Israel's Illegal Assault On The Gaza "Prison"

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Richard Moore

Mar 8, 2008, 6:00:09 AM3/8/08

Israel¹s Illegal Assault
On The Gaza ³Prison²
By Media Lens
06 March, 2008
Media Lens

Israel has drawn international criticism for its latest series of onslaughts against the Œprison¹ of Gaza, the crowded home to 1.4 million Palestinians. Since last Wednesday (February 27), 112 Palestinians have died under Israeli air attacks and Œincursions¹ by Israeli troops. The dead include many women and children, such as four boys who had been out playing football and even babies killed in their homes. Last Saturday alone saw the deaths of 60 Palestinians under Israeli attacks. Three Israelis have died ‹ one a civilian killed during a rocket attack by Hamas last Wednesday and, since then, two Israeli soldiers.

On February 29, Ron Prosor, Israel¹s ambassador to the UK, said on the BBC Today programme that:

³We¹ve been restraining ourselves for a very, very long time. But we have a responsibility to defend our citizens. This is the context.²1

The same day, a senior Israeli source threatened a ³holocaust² in Gaza. Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister, warned:

³The more [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.²2

The disconnect with the view of the Israeli public was stark: 64% support negotiations with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, in an attempt to bring about peace.

Palestinian Terrorism: The ³Inevitable Consequence² Of Israeli Occupation

Just before this latest escalation in violence, the newswire service Associated Press briefly flagged up a report on the Occupied Territories, commissioned by the UN.3 It has since been ignored by the corporate media.

The report, authored by UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, concludes that Palestinian terrorism is the ³inevitable consequence² of Israeli occupation. While Palestinian terrorist acts are deplorable, ³they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation.² Dugard, a South African professor of law, accuses the Israeli state of acts and policies consistent with all three.4

The report notes that Israel has attempted to justify its attacks and incursions as ³defensive operations² aimed at preventing the launching of rockets into Israel. Dugard states clearly that ³the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants without any military target, which has resulted in the killing and injury of Israelis, cannot be condoned and constitutes a war crime.²

But he also notes that ³serious questions arise over the proportionality of Israel¹s military response and its failure to distinguish between military and civilian targets. It is highly arguable that Israel has violated the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, which constitute war crimes.²

In particular:

³Above all, the Government of Israel has violated the prohibition on collective punishment of an occupied people contained in article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.²

In the days that followed, as killings and injuries rapidly rose under a massive Israeli assault, we could find not a single mention in any UK national newspaper of this important assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories.

Exchange With BBC Radio 4 Presenter

On February 29, we wrote to Edward Stourton in response to his interview that morning with Ron Prosor, Israel¹s ambassador to the UK. First, we pointed out that Stourton had not challenged Prosor¹s erroneous assertion that Gaza could now run its own affairs following the withdrawal of Israeli military forces in 2005. Prosor claimed: ³Israel disengaged completely out of Gaza more than two years ago² so that ³the Palestinians would take responsibility, would run Gaza.²

Indeed, the thrust of the BBC presenter¹s own words, with multiple repetition of the loaded word ³disengagement², was that Israel was no longer the occupying power in Gaza.

We pointed out, by contrast, the assessment of John Dugard: ³it is clear that Israel remains the occupying Power as technological developments have made it possible for Israel to assert control over the people of Gaza without a permanent military presence.²

We asked Stourton whether he was aware of this assessment. Moreover, as we saw above, Dugard had observed that Palestinian terrorism was the ³inevitable consequence² of Israeli occupation. We asked why the Today programme had not addressed Dugard¹s important new report. On the same day, Stourton responded, but only to the first point:

³This is such a difficult area to get right and I always welcome constructive comments - so thank you for your thoughts. I suppose the only point I would make is that if you challenge every statement in an interview like that it can get a bit arid.²

A similar email to Jeremy Bowen, the BBC¹s Middle East news editor, about the corporation¹s serious omission, went unanswered.

Stourton¹s response was standard for the BBC ‹ friendly, well-meaning but ultimately vacuous. By contrast, in 2004, Tim Llewellyn, the BBC¹s Middle East Correspondent in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, blew a loud whistle on the deep bias in BBC reporting:

³Watching a peculiarly crass, inaccurate and condescending programme about the endangered historical sites of ŒIsrael¹ ‹ that is to say, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories ‹ on BBC2 in early June 2003, I determined to try to work out, as a former BBC Middle East correspondent, why the Corporation has in the past two and a half years been failing to report fairly the most central and lasting reason for the troubles of the region: the Palestinians¹ struggle for freedom.²

He described some of his conclusions:

³In the news reporting of the domestic BBC TV bulletins, ŒbalanceŒ, the BBC¹s crudely applied device for avoiding trouble, means that Israel¹s lethal modern army is one force, the Palestinians, with their rifles and home-made bombs, the other ŒforceŒ: two sides equally strong and culpable in a difficult dispute, it is implied, that could easily be sorted out if extremists on both sides would see reason and the leaders do as instructed by WashingtonŠ

³When suicide bombers attack inside Israel the shock is palpable. The BBC rarely reports the context, however. Many of these acts of killing and martyrdom are reprisals for assassinations by Israel¹s death squads, soldiers and agents who risk nothing as they shoot from helicopters or send death down a telephone line. I rarely see or hear any analysis of how many times the Israelis have deliberately shattered a period of Palestinian calm with an egregious attack or murder. ŒQuiet¹ periods mean no Israelis diedŠ it is rarely shown that during these Œquiet¹ times Palestinians continued to be killed by the score.² (See our Media Alert)

This is the reality of a systematic BBC bias that works to suppress public awareness of the true gravity of Israel¹s human rights abuses.

1 BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Edward Stourton, Friday, February 29, 2008, 7.30 am. #

2. BBC news online, ŒIsrael warns of Gaza ³holocaust²,¹ February 29, 2008. #

3. Bradley S. Klapper, ŒReport: Israeli occupation causes terrorŒ, Associated Press, Feb 26, 6:11 PM ET, published on Yahoo news website. #

4. ŒHuman Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab TerritoriesŒ, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard, United Nations Human Rights Council, A/HRC/7/17. #

Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The first Media Lens book is Guardians of Power: The Myth Of The Liberal Media (Pluto Books, London, 2006).

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