Friday, December 07, 2007


This is a Reuters photograph of a Palestinian Arab woman baking in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp. That she is living in a refugee camp is most likely due to the fact that her parents or her grandparents fled their original homes in the wake of a war started when five Arab armies entered the newly established State of Israel almost 60 years ago with the intent of creating a "momentous massacre" of its Jewish inhabitants.

Those words were used on the day that Israel declared its independence May 15, 1948 by Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, at a Cairo press conference as reported in the New York Times when he declared "jihad", a holy war. Pasha said that the Arab states rejected partition and intended to set up a "United State of Palestine." He then stated:

"This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".

This woman lives in a refugee camp nearly sixty years later because the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbours has not been resolved. It is a conflict that has caused hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides but while Israel resettled its 850,000 refugees from Arab lands, the Arab refugees were mainly consigned to squalid refugee camps like the one in Khan Younis where the above picture was taken. They remain there as pawns in the ongoing war on Israel. And, as we saw both before and after last month's meeting at Annapolis when the Palestinian leadership simply refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish State, the stumbling block to the resolution of the conflict is not the "occupation" of Arab land but the very existence of a Jewish State among Arab lands. In many Arab eyes, the war remains one of extermination.

Could it be otherwise?

Israel gave up its occupation of the Gaza Strip where this Palestinian woman lives more than two years ago when it dismantled 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and removed thousands of Jewish settlers and its own army from this territory where almost half of the number of Palestinians then under Israeli occupation were living. The Israelis closed four settlements in the West Bank at the same time.

The Palestinian response was to continue the firing of missiles on a daily basis into Israeli towns and villages that border on Gaza. Some of those missiles have even targeted the not too distant Ashkelon electrical power supply station. Now, I doubt whether someone like Ed O'Loughlin of the Melbourne Age would ever describe a direct hit on such a facility by the terrorists who fire the missiles as "punishment" of innocents. The Hamas regime that controls Gaza does nothing to stop these rockets and indeed encourages such attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian targets. The attacks have included the bombing of crossings into Gaza where vital humanitarian aid including the supply of fuel into Gaza. When Hamas does this, O'Loughlin never describes such acts as "punishment". In his world, only the Jews "punish" others and make them suffer.

Which brings us back to the Reuters picture of the Palestinian woman. It was used by the Melbourne Age to accompany an article by O'Loughlin entitled, FUEL LEVELS CRITICAL IN BESIEGED GAZA. The writer tells us that Israelis and Palestinians are blaming each other for the fuel shortage in Gaza. He cites Mahmoud Daher, local chief of the World Health Organisation".

"We know some health facilities have zero stocks of fuel now and in several hospitals the situation is critical. The main pediatric hospital is critically low in fuel for generators. All transport vehicles and most ambulance travel have also come to a halt."

O'Loughlin then adds that "Palestinians blame the crisis on a decision by the Israeli cabinet in October to reduce fuel supplies to the besieged territory, officially by 15%, as punishment for militant rocket fire directed at nearby Israeli communities." The Israeli side of the argument is described as being part of a commercial dispute about payment. O'Loughlin focusses mainly on the emotive arguments of the Gazans and quotes Petroleum and Gas Stations Owners Association of Gaza vice-chairman, Mahmoud Khozander as follows:

"Two days ago the Israelis said they would improve the supply to half of our basic minimum requirement, but we refused. It's better to die quickly than to drag things out for months."

So from the Palestinian side it's always about suffering, punishment and dying. That is certainly the picture that O'Loughlin constantly paints about the Palestinians and their conflict with the Jews on the other side of the border. This is a narrative that forms part of a fantasy about the bad Israelis but, as usual, O'Loughlin never paints the whole picture, not even half of it. This story from the Jerusalem Post shows a different aspect of the story which could been given some coverage in the article but didn't merit the slightest of mentions in his eyes - PA: Hamas stealing Gaza hospitals' fuel:

"The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry on Thursday accused Hamas of robbing fuel stockpiles in two hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

"A statement published by the ministry claimed that Hamas had been stealing fuel from the European Hospital in the Strip for use in the group's operations.

"The fuel was supplied to hospitals in order to satisfy their needs, in wake of the blockade imposed on Gaza following Hamas's takeover," continued the statement.

"For three days, Hamas has been preventing Gaza fuel companies from receiving fuel allocations sent from Ramallah. According to a Palestine Press news agency report, Hamas was stealing fuel and medical supplies sent from the PA Health Ministry in Ramallah to Gaza hospitals."

The failure to cover material aspects of the full story is only part of what's wrong with the picture of the suffering Palestinian women that accompanies the O'Loughlin article. There is however, a lot more!

What really is wrong with the reportage from this journalist and his newspaper is the lack of coverage of the Israeli narrative of suffering from the conflict. There are no pictures for example, of Israeli women from the town of Sderot who live their daily lives under fear of constant bombardment from Palestinian missiles of which over 2,000 have been fired this year. The stories of their suffering are also very real; they are depicted by some other news outlets but they receive proportionally far less coverage than the self-inflicted suffering of the Palestinians. You can read about the suffering of the Israelis in this excellent blog This Ongoing War but never in the Melbourne Age which has airbrushed their narrative out of existence altogether.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Palestinian Minister of Information (aka O'Loughlin) won't giv up. He's back in today's Age with more on the Pals self-inflicted misery.

I simply cannot believe that his effort today is a story given all of the news from around the world.