I've written before about the mainstream media's tendency to self-censor opinion pieces on Palestine by caving in to the Israel lobby's spurious demand for what it calls 'balanced reporting' (see Doppelganger, 28/1/08; Anticipatory Compliance, 28/4/08). This demand, superficially plausible, is in reality a demand for a faux balance, based on the absurd notion that every presentation of the victim's story, unless 'balanced' by a presentation of the perpetrator's story, is ipso facto guilty of being unbalanced.
On those rare occasions when the Fairfax press actually gets around to publishing a Palestinian story, and in so doing risks the ire of the Israel lobby, faux balance becomes its principle defence mechanism against the confected outrage of Israel lobbyists.
A classic example of this came with the publication of an opinion piece by Australian author and academic Peter Manning in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29/4/08. In Redress the balance on Palestine, Manning argued that, in commemorating Israel's 60th anniversary in federal parliament, prime minister Rudd ignored the ethnic cleansing and mass expulsions of Palestinians perpetrated by Zionist forces at the time, which Palestinians call the Nakba (Catastrophe).
Manning wrote about "the Israeli propaganda narrative that the Palestinians had simply abandoned their country, not fought enough for it and left for friendly Arab countries," and pointed out that this myth had been "demolished" by the research of Israeli historians such as Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev and Benny Morris. He ended his piece with the forlorn hope that Rudd might "redress the balance" in May, the 15th of which is hyped as Israel's 'Independence' (from what?) day. All pretty straightforward, nothing controversial. Leon Uris' 1958 propaganda novel, Exodus, still echoed by Zionist propagandists whenever the subject of 1948 arises, had to succumb eventually to the ravages of genuine historical inquiry.
However, in the certain knowledge that Manning's presentation would unleash a Zionist version of the hounds from Hell, the Herald had taken the trouble to pre-emptively notify the hellhounds of their intention to publish Manning, as well as the content of same, such that on the very day of its publication, a flanking response by Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) appeared. Rubenstein's riposte, The time for peace has come, was typically all smoke and mirrors:-
"A scattered, dispossessed people, suffering oppression and having just emerged from history's most heinous genocide [Rubenstein here tries to slip us 2 mega assumptions: 1) the Zionist notion that Jews are 'a people'; and 2) that the entirety of these people, as opposed to European Jewry, were the victims of oppression/genocide], accepted the newly formed UN partition plan [Considering that the Jewish colonizers of Palestine had purchased only 6% of that land by 1947, but (as a result of US arm twisting in the UN) were offered a further 48%, why wouldn't they accept?] and built [after first ethnically cleansing 78% of Palestine of the majority of its non-Jewish majority indigenous population & refusing them the right of return] an enviable [If an apartheid state which privileges Jews over non-Jews is enviable] society in part of their ancestral homeland [Zionist forces occupied a further 24% of Palestine beyond the UN partition line in 1948, including the western half of Jerusalem which was supposed to have come under international control], which now serves as a vibrant cultural centre and beacon for Jewish identity worldwide [All Jews again? The majority of Jews, contrary to Zionist goals, vote with their feet by choosing to live in a variety of open, pluralistic and democratic states such as Australia], including for the Australian Jewish community... While it is understandable that Palestinians remember the suffering of 700,000 Palestinians who fled or otherwise lost their homes in 1948 [What crimes are buried under this little circumlocution. You'd think this were merely the equivalent of losing your keys], it is worth remembering that this tragedy [More a crime against humanity] was completely avoidable [Not really. Once the Zionist movement had determined on a Jewish state in a land with a non-Jewish majority, and secured the services of the British in this endeavour, a God-almighty clash with the Palestinian population was inevitable] had Palestinians and the Arab states heeded the UN's resolution calling for 2 states for 2 peoples [Even if the Palestinians, contrary to every other indigenous people on the planet, had overlooked the injustice* and illegality** of the partition proposal, and shouted their acceptance of it from the rooftops, this would have made no difference whatever to the final outcome given that the Zionist goal was a Jewish state over as much of Palestine as possible with as few non-Jews as possible]. Instead a war to ethnically cleanse the area of Jewish inhabitants was launched [Zionist propagandists routinely project Israel's crimes onto its victims]." Rubenstein goes on to refer to "the so-called unlimited and legally unprecedented 'right of return' to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendents [Not only is the right of return for refugees enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) at Article 13, but UNGA Resolution 194, calling on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, has been reaffirmed by the UN countless times and its acceptance by Israel was a condition of Israel's admittance to the UN as a member state]" as a "maximalist demand" which "would lead to the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish state."
* The Partition Plan was unjust because, although the Jewish settlers owned only 6% of the total land area of Palestine and constituted only around one third of its population, they were given over 50% of the most fertile parts of the country, which included 400 Palestinian villages and an almost equal number of Palestinian Arabs (438,000 to 499,000 Jews). Even within the area allocated to a Jewish state, the settlers owned only 11% of the land.
** The partition plan was illegal because it violated "the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples" enshrined in Article 1 of the UN Charter.
I dealt in an earlier post (The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3, 14/3/08) with the manifestly corrupt process that led to the passing of UNGA Resolution 181 (the Partition Resolution), but given the store placed in it by propagandists such as Rubenstein (who alludes to Evatt's "possibly decisive role in securing [its] passage") and the frequency with which they invoke it as a token of Israel's international legitimacy, it is worth quoting the verdict of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe : "If United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) members [who drew up the partition plan] believed that the 2 political entities [an Arab and a Jewish state] would peacefully exist and therefore not much attention needed to be paid to balances of demography and geography... they were guilty of totally misreading Zionism and grossly underestimating its ambitions... the UN map was an assured recipe for the tragedy that began to unfold the day after Resolution 181 was adopted. As theoreticians of ethnic cleansing acknowledged later, where an ideology of exclusivity is adopted [Zionism] in a highly charged ethnic reality, there can be only one result: ethnic cleansing. By drawing the map as they did, the members who voted in favour of the Partition Resolution contributed directly to the crime that was about to take place." (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006, p 35)
Next day, no doubt in response to the letters of outraged Zionists (how many this time?), the Herald's faux balance defence mechanism kicked in on the letters page with a letter commending Manning's contribution followed by a spray of Zionist paranoia: "... the left will never accept [Israel] as legitimate until it commits demographic suicide or is wiped out in an Islamist version of the Holocaust." This was followed the day after by this doozy of a letter: "I applaud the editors of the Herald in their balanced approach to the expression of opposing views on the Middle East (Opinion, April 29, and Letters, April 30)."
And just as the old, familiar refrain, 'You-couldn't-make-this-up-in-a-million-years', came to mind, I opened The Australian of the same day to find, in the Cut & Paste section at the bottom of the letters page, the following heading above an extract from Manning's Herald piece: "Historical record comes back to bite the Israel-haters: Peter Manning, in The Sydney Morning Herald, cites historian Benny Morris to discredit 'Israel propaganda'."
Next to that The Australian had placed the following: "In a letter to The Irish Times, Benny Morris sets the record straight: Israel-haters are fond of citing my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections." Morris himself then went on to state that: a) "In defiance of the will of the international community" Palestinians "launched hostilities against the Jewish community... in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost," and were "displaced," fleeing their homes "because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders)"; b) "There was no Zionist 'plan' or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of 'ethnic cleansing'. Plan Dalet of March 10, 1948, was the master plan of the Haganah... to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state"; c) "It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes. And it is also true that midway in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the 'refugees' (those 'refugees' who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential fifth column and threat to the Jewish state's existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic."*
So can we now expect pieces like Manning's - written for the Herald - not only to fall victim to that paper's spinelessness, but also to be mauled in The Australian? And if the Herald is under any illusion that its faux balance routine is enough to satisfy the Zionists, the editorial in the same week's Australian Jewish News (2/5/08) should disabuse it: "What a pity The Sydney Morning Herald published Peter Manning's opinion piece... The fact that next to this unsubstantiated Israel-bashing diatribe, The SMH published a very moderate opinion piece by Dr Colin Rubenstein... calling for peace, did not make a case for balanced reporting... While we would never diminish the value of a free press, we would argue that both sides of the debate are not yet given equal coverage in Australia. The AJN will soon be publishing a regular column... monitoring coverage of Israel... in the mainstream media."
When are the Bambis at Fairfax going to realise that faux balance is not enough, that only when the Fairfax papers become Israel-boosting, Palestine-bashing clones of Murdoch's The Australian will the snarling and snapping cease?
*I'll deal with Morris in my next post.