Saturday, May 10, 2008

THE FOUL FOG OF A MEDIA WAR

ABOVE: Unlike Ed O'Loughlin, Dustin the Turkey, Ireland's entry into the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, is a fowl who was not instructed in the liberal arts in Trinity College Dublin, never learned how to be a gentleman and is neither lazy of character nor intemperate of habit. If you want to know what Ed looks like, you'll find a photo of him along with his Fairfax biography here (captioned O'Loughlin in Jerusalum") but be quick because he's left the room.

Today, the Age permits its former Jerusalem Bureau chief Ed O'Loughlin one last opportunity to act as mouthpiece for his favourite cause and to reflect "on his time covering one of the world's most intractable conflicts" (Wars between worlds) and, in producing the now standard tendentious drivel which characteristically consigns the gist of the conflict and what's really behind it to the blank pages, the man does not disappoint.

After 5½ years of slanted reporting and biased, one-sided trashing of Israel and its citizens which culminated recently with his self-exposure as an unabashed bigot who inter alia gives credence to the blood libel of an alleged "unofficial Jewish taboo" on land sales to Moslems, O'Loughlin allows his own words to provide his former readership with a useful insight into the man and his agenda driven brand of journalism.

We discover for example, that he fits perfectly the description of a shnorer taken directly from the writings of such masters of Yiddish literature as the great Sholom Aleichem:

"Before I was sent to the Middle East in October 2002, I had spent the best part of eight years reporting on Africa, for this newspaper and for others. When people asked me which beat I preferred, I always said Africa, because it was bigger, and more romantic, and because you got to fly around in helicopters and light aircraft for free quite a lot, which I enjoyed."

So, when Ed lands in Israel he suddenly finds himself in a nest of Shylocks and laments that "in my entire time in the Middle East I never once got to go in a helicopter or private aircraft — mainly because it's a region where you pay for your flights ..."

Hmm ...

The hardworking journo likes his liquor too which doesn't surprise considering the content of some of his output over those 5½ long years. One can understand his affinity with Hafez Daoud, a 49-year-old member of Gaza's Christian community (now down to 2,000 and dwindling fast) who has a penchant for losing his job as a result of Palestinian terrorism, the last one being a gig as barman in a United Nations-run social club, "the last place in Gaza where alcohol was openly served — albeit only to foreigners" (no discrimination there of course!). "Then in the early hours of New Year's Day 2006 unknown gunmen broke into the closed building and blew it up. The Beach Club never reopened and Daoud lost his job."

Therein lies the sadness of the confession of this lame-duck journalist who laments the destruction of a bar where they serve grog to foreigners by "unknown gunmen". But what of the fire-bombing of churches, the attacks on Christian schools or an investigation into why Christians are leaving Gaza and the West Bank in their droves and why Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is increasing?

Nothing.

Instead, he concerns himself with a facile attempt to justify the stance he recently took when he covered the death of 23-year-old Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana whose camera he claims "revealed that he had actually filmed an Israeli tank firing the shell that killed him, as he stood in his clearly marked press flak jacket, by his clearly marked press vehicle." The suggestion is that Shana was targeted by the tank. However, we can't be sure that this is what happened. O'Loughlin does not reveal here that the tank was a kilometre away from Shana's car, nor that it was firing ordinance that doesn't start fires although his story begins with "[THE] car was still burning". As usual, all of the facts that are inconsistent with the tale spun by eyewitness are left out and this, of course, enables him to heap scorn on his detractors.

O'Loughlin reveals that he has finally struck it lucky and managed to scrounge a free lift to Sderot (would he have gone there to witness the suffering of its people were it not for this?) where:

"Our guide, Avi Melamed, was a former intelligence agent. On the ground in Sderot, he escorted us through sunny streets studded with reinforced bus stops and bomb shelters, some gaily painted by children. Behind Sderot's main police station Melamed demonstrated racks full of crumpled 'Qassam' rockets, some of the 7000-odd home-made missiles fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the past seven years, killing 12 civilians and terrorising thousands.

"The lunatic result is that everyday life, everyday decisions — should I take the kids to school? Should I go to the mall or the coffee shop? — become emotionally very difficult," he explained.

As he was talking loudspeakers placed all around the town began to crackle the warning "code red, code red". Radar had just detected the launch of four rockets in Sderot's direction. Fortunately the only casualty, on this occasion, was a dog who required veterinary attention.

As it happened, this particular salvo of rockets came a couple of hours after the deaths of housewife Miyasar Abu Muatak and her four children, aged 18 months to six years, during Israeli air-strikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, just across the border in Gaza. The Israeli Defence Force denied responsibility for their deaths. And Melamed did not believe that there was a causal relationship between Israeli policies and IDF operations and the bombardment of Sderot. "We had Qassam rockets coming yesterday, and the day before that, and nobody was killed in the Gaza Strip," he said."

And as it happens with O'Loughlin's work, he weaves into his story on Sderot an introduction to the five members of the unfortunate Muatak family who died in Beit Hanoun. He reports that the IDF "denied responsibility for their deaths" but fails to mention that it had good reason for this but, after all, that's the crux of the stories in his media war against Israel.

How could he possibly have failed to disclose here that the IDF released film that clearly shows how the Muataks really died - the very blank page story about the crimes against humanity perpetrated on a daily basis by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank who fight their war against the Israeli people using their own as cover?

This is a crime that has two victims - the Israelis and the Palestinians and it is at the very heart of the story of a reporter who accuses the IDF of having a "culture of denial and impunity" but who himself routinely fails to tell the whole story - and this story is one that must be told. O'Loughlin finally tells it with the help of the words of his escort:

"He smiled indulgently: most of the stories of suffering and death from Gaza were fake, he said.

"All the reporters there are Palestinians. You give them cameras but what they do is not reporting, it's propaganda. If you wanted to go to the other side and be a free reporter in the Gaza Strip you'd be kidnapped. You can only say what Hamas will tell you to say."


FOOTNOTE:

There's more to this and I'll get back to it in the near future but for now I'm going to take a little break to celebrate Israel at 60 and the fact that when I picked up a copy of the Age in my favourite little coffee place this morning, the name of the journalist next to "Jerusalem" on the Age list of world foreign bureaus is Jason Koutsoukis whose first piece in his new role there Israelis fly flags for statehood milestone is nicely balanced and deserving of our congratulations.

Welcome to The Club.

9 comments:

Dan said...

Did you just forget to include the part where he mentioned the death toll (according to an Israeli human rights group) is five palestinians to every one Israeli? Or do you also ignore the facts that dont quite fit with your argument?

Wilbur Post said...

Yes Dan and please accept my apologies. I forgot to mention Mr. Ed's obscene scoreboard of death statistics although I've commented on it before and my previous remarks about his constant mention of the death tallies in this way fits in with my argument that his work is agenda driven and muddies the truth.

There is a reason why Palestinian casualties since Arafat launched this "intifada" are greater than those of the Israelis and it has nothing at all to do with the rights and the wrongs in this conflict.

And I haven't even started on work place accidents or the substantial number of Palestinians murdered by their own which of course, find their way onto his misleading and deceptive scoreboard.

I also omitted another part about the death toll. O'Loughlin is wrong when he criticises Israeli investigations into incidents involving Palestinian civilian deaths - soldiers have been court martialled and while that process might not be perfect or provide the results you or O'Loughlin desire, it raises another question.

Of the 1,200 or so Israeli civilian deaths caused by Palestinian attacks since 2000, how many have been investigated by the PA or Hamas governments and how many of the criminal murderers of Jewish innocents have been punished by the Palestinian legal system?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan... you really don't get it do you?

O'Loughlin was allegedly a reporter who was supposed to be reporting on the news from a region rife with conflict not an advocate for one side.

That's the issue.

PF

Dan said...

Hamas, Fatah and the PLO arent good people, and the terrorism and non-investigation of deaths is never a good thing. However, you also cant really claim its a real/effective government while under occupation. Israel is supposed to be a liberal democracy, with the rule of law, do you think the IDF's culture of impunity goes againt these ideas? Do you think such deaths should be investigated properly, and punished? Or does it indeed only count when its your own side being killed?

Also, to anonymous, o'Loughlin did report from both sides of the wall, I think its deceptive to claim that reporting on the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinians is enough to be labelled biased. If the vast majority of the suffering is being endured by Palestinians, then isnt it justified that those stories are the most common?

Dan said...

Sorry, meant to say PA, not PLO.
What sort of viewpoint are you comming from anyway Wilbur?

Robert Sanders said...

In the past week about 50 Lebanese have died in fighting between Hezbollah and Sunni militants. I can't find the stats anywhere in newspaper reports of how many were civilians and how many were Sunni and how many were Shia. I'm wondering if Dan could let us know which side had the greater number of casualties and whether these stats help in determining which side has the morally superior claim.

Anonymous said...

according to the latest reports in haaretz the death toll from the violence is 81

Portofino said...

Noah Pollack wrote in an article about the Gaza beach tragedy (which O'Loughlin blames on Israel in his article ignoring evidence to the contrary) that the battle in this conflict "is over images, narratives, and beliefs, and the tactics and strategies required to fight it bear little resemblance to conventional war."

O'Loughlin's work at the Age indicates that he fought this battle not on the Palestinian side but on the side of terrorism. He has done a disservice to both the Palestinians and the Israelis by covering for what he usually called the militants and their destructive force.

How refreshing it is to pick up the Age now that he's gone.

Anonymous said...

Therein lies the sadness of the confession of this lame-duck journalist who laments the destruction of a bar where they serve grog to foreigners by "unknown gunmen". But what of the fire-bombing of churches, the attacks on Christian schools or an investigation into why Christians are leaving Gaza and the West Bank in their droves and why Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is increasing?

I wonder how many newspapers in the west will pick up this story -

Assailants set off bomb outside Christian school in Gaza by The Associated Press -

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/984258.html

Friday's bombing was not the first attack on the school run by the Rosary Sisters. The school was ransacked in June, 2007, along with the nuns' adjacent convent, during a week of intense fighting that ended with Hamas' seizure of power.

About 3,200 Christians live in Gaza among 1.4 million Muslims. Relations between Christians and Muslims have traditionally been good, and Christians have held a respected place in Gaza's society as members of the territory's small elite, running schools, hospitals and businesses.

But the tiny community has grown increasingly uneasy since Hamas routed forces of the secular Fatah movement and became the sole power in the territory.


Now that Ed's not around any more will Jaspan think it's worthy of coverage?