Former AP correspondent Matti Friedman, in his essay at Tablet on media coverage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, explained that reporters “working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel”, whose “every action and flaw is analyzed, criticized and aggressively reported”, while, alternately, “Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate”.
The Guardian coverage of Israel and the greater region perfectly reflects this principle.
Though the Guardian has completely ignored an AP story on growing evidence that Hamas used human shields during the war, and failed to report even more dramatic reports that Hamas may have used violence against UNRWA employees, they’ve published over 10,600 words in 7 separate stories relating to one protest letter by 43 Israelis (who serve or have served in the IDF’s 8200 intelligence unit), threatening that they’d no longer serve in the unit due to their political opposition to participating in “Israel’s military occupation over the territories”.
Here’s how the Guardian’s Israel page looks today, September 16th.
You can read the whole letter by the 43 here, but the following paragraphs are quite instructive:
We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.
Millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule for over 47 years. This regime denies the basic rights and expropriates extensive tracts of land for Jewish settlements subject to separate and different legal systems, jurisdiction and law enforcement. This reality is not an inevitable result of the state’s efforts to protect itself but rather the result of choice. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with national security. The same goes for restrictions on construction and development, economic exploitation of the West Bank, collective punishment of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and the actual route of the separation barrier.
While the Guardian has naturally framed the 43 Israelis as “refuskniks”, and an honorable group taking a principled stand on behalf of freedom of conscience, do we even have to ask how the paper would respond if a group of right-wing Israelis in the same unit, prior to the 2005 evacuation of Gaza, signed a letter refusing to take part in surveillance of extremist Jewish groups in Gaza on the grounds that they opposed the evacuation?
Indeed, as a recent Jerusalem Post editorial reminded us, every Israeli soldier, upon induction, pledges to “maintain loyalty to the State of Israel, its laws and legally authorized government, to accept without condition or reservation the discipline of the IDF, to obey all orders and instructions by authorized commanders”.
As the overwhelming majority of Israelis who serve in the IDF understand, there isn’t an asterisk at the end of their oath of allegiance which grants exceptions to those who disagree, on political grounds, with the mission assigned to them.
Whilst soldiers are always free to take complaints to their superiors, the only legitimate means of changing military policy – given that the IDF is of course subordinate to the government – is by participating in elections and using other legitimate tools within the state’s democratic framework, to change government policy. Indeed, the near universal criticism within Israel (on the Left and Right) to the protest letter, as well as fact that the 43 chose to release their letter to the media and not to work within the system to effect change, is a good indicator of just how unpopular their case is in the country they purport to love.
Finally, the Guardian’s fawning coverage of the 43 – as we’ve seen in their obsessive coverage of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli who engaged in treason, and, closer to their London offices, their role in the release of British security secrets by Edward Snowden – the media group’s claim to champion liberal values is fatally undermined by their elitist contempt for principles such as patriotism, loyalty, respect for the law and restraint – values which represent the sine qua non of any real, functioning, stable and sustainable democracy.