; 
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As far as we can tell, points 4 and 5 might be arguable, depending on whether killing newborns either intentionally or by withholding medicine and treatment is included in 5.

There is currently a petition circulating to facilitate the adoption of orphaned Palestinian children, which may or may not count towards the forcible transference of children to another group. Certainly, the IDF is responsible for creating the conditions that result in an excessive number of orphaned children suddenly available for adoption. “Forcible” may or may not include the enforcement of conditions in which the children’s right to life cannot be ensured.

The petition states:

‘Adoption can provide these children with a safe environment where they can heal and grow. However, current adoption laws and regulations make it difficult for potential adoptive parents to navigate the process. We urge governments worldwide to facilitate this process by easing restrictions while ensuring child safety remains paramount.’

One of the criteria for establishing genocide is intent.

According to the  UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect:

‘The intent is the most difficult element to determine. To constitute genocide, there must be a proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’

There have been several expressions of intent from members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

For example:

Knesset member and former Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan called for “erasing all of Gaza from the face of the Earth… a second Nakba… or let them die… Gaza needs to be wiped out”.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called Gazans “human animals” and ordered a “complete siege” including a total blockade of food, fuel and electricity.

Gallant said:

“There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed... we are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared:

“There's no such thing as Palestinians because there's no such thing as a Palestinian people. There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language.”

On 2 November 2023, UN experts declared:

‘We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide. The time for action is now. Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.’

The UN also warns:

Grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinians… point to a genocide in the making…


[The UN] illustrated evidence of increasing genocidal incitement, overt intent to “destroy the Palestinian people under occupation”, loud calls for a “second Nakba” in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the use of powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure.

There is a mounting body of evidence that the crimes of genocide and apartheid are being committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That the ABC has chosen to protect Israel against these growing allegations is startling and a privilege not afforded to any other alleged perpetrator reported by the media.  

An allegation is not an accusation and it is alarming that ABC management is apparently unaware of this distinction in this particular case.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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