On Gaza and the media: The precarious concept of 'balance'

| November 21, 2012
On Gaza and the media: The precarious concept of 'balance'

"There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders." The words of President Obama, oft repeated by now. One would agree with this. 

In a CBC interview on November 17, British documentary filmmaker Harry Fear observes that since the start of 'Pillar of Defense,' "every one hundred minutes, Israel has killed someone on average. There has been an air strike at least, frequency-wise, every 5 minutes."

Obama continues: "Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory."

Why only Israel? Why should Gaza have to tolerate missiles falling on it?

Obama's statement continues: "If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that's preferable," he said. "It's not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It's also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded."

Why does he only explicitly state his concern for saving Israeli military lives? Why does he not explicitly state the reason for why 'ramping up of military activity' would also be preferable for the people of Gaza?

The brunt of the death toll is, and will increase being so, on the people of Gaza. The last Israeli incursion, Cast Lead in 2008-2009, has shown this: While 1400 Gazans were killed and more than 5000 wounded (over 300 children), 13 Israelis lost their lives, nine of which were soldiers within the Gaza strip (four of these killed by friendly fire), three were civilians and one member of the Israeli security forces. Over 100 Israeli soldiers were wounded.

As of the time of writing, 139 Gazan lives have been lost. Twenty-three of these lives were children. Four Israeli civilians have lost their lives, as well as one soldier.

Five Israeli lives lost, 13 Israeli lives lost is too much, especially to a cause such as Israel's: to continue a ruthless grip through occupation, siege and general humiliation of a society deprived of its most basic rights. But one would think the enormous disparities in casualties between the two sides would merit Obama's explicit mentioning that a 'ramping up of military activity' would be particularly devastating for Gazan people.

In his discourse, Obama puts the entire blame on Hamas for provoking Israel with an "ever-escalating number of missiles." What he leaves out from his statements are the provocations on the Israeli side: the killing of a mentally unfit man on November 5; the killing of a 13-year old boy playing football on November 8; the further killings of three civilians on November 10. (Imagine for second these deaths had occurred in Israel, committed by Hamas fighters: how much furor would they have created in the speech of our politicians, and in our media?) Not to mention the provocation of keeping Gaza's human beings locked up, on a strict and detailed calorie diet for the past six years.

Obama's stance is a disgrace, and goes against everything that the Arab world had hoped from him back in November 2008, when he was elected, a few weeks before the onslaught of Cast Lead. In June 2009, in Cairo, when he gave the speech that moved the world, he cited the Quran: "Whoever kills a innocent it is as if he has killed all mankind." He spoke lofty words of "equal administration of justice."  How many times has all of mankind been killed with Obama's backing?

Of course, it is understandable that Obama, caught in the web of the profound narrative of hypocrisy in which his country is so deeply embedded, sides with Israel. If he were to condemn Israel, he would be self-condemning. After all, the F16s that are dropping ton-heavy bombs on civilian areas are free gifts from his country. After all, this Nobel Peace Prize holding president has upped the ante on the drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing many civilians on the side. This president has a "kill list" that authorises extra-judicial assassinations.

But what is shocking is that the media in our so hailed-for-their-free-speech-and-democratic-values societies publish the dribble they do, that they so happily turn themselves into the mouthpiece of their respective administrations, and of the U.S. and Israeli administrations. This offends me, many of my friends, colleagues and family, beyond outrage. But apparently, to many, it is not at all offensive. Instead they gobble it up like their morning gruel and are only too happy to regurgitate it in your face a few hours later. And to add insult to injury, they turn around and tell those who publish or distribute articles from the independent press, who try to put a different perspective on the storyline, that they are one-sided, or that they "lack balance."

There is such a great and burning desire for "balance" in Canadian society that I cannot understand that people don't actually recognise the so apparent lack of balance that they are fed every day.

Friends of mine blame me for being one-sided. Yes, mea culpa.

The links and pieces I post on Music4Gaza are generally in support of Palestinians, and in condemnation of the blockade, the occupation and, recently, the onslaught. I am not making a conscious effort to also cover the other side. My answer to everyone who finds that problematic is this: the other side is amply covered. All you have to do is go to the CBC, read the Globe and Mail, the Gazette, read the British BBC. Only when Gazan casualty numbers rise above a certain point, do they even pay attention to them (on Canadian media coverage before November 14, see Mondoweiss).

Even the higher quality papers that exhibit a much fairer standard of reporting, such as the UK Guardian, generally cover the conflict from the perspective of the mainstream voice, which includes, and often personifies, the official Israeli propaganda.

Added to the one-sided nature of the media coverage is the intrinsic one-sidedness of the situation. There is no balance of power: Israel is Goliath. Gaza is David.

My writings are but a drop of rain in the sea of one-sidedness in the mainstream media. 

My conscious "lack of balance" is in fact a desire to restore balance. A desperate attempt to restore balance. For I too am Canadian, and I hope for a time in the future when I will be able to say I am Canadian with less shame than now. I hope for a future where balance is more than a word in our world.

 

Máire Noonan blogs at Music4Gaza

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Comments

Alison Smith on CBC radio news "The World At Six" tonight led off with the Gaza ceasefire story. She gravely intoned that during the week-long conflict "157 people died; hundreds more were injured". At no time during the broadcast did she or any CBC correspondent mention that only five of those 157 "people" were Israelis and the rest Palestinians. To do so would have been to commit the unpardonable media sin of revealing the disproportionate violence committed by the Israelis.

Al Jazeera reports that 20 Palestinians, including 7 children, were killed on November 21, the day the ceasefire came into effect, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 162.

I am also outraged with the one sided news coverage. Last night city news reported that 100 or so Palestinians were killed some being citizens nothing about children, then showed the bus in Israel and said it was a terrorist attack. I actually yelled at the tv! Then the day before Baird was accusing the media of reporting badly on Israel not sure what news he watches. What a sad place we are when our sick government defends the killing of anyone including children. I sometimes wonder what happened but then I remember Harper agenda. How most of the world governments stand by and let the occupation continue in the gaza ghetto is incomprehensible . Ashamed to be associated with this kind of Canada
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