Thursday 19 October 2023

Is media bias antisemitic?


The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has now been going on since at least 1948, but while this never-ending war has gotten older our response has become more childish.

There are differing historical views about the founding of the state of Israel and the history is well worth investigating. But it also doesn’t matter. There is a state called Israel. There is a population called Israelis. Whatever you believe about how Israel was founded this is a fact.

My understanding is that the founding of Israel was entirely legitimate. But if you want to believe that Palestine was illegitimately colonised by Jewish people you must apply that logic equally to the USA, Australia, New Zealand and any number of other places.

If someone attacks the USA, it will have the right to fight back and defeat its enemy. This has nothing whatsoever to do with what you think about the legitimacy or otherwise of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Israel was attacked by Hamas. We can sympathise with the conditions in which the Palestinians live in Gaza. But like any other country when attacked Israel has the right to defend itself, fight back and defeat its enemy.

Gaza is a tiny strip of land that is densely populated. There are Hamas fighters. There are large numbers of Hamas supporters. There are innocent civilians who just want to get on with their lives. But there is no easy way to tell the difference. It is inevitable that any war with Hamas will involve civilian casualties not least because Hamas fires its rockets, stores its ammunition and fights from civilian locations.

One of the definitions of antisemitism is

Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

There are any number of conflicts around the world, but mostly we pay little or no attention. The Second Congo War involved 5.4 million excess deaths (1998–2008). I don’t recall any demonstrations about it. I don’t remember Nicola Sturgeon or Humza Yousaf calling for refugees to come to Scotland. The Yemeni Civil War (2014-) has seen 3 million Yemenis displaced and 370,000 deaths, but its rarely or ever on the BBC News and no one chants Free Free Yemen in Glasgow or London.

Other countries can fight their enemies, kill civilians and commit whatever injustice they want and people in Britain will neither know about it nor care about it. But not Israel. Every single action Israel takes in response to the worst day in Jewish history since the Holocaust is scrutinised in minute detail and any mistake is condemned even before we know if it was a mistake.

When news broke that a hospital in Gaza had been destroyed. The BBC and the rest of the media immediately assumed that Israel had done it.

Nicola Sturgeon responded to a Sky News by saying

What Hamas inflicted on the people of Israel was unconscionable. So is this. The collective punishment of the Gazan people must cease.

But this is to compare the deliberate murder, rape and mutilation of Israeli civilians with what at the time was thought to be a mistake. No one seriously thinks the Israeli Air Force deliberately targeted a hospital. Israeli armed forces follow the same rules of war as the USA or UK.

It might have been possible to believe that an Israeli missile malfunctioned and hit a hospital, but this isn’t remotely the same as deliberately massacring civilians.

Humza Yousaf responded to a BBC report

There can be no justification for this. None whatsoever.
If people can not be safe in a hospital, where can they?
This attack must be unequivocally condemned in the strongest possible manner
Ceasefire is needed now. Innocent men, women & children must be allowed to leave Gaza

Yousaf immediately assumes that the story is true even though at the time it was reported as being according to Palestinian Officials. He also assumed that Israel deliberately attacked a hospital.

At no point does Yousaf ever mention that Gaza has a border with Egypt, but that Egypt prevents Gazans from leaving Gaza. It would be easy for the international community to provide refuge in Sinai, much easier than taking Gazans to Scotland, which is what Yousaf wants, but Egypt won’t allow it.

What would be the result of a ceasefire? Hamas would continue in power and be free to commit another massacre whenever it chose. But this is like saying Japan can attack Pearl Harbor and then demand a ceasefire because the Americans bombed Tokyo with the Doolittle Raid in 1942.

Since at least the First Gulf War western armed forces including Israel have been held to a higher standard than anyone else and are tasked with minimising civilian casualties. But you cannot win a war in a densely populated Gaza without some mistakes. Russia by contrast was allowed to carpet bomb cities in Syria without any outrage on social media and without any demonstrations.

It has now become clear that Israel did not bomb the hospital in Gaza. The Israeli armed forces have provided evidence that appears to be conclusive that a rocked fired by Islamic Jihad malfunctioned and crashed into the hospital.

But there have been no apologies from Nicola Sturgeon, Humza Yousaf or any of the media organisations which inflamed an already dangerous situation.

It is perfectly legitimate to criticise Israel. It is also legitimate to have different views about the history of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But too many people in their hatred of Israel approach antisemitism perhaps inadvertently.

It is antisemitic to uniquely criticise the historical circumstances that gave rise to Israel and to call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

It is antisemitic to only be interested in wars involving Israel and not be interested in other wars.

It is antisemitic to automatically believe Palestinians and automatically disbelieve Jews.

It is antisemitic to apply a standard to the Israel that you are not willing to apply to other countries.

If during the Troubles a bomb had gone off in Belfast that destroyed a hospital and the IRA had said it was due to the British Army, the BBC would not have reported this as true before the British Army had verified it. It would have referred to the IRA unequivocally as terrorists and would have replaced the voices of Sinn Fein with those of actors. If the British Army provided evidence that the bomb had been the work of the IRA, the BBC would have immediately believed it. If the BBC had made a mistake in its reporting it would have apologised.

This is the double standard. The 7th of October attack on Israeli civilians was an act of terrorism, yet the word of the terrorists is believed and the word of the victims of the terrorism is disbelieved. It’s as if in the days after 9/11 the BBC, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf believed Osama bin Laden rather than the American authorities.

The USA is always allowed to fight back when it is attacked. But Israel isn’t. This is why the conflict has continued since 1948. We prefer permanent war to resolving it while pretending to want peace.

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