By Martin Kemp
We don’t like complaining about the BBC when public broadcasting is under attack from the Right. But when the BBC becomes a mouthpiece for a tyrannical regime whose ideology completely contradicts the values which are supposed to characterize liberal democracies, something has to be done. A few days ago this appeared on the BBC website: “Hamas Prevents Gaza Orphans Visiting Israel”.
You might say, so what? In the grand scheme of things, is this really news at all? Well, obviously it is if what you are after is a propaganda coup against Hamas, a sob story to blame the victims for the misery inflicted upon them by their Western-backed oppressors.
It’s as if, a few weeks after the Valentine’s Day Massacre, Al Capone had invited the families of those he’d killed out for a swell afternoon in one of his luxury hotels. And when the widows and orphans had turned him down, the Chicago Times had run a feature on the ‘kill-joy mothers’ spoiling their children’s fun.
Imagine that we were a small, practically undefended community under siege, and recently subject to massive bombardment that killed 2,104 of our people (proportionately equivalent to 75,000 British people: 43,000 were killed during the Blitz). In a lull – the sonic booms and helicopters continue to create fear and anxiety, and everybody expects Israel to find some pretext to attach again soon, but we’ll call it a lull – the enemy invites a group of children on a week’s outing. Would we allow that? The idea is laughable. Would Israel have responded positively if Hamas had offered to show coachloads of Jewish Israeli kids what life is like in Gaza? Of course not.
Yet this distasteful story had been ricocheting round the world – the Guardian, the Independent, the Scotsman, Fox News, the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Mail, the New York Times, and many others including extreme Islamophobic groups.. all presenting Hamas as the villain, messing up a grand opportunity for a few bereaved children to get a break. What on earth is going on?
Children who have just recently lost their fathers are being used as pawns in a propaganda gimmick. The Israeli authorities – the prison guards, those responsible for the deaths of their parents and who have stunted their families prospects of an ordinary life by a medieval siege that has been in force for years – are being implicitly praised for making this special and exceptional gesture while the aggression and oppression they maintain on a daily basis across historic Palestine is totally ignored.
By not mentioning any of the context, the article serves the propaganda needs of a murderous regime rather than as a useful reminder of what needs to be done to bring real relief to the people of Gaza, and of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel itself: breaking the siege, ending the Occupation, combating the Apartheid system that operates within Israeli society, and enabling Palestinian refugees to exercise their right of return.
Its silences also demonstrate how much work we need to do. There has been a major shift in public opinion towards Israel and the Occupation, particularly since what the most compliant Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, called its ‘genocidal attack’ on Gaza this summer. Yet this shift has not been reflected in our country’s media coverage, even by supposedly neutral organs like the BBC, or liberal-left ones like the Guardian. We might recall how during former times oppressed people would listen in to the BBC to get some balanced news coverage, making a laughing stock of the local state controlled media outlets. With the Middle East, we have to turn to media outlets like Al-Jazeera to get some chance of an alternative voice. (The issue has been covered from a different perspective. The shift in public opinion is certainly not reflected by our political leaders who continue to support Israel, whatever it does. Only a few days ago the British representative exercised his vote at the United Nations Security Council to block (by one vote) the Palestinian proposal to end the Occupation, in effect voting against the two-state solution that it is supposedly British policy to support.
That the oppressed are demonized in pro-Zionist organs like the BBC and the Guardian should come as no surprise. The policies in place to try to realize the dystopian objective of a ‘Jewish State’ in Palestine – the siege in Gaza, repeated aggressions against civilians and civil infrastructure, ethnic cleansing within Israel, systematic discrimination and separations of population groups, expanding settlements in the West Bank – all need to be provided with ideological cover. And Israelis need to be persuaded that they are the real victims of a vicious and primitive enemy whose obduracy justifies anything that is done against them.
- Martin Kemp is the founder of UK Palestine Mental Health Network that aims to challenge the common narratives in mainstream media and public debate about Palestine. Kemp wrote an extensive psycho-political analysis that was published in a prestigious psychotherapy magazine after his visit to Palestine few years ago. The article provoked a wide debate among members of the psychoanalysis society and still being debated in local and international congress. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.