Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Corbin on the Mavi Marmara: a BBC-hasbara production

Jane Corbin's Panorama ('Death in the Med') 'investigation' of the Mavi Marmara murders (she, of course, would never cite the act of state killing) may well be up for an award in the coveted 'gushing in the presence of power' category. As she asserts:
"I've had unique access to this top secret unit. Naval Commando 13 has never been filmed by the media in action before."
But let's deal, firstly, with the purported 'new evidence' behind the film: the claim, based on acquired new footage (culled from Cultures of Resistance) that the activists somehow provoked the Israeli commandos into using live rounds and killing nine activists.

From the outset, the tone and message of this film is to convey the impression that the Gaza aid flotilla comprised one boat, crewed by militant Islamic zealots, intent on initiating a violent confrontation with Israel. The whole premise of the film reeks of islamophobia and racist insinuation.

Thus, Corbin alerts us to the Western-prescribed demonisation of the Turkish activists:
"The IHH isn't just known for their humanitarian work. Western authorities have accused them of having links to terrorist organisations. They strongly deny this."
In the film, we see and hear the IHH leader speak to other on-board activists, urging them to resist any violent Israeli effort to take the boat. We also see some prepare for the coming assault by arming themselves with makeshift bars cut from the ship.

All this has previously been verified by other pro-flotilla film and testament. There was relative resistance. Some made rhetorical speeches. We know this. So what?

This was a mission, after all, motivated by sincere attempts to end the murder, starvation and suffering of Gaza. Yet, Corbin takes this footage as clear proof of the activists' 'violent priorities', their principal agenda, amplifying Israel's much-vaunted message that the flotilla was not a humanitarian enterprise but a terrorist-sponsored plot.

At no point does she consider the context of rightful resistance to Israel's pirate-like conduct on the high seas. The entire thrust of the report is to suggest that the activists should have behaved 'responsibly' and allowed the commandos to do their 'peaceful duty'.

Nor is the firing of live rounds by the commandos fully addressed. Instead, we're told, they were only reacting to the activists' provocations, an 'unexpected resistance' not reckoned with due to "poor intelligence."

Corbin, of course, ignores all the other evidence showing that the political and military pre-planning for this operation had explicitly urged the use of violent force.

There's the predictable nod to 'balance' as the Free Gaza coordinator is interviewed, accompanied by the same-sourced footage showing the passengers beginning to resist the approaching Israeli boats.

Corbin talks of the stun grenades thrown back onto the Israeli boats, but not the fact that they had been thrown onto the Marmara in the first place.

Some activists, Turkish and others, were asked for their impressions. But, again, none of this was allowed to undermine the film's key impression that the passengers had indulged in undue, provocative action against the otherwise peace-intending commandos.

We also have the token explanation as to why the flotilla was sailing, with Corbin's cursory appearance in Gaza to 'witness' the hardship accompanied by the usual demonic references to incessant rocket fire from Hamas and its 'refusal to allow Israel to exist'.

This served as a convenient 'hook' to cast the IHH as terrorist accomplices. Corbin, thus, tracks the IHH leader to "the most Islamic area of Istanbul" where he reaffirms "our right to passive resistance."

Corbin goes on to imply mendacious links between the Turkish government and the IHH, but produces no actual evidence that Turkey was involved in anything other than helping to support a humanitarian shipment to Gaza.

Corbin is ever-ready to convey the official Israeli version of events, talking of the "five warnings" given by the Israeli command ship. There's also her straight-repeated assertion that Israel "offered to take the aid to an Israeli port and deliver it to Gaza." Just one example of the BBC's face-value acceptance of Israel's 'bona fide' intentions.

The same bias is evident in this further piece of servile narration, laced with inference about the synonymous task facing the Israeli navy:
"The navy commandos are highly-trained, their job, to intercept enemies at sea. They've seized several ships smuggling arms to Hamas and boats carrying aid to Gaza."
Corbin also asks the IHH leader why what he claimed as "passive resistance" looks like outright fighting. But there's never any suggestion to the interviewed commandos that they have been involved in a violent, illegal attack culminating in the murder of nine people. Indeed, quite incredibly, the actual killings of the nine are never closely examined in this film.

Corbin's other journalistic deceit lies in her efforts to convey notions of 'uncertainty' over how the shooting actually started, a narrative that complements Israel's own attempts to mitigate its use of live rounds.
"The question of who shot first remains disputed and unresolved."
But no Corbin-Panorama production would be complete without that Israeli secret-op mystique.

As with Corbin's fascinated attentions on a Mossad agent in her last BBC piece, tracking the Israeli assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, this latest offering has her listening intently to the 'perilous dangers' faced by 'Lieutenant A' , 'Sergeant Y' and 'Captain R'.

In the BBC's own website trailer to the film (for some reason, excluded from the actual Panorama piece) Corbin also gazes like a lovestruck teenager on commando leader 'Colonel G' as he explains the operational tasks of his elite unit.

Like Corbin's romanticisation of Mossad, we were encouraged to feel excited over this "unique" glimpse into the world of secretive Israeli commandos, while Corbin, in her element, talks of the 'privileged' access offered to the BBC. The convenient facilitation of this glaring Israeli PR exercise is never, of course, considered by Corbin.

The soldiers are filmed "practising riot tactics", tackling a predictably-staged suicide bomber scenario and, so Corbin tells us, planning the best means of intercepting future flotillas:
"The commandos have to work out how to prioritise their own casualties and still carry out their mission."
Again, no comment on the illegality of such actions or the terror felt by those on the receiving end of the commandos' brutal tactics.

We also have what passes for 'critical' BBC questioning, as Corbin suggests to Colonel G:
"You're an elite unit, but you've had a lot of unwelcome attention now focused on you and your men."
The understatement is almost breathtaking. An unwarranted attack in international waters, nine people murdered, an international outcry, calls for war crimes prosecutions, and all Corbin can muster is the problem for Israel of "unwelcome attention".

Still looking out from the deckside towards the far coastal lights, like a scene from Loveboat, Corbin asks Colonel G:

"Are you going to do it differently next time?"

It occurs that Colonel G may have his back to the camera not just to conceal his identity but also his smug satisfaction at having such a cosy interview.

It all rolls out quite seamlessly like a joint hasbara-BBC production.

But Corbin is not finished quite yet with Israel's 'authentication' of the Marmara event:
" "We have very clear evidence that in at least four cases the other side did use live fire," said retired major general Giora Eiland, who carried out the investigation into events on board the ship."
The selective appointment and predictable opinion of Eiland, a retired major general in the Israeli army, seems not to bother Corbin. She just lets him continue stating Israeli claims without challenge:
"Giora Eiland said the IHH succeeded in its mission to draw the world's attention to the Gaza blockade.

"Unfortunately they managed to achieve exactly what they wanted, a provocation, to be able to show the Israelis caused the nine deaths," said Giora Eiland, "so Israel is seen as using excessive force and is guilty for everything." "

And so, as the credits roll, with Naval Commando 13 and Israel's latest PR mission accomplished, Corbin, Panorama and the BBC have done their own establishment duty in helping to bring Israel 'back into our affections' as the West's most 'loveable villain'.

The film ends with Corbin's facile summation, alerting us, in case we didn't know, to the readiness of our gallant commando elite and the dark uncertainty of things to come:

"Naval Commando 13 is continuing its training for more flotillas - expected this autumn.

The battle of the Mediterranean is not over yet."

We expect Corbin, no doubt, to be continuing those flotilla reports in the same loaded manner.



David said...

"The battle of the Mediterranean"

That's a pretty sick way to characterise a violent attack on an aid convoy.

Nice work John. It's not available online in Ireland fortunately.

Anonymous said...

I've just watched the first 10 minutes of the show through Kenny’s side show blog and couldn't stomach any more of it as you can see where its headed from the off.

If there's an award for disgraceful journalism, this ones the winner without equal.

John Hilley said...

Thanks David and Anon.

Great work over there in Ireland, David, with Mediabite and your latest challenge to the Irish Times over their distorted reporting of the flotila story.