British Media And The Invasion Of Gaza


Richard Moore

Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 12:45:19 -0400
To: Recipient list suppressed: ;
From: Bill Thomson <•••@••.•••>
Subject: The Mideast Crisis

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The British Media And The Invasion Of Gaza
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006 16:40:12 -0400 (EDT)
From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: [psysr-disc] another verification of Israel's kidnapping
June 30, 2006


The British Media And The Invasion Of Gaza

By Jonathan Cook

Few readers of a British newspaper would have noticed the story. In the Observer
of 25 June, it merited a mere paragraph hidden in the World in brief section, 
revealing that the previous day a team of Israeli commandos had entered the Gaza
Strip to detain two Palestinians Israel claims are members of Hamas.

The significance of the mission was alluded to in a final phrase describing this
as the first arrest raid in the territory since Israel pulled out of the area a 
year ago. More precisely, it was the first time the Israeli army had re-entered 
the Gaza Strip, directly violating Palestinian control of the territory, since 
it supposedly left in August last year.

As the Observer landed on doorsteps around the UK, however, another daring 
mission was being launched in Gaza that would attract far more attention from 
the British media and prompt far more concern.

Shortly before dawn, armed Palestinians slipped past Israeli military defences 
to launch an attack on an army post close by Gaza called Kerem Shalom. They 
sneaked through a half-mile underground tunnel dug under an Israeli-built 
electronic fence that surrounds the Strip and threw grenades at a tank, killing 
two soldiers inside. Seizing another, wounded soldier the gunmen then 
disappeared back into Gaza.

Whereas the Israeli arrest raid had passed with barely a murmur, the Palestinian
attack a day later received very different coverage. The BBCs correspondent in 
Gaza, Alan Johnstone, started the ball rolling later the same day in broadcasts 
in which he referred to the Palestinian attack as a major escalation in 
cross-border tensions. (BBC World news, 10am GMT, 25 June 2006)

Johnstone did not explain why the Palestinian attack on an Israeli army post was
an escalation, while the Israeli raid into Gaza the previous day was not. Both 
were similar actions: violations of a neighbours territory.

The Palestinians could justify attacking the military post because the Israeli 
army has been using it and other fortified positions to fire hundreds of shells 
into Gaza that have contributed to some 30 civilian deaths over the preceding 
weeks. Israel could justify launching its mission into Gaza because it blames 
the two men it seized for being behind some of the hundreds of home-made Qassam 
rockets that have been fired out of Gaza, mostly ineffectually, but occasionally
harming Israeli civilians in the border town of Sderot.

So why was the Palestinian attack, and not the earlier Israeli raid, an 
escalation? The clue came in the same report from Johnstone, in which he warned 
that Israel would feel compelled to launch retaliations for the attack, implying
that a re-invasion of the Gaza Strip was all but inevitable.

So, in fact, the escalation and retaliation were one and the same thing. 
Although Johnstone kept repeating that the Palestinian attack had created an 
escalation, what he actually meant was that Israel was choosing to escalate its 
response. Both sides could continue their rocket fire, but only Israel was in a 
position to reinvade with tanks and ground forces.

There was another intriguing aspect to Johnstones framework for interpreting 
these fast-moving events, one that would be adopted by all the British media. He
noted that the coming Israeli retaliation -- the reinvasion -- had a specific 
cause: the escalation prompted by the brief Palestinian attack that left two 
Israeli soldiers dead and a third captured.

But what about the Palestinian attack: did it not have a cause too? According to
the British media, apparently not. Apart from making vague references to the 
Israeli artillery bombardment of the Gaza Strip over the previous weeks, 
Johnstone and other reporters offered no context for the Palestinian attack. It 
had no obvious cause or explanation. It appeared to come out of nowhere, born 
presumably only of Palestinian malice.

Or as a Guardian editorial phrased it: Confusion surrounds the precise motives 
of the gunmen from the Islamist group Hamas and two other armed organisations 
who captured the Israeli corporal and killed two other soldiers on Sunday. But 
it was clearly intended to provoke a reaction, as is the firing of rockets from 
Gaza into Israel. ('Storm over Gaza,' 29 June 2006)

It was not as though Johnstone or the Guardian had far to look for reasons for 
the Palestinian attack, explanations that might frame it as a retaliation no 
different from the Israeli one. In addition to the shelling that has caused some
30 civilian deaths and inflicted yet more trauma on a generation of Palestinian 
children, Israel has been blockading Gazas borders to prevent food and medicines
from reaching the population and it has successfully pressured international 
donors to cut off desperately needed funds to the Palestinian government. Then, 
of course, there was also the matter of the Israeli armys violation of 
Palestinian-controlled territory in Gaza the day before.

None of this context surfaced to help audiences distinguish cause and effect, 
and assess for themselves who was doing the escalating and who the retaliating.

That may have been because all of these explanations make sense only in the 
context of Israels continuing occupation of Gaza. But that context conflicts 
with a guiding assumption in the British media: that the occupation finished 
with Israels disengagement from Gaza in August last year. With the occupation 
over, all grounds for Palestinian retaliation become redundant.

The Guardians diplomatic editor, Ewen MacAskill certainly took the view that 
Israel should be able to expect quiet after its disengagement. Having pulled out
of Gaza last year, the Israelis would have been justified in thinking they might
enjoy a bit of peace on their southern border. ('An understandable 
over-reaction,' Comment is Free, 28 June 2006)

Never mind that Gazas borders, airspace, electromagnetic frequencies, 
electricity and water are all under continuing Israeli control, or that the 
Palestinians are not allowed an army, or that Israel is still preventing Gazans 
from having any contact with Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 
Meetings of the Palestinian parliament have to be conducted over video links 
because Israel will not allow MPs in Gaza to travel to Ramallah in the West 

These factors might have helped to explain continuing Palestinian anger, but in 
British coverage of the conflict they appear to be unmentionables.

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