James North and Phil Weiss, Mondoweiss
One of the most important strikes in the propaganda war for Israel in the last month was dealt by the New York Times and CNN when they ran long pieces giving credence to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Hamas was building tunnels out of Gaza aimed at kindergartens in nearby kibbutzes.
Back on July 22, Netanyahu asserted– on the basis of this cartoon drawing he tweeted– that the tunnels were aimed at Israeli kindergartens.
In fact (and as we reported), the only Israelis attacked from the tunnels were Israeli soldiers. But a week after Netanyahu’s statement, both the Times and CNN took the prime minister’s claim at face value. The Times’s piece, “Tunnels Lead Right to Heart of Israeli Fear” gave priority to rumors over actual information, and reported that “one tunnel was found over the weekend” in Kibbutz Be’eri. The piece quoted a resident of the kibbutz saying,
“The tunnels, it’s game-changing. We can’t do anything if the terrorists will come to our kindergarten. The tunnels, it’s very surprising, it can hit you don’t know where.”
Now it turns out no tunnel was found in Kibbutz Be’eri.
The Israeli site +972 has blown that propaganda completely out of the water. A well-researched article in Hebrew that it translated from an educational worker near Gaza states that the tunnels do not appear to be targeted at civilians and they come out more than a mile from any kibbutz, let alone the kindergartens.
In short, the tunnels fear was hysteria, drummed up by the Israeli government to heighten war fever, and then purveyed by the New York Times and CNN.
The piece at +972 — which is headlined in part, “In reality, every tunnel so far has been used against military targets alone” — was published in Hebrew on “Local Call,” and written by Emanual Yelin, who lives in Be’er Sheva and is said to work near the Gaza border. Yelin is a full-on Israeli patriot, but he has no truck with the lies and propaganda disseminated around the tunnels.
Here are excerpts of the Q-and-A he asks and answers.
Q. Was Benjamin Netanyahu right in his national address when he said “we will not end the mission, we will not end the operation, without neutralizing the tunnels that exist solely to annihilate our civilians and to kill our children?”
A. No. It is certain that this is not their sole purpose, and probably not their primary purpose, either. We’ve already seen six instances in which Hamas was able to use the tunnels against Israel. Once when Gilad Shalit was captured, and the rest during the current operation. In all instances, Hamas’ target were IDF soldiers, not the communities….
Q. So what is the purpose of the tunnels?
Most likely to hurt IDF forces and capture soldiers. Little by little we are starting to hear military reporters saying this explicitly…
Q. So we can be certain that the tunnels will not be used for terrorism against civilians in the kibbutzim along the barrier wall?
A. No. We must not become complacent…
Q. But if they didn’t want to hurt communities, why did they dig tunnels under dining halls and kindergartens inside those communities?
A. Here’s the thing: they didn’t. It turns out that there were no tunnels into the communities. The tunnel into the Kisufim dining hall? That was an old sewer line [Hebrew] mistakenly identified as a tunnel shaft…
Q. So where do the tunnels go?
A. Probably just a few hundred meters from the barrier wall and a few kilometers from the communities. It’s hard to find accurate data about where the exit shafts are. But in all five instances of infiltration, the militants emerged 200-400 meters away from the wall, as can be seen on the maps in the IDF Spokesperson videos. For example, the alleged penetration into Kisufim was 1.5 kilometers away from the community. And actually, the tunnel’s exit point is just as close to Kibbutz Sufa.
Kibbutz Be’eri is nearly three miles from the Gaza border, according to Google Maps. Now the +972 report documents that the tunnel openings were within half a kilometer of the Gaza border– at least 2 miles away from Kibbutz Be’eri.
When can we expect the New York Times and CNN to publish updated articles pointing out the errors in their original reporting?
Mike Eckel, VOA
Ahmad Elabbar, Mondoweiss Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of London last Saturday (August 9), honoring the call for a global “day of rage” in response to the ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza. The organizers estimate that 150,000 protesters attended, making it the biggest Gaza-solidarity demonstration ever to take place in Britain. The organizers set a precedent by choosing to launch the demonstration from the headquarters of the BBC in London. The choice was justified, as it reflected the common sentiments shared by almost everyone who’s followed the news organ closely. For weeks, the anger at the “balanced” coverage the BBC claims to produce, has been building steadily, as each day brought with it more bad news from Gaza. To quote Tariq Ali in his interview with the BBC’s Mark Sanders: “we shouldn’t underestimate the anger with the BBC at its coverage of the Palestine-Israel conflict. In all my experience, I have never known a demonstration to begin outside the BBC headquarters; that’s how angry people are…” Important to note is the fact that this particular demonstration came as the latest in a series of many other, similar actions that have taken place across the UK over the past month, and the turnout has been sustained and built upon with each subsequent action. Judging whether a movement has truly become a mainstream one is difficult, but the fact that more and more people are getting involved in the protests for the first time, indicates the solidarity that exists– or is being created by Israel’s actions– within the mainstream. The demonstrators arrive at Hyde park, having marched from the BBC headquarters, passing the US embassy on their way. The crowd was addressed at Hyde Park by a number of MPs, intellectuals and activists. Among them was Baroness Jenny Tonge, Tariq Ali, and Mustapha Barghouti -via recorded speech from Gaza. Bruce Kent, from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, reminded everyone that the day marked the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, in reference to Israel’s own nuclear arsenal; the assault on Gaza was being carried out by a state with the ultimate capacity for destruction, against an occupied and besieged population. In his speech, Tariq Ali spoke of the unequivocal nature of Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupation, saying: “…it’s no good saying it isn’t a perfect resistance: if the occupation is ugly, you will not have a pretty resistance!” Tariq Ali, writer and journalist: “There is a basic point that has to be made to our politicians. They have to understand that there is no equivalence between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation. When a country is occupied, resistance emerges. If you want no rockets being fired, no tunnels being dug, get out of Gaza.” (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign ) Seumas Milne, Guardian columnist and associate editor: “Israel is in illegal occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel has no right to defend itself from territories it occupies. It only has an obligation to withdraw. The Palestinians are an occupied people. They have a right to defend themselves from the occupier.” (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign) Glyn Secker, Jews for Justice for Palestinians: “Today, an image remains in my mind. It is the image of a Palestinian father carrying the flesh of his son in a plastic bag. As a Jew, I will not ever be associated with these monstrosities. Never in my name, never in my life, never in my children’s life.” (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign) Going back and reviewing the events of last month, one can quickly see how the Israeli war on the people of Gaza has moved so many -especially from parliament- to speak out. The two major demonstrations that took place in London last month were on the 19th and the 26th, respectively. Between the two, the IDF massacred 558 people. The enormity of this figure sustained the demonstrators, and forced even more people to act. On the 26th, 100,000 people occupied Parliament Square calling for an arms embargo. On the 29th, a vigil was held in front of 10 Downing street. Flowers were laid, accompanied by letters written in memory of the children killed in Gaza. On that same day, over 100 Palestinians had been killed. On the following day, the Jabaliya Elementary Girls School was attacked killing 21 of the homeless who had sought refuge within its walls. This attack and others, brought thousands to the Israeli embassy in Kensington on the 1st of August. The IDF responded to the global outrage by attacking another UN school on the 3rd, killing 11 people, five of whom were children between the ages of 3 and 15. This was the final straw for many, including Baroness Warsi, who handed in her resignation on the 5th. Understandable: only the day before, David Cameron had refused to endorse Ban Ki-moon’s view that the attack on the UNRWA school was in violation of international law, saying: “I’m not an international lawyer.” Ola, a Palestinian whose family’s home was bombed in Gaza, said in her speech: “This is a regime that was built on massacres and murders. They said of the Palestinians that the old would die and the young would forget. Well, I am a young Palestinian, and I have not forgotten.” July 26, 2014 (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign) Musician Brian Eno said, when he visited the West Bank, it was “the little things” that made him realise the scale of Israel’s occupation. “It was things like the whole village that had been evacuated and was living in caves so that three Israeli settler families could take their land and be protected by the army.” July 26, 2014 (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign) Protesters invoked the memory of Nelson Mandela. Seen in the photo, is the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square, appropriated for the occasion. July 26. Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, at the vigil on the 29 of July. (Photo: Palestine Solidarity Campaign) In a symbolic gesture, a demonstrator raised the palms of her hands, painted in red, toward the Israeli Embassy in London. As the involvement of people in Britain with the solidarity campaign increases, the controversy over the BBC’s representation of the conflict, is likely to increase also. A question of fairness has been put many times before on this issue; mainly: are the serious criticisms being leveled at the BBC -pro-Israel bias and distortion by emission of context, etc- proportionate to its coverage over the years? To answer this justly, a detailed study is required: one that looks at the entirety of what the BBC has produced on the issue over the years. Such a study was commissioned by the BBC back in 2006, and it concluded that the BBC’s reporting on the Palestine-Israel conflict was “incomplete” and “misleading,” highlighting a “failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation.” Other studies have reached similar conclusions, differing only in the severity of their indigments. Among them is the revealing study conducted by the renowned Glasgow Media Group; their findings were published as a book entitled Bad News From Israel. Author, professor Greg Philo, has dismissed much of the TV news on the issue as propaganda, “straight from the Israel Project.” The main issue highlighted by the study is the context within which Israeli attacks are consistently framed. The argument is that once you’ve framed the event as a “response to Hamas rockets,” it won’t matter how much death and pain the viewers see on their screens; in their minds it becomes justified “retaliation,” excessive at worst, but justified nonetheless. Some individual reporters, have attempted to inform the viewer of the larger context of oppression suffered by the people in Gaza, and not just the immediate results of “retaliations.” An example of this can be found in Jon Donnison’s report from Shujayea:
“…people in Gaza have had to rebuild so many times. They’ve seen half a dozen wars, and decades of Israel’s occupation. Much of the money for reconstruction will be foreign aid, some of it American. Who also provided Israel with the weapons to do much of this. But this will not be a lasting peace. In few years time, there’s no guarantee that it won’t all just happen again. Gaza has been crippled. The healing will take years. Many, will never recover.” (BBC News at One, August 5, 2014)
Judging by the BBC’s coverage of Gaza these last few weeks, it’s clear that the failure is rooted, and the problems run very deep. The previous criticisms made by credible studies have been dismissed. The reporting this time round is in many ways worse than it was during the previous Israeli wars on Gaza. The message to the BBC couldn’t have been clearer than it was on Saturday, and time will show whether the institution is capable of reform when it comes to covering Israeli occupation. Source
Relying on the Saudis, granting Abbas more power, UN control of Gaza – while senior ministers propose their plans for the days after Operation Protective Edge, yet Prime Minister Netanyahu has preferred to remain silent. * The military campaign has not officially ended and already ministers, members of Knesset, researchers, and foundations – both in Israel and abroad – have proposed a variety of plans to change the face of the Middle East and promote a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is directly responsible for the negotiations in Cairo, has barely said a word about the end of Operation Protective Edge. Some of the proposals are innovative while others are rehashed iterations of the same proposals which have been part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the past two decades. It remains to be seen whether the proposals are feasible, whether they are acceptable to Netanyahu, and whether they have any legitimacy with the Palestinians. Regardless it appears that Netanyahu, who is supposedly the top policy maker, cannot prevent his ministers from suggesting alternatives – that may make it more difficult for Israel in the negotiations and in the international arena.
Former Shin Bet chief and current suggested his plan even before the fighting paused and the talks in Cairo were attended by officials. During an interview with Ynet, Peri proposed an international committee to deliberate on demilitarizing the Strip and rehabilitating the war-torn territory.
“We have an opening here not only to renew the peace process but for an agreement or a regional council which will begin deliberating on an end to the conflict,” he said in the interview. “There is an opportunity here because a moderate axis has been created in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. Israel must make use of this moderate axis.”
A few days after the interview with Peri, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – who has ceaselessly worked on the negotiations with the Palestinians – offered her own plan.
As Israel’s chief negotiator to the peace process, she presented a number of principles for a new arrangement in Gaza, which may win wide support in the world.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid also delved into the diplomatic arena with a political proposal, similar to the one presented by his Yesh Atid colleague, Peri. The minister offered an international committee which included countries from both the Middle East and the West, convened to draft a proposal for the demilitarization and rehabilitation of Gaza.
Lapid’s plan included four points:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman raised the possibility of having the UN take control of Gaza in a Knesset committee last week. “We should consider returning the mandate for the Gaza border and the Strip to the UN. This might be one of the ideas that can actually be implemented,” Lieberman said to the committee.
During an interview with Ynet on Monday, Lieberman focused less on the day after the operation and emphasized the conditions Israel must achieve before Protective Edge can end. “We must not end the operation before the bodies of our soldiers, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul, are returned. It is unacceptable that all of Hamas’ members will receive their paychecks while the bodies of IDF soldiers have not been laid to rest in Israel.” The foreign minister then categorically rejected a number of Hamas’ conditions for an extended ceasefire. “We do not agree to any release of terrorists, and we will not even agree to discuss the opening of a seaport or an airport in Gaza.”
The chairman of the opposition, Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog, also presented a proposal. Herzog said that a new coalition with similar interests had risen in the Middle East, which included Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority – and was backed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
Herzog offered a multi-step proposal that begins with an immediate ceasefire and emergency humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The second step would involve a diplomatic agreement which included the entry of PA security forces to the border crossings and granting Abbas the authority to rule Gaza as part of the unity government formed before the operation. The third step calls for a convention of donor countries in Norway at the beginning of September, to launch an emergency fundraising campaign for the rehabilitation of Gaza. Herzog believes that a billion dollars needed to be raised as soon as possible through the Palestinian Authority. He said a political proposal must be drafted to lift the blockade of Gaza by opening border crossings and building a seaport under Abbas’ authority – based on international legislation and supervision – with a binding international agreement based on a Security Council resolution, which would demand demilitarizing the Strip and an end to the funding of Hamas. The end of the multi-step process, according to Herzog, would allow for the inclusion of Hamas in the political sphere. “We cannot operate only through force,” he explained. “We need to start a political process immediately with the aim of raising a Palestinian state. Israel must submit a far-reaching plan under which a state will be created which would maintain our security interests. It forces the administration to make a bold move.”
And what about the prime minister? Up to now, despite the opportunities presented after Protective Edge – first and foremost reinforcing the relationship with Abbas – Netanyahu has no political plan. At least, not one expressed to the public. Netanyahu has remained silent even about the day after the operation in Gaza, except for Israel’s demand for calm and an end goal in Gaza – demilitarizing the Strip.
The prime minister has hinted in one of his speeches during the operation of his close ties to various nations in the Middle East, but he has not yet presented a diplomatic draft to take Israel off the course towards international isolation towards which it is currently walking and which would improve its relations with Washington and with other Western nations. Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that “the operation continues, that is why we are not discussing the day after. We note the statements made by the prime minister a few days ago, in which he spoke of the new opportunities that will appear after the operation.” Source
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