Israel, Zionism and the Media

Tag: Sri Lanka

Reaction to my article about the Channel 4 programme: “Sri Lanka, the Killing Fields”

There has been an unexpected reaction to my previous article on the Channel 4 programme shown last week: Sri Lanka, the Killing Fields.

This blog post is about to become the most viewed I have written in two years of writing this blog.

I found this a little bizarre because my blog is about Israel.

The main purpose of my Sri Lanka blog was to highlight what I perceive as the double standards of the UN and the international community.

So I am bemused as to why my post has had so many hits in such a short space of time.

I have come to the conclusion that the reason is that Israel and Palestine so monopolise the news media and the blogosphere, that it is seen as THE conflict, the most important one to resolve and a major cause of the ongoing ‘war’ between Islam and the West.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, and the Tamils in particular, have relatively few bloggers and virtually no attention from the media.

So when someone writes about Sri Lanka, it has a much larger impact than a similar article about Israel where my voice struggles to be heard in a plethora of shrill voices on both sides.

In my article I committed the sin of comparing the actions of the Sri Lankan army, on two occasions, to the actions of the Nazis. This is always a risky thing to do. Let me clarify; I compared the No Fly Zones to the gas chambers because both used simulation to dupe victims into believing they were safe when, in fact, the opposite was true. In retrospect, this was not appropriate.

I then compared Ban Ki Moon’s visit to a Tamil internment camp as being similar to the Red Cross visiting Theresienstadt and reporting all was well. This comparison is, perhaps, a little more felicitous.

The overwhelming majority of visitors have been supportive of my article.

One of the first commentators took me to task about accusing the Sri Lankan government of genocide when most Tamils live in the south and in comparative wealth and comfort.

Here is a legal definition of genocide found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG).

Article 2 defines genocide as, inter alia:

“…. any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; ….”

In my judgement, these conditions were met based on the evidence I have seen. Others more qualified will make theirs.

In the Sunday Times this week A A Gill was disparaging of the Channel 4 programme. He pointed out that no Channel 4 reporters witnessed the events and almost all the footage came from unconfirmed sources.

In these days of citizen journalism, in areas of the world where news reporters are not allowed, the evidence from private citizens and combatants is vital in telling the world what happened even if, as in this case, these video clips are horrific trophy recordings apparently taken by soldiers who appear to be enjoying the rape and slaughter.

This evidence of the dehumanisation of one group by another and how that can lead to war crimes and, yes, genocide, are all too familar to the Jewish people. Those who document the dehumanisation of Jews by Hamas, Islamic clerics and Palestinian Authority TV and literature, have no doubt that, given the opportunity, Jews would be subject to the same deranged slaughter as the Tamils and probably far worse.

At least in Sri Lanka Tamils still live and many prosper; they still have positions of authority in Sri Lankan society. No-one is suggesting that they must all be killed because they are an evil virus hated by G-d and humanity. Only the Jews have that dubious honour.

There are several initiatives by NGO’s and even politicians to ensure that any war crimes in Sri Lanka are punished.

However, I doubt that the UN Human Rights Council will have a permanent agenda item for Sri Lanka as it has for Israel.

I wish the people of Sri Lanka well and I hope that justice and reconciliation will resolve the conflict and allow all communities and faiths to live together with mutual respect and toleration.



Gaza and Sri Lanka: The BBC News Double Standard

On Saturday the BBC reported that a “makeshift” hospital in what is supposed to be a civilian safe zone has been hit by the Sri Lankan army killing 91 Tamil civilians and injured another 87.

The Sri Lankan army has put the blame on the Tamil Tigers saying that they had carried out suicide attacks and insisted that they had stopped their heavy bombardment some days before.

It was doctors at the hospital who claimed that the Sri Lankan army had bombed the hospital. You would think they would know the difference between a suicide bomb and an artillery shell.

But in the interests of  the fair reporting standards that the BBC is so keen to tell us it upholds the reporter offers this word of warning:

Journalists are not allowed near the conflict zone, so the conflicting accounts cannot be independently verified.

I would point out to the BBC that during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military action against Hamas in December and January, no such statement ever appeared on the BBC News website or TV broadcasts. The BBC, and its viewers, were asked to swallow whole reports from just one side of the conflict, coming through UNWRA which, in turn, received all their information directly from Hamas. This lead, for example,  to the misreporting by UNWRA head John Ging of the supposed attack on a UN school where 41 people were reported to have been killed. Later, Ging had to concede that no such incident had taken place and about a dozen people had been killed outside the school, the majority of whom were combatants.

But the BBC STILL REPORTS THIS INCIDENT AS IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. and adds a pathetic “Update” at the end:

In February 2009, the United Nations said that a clerical error had led it to report that Israeli mortars had struck a UN-run school in Jabaliya, Gaza, on 6 January killing about 40 people. Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Jerusalem, said that the Israeli Defense Force mortars fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself. He said that the UN “would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school”.

Some “clerical error”! It doesn’t even mention the fact that only 12, not 40 had been killed, and it only mentions obliquely the IDF investigation which actually names most of the fatalities and identifies them as know Hamas combatants.

Why does the BBC not just withdraw completely this lie. The report is still there with the headline “‘Stray mortar’ hit UN Gaza school” and a photograph of an injured child being carried from an ambulance, presumably to a hospital even though we now know that NO CHILDREN WERE INJURED IN THE SCHOOL.

So why does the BBC continue to post a lie or, to be generous, an erroneous report which appeared to have the authority of the UN and which the UN corrected later?  The UN report was so credible that, according to the BBC, even the IDF at first believed it and produced the “stray mortar” story. But:

The [Israeli] statement was made anonymously to the media because the investigation had not yet been made public by the military

So this wasn’t even the official IDF position at the time but suited the BBC’s biased viewpoint, so they printed it.

The BBC report continues:

The dropping of the defence that Hamas mortars had come from within the school compound may cause some embarrassment to Israel in what has been a high profile incident.

The initial “human shield” claim was made forcefully after the killings by the military, politicians and many supporters of Israel.

“Hamas cynically uses civilians as human shields,” the military said in its initial statement, and later it went as far as naming two well-known Hamas militants among those killed at the school.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the incident “a very extreme example of how Hamas operates”.

It is not clear what credibility the change of position will be given by observers. 

The last sentence says it all really: the Israeli government was not to be believed. It was Israel who were the war criminals, Israel who breached every rule of warfare and Hamas who were  the victims. This is in marked contrast to the BBC’s Sri Lanka report where it emphasises that story cannot be verified.

The IDF has clearly shown that Hamas not only used Human Shield policies but operated in cynical violation and total disdain of international law throughout the conflict. Yet the BBC still sees fit to perpetuate its own misreporting and offer a dismal and ineffective rider.

Sri Lanka and the media’s double standards

While the world’s press focuses fanatically on what Israel did or did not do in Gaza, the Sri Lankan government largely avoids accusations, condemnations, the ICC and Human Rights organisations baying for blood. Why? No Muslims or Jews or Palestinians involved. So it’s a minor issue.

The Sunday Times did afford some column space under the headline “Artillery pounds wounded Tamils trapped on beach”.  Those Tamils were 1000 amputees hiding in trenches as the Sri Lankan army persecuted its war against the Tamil separatists.

The report states that more than 300 civilians were being killed or were dying due to “lack of medical care, food or water”. The only remaining hospital in  the area had to close after being bombed twice by the Sri Lankan army. The UN believes more than 2800, mostly civilians, killed since the beginning of the latest offensive.

Meanwhile the Tamil Tigers are actually asking for a ceasefire. None is forthcoming from the Sri Lankan army. They now want to negotiate with the government. No such negotiations have been offered. A Tamil commander characterises it as ” a genocidal war”. He goes on:

“Continuous denial of humanitarian access to the civilian population, and non-stop artillery and aerial attacks are creating an unbearable situation”

Tigers say that they would now “respect the outcome of an independent Tamil state.

Joan Ryan MP (Lab) has called for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Commonwealth. 

Yet all this hardly receives any coverage on any news channel. If Israel is being called to account for supposed crimes where is the worldwide clamour against Sri Lanka?

Israel and Accusations of War Crimes

Why is it that Israel’s military campaigns seem always to provoke the media, human rights groups both inside and outside Israel and governments all over the world to accuse the Jewish State of ‘war crimes’?

Why is it that no other state or political entity ,where breaches of international law are much clearer cut, are not subject to the same media attention and are not described in the same terms?

Let me provide a few examples:

Much has been made of Israel’s apparent attacks against schools and hospitals in Gaza. John Ging, head of UNRWA in Gaza, publicly proclaimed that ‘a war crime MAY have been committed’. Subsequently Ging said that he never claimed that the UN school had been hit at all but the shells landed in the vicinity killing about 30 people. Very little was made of this subtle difference in the media and most people would still think that Israel targeted a school for no good reason. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, reports of Tamil Tigers shelling a school killing 10 people and wounding dozens of others does not prompt outrage in the media or calls for war crimes investigations. But more pertinent is the never-mentioned fact that Hamas deliberately time their rocket attacks to coincide with the beginning of school in Sderot and elsewhere in order to target children. Hamas rockets, as indiscriminate and unguided missiles, are a flagrant breach of international law in any case, but little, if anything, is made of this in the media.

Israel is accused of targeting civilian dwellings (which it claims were used by Hamas fighters). More war crimes investigations are called for by various governments and organisations across the world. But, when a house in Helmand province is struck by the British army, killing an entire family, everyone accepts their explanation that the Taleban were using that house to fire at the British troops, but by the time they responded the terrorists had fled and the occupants of the house became the victims of the Taleban’s deliberate attempt to cause as many civilian casualties as possible to discredit the Coalition. Sound familiar? So when will there be a war crimes investigation against the British army?

Again, Sri Lanka; this time a hospital is hit and has to close. Accusations ensue on both sides as to the culprits. Did the UN call for an investigation? If so, do we hear about it?

Stephen Sackur of the BBC recently interviewed Isaac Herzog , Israel’s Welfare and Social Services Minister, and pressed him strongly about the need for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. Herzog reacted strongly stating that Israel was a fully democratic country quite able to make its own investigations into its own conduct of the war. Has anyone ever suggested an independent investigation into Hamas’s war crimes, breaches of human rights, extra-judicial executions and murders of fellow citizens? Has anyone proposed such investigations into the Sri Lankan, Sudanese, Chinese, British or American conduct in the conflicts that they are involved in and trumpeted such proposals loudly on prime-time television? It is only Israel that is involved in a direct existential threat against implacable enemies who have torn up every article of decent human behaviour and ethical conflict. Meanwhile, only Israel makes 125,000 phone calls and drops millions of leaflets warning Gazans to leave the area before an attack; only Israel takes lawyers to the battlefield to confirm the legality of any military action.

I don’t ask that Israel be given exemption from criticism, I just wonder why they are not treated like any other democratic state. I think I may know the answer. Do you?