Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cameron, Gaza and the BBC

So, what are we to make of David Cameron's statement describing Gaza as a "prison camp"?

Cameron's actual words were:
"Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."
He further said:
"People in Gaza are living under constant attacks and pressure in an open-air prison."
The first thing one should simply say is that, being entirely true, the wording is welcome.

Whatever Cameron's and his government's ongoing support for Israel, the issuing of such criticisms will only help erode its international support base.

The second thing to note is that these words, and many more, could have been said long before now. Should so many have been slaughtered and afflicted before these sentiments were uttered?

The third thing to remember here is Cameron's other words reaffirming his government's confidence in Israel's own 'inquiry' into the flotilla attack. Does any serious observer really believe that Israel has the will and integrity to investigate itself?

And the fourth thing involves a question to Cameron and other such politicians seemingly concerned about Gaza: beyond the verbal condemnations, what are you actually going to do to help bring an end to that prison camp - and the wider occupation?

The answer to that last, and most important, point is, as we should know from past enquiries, precious little.

So, again, why are we hearing such comments now? The answer would seem to be basic geo/political expedience.

There is, no doubt, much realpolitiking afoot here. The UK is keen to develop economic and military links with Turkey, from where Cameron made his remarks on Gaza. His promotion of Turkey - a key Nato member - for full EU membership came with an attack on the Euro club of states trying to keep Ankara out. The "prison camp" reference will have added weight to that alignment, given Turkey's prominent role in seeking to break the blockade.

But there's also a connecting issue of international legalities here. Increasingly, politicians like Cameron are beginning to put safe distance between themselves and the illegal actions of the Israeli state. As with South Africa, a day of reckoning is coming for Israel's apartheid system and even consistent Israel supporters like Cameron can see where that might ultimately put them: on the wrong side of history.

This realisation has taken on a quiet new momentum in the wake of the landmark Goldstone Report, and its key conclusion that Israel should be referred to an international war crimes court over its 23-day annihilation of Gaza. Despite the UK's best efforts to suppress the report at the UN, its legal authority now sits like an unmovable, weighted truth - a huge burden on Israel's shoulders.

Israel's recent attack on the aid flotilla and murder of nine Turkish peace activists has further sharpened many politicians' antennae over the international legal consequences. They are also, of course, increasingly attuned to the growing voice of public condemnation.

Again, though, it's useful to remember that Cameron's comments still suggest no action-based pressure on Israel. Indeed, his government are following their predecessors in trying to deny UK magistrates powers to grant arrest warrants for visiting Israeli politicians and military figures implicated in war crimes against Palestinians.

Thus, much of the same safe placation goes on.

As does the presentation of such stories from the BBC.

The BBC's 6 O'Clock News (27 July 2010) reported that Cameron had "controversially" called Gaza a prison camp.

Why, we might ask, should such a statement be deemed 'controversial'? Because it upsets Israeli 'sensitivities'?

Imagine the BBC now stating: "Netanyahu, controversially, disputes that Gaza is like a prison camp."

Or: "Obama, controversially, reaffirms his support for Israel despite its refusal to lift the blockade."

Gaza, as recognised by every major aid agency and on-the-ground UN official, is being subjected to very obvious prison-camp-like conditions. Why should confirmation of such brutal imprisonment, even from a British prime minister, be considered 'controversial'?

Something is only 'controversial' for the BBC when it involves language which deviates from the accepted establishment narrative - a language that's reliably structured around references to 'militants' and the usual 'Israel says' formats.

Even though such words come from Cameron, this shouldn't make them 'controversial'. Indeed, the BBC are breaking their own guidelines on 'impartiality' by using such subjectively-laden adjectives in their reports.

Perhaps, in time, the idea of criticising Israel's apartheid state won't be regarded so "controversially."

A World Cup has just show-cased not just South Africa's 'modernity', but also its apartheid history. Throughout the BBC's coverage, Mandela was lauded as a saintly liberator, with the oppression of black South Africans sympathetically addressed in many of the BBC's background film reports.

Yet, Desmond Tutu, that other venerable South African statesman, has said that the situation in Palestine is "worse than apartheid."

That's probably too 'controversial' a line for the BBC to pursue. It may now be safe for BBC presenters to reflect emotionally on the evils of South African apartheid, but not, apparently, Israel's mass-murderous version.

Again, keeping an expedient eye on history, the gathering international response to Israel's catalogue of cruelty may now be exercising the minds of figures like Cameron. It simply gets harder and harder trying to defend the indefensible. Gaza is a prison camp. The world sees that truth. Better, so Cameron seems to be calculating, just saying so.

It's all part of the 'new open politics', where glaring evils come to be denounced by 'clean-sheet' politicians - even ones like Cameron who supported the murder of Iraq. What they're prepared to do about the killing and incarceration of Gaza is another matter. Maybe the BBC will get around to making that more pertinent point. They might even put that question directly to Cameron.

Or would that just be too 'controversial' a thing to ask?



Anonymous said...

Well said

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

I don't know what the whinge is here. I don't think it's much of a leap for Cameron's comments to be viewed as controversial by many people, not just by those who may have Israeli sympathies. You may disagree, but simply put this is entirely opinion. See the irony?

Your endless BBC-bashing, this time on the most tenuous of links, is really quite tiresome.



FIT watcher said...

Israel's endless Palestine bashing, always on the most tenuous of links is really quite tiresome.

Alan can choose not to read this blog. Palestinians cannot choose not to engage with Israel's continual aggression.