If when you woke on the morning of Sunday 15 July, you made the error of watching the ABC television news bulletin, you would have seen that the lead item began: ‘The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip.’ The bulletin included video clips of bombs exploding buildings, narrated as Israel’s targets in Gaza, and went on to describe ‘the operation is one of Israel’s broadest since the 2014 war.’ Anyone not informed about events in the region could be forgiven for concluding Israel had just initiated a war and had done so with no clear provocation.
Omitted completely by the ABC was the critical contextual information that in the previous 24 hours Israeli citizens in the south of the country had been targets of over 170 rockets and mortars which in turn followed weeks of fire bombs delivered by kites, balloons and inflated condoms. These attacks were orchestrated against Israel by the proscribed terrorist organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hardly a trivial oversight.
The ABC did mention that three Israelis had been injured by a (singular) rocket in Sderot but failed to mention the sequence or anything of the scale and timeframe of the attacks against Israel. Or even who was to blame for their injuries.
Indeed, the ABC reporting was so biased and one-sided it could have been scripted by Hamas. Imagine, if you will, a meeting in the Hamas command-and-control centre which is actually located in the basement of Al-Shifa hospital – a gross example of terrorists using human shields. In the room made smoky by nagilas are large signs with slogans ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’. The only way to enter the doorway is to walk on flags of the USA and Israel painted on the floor.
The purpose of this fictitious meeting is to draft instructions for the ABC in Australia. The meeting settles on a set of four instructions to guide the ABC for its news bulletins.
Firstly, don’t mention that Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired over 170 rockets and mortars into Israel in the preceding 24 hours during the Jewish Sabbath and don’t mention the hundreds of firebombs sent out of Gaza into Israel in the weeks prior.
Secondly, don’t mention that Hamas rockets deliberately aimed at residential areas hit a home, a children’s playground and a synagogue.
Thirdly, the opening statement of the news bulletin must refer to Israel having launched an attack without any reference to preceding attacks initiated by Hamas.
Fourthly, when video is shown on television for illustration, only show resultant destruction in Gaza and do not show any video evidence of destruction caused in Israel.
The set of instructions concludes by explaining how the right sort of publicity internationally is so important to ensure that foreign aid keeps pouring into Gaza and that the voters in Western countries allow their governments to hand over many millions of dollars of their taxes without too much objection. The ABC is thanked for its unwavering commitment and support and is assured that the billions in personal net wealth of Hamas leaders, such as Khaled Mashaal and Musa Abu Marzook, is not really fleeced from foreign aid.
Let me assure readers that the meeting alluded to above with the production of instructions from Hamas to the ABC did not occur. There was no need.
While the fictitious Hamas instructions to the ABC seem ridiculous, the reality is that the ABC of its own volition willingly fulfilled each and every one of them. To be fair, the ABC was not alone in providing reports which were skewed to distortion. There were some prominent international media outlets which portrayed a similar picture. Simon Plosker of the website Honest Reporting begins his report of 16 July with the words ‘it all began when Israel fired back’. He then goes on to cite examples from the UK, Australia, Ireland, US and Canada. The ABC features as the Australian example.
The ABC does deserve more vigorous scrutiny. In its anti-Israel bias it is a dreadful repeat offender. Former ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeil attracted complaints of bias including selective editing of interviews. Michael Danby MP, perhaps in frustration, paid for advertisements to publicise what he identified as examples of selective reporting and bias by the ABC on issues affecting Israel. After Muslim academic Randa Abdel-Fatah ranted for minutes about the evils of Israel on Q&A, Greg Sheridan was repeatedly cut off when he tried to state an alternate view. Sharri Markson then made her assessment clear on 22 May this year, ‘we cannot pretend for a moment longer that the ABC is in any way impartial when it comes to the Middle East and Israel.’ The ABC has form, shameful form.
By being publicly funded the ABC is supposed to have a higher degree of accountability. Section 8 of the ABC Act requires reporting to be ‘accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism’. On the issue of Israel, the ABC scores F.
One can speculate as to causation. Is this an expression of anti-Semitism embedded in the ABC as Israel and Jewish identity are inseparable? Is this another example of the unholy alliance between the Left and Islam where breaches of normal civilised behaviours, in this case terrorism against Israel, are forgiven by the Left if the motivation is Islamic? Is it a lack of knowledge, understanding or negligence of those writing the copy for the ABC?
Whatever the answer, the effects of reports like that broadcast by the ABC last Sunday are dangerous. We have seen how desperate Hamas is for sympathetic media coverage, even pushing young children, women and disabled people into the front line to exploit any injuries or deaths.
By framing its reporting completely out of context, painting Hamas as a victim of Israeli bombing and omitting the preceding massive quantum of rockets, mortars and firebombs from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the ABC dances to the terrorists’ tune. The ABC and other media outlets which reported in a similar manner deliver exactly the sort of publicity Hamas craves and they therefore become, unintentionally or otherwise, facilitators of terror.
Dr David Adler, President, Australian Jewish Association