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Update – 17 November 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 17 November 2011 at 3:43pm:

When I opened the copy of today’s Melbourne Age that sat on my desk this morning, I noticed for the first time that the newspaper carries the tagline “Newspaper of the Year”.

Then, I made my way to the world news section and found an article by Sheera Frenkel entitled ‘Palestinians on board for segregation protest’.

To my surprise, I was soon wondering how on earth such a disgusting piece of ajitprop dressed as reporting could ever have found its way into an alleged “Newspaper of the Year”. What was the Age foreign editor thinking when this piece was accepted for publication? If this is the best that we have, what does it say about journalism  in general?

Frenkel’s article refers to a publicity stunt incident from two days ago when six Palestinians boarded a bus in the West Bank bound for Jerusalem. The six wanted to demonstrate that their freedom of movement is restricted by the Israelis.

They called the stunt a “Freedom Ride” in the hope of linking their plight to the civil rights movement of the United States, where African Americans protested racial discrimination in America’s South by travelling on buses.

This tactic of unashamedly using the genuine suffering of another group to ignite sympathy for their cause is not new. It has been used by Palestinian activists before by applying the word “apartheid” in their evil and racist BDS campaign which targets Jewish-own businesses with links to Israel in an effort to deliegitimise and ultimately destroy the Jewish State.

This latest stunt was lapped up by a very willing media, with reports suggesting nearly 100 journalists came to watch six Palestinians board the bus (see more).

Yet, as I continue to read about the ongoing “blood bath” in Syria, I have to wonder why so many Middle East correspondents consider this the most important news item coming out of the region and routinely ignore the slaughter going on literally a stone’s throw away from Israel?

What separates the Age from many of these other publications is the fact that the Age chose to run with a story that is not only two days old, but has already been discredited by Honest Reporting since it appeared in two other publications.

Honest Reporting notes that much of the media, in reporting on the issue, failed to mention that there is no law banning Palestinians from travelling on Israeli buses. Most of the media failed to provide any context as to why Palestinians are restricted from entering Jerusalem and Israeli settlements. This has nothing to do with segregation and more to do with security concerns and having the correct permits. The Palestinians who boarded the bus were within their rights to travel on the bus, they were only stopped when they got to a specific checkpoint because they were travelling without the correct paperwork.

Huwaida Arraf, who was quoted in the Age article, showed her honorary Palestinian passport, which she was awarded for taking part in last year’s flotilla (see more). Incidentally, she is an Israeli citizen and had she shown her ID card, she would have been able to continue on to Jerusalem irrespective of ethnicity.

Frenkel attempts to downplay the serious security measures that have been put in place due to suicide bombings on buses in Israel by stating, “Israelis says there are valid reasons for the restrictions. Five years ago Palestinian suicide bombers regularly targeted Israeli buses, killing dozens in each attack”. She makes it seem as if firstly, it is only according to Israelis that this is of concern, and secondly, that the Israelis are simply harping on something that happened years ago. She fails to mention that one of the only reasons that such attacks do not occur any more is the successful security measures that have been put in place to prevent them.

Frenkel also makes the declaration that “Many of the Jewish passengers said they were surprised to learn Palestinians were not allowed on the Israeli bus system”. As Honest Reporting points out, “Perhaps the passengers expressed surprised because Frenkel had told them something that is not actually true.

While there are restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank due to security concerns… there is nothing to stop Palestinians from riding Israeli buses within the West Bank and from continuing their journey’s into Jerusalem if they have a permit to do so (see more)”.

That the Age sees it fit on a regular to basis to print articles that have such little disregard for facts and the truth just astounds me. That they can do it even after the article in question has been discredited is even worse. Of course, this is not the first time we have seen the Age publish an article or a photo after Honest Reporting has discredited the item in question (see more).

This brings me to the next Age article from today, this one by Ruth Pollard, entitled ‘Israel may launch new Gaza strike’. Pollard employs similar tactics as her Middle East correspondent from the Age predecessors as she reports on Hamas and Fatah’s fresh round of unity talks and talks about a possible Israeli strike on Gaza without providing any sort of context and of course, using dubious sources to drive her views home.

Making no genuine mention of the constant rocket attacks on Israeli citizens (also known as war crimes), including one that narrowly missed an Israeli kindergarten only two days ago, she repeats the lie that many of the 1,400 Palestinian deaths during Operation Cast Lead were civilians. Over a year ago Hamas itself admitted that the majority of the causalities were Hamas “militants” (see more).

Pollard also declares:

“Since then [Operation Cast Lead], a negotiated ceasefire has mainly prevailed, but Israel has maintained a land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, severely restricting the movement of people, as well as of building materials and other goods, in and out of the strip… It was this blockade, and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that provoked Palestinians to resist”.  Pollard is not only downplaying the serious rocket threat that plagues Southern Israel on a daily basis (she says “mainly prevailed” as if any other civilised nation would tolerate even ONE rocket raining down on its people) but she is perpetuating the lie of the blockade.

The United Nation’s Palmer Report on last year’s flotilla incident founds that “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law” (see more). Additionally, it is only a partial blockade, and images of new shopping malls and five star hotels being built in Gaza should put paid to any talk that building materials are not getting in to Gaza.

There are of course, numerous incidents that happen on a daily basis in the region which do not paint some Palestinians in a favourable light. Every day, there are torrents of hatred and rage directed against Israel and the Jewish people from the Hamas leadership in Gaza, in its media and television and in the official media of the Palestinian Authority which are rarely reported in the Age (see more).

Which makes one ask the question if this is the “Newspaper of the Year”, where is the balance in its reporting?

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