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Update – 14 January 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on 14 January 2010 at 3:00pm:

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I have only been back in the office a few days, and already Age correspondent Jason Koutsoukis has managed to cause annoyance. Today’s offering, ‘Israeli PM backs Turk diplomat’s slap-down’, reminds me of how easily a story can be skewed in order to fit in with certain agendas.

This particular story is in relation to a meeting that took place between Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, and Turkey’s Ambassador to Israel, Ahmet Celikkol. Ayalon had called the meeting in order to reprimand Turkey for a Turkish television show that depicted Mossad agents as baby snatchers. Ayalon made Celikkol sit across from him on a much lower chair, refused to shake his hand and would only display the Israeli flag (see more). Following pleas from President Shimon Peres, Ayalon eventually apologised for his lack of diplomacy and tact (see more). 

Koutsoukis goes on his front foot immediately declaring, ’Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed the public humiliation of Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv’. A whole paragraph later he then explains that Netanyahu warned ‘Turkey’s relationship with Iran should be of grave concern to the West’. Netanyahu’s concern over this hardly means that he supports any sort of humiliation, but I guess it gives Koutsoukis a much better story to write (and given his apparent shyness with regard to anything negative about the Palestinians, he must think this is journalism).

Admittedly, Israeli government officials sometimes let themselves and their country down. If Israel had some grievances to air with Turkey, about anti-Semitic television programmes or the relationship with Iran, then they need to learn to do it in a diplomatic way, without embarrassing gaffes that end up sidetracking the issue. Instead of raising awareness of very important issues, they have unfortunately moved the focus onto the treatment of Ambassador Celikkol. Therefore Turkey, and journalists such as Koutsoukis, are able to focus on the gaffe rather than the issue itself.

Over the break I came across a number of articles marking one year since Operation Cast Lead, criticising Israel and the blockade of Gaza. It is difficult to keep having to explain that if there were no rockets coming in to Israel, if there was no smuggling of weapons across the border from Egypt and if Gilad Shalit was released, these restrictions would be certainly be eased. Not to mention, the true statistics, such as the fact that since the end of the operation 668,393 tons of aid and 100,645,680 litres of fuel have been delivered to the Gaza Strip, are never reported in the press (see more).

What strikes me as interesting is that until recently, no-one that criticises Israel has bothered to explain why Egypt, who have also closed the borders with Gaza, have escaped the same criticism. In December, I wrote about Egypt’s plans to build a 10km wall across the border with Gaza out of enormous slates of steel.

Last week an Egyptian soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper after riots erupted along the border. Egyptian imams, as well as the press, have spoken out against Hamas, declaring that they alone are responsible of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. One imam declared in his sermon, “its leaders want to stay in power, even at the cost of their own people’s expulsion and starvation.” (see more)

I came across one article over the break which really irritated me. It was in reference to a dual French-Palestinian citizen that the French would like to see included on the list of Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit is also a dual French-Israeli citizen, and the French have attempted over the last few years to play a part in his release. But putting out a plea for the release of Gilad Shalit, who committed no crime and was kidnapped and being held against his will, is an entirely different story to trying to get a prisoner, who was convicted of a crime (in this case, an assassination plot against the spiritual leader of Shas) released. It leaves me wondering how the French cannot see the difference between a kidnapped soldier and a convicted criminal.

Please read this BICOM analysis of Israel and the world in 2010.

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