Compare and contrast: Guardian coverage of demonstrations in Israel and Greece.

This week we witnessed a much reported demonstration in south Tel Aviv pertaining to the subject of the influx of illegal migrants into one of the poorest areas in Israel. As ever, the situation is significantly more nuanced than the Guardian’s editors would have us believe – as reflected in the commentary of veteran Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yamini on the subject. 

“It was all known. It was all expected. A violent incident was a matter of time. Sentences such as “South Tel Aviv neighbourhoods becoming a pressure cooker” have been written more and more in recent weeks. This week it happened. A justified and legitimate demonstration, which was directed against government neglect, was turned by a few tens of people into a hooligans’ parade. It is a miracle that the events did not end in bloodshed. That could happen.  

This is the hour of the hitch-hikers. From Left and from Right. The former spread tales that if we would only conquer racism, and turn the refugees into new immigrants, they would become honest and contributing citizens. For a small proportion of them – annoying and inciting; mostly anarchists – there is in the background the ideology which wants to crush the state of Israel as the Jewish state. The infiltrators are yet another means by which to achieve that aim. From the Right step up to the line the inciters who suffer from pure racism – including racism against colour – and direct the anger towards the infiltrators themselves. 

And in the background are to be found the residents of the neighbourhoods of south Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Eilat. They are the victims. Because the infiltrators who arrive here, from the moment of their arrival, raise their standard of living by ten degrees. Even when they are sleeping in public parks. And only the residents of the weak neighbourhoods are paying the price. They alone. Everyone is wise at their expense. The human-rights workers are causing more and more infiltrators to arrive in exactly the same neighbourhoods which are already exploding from the pressure. They don’t pay any price. They load them onto the weak. And the weak are exploding. Just exploding. Their children’s education is worse. The fear on the streets is greater. Quality of life plummets to new lows. And when they try to cry out, they are called racists. And then the activists from the Right arrive, with matches in places already saturated with petrol. Afterwards we all wonder about the explosion.” 

The incidents which took place on the night of May 23rd in south Tel Aviv were the subject of no fewer than three Guardian articles. 

The first, by Conal Urquhart, was headlined “African asylum seekers injured in Tel Aviv race riots”. Only in the ninth paragraph (out of ten) did Urquhart get round to hinting – albeit very superficially – that there may actually be more sides to the story than pure ‘race riots’. 

“Some work illegally and the majority live in the poorest areas of Tel Aviv where they find themselves in competition with working class Israelis mostly from a Middle Eastern or north African background. The sparse greens and parks of south Tel Aviv are dominated by the African migrants who sleep there at night.

The second article dedicated by the Guardian to the subject was Seth Freedman’s polemic (addressed by Adam Levick here). Freedman also employed the term ‘race riots’ and referred to “the level of hate coursing through the veins of Israelis furious at the influx of non-Jewish Africans into their country”. His article closed with the warning that “Israeli opponents of such base racism must act now”: again presenting a one-dimensional view of the story. 

The third article on the subject published on the same day as the previous two came from Harriet Sherwood. It too focused exclusively upon the reprehensible acts of violence which took place and it too failed to provide any information on the broader context of the events or to examine the reasons why the residents of south Tel Aviv (the majority of whom did not participate in the violence) felt compelled to voice their opinions on the streets in the first place. 

But Israel is not the only country struggling with the effects of uncontrollable immigration and Tel Aviv was not the only place in which a demonstration turned violent this week. 

In Patras, Greece, local residents and supporters of the far-Right ‘Golden Dawn’ party – which gained considerable support in the recent Greek elections stormed a factory in which migrants were sheltering on two consecutive days after a local man was allegedly  stabbed and killed by an Afghani immigrant, resulting in clashes between demonstrators and police. 

The Guardian dedicated one article to these incidents. 

In that story there were no ‘race riots’ – instead there were “anti-immigrant protests”. No ‘asaGreek’ was summoned to chastise his countrymen for the “hate coursing through their veins” and nobody was accused of “base racism”. There were no dire warnings about the collapse of Greek democracy and nowhere was it implied that the Greek demonstrators (even those among them who support an extreme-right party) were motivated by a racism which infects their society as a whole. 

The sharp contrast between the style and volume of the Guardian’s reporting on two similar incidents which took place almost at the same time is an excellent indicator of the fact that when it comes to Israel, reporting the actual news is frequently of minor concern. Too often, it is the opportunity which that news may provide to advance an agenda which is seized at the detriment of providing Guardian readers with a ‘fair and balanced’ view of events. 

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