Media coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza

19 Oct

Joe Biden (who dislikes and is loathed by Netanyahu) may be buying it …

The UK’s Independent, October 19

… I mean, what other option would a US President have, even if fully compos mentis?

But for now at least, upmarket corporate media are making a show of scepticism over IDF ‘evidence’ that Tuesday night’s carnage at Gaza’s Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was the result of Hamas rockets falling short of their targets in Israel.

The UK’s Economist, October 18

America’s CNN, October 18

They can hardly do otherwise. Here’s the said ‘evidence’ – an alleged phone call Tel Aviv (which claims to have had no forewarning of the October 7 attacks) says its intelligence services (now restored to world-beating acuity) picked up between two Hamas operatives: 1

On Mint Press yesterday, Sayantani Biswas wrote:

The IDF claimed that the voice note was of Hamas fighters discussing the ‘failed rocket launch’ that hit Al Ahli hospital, killing Gazans. The IDF’s tweet attached transcription to the voice note.

The IDF’s transcription reads:

Hamas Operative #2: I’m telling you this is the first time that we see a missile like this failing and so that’s why we are saying it belongs to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Hamas Operative #1: What?

Hamas Operative #2: They are saying it belongs to Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Hamas Operative #1: It’s from us?

#2: It looks like it

#1: Who says this?

#2: They are saying that the shrapnel from the missile is local shrapnel and not like Israeli shrapnel

#1: What are you saying (name)?

#2: But God bless, it couldn’t have found another place to explode?

#1: Nevermind, (name), yes they shot it from the cemetery behind the hospital

#2: What?

#1: They shot it coming from the cemetery behind the Al-Ma’amadani Hospital, and it misfired and fell on them

#2: there is a cemetery behind it?

#1: Yes, Al-Ma’amadani is exactly in the compound

#2: Where is it when you enter the compound?

#1: You first enter the compound and don’t go towards the city and it’s on the right side of the Al-Ma’amadani Hospital.

Yes , I know it.

Joe “the-other-team-dunnit” Biden aside, 2 is this just common-or-garden clunky? Or bone-head-unbelievable clunky? Caitlin Johnstone thinks the latter. Here she is today, with her take on the ‘transcript’:

Picture a recording of me doing two blokey-sounding voices going,

“Hello my evil friend!”


“Did you hear that Caitlin definitely did not bomb that hospital?”

“She didn’t?”

“No! It turns out it was we, the Evil Bad Guys!”

“We did it?”

“Yes, it was us!”

That would look pretty silly, right?

If Israel is making itself look this ridiculous, then it’s no wonder the western press are not lining up to help it cover up this particular misdeed. They’ve got to maintain some credibility if they’re going to keep manufacturing consent for other wars, after all.

Bear that last sentence in mind when we come to Owen Jones. Meanwhile, here’s Caitlin’s post today in full …


For those who prefer their Zionism undiluted, here’s a cute little story from Britain’s famously rabid Daily Mail: 3 Though the “luvvies” in the headline make clear the Mail’s stance, as does the final paragraph of the extract given below, the piece is by Mail standards light touch, and worth a scan for the open letter co-signed by Coogan, Peake and other ‘luvvie’ celebs: 4

Luvvies under fire for failing to condemn Hamas’ brutal terror attacks in open letter signed by 2,000 people including …

An open letter signed by famous people in the UK has come under fire for failing to condemn Hamas’ brutal terror attacks.

The letter was signed by more than 2,000 actors, musicians and artists in the UK, including Steve Coogan, Tilda Swinton, Miriam Margolyes and Maxine Peake.

It states: ‘Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them.’

The artists condemn ‘every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them’.

The letter has been criticised for not mentioning the terrorist group Hamas or its assault on Israel on October 7.

Read the full piece here …


Now here’s Media Lens, with the IDF’s ethnic cleansing operation in full swing but the Baptist Hospital atrocity still a few hours away:

The ‘Absolute Right’ To Commit War Crimes? Gaza, Israel And Labour ‘Opposition’

The attacks by Hamas fighters in southern Israel on 7 October, and the Israeli air attacks on Gaza that have followed, and now the unfolding humanitarian disaster there, once again expose fundamental bias in the state-corporate news media. Does news coverage really convey the impression that all lives – Palestinian and Israeli – are of equal value? After all, they surely deserve the same level of humanity and compassion. Do the news media present heart-wrenching stories of individual victims and their grieving families from both sides? And is the full context and history explained in order for audiences to arrive at a proper understanding of events?

As Jack Mirkinson, an interim senior editor at The Nation magazine, wrote:

‘Who is allowed humanity, and who is not? Whose deaths are tragedies worth paying concerted attention to, and whose deaths can be dealt with in a matter of seconds? Whose children are worth learning about? Whose heartbreak is worth lingering over? And which people, when confronted by bloodshed, deserve to have the world put everything on hold and rush to their side? The answer is clear. Palestinians are killed by Israel all of the time, including when they peacefully protest. But the world never puts itself on hold to bear witness to their heartbreak.’

On BBC Newsnight, host Kirsty Wark listened to Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK, describe how six of his family members had been killed by Israeli air strikes. Wark reacted oddly:

‘I’m sorry for your own personal loss. I mean, can I just be clear, though, you cannot condone the killing of civilians in Israel, can you?’

This captures an essential element of western media coverage in the region: the death of Palestinians might be noted, but attention is swiftly brought back to the suffering of Israelis …

Read the Media Lens piece in full …


Finally, Owen Jones in yesterday’s Guardian with a decent piece. But at risk of coming across as sour – I take bigger risks in the interests of truth! – let me make three observations.

First, a general remark I made in a recent post:

… the quantitative trumps the qualitative. A content analysis of Guardian coverage of Palestine this past week will show … that for every Guardian word in support of the Palestinian case there’ll be a thousand trashing or covertly denying it. 

As this week has progressed, and the enormity of what Israel is doing becomes harder to deny or pass over in silence, the quantitative bias has lessened as a second factor kicks in. From the same steel city post:

It’s vital for two reasons that upmarket liberal corporate media show willing to take on power. One is the boardroom reality that they must avoid losing market share to more daring media – or to put it another way, losing more readers than they draw in. (Did Guardian Media Group calculate that its trashings of Corbyn and Assange passed this test?) The other is the more diffuse reality that a hallowed ideal, which does hold a grain of truth, of media able to hold power to account despite an advertising and sponsorship model at least as corrosive as oligarchic ownership, is vital to the appearance of democracy.

Third, here’s a more specific observation made two paragraphs down from the previous:

This applies not just at the level of liberal media like the Guardian, but when we drill down to left figures like Owen Jones and George Monbiot. Both have been atrocious on Syria and in Jones’ case on Russia too. Their willingness to speak out on causes more popular on the left, like ecocide and Palestine, gives them the kudos to be believed on Assad and Putin. In this they are their employer in miniature.

Or as I put it – see Monolothic control at the Guardian? – some two years ago:

As the Guardian confers liberal respectability on a rotten status quo, so do writers like George Monbiot (excellent on linking ecocide to big money, dire on Syria) and Owen Jones (author of such worthy tomes as The Establishment, useless when his employer was trashing Corbyn) give left cover to the Guardian. 

Jaundiced, moi?  I call it necessary context. Regardless, Owen’s is a decent piece which begins:

UK politicians have got it wrong on the Israel-Hamas war. We must hold them to account

Tory and Labour reluctance to criticise the Israeli government could make our leaders complicit in war crimes – the public needs to speak out.

What value a Palestinian civilian life? For Britain’s political establishment, the answer is precious little. Revulsion at the slaughter of Israeli civilians – partygoers, kibbutzniks, children, elderly people – at the hands of Hamas is a moral imperative. Tragic, then, that the righteous consensus over the sanctity of life ends at Israel’s borders. Both the Conservative government and Labour opposition have become supporters of wanton violations of the Geneva conventions, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

As Rishi Sunak offers Israel “unequivocal” support, it is worth unpacking what that means. In the last nine days, at least 2,750 Palestinians have perished under Israeli bombs, about a quarter of them children, according to the Gaza health ministry. Not a word of grief or regret from our prime minister: their slaughter, presumably, is subsumed into what he describes as Israel’s “every right to defend itself”. No condemnation of the bombing of ambulances and electricity-deprived hospitals, or of the killing of medics, journalists and UN officials.

Sunak’s only words of caution were to call on Israeli forces to “avoid harming civilians”. A useless gesture: the Israeli state he has declared full support for is hardly being subtle about its intentions. “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” say the Israel Defence Forces. Sunak will be aware that the Israeli defence minister, Yoav Gallant, proclaimed: “We are fighting human animals” as he ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza with “no electricity, no food, no fuel”, adding that Israel intends to “eliminate everything”.

Now is the time for Sunak to familiarise himself with article 33 of the Geneva conventions, on collective punishment …

Read in full …

* * *

  1. Writing yesterday, Caitlin asked:

    Where was all this eaves-dropping capability while Hamas was preparing a massive assault that wound up killing over a thousand people?  It’s possible that Israeli intelligence services are phenomenal at spying on Hamas communications, and it’s possible that Israeli intelligence services had no idea Hamas was preparing its attack. It’s also possible both are false. But it’s very difficult to believe they’re both true.

  2. Biden’s folksy choice of metaphor …

    Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,”

    …. was weirdly inappropriate in the circumstances. For its part WSWS today has this to say:

    Early on Wednesday, the Israeli military released a video recording and audio recording which it claimed proved the hospital was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinians. The audio, purporting to show two Hamas members discussing a failed rocket launch, stated that it was fired from the cemetery immediately behind the church. The video showed rockets fired from several miles away. No attempt was made to explain the gaping discrepancy in the official story.

    The same day, more video was released from the scene showing the extent of the damage to the hospital courtyard, which was packed with 1,000 civilians that had fled nearby bombings. The video showed damage consistent with a wave of pressure radiating from the air, compressing car roofs and causing damage over hundreds of feet, with no impact crater.

    The videos showed that the blast was caused by an air-burst munition, such as that available on US-provided JDAM bombs. There is no conceivable way that a malfunctioning rocket could have produced damage in that pattern. 

    Rather, the video showed that Israel precisely targeted the section of the hospital compound where the most people were concentrated in an unprotected area, using the method—an air burst—calculated to inflict maximum damage on “soft” targets, such as the men, women and children seeking refuge in the courtyard of the hospital.

    It was, in other words, a deliberate act of mass murder.

  3. Calling the Mail “famously rabid” does not alter the fact it occasionally runs stories which put liberal media to shame: witness Peter Hitchens refusal to go with blatant lies on Syria when the Guardian bought the whole empire-serving propaganda blitz.
  4. Was Sean Penn a ‘luvvie’ when acting as useful idiot for Kiev? Media Studies academics will have a field day analysing, after a safe passage of time, the semiotics of 24/2/22 and 7/10/23, and their respective aftermaths as covered by western media.

9 Replies to “Media coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza

  1. “Tory and Labour reluctance to criticise the Israeli government could make our leaders complicit in war crimes”

    Not just the leaders but also those media outlets and ‘journalists’ and other people of influence who practice this one sided aiding and abetting – covered by Article 25; sub-sections (b), (c), (d), and (e) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

    Whether its Sunak, Starmer, Thornbury, Lammy, ‘journalist’s’ like Wark, or those seeking to prosecute as some sort of ‘hate crime’ the removal on Tuesday night this week of the Israeli flag from the top of Sheffield Town Hall: all should be subjected to the Nuremberg Principles in their entirety for their complicity in aiding and abetting the War Crimes they are cheer leading.

    • The evidence is out there in spades, and in a just world would be damning. But in this one? The parties you name are pretty safe and they know it.

  2. Firstly may I thank you Phil for your excellent coverage of the truly horrifying events in Israel / Palestine over the last couple of weeks. You have provided many useful links and your conclusions have been careful and measured.

    With regard to the recent destruction of the hospital in Gaza and associated loss of life, the current focus on ‘who is responsible / who is to blame’ is only important to the collective west echo chamber and, of course, the degree to which western countries ‘feel OK’ about continuing to provide support (both moral, political and military) to Israel’s continuing genocide of the Palestinians trapped in their open prison. It seems that the rest of the world has moved on (the east and global south) to focusing on the underlying causes of the current conflict (the lack of any progress towards a two state solution) and the need for an immediate ceasefire.

    Once again the ogre Putin appears to be leading the rest of the world in trying to build a diplomatic consensus that may be able to constructively address these issues.

    • Re your first para, you’re welcome. Thanks for kind words.

      Re your last, you’ve likely checked this out. If not, Alex Mercouris shows quite graphically that Putin – you don’t need to be a “fan” to see this; I dare say there are many things he and I would disagree over – stands head and shoulders above not only Biden, Blinken et al but western politicians at large. I’ve long been aware of that. But near the end of the podcast below, AM nails it with his comparison of their respective diplomacy skills. He quotes Bismarck on seeing diplomacy as a chess game and insisting on playing to all 64 squares. Since Reagan, who for all his huge failings had competent people around him, every US Administration has elected in its hubris to ignore so many squares on the global board.

      Just look at McCain’s “gas station with nukes” and Biden’s “we’re gonna reduce the rouble to rubble”. In the west they get away with such stuff because there’s no media seriously holding them to account. Globally though, it’s beginning to dawn on some of the sharper minds still around that Washington and its EU and 5 Eyes poodles are seen with a contempt that’s relatively recent.

      Anyway, here’s Mr Mercouris in the podcast I speak of. It’s hours before the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital atrocity. Blinken’s been publicly scolded in Egypt, frostily received in Jordan and kept waiting for hours in KSA; Biden is on his way to Israel. The remarks on US ineptitude come near the end.

      • There was a revealing video clip on the latest Simplicus offering which showed an auditorium at a recent UN session where the majority of the representatives from across the globe stood up and turned their backs when the US delegate/ambassador made a speech.

        No doubt the same reaction would occur if it were the US chief partner in crime Perfidious Albion who stood up.

        Most of the rest of the world are no longer listening to these morons as they have zero credibility.

  3. Nothing to see here. Move on:

    After all, what do 500 or so people matter. And if 500 people don’t matter why not 5,000 or 5 million? If those directly and indirectly responsible are not held to account such carnage will continue to be dished out.

    And next time around there exists a reasonable possibility it could be closer to home.

    At present the masthead quote on this site from Rafael Eitan represents merely one of many available statements which uses such de-humanising language in order to justify the indiscriminate slaughter, elimination, erasure and cancellation of anyone who is not one of the self-appointed ‘chosen.’

    And lest anyone thinks this kind of approach is limited to a specific place, location or context; I understand the proper pre-warning is ‘look away now.’

    Yup. We have the Political Editor of Jewish News and Labour Party member Lee Harpin claiming a current NEC member referred to Party members resigning over the Party stance on the War crimes committed by Israel as “shaking off the fleas.”

    That’s you and me and anyone else who criticises these War Crimes lest anyone has any doubts.

    And once you are viewed as a flea, or a cockroach, or an animal you are treated like one – with every possibility of the ‘echo chamber’ becoming another kind of chamber.

    Move on? Yeah! Reyt! That’s a [sarcasm alert] ‘tozzin’ survival strategy with this bunch of psychopaths and sociopaths running amok.

    • At present the masthead quote on this site from Rafael Eitan represents merely one of many available statements which uses such de-humanising language in order to justify the indiscriminate slaughter, elimination, erasure and cancellation of anyone who is not one of the self-appointed ‘chosen.’

      As your “at present” implies Dave, steel city masthead quotes blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree, then wither and perish. But nought changeth steel city comments. Like diamonds, they are forever. What you refer to is a boast by General Rafael Eitan to a 1983 committee of the Knesset. Citing his triumphs on the West Bank, he said:

      When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.

  4. Celebrities are fascinating. I don’t wish to be unfair to them. They usually have talent and often genius. And even those who may be bereft of these may still be commended for sheer bloody minded persistence. I don’t begrudge them any of this.

    But the ruling class have long understood that, in a sedentary voyeuristic culture such as ours, it is the entertainers who provide the most fertile ground for propaganda. The public are more open to persuasion when they are most relaxed i.e. when watching movies or TV. Why did the McCarthy witch hunts focus so much on the film industry? Because the film industry has been the biggest propaganda factory in all history.

    And so it is the entertainers who are under the most pressure to “provide an example”. This follows the Chomsky model of “manufacturing consent” in the media profession. No-one has to be taken aside and made that proverbial irrefusable offer. They soon come to realise what can further their career and what can sink it.

    Graham Linehan of Father Ted fame is a sobering – even scary – example of what happens when a celeb “goes against the flow”. I don’t think this was an intentional matter. His IT Crowd poked some gentle fun at transgenderism and he was shocked to find himself the target of a smear campaign which rivalled that against Corbyn before the last election. To his enormous credit he has stood up against the misogyny dealt out to the “gender critical” sector (the very designation is pure Orwell). And it wrecked his marriage as well as putting him in severe financial difficulty. J K Rowling faced similar pressure.

    But the case becomes complicated by the arrival of the latest Middle East conflagration. Both Linehan and Rowling have jumped on the pro-Israel bandwagon as a means of blowing off steam at those “progressives” who were trans activists but “apologists” for “Palestinian terror”. It’s not too difficult to see what happened there. The strain for a celeb to stand up to the designated propagandist bottom line is too great. They are all anxious to get “back in the good books” of the self-appointed moralists.

    But all in all I think we are seeing the decline of a certain class: that pampered set of liberal “court jesters” who are only too aware of the requirements of their office. I think the truly brave ones will tell exactly what they think and risk the collapse of it all. A more likely scenario is the celeb who protects himself whilst also maintaining a veneer of decency by saying nothing. The most likely are those who simply capitulate.

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