Obfuscating Hamas’ Role, UK Paper Calls Gaza Blockade ‘Evil’
When British Jews claim in overwhelming numbers that media coverage of Israel incites antisemitism in the UK, they typically refer to hyperbolic and grossly misleading headlines, demonizing rhetoric, and context-free imagery used by major British news outlets to characterize the Jewish state’s actions regarding the Palestinians.
Such coverage sometimes evokes classic antisemitic tropes. However, far more typical is coverage that focuses entirely on the Israeli response to Palestinian violence, while erasing the context of incitement, antisemitism, and terror. This can incite attacks by Islamist extremists against Jewish Britons, insofar as antisemites view Jews and their communal institutions as “legitimate” targets in light of their identification with a “cruel,” “brutal,” “illegitimate” Jewish state that is “oppressing Muslims.”
Indeed, the connection between the dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents in Britain in 2014, and the media’s sensationalist, inflammatory and, at times, extraordinarily misleading coverage of the summer war between Hamas and Israel is quite intuitive for most Jewish Britons.
A small but effective illustration of the media’s use of vilifying and extremely misleading characterizations of Israeli policy to impute maximum malice can be found in an official editorial published on Jan. 11 at The Independent titled
“The bishops visit to the isolated community of Gaza is welcome.”
No, the editorial didn’t rail against the persecution of Christians by Islamists in Gaza, the Palestinian territories, and throughout the region. Rather, the Indy applauded the bishops for highlighting the “evils” of Israel’s blockade.
Here’s the entire editorial.
Hats – or perhaps one should say mitres – off to the group of mainly Catholic bishops, four of whom come from Britain, who have been visiting the abandoned people of Gaza and drawing attention to the dismal conditions in which they are made to live.
The outside world all but forgot Gaza’s 1.8 million people after war began to engulf Syria. This was good news for Israel, which – with Egypt’s connivance – continues to subject the Palestinian enclave to a relentless economic blockade.
The Hamas movement rules Gaza in an autocratic and undemocratic fashion – there is no denying that. But the way in which the Israeli government uses the hardline anti-Israeli ideology of the Hamas regime as an excuse to maintain the territory as a form of open-air prison is shameful.
Apart from reminding people of the evils of the blockade, the bishops’ visit to their small flock in Gaza is poignant and welcome for another reason. At a time when Muslim-Christian relations are strained, and when Islamist militants are doing their best to drive Christian minorities out of the Middle East, it is useful to remember that some Christian communities in the Arab world are staying put.
That is the case with the 2,000 or so Christians in Gaza, most of whom are Greek Orthodox – about 200 are Catholic. They live amicably with their neighbours and so demonstrate that co-existence between people of different faiths remains possible even in trying economic circumstances. By showing their solidarity with the people of Gaza, the bishops have given their important cause a much-needed lift.
First, to claim that Christians in Gaza “live amicably with their [Muslim] neighbours” is a gross distortion. There are between 1,500 and 2000 Christians in Gaza, “while in the mid-1990s there were an estimated 5,000” — the result of years of violence, intimidation, and forced conversions mirroring the ongoing persecution of Christians in the greater Middle East.
Additionally, hyperbole about Gaza being an “open air prison” has little relation to reality in light of the fact that tons of food, consumer goods, and medical equipment are transported freely into the Palestinian-run territory on a weekly basis. The only items that are restricted are weapons and dual-use materials — putatively civilian or humanitarian products that can be used for the production of weapons or other military purposes. Additionally, thousands of Palestinians leave Gaza each week to conduct business outside the territory, or to receive media treatment in Israeli or Palestinian hospitals.
However, that’s not the worst element of the editorial.
The most egregious example of the editors’ bias is the manner in which they obfuscate Hamas’s responsibility for Gaza’s plight.
The Israeli government, editors claim, “uses the hardline anti-Israeli ideology of the Hamas regime as an excuse to maintain the evil blockade.”
So, not only does the Indy avoid so much as mentioning that the blockade was implemented to stop the flow of weapons to a proscribed terror group that had fired thousands of deadly rockets at civilians, and sanitize Hamas’ hardcore antisemitic ideology as ‘merely’ an “anti-Israel” orientation, but further suggests that the blockade was implemented out of malice — a sadistic policy, not based on security, but motivated by the desire to inflict suffering.
We can think of many examples of cruelty, barbarism, and genocidal incitement in the Palestinian territories and the greater Middle East that can be fairly characterized as “evil,” but a legal blockade, by the region’s only progressive democracy to restrict the flow of weapons to violent extremists is certainly not one of them.
The Independent’s editorial reduces the world’s only Jewish state to a cartoon villain — a crude caricature that has little resemblance to reality, and one that reinforces toxic calumnies that are injurious to the lives of British Jews.