Monday 28 July 2014

Jon Snow on Gaza - worthy compassion, but where's the context?

Jon Snow has made a compassionate statement on the terrible suffering in Gaza, based on what he's just witnessed there.
In another moving blog piece, he also, on the plane back to London, reflects on his own degrading treatment when crossing the checkpoint back into Israel, and all he'd seen of Gaza's pain, experiences unprecedented in his journalistic career, causing him to weep.
This is admirable, honest comment, and, as Gaza is being mercilessly bombed, welcome output for those doing all they can to highlight and support the Palestinian cause. 
So it seems churlish to somehow rain on Snow's parade, and all those approving him. But how much of this deeply sincere feeling is being matched by the essential effort to explain why that suffering is going on?
During his first appearance back doing Channel 4 News, Snow pondered the seeming despair at getting a ceasefire, and wondered whether the US is 'any longer' serving the role of 'honest broker'.

Listening to that casual aside should have brought a real moment of clarity for viewers, a realisation that while Snow is saying worthy things about Israel's gross humanitarian violations, he's saying virtually nothing about how they're managing to get away with it through continued US/Western support.

This is not just a 'facet' of the 'conflict'. It's central to understanding why the occupation, siege, settlements and overall misery for Palestinians goes relentlessly on. And yet, it's forever politely circumvented.  
Snow was also keen to point out the gross mis-match in each sides' capabilities, noting that, while Gaza has nothing to resist Israel's vast air power, Israel has the 'brilliant' Iron Dome defence system, financed by the US. 

Again, having partially alluded to US military aid, it was a moment which could have been used to develop real contextual discussion of the US as Israel's murderous patron in giving it $3 billion every year. Instead, Snow proceeded with the usual speculations on what Kerry's diplomatic endeavours might achieve.       
In his video piece, Snow speaks of a necessary 'preparedness to listen, and watch and read'.

But surely journalists like Snow must also have a duty to read and watch and listen to what's long been recorded about the true reasons for the murder of Gaza.

And if he did,  it wouldn't, with dutiful moral heart, take much additional effort to amplify the truth that America is not an 'honest broker'. It is financing and backing Israel to the hilt. Therefore, it's the problem.

I've been watching good people across social media these past days, outraged over Israel's killing, asking others to help make Snow's video and blogs go viral. And why shouldn't they/we show this war on children, in helping to shame Israel and bring maximum attention to Palestinian suffering?

But just imagine the impact of such output if it was accompanied by Snow probing US/UK political elites and developing critical exchange on this essential question:
Why has America been allowed to portray itself for so long now as an 'honest broker', when, in fact, it's acting primarily in Israel's expansionist military and political interests?
And here's another for good measure:
Why have we, the media, permitted and contributed to this gross illusion of the US as 'benign facilitator' for so long?
Snow and Emily Maitlis on Newsnight are among the very few to have 'taken-on' Mark Regev recently. And that's commendable. But we're at a point of rising awareness now over Israel's shameless criminality that locking horns with Regev is no longer the same 'badge' of brave interviewing.

Real bravery would be in taking-on the Obama/Kerry/Cameron 'diplomatic' circle and indicting them over their own centrally criminal roles in allowing the murder of Gaza and Palestine to continue.     
Alas, neither the content of Snow's blog or his video made it to the Channel 4 News programme. If even that kind of compassionate dispatch can't slip past the commissioning editor, what chance, or willingness, of telling these real vital truths?


Glenn said...

Hello. Thanks for publishing this piece -- all good points, I think.

I'd add that Snow also just takes the Israeli govt line re: the brilliance of its own 'Iron Dome' system to explain the almost zero Israeli civilian casualties.

It seems to me there are two possibilities:
1) 'Iron Dome' is a brilliant defence shield of the like never seen before, and keeps Israel almost completely safe from thousands of rockets, in which case, *Israel is basically safe and there's no point bombing Gaza to pieces and killing kids*.

2) It is actually practically impossible to target and destroy such fast-moving little rockets (as MIT weapons experts suspect: ), and the claimed interception rates are a propaganda bluff to reassure the population. The actual reasons there have been *almost zero* Israeli civilian deaths is:
There aren't that many rockets;
They cannot be aimed accurately at all;
and the ones that do come over are so useless that they only cause minor cosmetic damage... which case, *Israel is basically safe and there's no point bombing Gaza to pieces and killing kids*.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear. None of this happened in a vacuum. Israel IS the imposed occupier of Palestine and the USA has prevented all attempts to rein in the more extreme actions of its regime for the last 69 years.

John Hilley said...

Thanks, Anon, well said.

Excellent points, Glenn. Iron Dome is being used as a propaganda shield, whatever its 'effectiveness'.

radcliffe said...

As you say this question goes right to the heart of it. Why is this being permitted without the forensic examination that accompanies other struggles? We, the public can try in our own way to support the Palestian people but are rendered impotent by the lack of any realistic analysis of the cause and continued stoking of this problem by the USA and Cameron. I watched the BBC news this p.m. And was dismayed as the reporter talked off air while a Palestian official tried to explain the cause of the problem. This was typical of the BBC bias and piss poor reporting. Sorry for the rant but I am heartily sick of this ignorance being fostered on us. Thanks for the piece.

Si said...
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Si said...

Good piece, as ever, John. The thing that's troubling here is why it was necessary for Snow to go Gaza to understand the extent of suffering and injustice? It's plain for all to see. Maybe there will be a sea change in reporting on Palestine / Israel, and if that happens, miraculously, most outlets will fall into the lockstep of telling the truth. The cynic here thinks that visits such as Snow's will be used to silence critics of his reporting - 'look, I've been there, I understand the situation better than you do' - when in fact, you don't need to be in Gaza to grasp the horror. Common sense should suffice - common sense and a willingness to point to the real causes of this living nightmare: occupation, ethnic cleansing and a drip by bloody drip genocide, and the support for the same by Western governments.

Kieran Kelly said...

Glenn's point is essential. Iron Dome isn't just propaganda to reassure Israelis, indeed hardly that at all. It is propaganda to disguise the material disparity between the oppressor and oppressed. It is propaganda designed to perpetuate the lie that this is a "war" or a military "conflict" rather than a massacre.

The emotional emphasis and unbridled language used by Snow should ring alarm bells. He evinces real enthusiasm when talking of the "brilliant" defences. Why?

Wittingly or not, Snow is performing an absolutely crucial propaganda role aimed at those who mostly already oppose Israel's actions. He is perpetuating and deepening a perceived distinction between sentimentality and security "realism". By decontextualising and lauding decontextualised humanitarianism he is promoting ill-informed emotive opposition to Israeli acts whilst leaving a great deal of room for the fatuous security geeks who consider themselves realists to smugly rise above the ignorant sentimentality of the masses and be more "balanced" in their considerations of Israel's "defensive" actions.

I know some such people and they are not merely self-important, they are disproportionately influential. They are bureaucrats, politicians, journalists and academics. They are incredibly stupid people who are very easily manipulated and believe strongly in the voice of authority. They are the "outer Party" of 1984. Snow is performing that all important role of maintaining the distinction between popular sentimentality [which is meant to be uninformed and unsophisticated] and elite realism [which is simply the acceptance of the rhetoric of authority as factual no matter who ridiculous or contradictory].