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Update – 23 August 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on Monday 23 August at 3:15pm:

Dear All,

With our news dominated by the Australian elections, I thought I would take advantage of the hiatus on the international scene and raise a few issues that might be of interest.

The BBC has been airing a documentary on its Panorama programme about the ‘Free Gaza’ flotilla entitled “Death on the Med”.  Please see Part 1 and Part 2.

The documentary presents what I would consider a balanced view of what happened out at sea in late May 2010 and it included most, if not all, of the video footage that the IDF released proving that the violence resulted from a premeditated plan hatched by the Islamist group IHH and carried out by a small group of its members who sailed on the Mavi Marmara.

BBC reporter Jane Corbin, interviewed a number of people including the head of the IHH, Bulent Yildirim.  She challenged him by showing him some of the violent footage from the ship, and questioned whether he thought this kind of action could be labelled ‘passive resistance’ as Yildirim and others of his ilk have been trying to propagate. I might add that Fairfax reporter Paul McGeough is desperately clinging to the Yildirim view despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Corbin also checked the boxes of aid being carried to Gaza and noted that all of the medicine she could see was out of date. It was clear to her and it should be to any observer that the exercise was a cynical political move and not about aid at all.

Over the years, the BBC could hardly be accused as being pro-Israel, and therefore it is fascinating to discover Israel’s detractors are hyperventilating over the documentary and its alleged bias towards Israel. The BBC released a statement on its website on 18 August stating, “We dismiss claims that this programme showed bias in favour of Israel. The programme’s aim was to try to uncover what really happened on the Mavi Marmara. Panorama went to great lengths to give opposing sides the opportunity to air their views and we felt the programme accordingly carried out its analysis in a fair, impartial and balanced manner” (see more).

This statement obviously did not satisfy a group called Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which called on supporters to put pressure on the BBC for its “shocking bias”. Yesterday afternoon, a demonstration was planned outside the BBC headquarters, organised by Ken O’Keefe, who also appeared in the documentary. On the Facebook page of the documentary, one person declared, “Enough is enough, we all know the truth of the terrorist attacks committed by Israel on unarmed peace activists! The BBC needs to know that it cannot continue airing lies as the truth” (see more). Hopefully, this demonstration was a ‘peaceful’ one.

This all seems bizarre that given the hard evidence of violence from the ship. That these people are in severe denial is clear when you consider the vision of people holding metal bars and preparing for violence. It is an indictment on their fellow travellers that they lack the honesty and decency to admit their cause had been hijacked by the IHH provocateurs who carried out their violence and deception in their name.

On another tack, I attended the opening of the Israeli Film Festival last week, where film Ajami was screened. Ajami is a joint production by Scandar Copti, a Jaffa-born Arab and Israeli Yaron Shani. The film is set the Arab suburb of Ajami in Jaffa and focuses on the drug trade, revenge squads, and the law enforcement activities of the Israeli police. I found it quite a powerful concept that an Israeli Film Festival could open in Australia with a film that is almost entirely in Arabic, highlighting some of the problems in this area.

This is even more compelling because a film like this would probably never see the light of day (or the darkness of a cinema?) in the Arab world given the volume of cultural boycotts against Israel, and in particular, joint Israeli/Arab collaborations (see more).

Among the many questions raised by the film was the concept of justice in the society of the criminal gangs. At an early point in the film, a Bedouin gangster visits a restaurant in order to collect money carrying a gun. He is mistaken for an intruder by the owner, who then shoots him. As revenge, the Bedouins shoot the restaurant owner and when that hit is unsuccessful, they murder a local boy (mistaken as his nephew). The nephew and his mother are totally innocent and must pay money for a hudna (temporary truce) to allow the two sides to meet in a form of tribal court to decide whether a peaceful outcome can be reached.

The court is a farce. The judge is a Bedouin related to the initial aggressor who was badly injured in the shoot out and, after a great deal of argy bargy, the result is that the innocent family has to come up with a monetary penalty or face further acts of revenge.

The result has a familiar ring; not dissimilar to the way in which Turkey, which played a role in the involvement of the IHH in the Gaza flotilla, is now demanding that Israel be punished for the deaths of the provocateurs after they attacked IDF soldiers boarding the Mavi Marmara. Indeed, there are shades of the Goldstone Inquiry as well given that its agenda for that effort was set by the powerful Muslim states who urged the U.N. to set up its kangaroo court of an inquiry.

If this is what “justice” means then one wonders how on earth can there be real peace if indeed, peace cannot be achieved without justice?

Best wishes,

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