John Minto: Israeli attacks on Al Aqsa mosque – and the failings of media

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Nour Odeh, political analyst and former spokeswoman for the Palestinian National Authority, on Al Jazeera's Inside Story
Nour Odeh, political analyst and former spokeswoman for the Palestinian National Authority, on Al Jazeera's Inside Story . . . "it is relentless . . . and one factor that remains constant is that Israel can get away with all of this." Image: AL screenshot APR

COMMENTARY: By John Minto

The last fortnight has seen a series of brutal, deliberately provocative Israeli attacks on Palestinian worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Needless to say, Israel had no business interfering in Muslim worship at Al Aqsa, the third holiest shrine for Muslims after Mecca and Medina, and an area which is not under their authority or control.

Despite this, Israeli attacks on Al Aqsa have intensified in recent years as the apartheid state strives to undermine all aspects of Palestinian life in Jerusalem. It is applying ethnic cleansing in slow motion.

Inevitably missile attacks on Israel from Gaza and Southern Lebanon followed and Israel has reveled in once again trying to portray itself to the world as the victim.

There is an excellent 10-minute video in which former Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi more than held her own against a hostile BBC interviewer here.

There is also an excellent podcast produced by Al Jazeera which backgrounds the increase in violence in the Middle East.


Inside Story: What triggered the spike in violence?   Video: Al Jazeera

Nour Odeh – Political analyst and former spokeswoman for the Palestinian National Authority.

Uri Dromi – Founder and president of the Jerusalem Press Club and a former spokesman for the Israel government.

Francesca Albanese – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Further background on the politics around Al Aqsa is covered in this Al Jazeera podcast.

Initially reporting here in New Zealand was reasonable and clearly identified Israel as the brutal racist aggressors attacking Palestinian civilians at worship. However, within a couple of days media reporting deteriorated dramatically with the “normal” appalling reporting taking over — painting Palestinians as terrorists and Israel as simply enforcing “law and order”.

At the heart of appalling reporting for a long time has been the BBC which slavishly and consistently screws the scrum in Israel’s favour. The BBC does not report on the Middle East – it propagandises for Israel.

Journalist Jonathan Cook describes how the BBC coverage is enabling Israeli violence and UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, called out the BBC’s awful reporting in a tweet.

It’s not just the BBC of course. For example The New York Times has been called out for deliberately distorting the news to blame Palestinians for Al Aqsa mosque crisis.

It’s not reporting — it’s propaganda!

Why is BBC important for Aotearoa New Zealand?
Unfortunately, here in Aotearoa New Zealand our media frequently and uncritically uses BBC reports to inform New Zealanders on the Middle East.

Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand, our state broadcasters, are the worst offenders.

For example here are two BBC stories carried by RNZ this past week here and here. They cover the deaths of three Jewish women in a terrorist attack in the occupied West Bank.

The media should report such killings but there is no context given for the illegal Jewish-only settlements at the heart in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s military occupation across all Palestine, the daily ritual humiliation and debasement of Palestinians or its racist apartheid policies towards Palestinians — or as Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem describes it “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”.

Neither are there Palestinian voices in the above reports — they are typically absent from most Middle East reporting, or at best muted, compared to extensive quoting from racist Israeli leaders.

The BBC is happy to report the “what?” but not the “why?”

Needless to say neither Radio New Zealand, nor TVNZ, has provided any such sympathetic coverage for the many dozens of Palestinians killed by Israel this year — including at least 16 Palestinian children. To the BBC, RNZ and TVNZ, murdered Palestinian children are simply statistics.

RNZ and TVNZ say they cannot ensure to cover all the complexities of the Middle East in every story and that people get a balanced view over time from their regular reporting.

This is not true. Their reliance on so much systematically-biased BBC reporting, and other sources which are often not much better, tells a different story.

For example, references to Israel as an apartheid state — something attested to by every credible human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — are always absent from any RNZ or TVNZ reporting and yet this is critical to help people understand what is going on in Palestine.

Neither are there significant references to international law or United Nations resolutions — the tools which provide for a Middle East peace based on justice — the only peace possible.

Unlike their reporting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, RNZ and TVNZ reporting on the Middle East leaves people confused and ready to blame both sides equally for the murder and mayhem unleashed by Israel on Palestinians and Palestinian resistance to the Israeli military occupation and all that entails.

John Minto is a political activist and commentator, and spokesperson for Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa. This article is republished from the PSNA newsletter with the author’s permission.

"Divide and Dominate" . . . how Israel's apartheid policies and repression impact on Palestinians
“Divide and Dominate” . . . how Israel’s apartheid policies and repression impact on Palestinians. Image: Visualising Palestine
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