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Media (mis)management of the Gaza conflict

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With the abrupt removal of NBC's key reporter on the ground in Gaza, Ayman Mohyeldin*, who witnessed and reported on the killing of four Palestinian kids playing football on a beach, it becomes that much clearer that we in North America are unlikely ever to see balanced coverage of the conflict in the corporate media. Mohyeldin was ordered out of Gaza by top NBC executive David Verdi after his widely praised reporting on the scene. He was replaced by two reporters, one of whom speaks no Arabic.

It really doesn't get more blatant than this. But if you take a look at the reportage in general, you can find wide gaps. Stories of the killings in Gaza sometimes even manage to avoid mentioning who inflicted them. Perhaps the most bizarre lacuna of all is the continual media evasion regarding the failed Hamas-Israel ceasefire proposal.

Hamas, one of the belligerents, wasn't even consulted. It has proposed its own conditions, and, aside from the inevitable quibbles over the finer details, they seem entirely reasonable:

1) Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.

2) Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths.

3) Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.

4) Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under UN supervision.

5) Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometres.

6) Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations.

7) International forces on the borders.

8) Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

9) Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement (between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority).

10) Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.

The call for UN involvement and supervision, and international supervision of Gaza's borders in particular, should be welcomed by anyone genuinely interested in peace. But the entire proposal is being studiously avoided by the media. Is it not even worthy of debate? Instead, Hamas, as noted not a party to the discussions, has been roundly condemned for not agreeing to a ceasefire drafted by Egypt.

Meanwhile, the carnage continues, and it looks as though there will be no early end to it. Even the U.S. has spoken out, if with considerable caution. All but one casualty are on the Palestinian side at this point: most are civilians. A prominent medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières, reports, with uncharacteristic bluntness, that its work is akin to "patching up torture victims in an open-air prison."

Make no mistake, Hamas bears its share of the blame, for firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. They may have inflicted only one death, but intent matters. It's a war crime, and it cannot be excused. However, as no less than the deputy Prime Minister of the U.K. has stated, Israel.s bombing and shelling of Gaza is "deliberately disproportionate." For his part, Gideon Levy, writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, is more outspoken than any commentator in Canada would dare to be.

Or politician. Here at home, it's been unwavering, uncritical support of Israel by the Librocons as the killings continue. The NDP, once the fearless champion of human rights, has issued only a limp, boilerplate statement which boils down to "both sides are wrong, we need peace."

To his credit, NDP MP Charlie Angus broke ranks, with a forthright statement of his own on Facebook, later closed to permit only FB friends to see it. Peggy Nash followed on Twitter, and Libby Davies, uncharacteristically silent on Middle East issues since Tom Mulcair became NDP leader, put up a solid comment of her own on Facebook--also restricted to FB friends.

Still, a handful of comments on Facebook and Twitter? Is this all we can expect in the way of dissent?

These are mere voices in the wilderness in any case: Mulcair, an "ardent supporter of Israel in all instances and circumstances," has apparently all but shut down his caucus, not to mention vetoing the candidacy of former NDP MP Jim Manly's son for daring to suggest that Gazans are suffering because of Israel's blockade. The NDP's National Director Anne McGrath continues to smear him -- and the CBC's Terry Milewski joined in the pile-on with mendacious enthusiasm.

Want a balanced view of the Gaza conflict? Now Ayman Mohyeldin has been silenced, Likud talking points are faithfully reproduced by hordes of media stenographers, and politicians with a conscience have been duly cowed, you may as well get a Twitter account.

*UPDATED: Somebody at NBC blinked. Ayman Mohyeldin is being sent back to Gaza this weekend. Now, how about CNN?

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