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Update – 16 May 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 16 May 2011 at 11:30am:

Dear All,

As a student of literature, I have always been fascinated by the time honoured art of story-telling. Since taking up my role as an advocate for Israel I have noticed with some suspicion the way in which some journalists (and their editors) will use storytelling to further their own agendas and hence the story enters into the realm of blatant propaganda. This happens when a journalist decides that it isn’t enough to provide the facts but that they should be embellished with their own opinions to provide a totally slanted story.

Recent events along Israel’s borders are a perfect example of this.

The facts are as follows:

Every year, Palestinians commemorate what they call ‘Nakba (catastrophe) Day’, which mourns the establishment of Israel and the fate of those Arabs who left their homes before, during and after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. This year, Palestinians in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon came to the borders to protest. Along the border with both Syria and Lebanon, they attempted, and in the case of Syria succeeded, in infiltrating the border. In subsequent clashes, some of the protesters were killed in each incident.

Jason Koutsoukis, Middle East correspondent from the Age, filed a story entitled ‘Israeli troops gun down Palestinians in day of protest’. Some of the terms he used were couched in language such as “the dispossession and loss experienced by up 750,000 Palestinians”, “Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem” and “the Separation Barrier that encloses much of Palestine”. These are all factual but the language is used to give an impression of a situation without tell the whole of the story, such as the history behind why people left their homes, how five Arab armies waged war and invaded the Jewish State which was approved by a United Nations resolution along with an Arab State in Palestine, how those armies threatened a “momentous massacre” of Jews, how the occupation came about in 1967, why the construction of the Separation Barrier became necessary and how many lives (Jewish and Arab) it has saved in the past decade.  

There were many elements to the tale that Koutsoukis failed to mention.

Firstly, the very tone of his article implies that protesters crossed the border in peace and it was the aggressive Israelis who opened fire on them without provocation. These people crossed an international border from a country at war with Israel. We do not know exactly what happened or who opened fire and we do not even know who caused the deaths and yet the headline screams that Israeli troops “gun down Palestinians”.

However, there are reports filtering through in the Israeli press suggesting it may have been the Lebanese Armed Forces who were responsible for the deaths of four people in the clashes along the Lebanese border (see more). Koutsoukis ignores this and also fails to mention the fact that the LAF had also been deployed in anticipation of the violence.

Koutsoukis omits the issue of how a thousand protesters actually made their way to Syria’s border with Israel, which ultimately led to the infiltration into the town of Majdal Shams.  Commentator Ron Ben-Yishai notes that in his experience, “you cannot go near the Syrian side of the border without Damascus’ written permission” (see more), which means that Syrian officials would have known about these protests well ahead of time (commentator Jeffrey Goldberg has a fantastic article entitled ‘How to understand the Golan Heights demonstrations’ complete with a clip of what happens to people who demonstrate in Syria without government permission). The protesters came in busloads, suggesting that provocation was premeditated in much the same way as last year’s Turkish flotilla was pre planned and carried out by violent extremists who infiltrated that project and caused a deadly outcome.

What does this say of Syria? Thousands of Syrians protesters have been brutalised and hundreds killed by the Syrian regime in the last few months of unrest there, much of which has been ignored by the mainstream press.  A senior Israeli government official said, “This appears to be a cynical and transparent act by the Syrian leadership to deliberately create a crisis on the border so as to distract attention from the real problems that the regime is facing at home” (see more). Indeed, just a few days ago, Rami Makhlouf, a business tycoon in Syria and cousin of President Assad declared, “If there is no stability here [in Syria], there’s no way there will be stability in Israel” (see more).

IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai declared that these protests also have Iran’s “fingerprints” all over them. He stated, “We are seeing here an Iranian provocation, on both the Syrian and Lebanese frontiers, to try to exploit the Nakba day commemorations” (see more).

Of course Koutsoukis made no mention of comments from the Prime Minister of the Hamas government in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, who declared that “Palestinians mark the occasion this year with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine” (see more). To do so seems to go against the grain of the Age narrative that such protests have peaceful intentions.  It is not the story it wants its readers to take in or to understand.

Still, the hidden story is told by Haniyeh who continued, “Palestinians have the right to resist Israeli occupation and will one day return to property they lost in 1948… To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership”.

In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes. The right of return of these refugees and their descendents, which is now over 4 million people, has been one of the core issues of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and has always been a sticking point for resolution.

The narrative never seems to cover the others who were displaced and dispossessed – the 700,000 Jews, most of who were driven from Arab lands following the establishment of Israel in 1948 and who were welcomed into the country, given homes and an opportunity for renewed life. An interesting analysis of this can be found here. Koutsoukis and the Age hold their silence on this important aspect of the story.

The Age also saw it fit to ignore completely a suspected terror attack in Tel Aviv yesterday whereby a truck driver ploughed into several vehicles (including an empty bus) in a busy street. One Israeli died and 17 others were injured and police are still investigating whether it was an attack or an accident (see more).  Fortunately, the Australian did report on the incident in their round-up of yesterday’s incidents. 

In September, the Palestinian Authority is going to make a bid for unilateral statehood at the UN. Between now and then, it would appear that more protests will occur, the storytelling will continue and, as long as the charade continues, not a single step towards peace will be taken.

Best wishes,

Emily.

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