My Magna Carta Moment: Gao Yu and the LSE taking money from the Chinese government

Ronan L Tynan

The Magna Carta has come to represent the rule of law, curbs on state power and the civil liberties and human rights we enjoy today. But Wednesday night (June 10, 2015) at the launch of a book that touched on that historical legacy by Prof. Francesca Klug, (‘A Magna Carta for All Humanity’) I was reminded that a considerable struggle took place to secure them in the first instance. Indeed, on June 15, 1215 the “rebel” Barons extracted from the tyrannical King John agreement to the Magna Carta at virtual “gun point,” and the ongoing battle to maintain our rights even in democratic societies is one that requires constant vigilance – the attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act in Britain but one example.

At the book launch – which took place in the London School of Economics I was struck by a tremendous sense of complacency, or maybe more correctly an apparent lack of awareness of what it takes to defend human rights, especially in situations where there are no institutions available to secure their enforcement – as applies say in China. I had China on my mind because under President Xi Jinping’s very harsh crack down on freedom of expression Gao Yu 71, a grandmother in poor health and one of the country’s most courageous journalists was given seven years in prison just for doing her job. I had also just read journalist John Sweeney’s letter to the London Review of Books in which he warned about the risks to freedom of expressions of British universities taking money from the Chinese government – citing the £863,537.91 the London School of Economics got from President Xi’s government to establish a Confucius Institute. Against that background, I asked Prof. Klug in the Q & A session about the importance of activism, especially in cases where pressure is needed to secure the release of people like Gao Yu, who have no other means to secure their release? And in that context, I enquired if she thought it appropriate for the LSE to be taking money from the Chinese government when it is locking up courageous journalists like Gao Yu? I was quite taken aback by Prof Klug’s reply when she said she agreed with me; would have to refer my question to higher authority as she was retiring; and if I remember correctly would also be taking to the “barricades!” in her retirement.

President Xi Jinping’s government sentenced Gao Yu to seven years for allegedly leaking what can probably now be described as the Chinese Communist Party’s implicit rejection of everything the Magna Carta represents, and which has come to be known rather crudely as ‘Document No 9’. However, there is no doubt Gao Yu did not leak it, not least because no evidence was produced at her “trial”; and in alleging it was a “state secret” the Chinese government only served to underline the absurdity of the case against her. This is because the document was so widely distributed by the time she was charged it would have had the status of a best seller if it had been commercially published.

Document No. 9 was a very widely circulated internal CCP document that warned members against the dangers of even allowing discussions of what it determined as the seven evils and included such taboo issues as universal values, human rights, press freedom, constitutional democracy, “historical nihilism” (the Chinese Communist Party’s past mistakes – seriously!), all of which are perceived to represent an existential threat to the Party’s survival. In short, Document No. 9 specifically repudiates everything the Magna Carta might be said to symbolically represent and a key part of President Xi’s bid to restore the “purity” of the Party’s dictatorship.

But should the London School for Economics, or any others universities, that subscribe to academic independence and freedom of expression be taking money from the Chinese government, especially at a time when it is vigorously engaged in a campaign to suppress those values as illustrated by the imprisonment of journalist Gao Yu, and indeed Nobel Laureate and writer Liu Xiaobo?

Ronan L Tynan

Twitter: @RonanLTynan

Web: esperanza.ie

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Veteran Chinese Journalist & Grandmother Gao Yu 71 Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison – Her Crime: Journalism

gaoyu 2012

Ronan L Tynan

Today is World Press Freedom Day and after filming an interview about 71 year old veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu with her friend Shao Jiang, a human rights defender and Beijing Student Leader in 1989, we have no doubt this remarkable woman must rank as one of the most courageous journalists of our time. Sentenced to a third terms in prison, this time for seven years, for her outstanding persistence as a journalist in seeking to report in the public’s interest on the authoritarian Chinese government, there can be no doubt she worked to the highest standards and paid a very high price for her professionalism and dedication.

However, President Xi Jinping in seeking to silence her has reminded the world that his government poses a threat to press freedom everywhere, because if he is allowed to lock up one of the China’s best journalists, and also a grandmother and in very poor health, we allow him to normalise the idea that journalists are expendable, that our first line of defense in defending our human and civil rights can be swept aside with impunity. In defense of journalists everywhere, and not just in China, we must secure the release of Gao Yu because if we fail to do so we put our own liberty at risk, especially the way our own governments are falling over themselves to secure trade deals with China.

As filmmakers and journalists we decided to make this documentary to get that message across, that Gao Yu’s fight for freedom is our fight as well. If our governments fail to make her freedom as a journalist an absolute priority we allow them to begin to see our journalists and our freedom of expression as less than the urgent and absolute rights they must always be seen.

In this brief post I also wanted to underline the urgency of securing Gao Yu release because she is in very bad health, and as Shao Jiang emphasised to us today, she will not get adequate health care in her Chinese prison. He cited the well known recent case of the human rights lawyer and ‘citizen journalist’ Cao Shunli who died because she did not get the health care she needed when imprisoned by the Chinese government for her very courageous human rights work. Indeed, one report was quite unequivocal in outlining her mistreatment noting that “signs of her mistreatment during approximately five and half months in detention” were apparent on her body.

One way you can help is by getting on to your local public representative and ask her or him to urgently make contact with the Chinese Ambassador to demand the release of Gao Yu. Or better still perhaps contacting Amnesty International or similar organisation to help organise a public event to draw attention to her plight and embarrass the Chinese government over their incredible inhumanity in locking up one of their bravest and most distinguished journalists.

Ronan L Tynan

Twitter: @RonanLTynan

Web: http://www.esperanza.ie

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My Disallowed Question Exposes West’s Self-Imposed Blind Spot in Battle Against ISIS – Israel Palestinian Conflict

Ronan L Tynan:

I got a very valuable tutorial recently at London’s Chatham House, (Monday, March 2, 2015) at a meeting about ‘Digital Jihad’, as to why the West seems to be fighting an uphill battle against ISIS or Islamic State, especially in failing to stem the number of young people who continue to seek to join in their brutal and gruesome campaign. However, it was not so much what was said that proved so insightful, although the presentations were excellent as you can see from my Twitter feed, but rather the ruling out of a question about what US Secretary of State John Kerry said about the importance we should attach to peace between Israel and the Palestinians in countering ISIS, that proved so telling, and to be honest bizarre?

I asked the offending question and chairperson BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner said “we are not going to go there”. However, Frank in refusing a question about the importance of the Israel Palestinian conflict in the radicalisation process exposed, I would argue, a dangerous self-imposed blind spot in the battle against ISIS. Indeed, John Kerry paid a price for trying to shine a light on that very point, in a speech at the State Department last October, being roundly attacked and misrepresented by pro Israeli groups in the United States.

What reminded me of Kerry’s words and provoked my question was an excellent presentation by Lord Carlile of King’s College, in which he spoke about the importance of confronting ISIS online, and presenting a strong counter narative in terms of our ideas and propaganda to defeat their ideas and propaganda. Indeed, while I did not get an answer from the podium to my question, in speaking with Lord Carlile afterwards he unwittingly almost propelled me to draft this blog post because he made what was for me the profound, if obvious, observation that the Israel Palestinian conflict is indeed very “symbolic.” Citing Northern Ireland he reminded me that some in the two communities there are very overtly engaged with the conflict, with Nationalists identifying with the Palestinians, and some Loyalists with the Israelis, and Palestinian and Israeli flags flying in their respective areas. However, if it is “symbolic” for Nationalists and Loyalists in Northern Ireland imagine what it must represent for many, especially say young Muslims not only in the UK, but across Europe and the Arab World?

Against that background it will be easy to appreciate why John Kerry’s words resonated with me which were based on his direct experience on a visit to the Middle East seeking support to defeat ISIS: “….there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt – and I see a lot of heads nodding – they had to respond to. And people need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity,..” Kerry was speaking at a reception in honour of Eid al-Adha at the State Department in Washington, which may help explain why he observed so many heads nodding as he uttered those words, in the sense that his audience might more acutely appreciate just how emotive that conflict is.

However, from the point of view of any discussion about radicalisation, and the reasons why ISIS are able to recruit young Muslims in the UK and elsewhere, surely to ignore the potential significance of the Israel Palestinian conflict, especially after the brutal attack on Gaza last summer that saw so many civilians killed, especially children in their own homes is not just bizarre, it is dangerous? Kerry in fairness put it well: we have to understand the “connection” which ISIS are exploiting, because it “has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity.”

In the battle of ideas against ISIS, the pursuit of a just peace, and the ending of Israel’s illegal occupation, and the well documented human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories surely has a role to play? I would obvously argue we should pursue that policy because it is the right thing to do. But in fairness, if one is to have a comprehesive discussions about the roots of radicalisation surely one cannot ignore the role of the Israel Palestinian conflict? Ronan L Tynan Twitter: @RonanLTynan Web: http://www.esperanza.ie

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“We are angry with Europe” not doing enough to help solve the Israel Palestinian conflict – AB Yehoshua, Israeli Novelist as MEPs appeal for suspension of EU-Israel Association Agreement

Ronan L Tynan

Leading Israeli novelist AB Yehoshua appeals to the European Union to become active and help put real pressure to bring about the long awaited ‘2 State Solution’ to end the Israel Palestinian conflict. Speaking on BBC Newsnight Yehoshua said Israel’s peace movement are angry with the EU not doing enough, as everyone knows it is much more complicated for the United States to play a decisive role.

Meanwhile, a number of MEPs from all of the major parties in the European Parliament have written to the EU Commission calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association agreement unless Israel makes urgent moves to stop her war crimes and gross human rights abuses which are in clear violation of Article 2. The 63 MEPs reminded the Commission that already 300 human rights groups, trade unions and political parties have requested the suspension of the Association Agreement, noting that Amnesty International and Palestinian organisations have documented that Israel targeted civilians and committed war crimes in its recent murderous assault on Gaza, and that these are “serious violations of international law and international humanitarian law that cannot be tolerated.”

Welcoming the fact the EU has “rightly condemned” Israel’s construction of illegal settlements the MEPs noted that such condemnation has had no impact on Israeli policy. The MEPs also said that various UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council, have repeatedly condemned Israel’s violations of international law. At the same time, Article 2 of the Association Agreement is quite unambiguous stating that relations between the EU and Israel must “be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles”.  However, EU inaction the MEPs argue sends Israel a very clear message – violations of Article 2 will be tolerated.

Urging the Commission to take strong action to support a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians the MEPs demand at the very least that steps are taken to ensure that the EU and its member states meet their legal obligation, as set out in the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice, not to render recognition, aid or assistance to Israeli violations of international law, including by imposing restrictive measures on trade and economic relations that facilitate the ongoing existence and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.”

Inaction by the European Commission make all of us as European citizens complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. All the more serious, as AB Yehoshua maintains because we are only fooling ourselves if we think the United States will bring pressure on Israel. This means the EU now has an historic opportunity to make a difference for peace using the Association Agreement, and the failure of Netanyahu and his government to comply with its human rights provisions.

Ronan L Tynan

Twitter: @RonanLTynan

web: http://www.esperanza.ie

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Vicky McELLIGOTT – “A force of nature” RIP: Anne Daly’s Tribute to a Very Inspiring Woman

Anne Daly reflects on the life of an inspiring woman who made a difference:  “Vicky was a force of nature in Ballymun,” this was how Fr. Eamon Sheridan her local Parish Priest summed up the life of the late great Vicky Mc Elligott who died earlier this week. At her funeral mass held in St Joseph’s parish church I had expected to shed a lot of tears but instead I left uplifted as the life of this amazing mother of 8, and a very dynamic community activist was celebrated in story, samba music and much humour as she would have wanted. I knew exactly what Eamonn Sheridan meant when he described Vicky as a “force of nature.” A description of her that resonated with the hundreds of friends and family mourners who packed the church to overflowing – a real tribute to some one who “lived the radical gospel and brought it to life” in Fr Eamon’s words.

I became friends with Vicky when I was invited by Fr. Noel Kearns in the mid 1990s to join the then Columban Youth Project – and now the Poppintree Youth Project – which he had just set up with the local community primarily to help the youth of the parish. Vicky was very active in organising that project and it has made a great difference in the lives of many young people over the years. However, the local institution in which she was most actively involved was BACA – The Ballymun Animal Caring Association, and became very well known as the public voice of part of that initiative the Ballymun Horse Owners Association. The association worked with local people to maintain what Vicky believed was an important part of Dublin working class culture. In an interview with a Ballymun local paper in 1999 she said:“There have been horses in this area for 18 years. They are kept at an old derelict Workmen’s Club which was converted into stables where the horses are well looked after. However, there is a need for a more permanent facility where the horses can be made available for the wider community and training provided in caring for the animals.”  Over the years she turned that statement into reality helping to raise considerable funds and securing the building of very impressive facilities.

Vicky was drawn always to the underdog, especially the young offenders and would regularly visit them in prison. This helps to explain her commitment to the horse project which she saw as a valuable outlet for them.

Vicky was a fearless community campaigner and always spoke her mind. At our board meetings at the Poppintree Youth Project she would question everything, and had a razor eye for detail, especially in regard to any decisions that could or might affect the vulnerable and marginalised. However, when those meeting ended we would often remain chatting with other board members, including Eileen Adams and Mary Couch, laughing for hours as Vicky regaled us with her many stories. One I recall was the thrill she got from learning to drive. I remember her describe in a childlike fashion the sense of freedom she said she experienced in getting those wheels and being able to go where she wanted. At her funeral service her son Christy said the “family never saw her once she learned to drive.”

I got to know Vicky very well for the first time when on behalf of Esperanza Productions I invited her in 1999 to come to Tanzania for the filming of our documentary film Are We So Different. That trip was described by one of sons at her funeral as “life changing.” What amazed Director and Co-Producer Ronan Tynan and myself was her innate ability to engage with Tanzanians during what involved a 1,200 kilometer trip between the capital Dar es Salaam and Arusha. The aim of the film was to facilitate an exchange between Tanzanian and Irish women to discover if the outcome of a major UN conference would make any difference to their lives. Outside Dar es Salaam on one occasion I recall her rage at seeing women stone breakers working in a local quarry for an absolute pittance, in the intense heat which was very obviously disastrous for their health. Her encounter with some Maasai Warriors was one of the high points of our trip, and I always remember fondly how to her delight one of them invited her to dance outside our hotel in Arusha.

As the Victorian horse drawn Hearse, which was preceded by a group of young Ballymun outriders on horse back escorted Vicky on her final journey to Glasnevin Crematorium, I was overcome with a sense of the passing of a truly great human being who made a real difference for her family, her community and so many of the people she came into contact with throughout her life.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

ANNE DALY

Twitter: @AnneDaly19                                  Web:     http://www.esperanza.ie

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John Kerry on Israel’s Role in the Rise of the Islamic State and the Barbaric Burning of People Alive

Ronan L Tynan

US Secretary of State John Kerry made a very important statement in the State Department in Washington on October 16th last year, in which he linked the rise of ISIS or Islamic State to the failure of the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Unsurprisingly perhaps his remarks elicited an angry response from pro Israeli groups in the United States who interpreted his remarks as an attack on Israel, because they saw him blaming the Israelis for the rise of Islamic State. Given that it is widely accepted that Israel wrecked Kerry’s peace making efforts in 2014 through their constant building of illegal settlements, they were right to feel so defensive. In other words, Israel now maintains an apparent tenacious commitment under Prime Minister Netanyahu to a one state solution that will inevitably transform Israel formally into some type of apartheid reality with a substantial population of second class citizens. The latter represents the status quo given the highly repressive approach of the Israelis in the occupied territories, and the on-going siege of Gaza – (in spite of a commitment to relax it as part of the cease fire which has not been honoured) – and is now in its 8th year.

However, it is worth reading John Kerry comment which so offended the Israelis, to understand why many people do indeed see the failure of Israel to make peace with the Palestinians as one of the direct causes for the rise of Islamic State: “….there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt – and I see a lot of heads nodding – they had to respond to. And people need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity,..”1

The “cause of a lot of recruitment and of street anger and agitation,” in John Kerry’s words, arguing we “need to understand the connection” and most importantly has “something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity..” Well the Israelis were right to be so defensive , but worse still, they went on a campaign of slaughter in Gaza that not only reduced it to rubble but also left more than 2,150 Palestinians dead, including more than 520 children, several thousand wounded and a staggering 370,000 children in need of psychological treatment, according to UNICEF, after being subjected to heavy Israeli bombing for 50 days. Meanwhile, little or no rebuilding has taken place and the promised funds at the Cairo conference have not been delivered!

The horrific burning alive of the Jordanian pilot in an act of barbaric cruelty by Islamic State brought back John Kerry’s words to me.  We cannot blame Netanyahu and his government for that horrendous crime, but we can help secure their indictment before the International Criminal Court for burning alive civilians in their own homes in Gaza, especially through the alleged use of white phosphorous. The disfiguring burns especially on children who escaped being burned alive by Israel would appear to suggest that the latter incendiary weapon was used or some equivalent.

Islamic State and Israel are uniquely connected in fomenting a cycle of hatred and slaughter in the Middle East. As EU citizens we directly subsidise Israel burning children, women and men alive in Gaza through the EU-Israel Association agreement, and our failure to suspend that agreement and launch a comprehensive boycott makes us complicit in these crimes because Israel under Netanyahu has effectively refused to make peace.

Ends.

1 Remarks at a Reception in Honor of Eid al-Adha, Washington, DC, October 16, 2014: http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/10/233058.htm

Ronan L Tynan

Twitter: @RonanLTynan

Web:      www.esperanza.ie

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Greece Faces Future as ‘Slave Economy’ as Merkel’s Germany Turns Eurozone into Debtors Prison

final edit jpeg

Ronan L Tynan

What is really shocking about the brutal austerity imposed on Greece is that it was mostly unnecessary as Philip Legrain points out so convincingly in the Financial Times. Describing the Eurozone as a debtors prison created by Germany’s Merkel he asserts, as many of us know all too well, that the aim of the Greek bail out was not to help Greece but to save German and French banks that had so recklessly lent to her.

However, the scale of the austerity imposed on Greece beggars belief in that it led to a loss of output between the third quarters of 2009 and 2014 of €191 Billion – more than 100% of GDP!  Unemployment even with record emigration is extremely high, with youth unemployment at more than 50%. However, the key point now is Greece’s loans are unrepayable and more “extend and pretend” will only impose further unconscionable suffering on the Greek people, and potentially damage the Eurozone still teetering on the brink of catastrophic deflation. Indeed, it is silly and dangerous for Chancellor Merkel to even imply we can afford to see Greece leave the Eurozone without disastrous consequences for the Euro.

But just to underline how impossible it is for Greece to pay back its debts under current Eurozone rules: from next year the Greeks must run a huge primary surplus of 4.5% of GDP. Worse still that must be accomplished under the structures of the EU Fiscal Compact which means that governments with debts of more that 60% of GDP must reduce them by 1/20th every year – and with Greece’s debts 175% of GDP surely that is mission impossible?

The Financial Times was unequivocal in a recent editorial pointing out such brutal conditions could only be met by turning Greece into a ‘slave economy’! German and French banks lent irresponsibly to Greece, and Greek governments were obviously irresponsible to engage in such borrowing. But it is morally indefensible to force the people of Greece to bear 100% of responsibility? Of course by now the banks have escaped all responsibility because after 2012 European governments and taxpayers are now on the hook for her unrepayable debts. At the same time, the Eurozone seems trapped in a deflationary spiral because Germany has taken full control of the leavers of economic power, and will only end if Chancellor Merkel’s morality play economics are replaced by common sense (i.e. ending policy of cutting government expenditure in pro cyclical way with a view to producing growth!).

I can only conclude by echoing Legrain: “The eurozone has become a glorified debtors’ prison. If its German jailers aren’t wise enough to give Greece some relief, Greeks are quite right to try to smash the locks.”

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Holocaust Survivor’s Moving Condemnation of Israel’s Treatment of the Palestinians

Ronan L Tynan

As I recoiled with shock and revulsion at the indiscriminate murder of civilians especially women and children in Gaza, no where more so than in its poorest and most densely populated neighborhood of Shejayia where bodies were left strewn in the streets by the Israeli military, I discovered this very moving clip from Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer: perhaps the most devastating criticism of the kind of Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu represents.

When a human rights activists or even a Palestinian victim of one of the world’s most powerful armies compares Israeli actions to the Nazis, there is always a lingering, even an unconscious sense of complicity with the perpetrators of the Holocaust. However, when an Auschwitz survivors, a man of integrity, deeply proud of his Jewish heritage does so, it is painfully clear that Netanyahu has not only gone too far, but has betrayed everything Hajo Meyer believes Israel should stand for.

Claiming the Israelis treat the Palestinians like “vermin,” and very upset at the way one Israeli general described the Palestinians as “a cancerous growth’ – because it is the same way the Nazis spoke about him as “a boy in Germany”.

“When the Nazis gassed the Jews the world was silent,” and now when Israel persecutes the Palestinians and “steals away their land the world is silent, and I want to want to awake the world,” he said.

Hajo Meyer went on: “Any criticism on the policy of Israel is hampered and made impossible by a terrible trick and crime of Israeli propaganda, that any criticism on the politics of Israel comes out or is induced by anti-Semitic feelings. And our main purpose is to show to the world that we are Jews, we are conscious Jews, and we want to show that you must criticize Israel if you ..want anything at all good for the Jews in the world. Because what Israel is doing is destroying the Jewish world and the Jewish heritage”.

Obviously a lot of Jewish people agree with Hajo Meyer given the numbers that are visible at demonstrations against Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza in all parts of the world.

Ronan L Tynan

Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Truth First Casualty in War But Comedian Jon Stewart Brilliantly Burst the Illusion of Media Impartiality on Gaza

 

Ronan L Tynan

The apparent media bias in the coverage of Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza was brilliantly exposed by comedian Jon Stewart recently. Simply by lampooning the absurd way in which many networks try to present this egregious attack, making the TV reporters look like “cartoon” characters, he burst the illusion of impartiality. Cutting to the heart of the reason Israel’s campaign has been criticized as a rolling warcrime, he showed the lack of moral equivalence because Palestinian civilians: men, women and children have no where to flee, even if they do get “small bomb” warning on their homes.

He also showed just how relatively secure Israeli civilians are through an interview with Israel’s Ambassador to the United States who described how his fellow citizens can download a phone App which will warn them of a rocket attack and where they can go to take shelter. The contrast with how Palestinians find out they are about to be attacked could not be more shocking. Showing how those “little bombs” are fired at targeted homes to warn people to get out as they come under attack, and the criminally short time they get to escape could not be more chilling. But even if they do escape the bombing of their homes where can Palestinians flee? Stewart with appropriate dramatic effect showed that Israel and Egypt have Gaza’s borders sealed, underlining why Gazans – men, women and children might as well be slaughtered at will?

So does the BBC pass comedian Jon Stewart Gold Standard for Impartial Reporting on Gaza?

Does any media network?

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in a letter to the BBC offered an implied criteria to assess if the UK’s public service broadcaster was covering Israel’s pounding of Gaza fairly. The key test is does the BBC offer viewers “context and background” to allow them to even attempt to assess the legitimacy of Israel’s relentless aerial bombardment, and now potentially even more terrifying ground attack, that has already cost more than 260 lives in Gaza?

The reason Israeli spokesmen and women appear to get such indefensibly good coverage is because they are not asked about their illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and the creation of what many see as a virtual apartheid state. In other words, Gaza is under Israeli occupation and siege’ and unless that context is understood Israel merely seems to be seeking to defend itself instead of the brutal occupying force that has been indicted by many human rights organizations. And to underline just how brutal an occupying power Israel appears even to her very best friend the United States, no less a figure than Secretary of State, John Kerry recently warned Prime Minister Netanyahu of the danger of being seen as an ‘apartheid state’, an allegation normally made by campaigners and NGOs supporting the Palestinian people.

In the media coverage of any conflict or situation where warcrimes are being committed context is everything. Dr Norman Finkelstein’s very succinctly summed up that context the public never seem to receive: ‘Gaza has no army, air force or navy. Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world. Resistance to occupation is allowed under international law. Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.’ The Palestinians were turned into a refugee people when they were forced from their homes in 1948, and their humiliation has continued ever since.

Against that background is the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign right to call for an end to ‘biased coverage’ by the BBC?

Make up your own mind – key paragraphs from their open letter to the BBC follows:

“When you portray Israel’s shelling of a civilian population as a ‘response’ or ‘retaliation’ to rocket strikes from Gaza, we would like to remind you that these events flow from the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people from their homes and communities, with millions now corralled as refugees in the Gaza Strip. That initial injustice was compounded and continues with the ongoing occupation and siege.

“When you portray the occupier as the victim, and the occupied as the aggressor, we would like to remind you that resistance to occupation is a right under international law. And we would like you to remember that Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.

“And, finally, we would like to remind BBC journalists, when interviewing Israel’s spokespeople over the coming days, to ask the one question they have all failed to ask: “If Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, and allows the people of Palestine to live in freedom from Israeli domination, would that bring peace?””

Ronan L Tynan

Twitter: @RonanLTynan

 

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“You cannot use the murder of my grandmother by the Nazis as cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza” – Sir Gerald Kaufman MP

Ronan L. Tynan

The continuing murder of civilians in Gaza makes it very clear that most of Israel’s political elite, and especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, feel confident they can commit warcrimes against the Palestinians with impunity, because regardless of any criticism they might have to endure they can always count not only on US leaders, but most of the EU’s political elite as well?

Indeed, the apparent contempt Prime Minister Netanyahu shows for the lives of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, when talking about his pounding of Gaza offers no hope for peace in the Middle East, all the more alarming with the region already in flames?  In short, no room for optimism I thought until I saw a remarkable speech by Jewish MP Sir Gerald Kaufman in the House of Commons, in which he bluntly accused Israeli politicians of cynically trading on the Halocaust, and demanded that they not use his grandmother who was murdered by the Nazis as cover for their murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. “My grandmother did not die to povide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt of gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Halocaust as justification for the murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious but the lives of Palestinians do not count.”

Sir Gerald was speaking about the last Israeli invasion of Gaza and brilliantly exposed how Israel’s leaders have virtually inverted our perceptions so that we identify with the oppressor, so much so that even journalists have had their sense of outrage turned on the oppressed instead of exposing the injustices being done to them.

Sir Gerald went on: “On Skynews a few days ago the spokeswoman for the Israeli Army was asked about the killing, as of that time about 800 Palestinians, the total is now 1,000. She replied instantly, 500 of them were militatants. That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw Ghettoe could have been dismissed as militants?”

Referring to the then Israeli Foreign Minister Livni who said Israel would not negotiate with terrorists, Sir Gerald pointed out that her father was Chief Operations Officer of the Jewish terrorist group which had blown up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in which 91 people were killed including 4 Jews. “Israel was born out of jewish terrorism,” he asserted. He went on to detail other egregious Israeli terrorist atrocities in case we have any doubt about the validity of his thesis. To understand Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strategy this time in Gaza, Sir Gerald Kaufman’s speech is probably invaluable.

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