The Fairfax press and the Gaza massacre Part II(b)

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Dr. Evan Jones continues his in-depth analysis of how Fairfax has propagated an Israeli narrative on the massacre in Gaza. See yesterday’s Part II(a).

Jihadis for Jerusalem

There was the article, formally straight up down reporting but substantively subversive, by Nick Toscano and Ben Doherty, ‘Melbourne school colleagues in Israeli army injured in Gaza’, 5 August. What’s this then?

'Two former students of a Jewish school in Melbourne have been wounded while fighting for the Israeli army in Gaza. … The combat soldiers are former students of Leibler Yavneh College in Elsternwick …'

'[Zionist youth movement] Bnei Akiva Melbourne president Romy Spicer … said that out of the 365 students and leaders in Melbourne's Bnei Akiva program, as many as 10 had joined the Israeli army in the past two years. "What drives them is a love and passion for Zionism," she said. …'

'There are about 2500 foreign citizens from more than 60 countries enlisted in the Israeli Defence Forces. … The Israeli embassy in Canberra refused to comment on the number of Australians fighting for the IDF, but it is believed in excess of 100 are enlisted.'

From the Leibler Yavneh College website:

'Our mission as a Modern Orthodox, Religious-Zionist School is to nurture students to be:

[among others] committed Australians, aware of and loyal to their communal, civic and personal responsibilities. …

We believe in fostering each student’s personal, emotional and intellectual commitment to Religious-Zionist ideals and to the State of Israel'

Now why aren’t the Australian authorities visiting Leibler Yavneh College and Bnei Akiva to inquire of this proselytising process by which some of their charges become jihadis in an occupying army?

Sensing a public relations dilemma, Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, reassures us (7 August):

The implication that Australian Jews go to Israel to join the IDF is misleading and incorrect. Israel has compulsory national service because it must, because in its history it has been threatened and attacked by hostile neighbours. All Israeli citizens must serve in the army, including immigrants. [Well not quite all]

Lamm omits that the young Australians choosing ‘to move to Israel to build a life, find a job and raise their children in the only Jewish state’ have to serve a rite of passage that involves harassing, dispossessing and murdering Palestinians. And they do this out of choice. Committed Australians, aware of and loyal to their communal, civic and personal responsibilities indeed.

(image by John Graham)

A Sydney Morning Herald ‘balanced’ pairing

The Sydney Morning Herald published a pairing on 30 July, not reproduced in the AgeYuli Novak (sometime Israeli Air Force officer, now Executive Director of Breaking the Silence) and Yair Miller (president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies).

Novak recalls that a one-ton bomb dropped in 2002 that killed 14 civilians as well as its intended Hamas target then raised concerns in some Israeli circles. She notes that 100 one-ton bombs have been dropped on Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (sic), raising little domestic concern. Miller’s article (endless unprovoked terrorism from Hamas, which means that the promised ‘land for peace’ idea is in tatters) is rubbish from start to finish.

The Letters pages

The Letters offerings on the Gaza attack offer slightly more ‘balance’ than the Opinion offerings. There is, of course, a swathe of ‘Israel can do no wrong’ letters. Thus, for example, Malcolm Rayne (Age, 24 July):

'I am appalled at the double standards being applied towards Israel. … How many ‘‘do-gooders’’ would be howling about the injustice of it all if Australia rightfully defended itself [if rockets started hitting our cities]? Is this just another sign of anti-Semitism at its best, because after all, it’s only the Jews? I don’t see any protests to The Age regarding China’s illegal occupation of Tibet … Israel wants nothing more than peace.'

And here’s the familiar names (Mark Leibler & Colin Rubinstein) from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (Age, 25 July)

'Your editorial (‘Might overwhelms the right to defend’, 23/7) was inflammatory. Hamas, a terrorist organisation proscribed by many nations, including Australia, initiated this conflict by escalating rocket attacks across Israel. It rejected Israel's overtures to de-escalate, as well as three Arab ceasefire proposals Israel accepted. … .

'Every Gazan civilian killed is tragic, but they are overwhelmingly victims of these callous human-shield tactics. Israel warns civilians of impending strikes by dropping leaflets, texting and phoning. … The partial Gaza blockade … targets only materials with military uses, allowing food, medicine, consumer goods, water, fuel and power. It was only imposed after rocket attacks.'

This letter is steeped in lies, but what can one expect from agents for a rogue state. At least Fairfax has ceased publishing articles by such AIJAC functionaries who, during previous Israeli offensives, have graced Fairfax’s opinion pages on a regular basis.

The media gives Israel-firsters special dispensation. The press has long since declined to publish opinion or letters from flat-earthers, or those who insist that the world was created in 4004BC. Israel-firsters are given access to endlessly declaim that Israel is as pure as the driven snow, and to hell with the credibility of the specific claims.

One reason why China’s illegal occupation of Tibet gets less coverage in the letters pages is because there is nobody being regularly published who defends that takeover as just and the Tibetans as terrorists. The claim that Hamas hides behind human shields has been reproduced as a mantra, but it isn’t true. Ditto firing rockets from hospitals, etc.

As for Israel’s exit from Gaza, well the lies are now well-established truths. Here’s one from an inveterate letter-writer, Alan Freedman, from East St Kilda (SMH, 6 August):

'Remember, too, that the blockade was instituted only after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip and was subsequently subjected to rocket fire and terrorist attacks from Hamas.'


Ah, another standard Hasbara furphy regarding the ‘complete’ withdrawal from Gaza. Noam Chomsky’s recent piece on TomDispatch provides insight into the Gaza ‘withdrawal’ (and its context):

'[The November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access Between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] was reached shortly after Israel withdrew its settlers and military forces from Gaza. The motive for the disengagement was explained by Dov Weissglass, a confidant of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in charge of negotiating and implementing it. "The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Weissglass informed the Israeli press. "And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders, and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a [U.S.] presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress." …

'In their comprehensive history of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, Israeli scholars Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar describe what actually happened when that country disengaged: the ruined territory [Gaza] was not released "for even a single day from Israel's military grip or from the price of the occupation that the inhabitants pay every day." After the disengagement, "Israel left behind scorched earth, devastated services, and people with neither a present nor a future. The settlements were destroyed in an ungenerous move by an unenlightened occupier, which in fact continues to control the territory and kill and harass its inhabitants by means of its formidable military might."

If Freedman rushed more to the books than to penning missives, he might have developed some sympathy for one Darren Stein, of Bondi (SMH, 28 July), who wrote:

'… I wish to write that there are indeed many Jews who are quietly feeling deeply ashamed and conflicted about the fighting in Gaza and the massive death toll on the Palestinian side, whether Hamas has provoked this or not. If we were to put our humanity before our religion, gender or ethnicity, the world would be a more peaceful place. If I express shock and grief for the innocents who have perished in Gaza, I am not a self-hating Jew, I am a human being, and anyone who condemns me for that has clearly compromised that element of themselves.


Remember that Fairfax, as with the Murdoch press, has regularly endorsed its journalists being carried off on paid junkets to Israel whereupon they return to debase their calling. Fairfax columnist Paul Sheehan, sometime junketer, evidently on the drip, has well reproduced the IDF’s story on Gaza (SMH, 4 August).

The Mike Carlton episode

And then there is (or was) the contracted columnist Mike Carlton, atypically going to the heart of the matter (SMH, 26 July):

'It is a breathtaking irony that these atrocities can be committed by a people with a proud liberal tradition of scholarship and culture, who hold the Warsaw Ghetto and the six million dead of the Holocaust at the centre of their race memory. …

in all these long and agonising decades, Israel has never offered the Palestinians a just and equitable peace. They would have only a splintered, vassal state, their polity and economy and even their borders and freedom of travel and trade managed and determined by Israel. The occupation of Palestinian lands would remain with the relentless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan and the Dead Sea.'

There followed the predictable tidal wave of abuse from the Israel-firsters, and Carlton’s published rejoinder (2 August):

‘Heil Hitler, you ignorant, Jew-hating, anti-Semitic slime.’ [That phrase is not reproduced online] As I predicted, the abusive emails and tweets have been thundering in all week, hundreds of them. That effort was typical. The Israel lobby - or as I prefer it, the Likud Lobby – rose in fury at last week's column about Israel's war crimes against civilians in Gaza. I lost count of the times I was called a Nazi. … More disturbing was a broad streak of Jewish racism and bigotry every bit as vicious as the anti-Semitism some of these people claimed to find behind every rock.'

As we now know, Carlton also engaged in a direct rejoinder to his delightful correspondents, which led to his being disciplined by the Fairfax headmaster, Sean Aylmer, and his subsequent resignation (complementing his 2008 sacking before 2009 reinstatement). And there goes the only plain-speaking person on Israel (or politics generally), and Fairfax will now concentrate exclusively on its preferred obfuscatory mush.

Jonathan Holmes (Age, 13 August) took Carlton to task for replying in such a manner, or perhaps for replying at all.

'What you don't do, ever - not to the most abusive, and certainly not to impassioned but reasonable critics - is tell them to get f---ed.'

Reasonable critics? They don’t exist in zio-land. But quite so. Never reply to a zio critic because it only encourages them.

The cartoons

Then there was LeLievre’s cartoon that accompanied Carlton’s 26 July SMH article. The cartoon showed a kippah-ed Israeli watching, TV-style in armchair comfort (Star-of-David blazoned), the Gaza bombardment. Following feedback from no doubt ‘impassioned but reasonable critics’ Fairfax editorial apologised (4 August) for the ‘distress’ caused to some readers.



(By contrast, SMH cartoonist Alan Moir kept under the radar with perennial cartoons implying a dual Israel-Hamas madness.)

Overland Editor Jeff Sparrow agreed with Fairfax editorial (Crikey, 5 August), claiming an essentialist dimension to the LeLievre cartoon, comparable to those demonising Muslims.

Notes the Herald editorial:

'A strong view was expressed that the cartoon, by Glen Le Lievre, closely resembled illustrations that had circulated in Nazi Germany. These are menacing cartoons that continue to haunt and traumatise generations of Jewish people.'

The comparison is inappropriate. The infamous odious graphics from Julius Streicher’s Hitler-era Der Stürmer ‘essentialise’ Jewry as financial predators, sexual predators, etc. LeLievre’s cartoon only thinly caricatures an actual event. The Star of David is not essentialising Jewry, but is the emblem of the Israeli state.

Perhaps LeLievre might have omitted the kippah, but (as noted by MarilynJS on the Sparrow article), there were kippah-ed groups on the Sderot hill who came to witness the pulverisation of a subject people.

The same thing happened during Operation Cast Lead (sic) in 2008-09. Who is suffering distress and being traumatised? Palestinians are the new Jews.

Simultaneously, The Age’s John Spooner had published several cartoons which are straight out of the Hasbara songbook – the whole problem is due to Hamas fanaticism. One cartoon has a Hamas operative firing a rocket from a hospital operating room.
What constraints one puts on press cartoonists is a difficult issue.

Cartoonists are at the forefront of lateral thinking and courageous social and political commentary, and Australian cartoonists have a global reputation for it.

Over the years in the present context, Bruce Petty and Michael Leunig (The Age), Geoff Pryor and Ian Sharpe (Canberra Times) and David Rowe (Australian Financial Review), with varying degrees of subtlety, have had published powerful indictments of Israeli perfidy.

But then The Age editor Michael Gawenda pulled Leunig’s cartoon juxtaposing the hyperbole of Auschwitz and of the Israeli war machine in 2002. And The Age leaves untouched Spooner’s mythical characterisations of the Gaza bombardment while the SMH apologises for LeLievre’s naturalistic characterisation of the squalid Sderot spectacle. Two weights, two measures.

(image by John Graham)

The quintessence of the Fairfax coverage

What is missing is the root cause of the latest Gaza catastrophe —Israel’s imperative, in its DNA, towards ethnic cleansing. The 1948-49 Occupation is its foundation, the 1967 Occupations its natural extension. The step-wise obliteration of Gaza is the grisly sideshow for entertainment-deprived sadists. But day after day, the less heralded details of the purification machine press on relentlessly.

The paltry Fairfax coverage is certainly not a reflection of objective detachment. It highlights more than a casual inattention to contemporary moral priorities. Rather, it reflects a conscious partisanry towards a long-standing tyranny that makes Fairfax editorial both cowardly and complicit.

During this wretched period of myriad large-scale calamities, Waleed Aly had an article in the Age (25 July), titled ‘Deciding which deaths matter and which don’t’. In referring to the appalling celebration of Gazans’ suffering in the Egyptian media (‘now effectively a propaganda arm of the government’), Aly notes:

'But that's what happens when the sanctity of life meets the power of politics. … It doesn't matter who dies. It doesn't matter how many. … We decide which deaths to mourn, which to ignore, which to celebrate, and which to rationalise on the basis of what story we want them to tell. … And that, I fear, is a universal principle.'

The Jewish Holocaust (as with other Holocausts) was a product not merely of global lack of awareness – it was also partly a horrendous casualty of contemporary power politics. 

So also with Palestine, and Gaza in particular. Of course, with official and social media intrusion, we all know this story in the finest detail, but knowledge of criminality is of little import.

Power politics and particular interests still reign, and the official media, including Fairfax, is their handmaiden. ‘Never again’ is a slogan that can’t be taken seriously.

See yesterday’s Part II(a).

Buy John Graham originals, including those above, from IA's online store.


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