The Gaza massacre, MH17 and the faux Fairfax foreign affairs narrative

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Fairfax media is propagating an Israeli narrative on the brutalising of the West Bank and the massacre in Gaza, writes Dr Evan Jones.


Fresh from mis-representing the Western-backed coup in Ukraine and the subsequent carnage in Eastern Ukraine, the 'Independent. Always' Fairfax media is propagating an essentially Israeli narrative on the further brutalising of the West Bank and another massacre in Gaza.

Let's review their reports.

On the Sydney Morning Herald site, 17 July, was Thomas Friedman’s

In the new world disorder, a Gaza solution can only come from within.

The article attributes blame for the carnage to Hamas for its unrepentant militancy and the PLO for its pathological weakness (against Palestinian militancy, not against Israel). The island of order (Israel) is surrounded by a sea of disorder (mad Arabs). Apart from the article’s incoherence, there are the trademark evasions, arrogance and condescension.

Friedman is a mendacious tribalist, yet Fairfax editorial feels this partisan propaganda worthy of reproduction — to further enlighten us untutored antipodeans. In a 2003 article regarding reportage of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, I noted that Friedman was regularly reprinted in Fairfax. I emailed then Age editor, Michael Gawenda (coincidentally, supportive of the 2003 invasion), to inquire of the attraction of this unattractive scribe.

Gawenda replied that Friedman is

'... one of the best foreign affairs writers around, vastly experienced, balanced.'

Friedman is part of the New York Times’ stable of Israel-firsters. On foreign affairs, the curiously respected NYT is merely an arm of the imperial American state. But on Israel, in particular, the paper is essentially an unremitting propaganda mouthpiece.

Journalist and activist Alison Weir conveniently summarised the connection when the NYT’s current Jerusalem-based correspondent, Jodi Rudoren, took on the job in early 2012.

Weir cites Max Frankel, NYT editor 1972-2000:

"I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert ....

"Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective."

Weir also cites the author Grace Halsell, consistent supporter of ‘the underdog’, who highlighted in 1998:

‘Over five decades now, Zionists have killed Palestinians with impunity. And in the 1996 shelling of a U.N. base in Qana, Lebanon, the Israelis killed more than 100 civilians sheltered there. As an Israeli journalist, Arieh Shavit, explains of the massacre, “We believe with absolute certitude that right now, with the White House in our hands, the Senate in our hands and The New York Times in our hands, the lives of others do not count the same way as our own.”’

Weir observes that NYT Jerusalem Bureau representatives have, since 1984 during Thomas Friedman’s incumbency, lived in a house stolen from a Palestinian family during the nakba of 1947-49.

(Halsell also notes that, in the process of getting published her 1981 book Journey to Jerusalem – with, this time, Palestinians as the underdogs – she discovered the aftermath of censorship and professional and social marginalisation if one is critical of Israel. I note the same process occurring in France in a summary of a book recently published in France, where the Israel lobby is extremely powerful.)

As for Jodi Rudoren, Weir wished her well in her new job, observing that she would face powerful pressures to toe the ‘party’ line. It appears that Rudoren has not weathered the storm. The U.S. progressive Jewish news website Mondoweiss highlights, here and here, that Rudoren has lapsed into partisanry.  

This diversion is relevant here, because Fairfax has consistently reproduced Rudoren’s dispatches — even, it appears, marginalising its own Middle East correspondent, Ruth Pollard, in the process.

Representative is a 17 July (in the paper edition) article:

Israel resumes attacks on Gaza after Hamas militants spurn cease-fire plan.'

The piece is a disgrace.

Obfuscated by Rudoren, Israel wants de-militarisation and permanent subjugation, with the ongoing ethnic cleansing that entails.

One only has to go to Ali Abunimah on 16 July at Common Dreams to see what the ‘spurning’ of the supposed cease-fire plan signifies.

Fairfax’s Paul McGeough does provide the backdrop, on 19 July, to the farce that was the ‘ceasefire plan’.

Michael Gawenda, fortunately, has moved on, but his current successor at the Age seems to be cut from the same cloth.

In the Age, 14 July, we have David Blair’s

For Hamas and Israel, what is the endgame?

The article is all about rockets coming from Gaza, and the natural Israeli ‘retaliation’.

‘… Mr Netanyahu's position is that if the rockets stop flying, so will Israel's jets and drones. Put simply, he will trade "quiet for quiet". That leaves Hamas with the most agonising dilemma of all. How much more of its painstakingly amassed arsenal can it afford to fire at its old enemy – and how much retribution is it willing to take?’

But Israel’s hand is purportedly constrained:

The blunt truth is that a large number of civilians usually have to die first. Yesterday's destruction of a home for the handicapped, apparently by an Israeli missile, is the kind of incident that will begin to focus international attention. On its own, however, this tragedy is unlikely to prove a turning point.

Nevertheless, Israeli decision-makers know the clock is ticking. Their military planners assume that all operations will eventually be curtailed by outside pressure, so they try to ensure that a large number of targets are destroyed as quickly as possible. … The fact that Israel generally fights in a goldfish bowl of international scrutiny will also complicate the next decision that its leaders must take.

'[A]pparently by an Israeli missile'? A ‘large number of civilians’ as necessary collateral damage to teach these low-lives about due deference and propriety?

The author of this slop sounds vaguely familiar. Ah, yes. He’s the bloke that Fairfax reproduced on 4 March as an expert on the Ukraine turmoil. An equally scandalous misrepresentation.

So, who is David Blair?

Blair’s Wikipedia entry discloses a man of substantial on-the-ground conflict zones experience. Based in Pakistan at the time, he even reported sympathetically on the Israeli-engineered suffering of Jenin residents in 2002. Blair is now chief foreign correspondent for the ultra-establishment British Daily Telegraph.

The Age has also published freelance journalist Gwynne Dyer, 16th July:

‘… a war that suits everyone but the victims’.

Dyer highlights the inhumane consequences of the prolongation of the bombardment, but offers an unconvincing explanation for the motives on each side. Dyer also attributes a sageness to Mahmoud Abbas, whose incurable weakness as a de facto Israeli administrator of the West Bank is part of the problem.

Canadian-born Dyer’s Wiki entry relates that he has been shut out of the dominant Canadian print media under a succession of ultra-zionist owners.

Sensitive souls.

Dyer’s barely discernible critique of Israel’s actions here is that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is an opportunist politician — that is, primarily oriented to ensuring electoral support (he isn’t). Hamas, however, has an ‘urgent’ motive for war, to regain popular support for its cash-strapped control of Gaza.


Dyer is a military historian but, after 40 years covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict, this article neatly ignores the essential character of the conflict and the particular origins of the current Israeli massacre.

Then we have Jeffrey Heller on 18 July:

Israel starts ground operation in Gaza to stop Hamas rockets’.

Heller gives us the Israeli narrative on the origins of the Gaza bombings:

'... a response to mounting rocket salvoes into its cities.'

Heller, a Jerusalem resident, is the long-time correspondent for Reuters.

He has also long been subject to attack by the hasbara brigade for supposedly ‘pro-Arab’ reporting. He has evidently succumbed to the pressure.

Heller offers us the presumed spark:

‘The conflict was largely triggered by the killing of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank last month and the death on July 2 of a Palestinian youth in a suspected revenge murder.’

Well, no it wasn’t.

The ‘conflict’ was triggered by Israel’s refusal to recognise the PLO-Hamas ‘reconciliation agreement’ in late April. The three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on 12 June.

Israel has disgustingly manipulated the death of these innocents, as it has appropriated the meaning and memory of The Holocaust itself over decades to escalate its colonialist project.

So what do we learn from the sum total of Fairfax’s reportage on the current crisis?

We learn nothing at all; worse, we are positively misinformed — unlearned. Fairfax shows itself contemptibly and cravenly complicit in carrying essentially the Israeli narrative as informed commentary. And this is not a Murdoch tabloid at work — this is the self-respecting Fairfax offering pap to the educated middle classes.

What is the motivation of Fairfax editorial? Laziness? Cost-cutting? Ignorance? A colonial cringe mentality that assumes that copy in the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph necessarily embodies quality and integrity? The consistency of the ‘product’ implies that the choice is conscious, strategic.

After struggling through the soup of misinformation, one gets ready insight from the pen of Samah Sabawi, 18 July, in New Matilda. Why hasn’t Fairfax invited commentary from Sabawi? The April PLO-Hamas agreement was on the PLO’s terms, due to Hamas’ current enfeeblement — so what did Israel find unsavoury in it?

Notes Sabawi:

What drives Israel’s war on Gaza? It is not the need to weaken Hamas nor to stop the rockets. Both goals were almost achieved back in April. … Israel's real agenda in Gaza is not to find peace, but to further impoverish and oppress the Palestinian people …

… it has been clear for some time that Israel’s true objective is to continue settlement expansion and land grab, while using endless negotiations as a delaying tactic to alleviate international pressure.

Sabawi also concisely articulates why Hamas did not readily accede to the Egypt/Israel-determined ‘ceasefire’:

To accept the terms would have meant to accept total submission. The siege would not be lifted, the crossings would not be opened and Israel would maintain its license to kill. Israel’s occupation of Gaza would take a turn for the worse.

The terms of the ceasefire made it clear that Israel, with the silence and complicity of the international community, does not want to offer Palestinians security, nor does it exhibit any desire to begin addressing even their most basic rights as human beings.

In short, Israel’s renewed bombardment of Gaza is not about Hamas rockets. It is about dehumanisation and destruction of a subject people. But you won’t discern that simple truth from reading the Fairfax media.

The shocking downing by a missile of a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine has led the media to burst into righteous indignation over its origins in Russia’s innate evil.

Thus from Fairfax’s Daniel Fitton, 18 July:

The professionalism required points to [former Russian intelligence officer Igor] Girkin and his Russian-backed separatists as the most likely suspects.

Perhaps. But then this:

‘But it is far from clear whether Moscow condoned this atrocity. The conflict in Ukraine has boiled for months since Russian commandos in February seized control of the Crimean peninsula. A referendum in March - widely dismissed as a farce - saw the territory incorporated into Russia.’

This account is, of course, complete rubbish. But it appears to be now part of a consistent pattern of how Fairfax has decided to report the world outside our borders.

Judging from the staggering ignorance of many commenters on articles referring to the tragedy of the downed passenger airliner, the modus operandi of Fairfax regarding foreign affairs coverage (complementing other equally complicit media) appears to have been a stunning success.

Such media has generated clueless cheerleaders for the state terrorists and criminals on our side of the manufactured good/bad divide, rendered ‘invisible’ by the complicity, even unconscionable, partisanry of our respectable media.

But if it’s all about us good guys and them bad guys, why bother reading anything at all? We know the truth already.

And to fill in the time saved from not having to examine those eternal verities, there’s Fairfax’s in-depth coverage of sport to turn to. Ignorance is bliss.

As I write this, on 19 July, Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald has belatedly attempted to balance its partisanry by publishing Randa Abdel-Fattah’s

How language changes views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over Gaza’.

But this is a token effort and does not absolve Fairfax from the guilt of its misleading dominant narrative.

Abdel-Fattah’s text implicitly hones in the essential lie of that narrative:

‘One has to credit a military juggernaut and a covertly nuclear state for its success in framing itself as victim even as it bombs a largely defenceless population. Even as Israel plays warden over Gaza, which has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison, it perpetuates the myth that it is a state perpetually fighting for its survival.’

The Palestinian-Egyptian-Australian Abdel-Fattah decries the Australian political class’ cringing self-abnegation in the face of Israeli perfidy and its hasbara cover.

Rest assured that the Australian media in its entirety, Fairfax included, will facilitate the perpetuation of this moral travesty.

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