Overview of Guardian coverage of Israel, July 2012

An overview of the Guardian’s coverage of Israel for the month of July 2012 indicates yet again that a significant proportion of items placed of the ‘Israel page‘ of both CiF and the Guardian World news section actually have little to do with Israel.

It also shows once more that the choice of subjects not covered is no less significant than the stories which are run. 

On the Israel page of ‘Comment is Free (which is still for some reason headed by a now one year old article by Sam Bahour ), nine new items appeared during July. Of those, only four are directly related to Israel, with two pertaining to the IOC’s refusal to hold a minute of silence for the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics, one concerning the social protests in Israel and one about the Church of England’s decision to support EAPPI.

Of the rest, two are actually about Syria and three (including a cartoon) are assorted interpretations of the US Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s short visit to Israel. 

The same nine items are also included on the Israel page of the Guardian’s World News section, where 73 articles appeared in total between July 1st and July 31st. There too, a proportion of the articles actually have little direct connection to Israel. 

Eight of them are about Syria, three about Iran, two about Eritrea, two about cyber espionage and two about healthcare issues in the Gaza Strip. Two items relate to the release of the PIJ member Mahmoud Sarsak, whose cause was widely championed by the Guardian, and one relates to family visits for Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel. One photo gallery item has Ramadan as its subject. 

One item concerns the visit of US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to Israel and no fewer than 11 items (two of which are repeated, making 13) relate to the Romney visit. 

Four items pertain to the Olympic issue, two to the EU-Israel ACAA, one to the Church of England and of two obituaries appearing in the month of July, one is about Yitzhak Shamir, and the other a French actress named Tsilla Chelton who happens to have been born in Jerusalem 29 years before Israel existed. 

Of the articles which can be described as relating to Israeli politics, three relate to the subject of the Tal Law and the coalition, one to the plea bargain by Uri Blau, one to the trial of Ehud Olmert and six to the social protests. 

Several articles concern the IDF: one article is about gender equality in the Israeli army, four relate to various clashes between the army and Palestinians, and one rather bizarre piece predicts a ‘mutiny’ in the IDF.

Social and cultural themed articles include one on the Israeli TV series ‘Hatufim’, one on the singer Rita, one about kibbutzim and two concerning ‘settlements’.

Six items relate to the terror attack in Bulgaria, including two video reports. 

Events during July apparently not considered news-worthy by Guardian reporters include the sentencing of a former Hamas commander to 54 consecutive life sentences due to his involvement in the murders of 46 Israelis during the second Intifada. Also ignored were the violent demonstrations in Ramallah protesting a proposed visit by Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz aimed at jump-starting peace talks and an Iranian-funded project in Gaza which will provide housing for Palestinian terrorists released under the terms of the Shalit deal. 

Militia-style activities and indoctrination at Hamas-run summer camps for children in the Gaza Strip did not catch the attention of either Harriet Sherwood or Phoebe Greenwood, and neither did the Palestinian Islamic Jihad– related aspect of Mahmoud Sarsak’s homecoming or a flag-trampling rally held in Gaza by the Hamas-linked group ‘Palestinian Sons of Freedom’. 

Palestinian terrorist operatives march over the American and Israeli flags (PALDF forum website, July 7, 2012)
Palestinian terrorist operatives march over the American and Israeli flags (PALDF forum website, July 7, 2012)

Similarly, the arrest of a PFLP terror cell went unreported by the Guardian, as did the upcoming trial in Cyprus of a Swedish national suspected to be linked to Hizballah whilst planning terror attacks against Israelis.  An attack on a bus carrying soldiers near Eilat was also ignored, as was a shooting incident near Yad Mordechai and news of protests by Christians in Gaza over forced conversions. 

Given Harriet Sherwood’s penchant for Gaza-located nuptials, it was surprising to see that she passed up the opportunity to cover a Palestinian Islamic Jihad mass wedding financed by the IHH. Likewise ignored were the PIJ’s departure from Syria (and relocation to Iran) and the appearance of Hamas leader and sometime Guardian writer Khaled Misha’al at the Al Nahada conference in Tunisia, where of course he met the father of another Guardian writer

The firing into Israel of nineteen rockets and one mortar from the Gaza Strip during July did not – once again – prompt Harriet Sherwood to visit Sderot or any of the other communities close to the border area. Neither did she elect to cover some rather disturbing news a lot closer to home:

  “According to the Israel Security Agency, during the first half of 2012 there was a significant increase in the amount of “grassroots” terrorism in Jerusalem. It included mainly incidents of stabbing/personal attacks, as well as Molotov cocktails and stones thrown at Israeli civilians and members of the Israeli security forces. There were three cases of stabbing and/or other personal attacks, more than 70 Molotov cocktails were thrown, and there were hundreds of cases of stone-throwing. The attacks wounded 29 Israelis, 13 of them members of the security forces (Israel Security Agency website, July 2012).

An examination of events over the past year indicates three focal primary friction points in the Jerusalem region:

The A-Tour/Mount of Olives area east of the Old City

The Issawiya area northeast of the Old City

The neighborhoods of Ras al-Amud and Silwan southeast of the Old City”

‘Good news’ stories are also ignored by the Guardian’s reporters in many instances. A half-yearly report indicating that agricultural exports from Gaza rose by 86% compared to the previous year, unemployment in the Strip is slightly down and income has risen received no attention, and neither did the efforts made by the IDF and Israeli authorities to ensure smooth travelling in honour of Ramadan. 

As in we saw in previous months, the Guardian’s choice of which subject matter to ignore is a major factor in shaping the manner in which its readers perceive Israel as a whole and the Arab-Israeli conflict specifically. 

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