Channel 4's Dispatches: shoddy, shallow and shameful
Author: Open Forum
Date posted: Tuesday 17 Nov 2009
by Jonathan Boyd, Acting Director of JPR
Apparently, according to Channel 4’s Dispatches programme on Monday night, there are some wealthy Jews out there bent on influencing British government policy on Israel. What a shocking finding. I wonder what they will uncover next? Lobbyists trying to influence government health policy perhaps? Pressure groups seeking to change government policy on the war in Iraq? Business leaders trying to alter government thinking on economic policy?
Aside from the shoddy research and the barely-concealed antisemitic undertones (the idea of a shady, morally repugnant 'cabal' of Jews seeking to control the world is one of the classic antisemitic myths), it was this lack of context that was most disturbing about the programme. There are numerous lobbying groups working with government and the media, trying to influence policy and opinion on a wide range of issues. Some of these even try to represent the Palestinian cause. There are also numerous Jewish leaders and philanthropists who support and invest in Palestinian and Israeli causes, including the single-largest pro-Israel charity in the UK, and, according to the Jewish Chronicle, the single-most influential philanthropist in the British Jewish community. Jewish leaders differ on how best to support Israel, and the opinions range from unquestioning support to intense criticism. But Channel 4 struggled to include any of this contextual framing in its hour-long documentary, presumably because it might have in some way undermined its highly spurious argument.
But then context is always the problem. There was no effort throughout the programme to contextualize Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. There was no mention of the Israeli government’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and the fact that, after that, Hamas used the territory to launch countless randomly-targeted missile attacks on Israeli towns and villages. In its analysis of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, it failed to mention the thousands of missiles Hezbollah had assembled with Iranian and Syrian support on Israel’s northern border, which it used with great effect to terrorize the Israeli population.
Perhaps most importantly, it failed to mention in any detail why some Jewish leaders may feel compelled to support Israel. Leaving aside the politics of the region, the notion that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish People, or that Israel is the only nation state in the world in which Judaism is mainstream, Jewish culture is the norm and the Hebrew language is widely-spoken and celebrated, were all ignored. Perhaps, just perhaps, these are the reasons that underpin the support of Jewish leaders and philanthropists.
But much easier to trot out the old antisemitic myth. After all, the public deserves to know what these nasty, rich Jews are up to. And what could possibly be wrong in uncovering the truth? There cannot conceivably be a connection between the way Israel and Jews are presented in the media and antisemitism on the streets of Britain.
Or so Alan Rusbridger would have us believe. In the documentary, he maintained that he found it 'difficult to believe' that any journalistic coverage of events in Israel could result in acts of violence against Jews on the streets of Britain. Well, allow me to present myself as Exhibit A. In April 2002, at the height of the Palestinian intifada, media reports quickly began circulating that a massacre had been committed by the Israel Defence Forces in Jenin in the West Bank. Rumours circulated that hundreds of Palestinians had been killed. The BBC suggested 150. Saeb Erekat, interviewed on CNN, claimed 500. Yasser Abed Rabbo intimated 900. The overarching impression was that the IDF had clearly committed a horrific atrocity.
On the following Saturday morning, I was walking to synagogue, wearing my kippah (skull-cap) in the north London suburb of Finchley. On the way there, I was punched in the face by a young man. It was an entirely unprovoked assault. We were simply crossing paths, when he delivered a sudden, forceful, right hook. Taken aback, my first response was to ask him why he had done it. 'That’s what happens to Jews', he responded, 'when they behave like that'.
That is the only time in my life that I have been a victim of an antisemitic assault. It is, I suppose, possible that it had nothing to do with the events in Jenin at the time, but I find that very difficult to believe. My attacker saw me as a legitimate target directly linked to the so-called 'massacre'.
In the final analysis, it was established that no such massacre took place in Jenin. The United Nations report into the fighting eventually concluded that, in actual fact, 52 Palestinians were killed, at least half of whom were militants. 23 Israeli soldiers were also killed. Of course, any loss of life – on either side of the conflict – is tragic, and serious mistakes have been made by both Palestinian and Israeli leaders over the years. But the way in which the conflict is reported and analyzed has a direct bearing on levels of antisemitism. And, thanks to Channel 4 and Dispatches, we can now assume that those levels will rise yet again.
Comments on this entry (10)
Please note that views expressed in these comments do not represent the views of JPR.
I haven\'t seen the programme but it brings together two interesting topics which are the role of government lobbyists and the israel/palestine conflict. well you could call them interesting topics.. or intractable problems.
My personal view is that I abhor brazen partizan behaviour (being glaswegian I see alot of it). The israel/palestine situation brims with brazen partizan behaviour. Who has the moral high ground? The israelis whose inflicted deaths via military action are orders of magnitude more than those incurred, or the palestinians who advocate use of suicide bombs and hide in the civilian population so that when israel attacks they will always kill civilians (and thus israel incurs the \'wrath\' of the international community)?
I don\'t know the answer, I wish I did. The british occupation of ireland eventually ended in my opinion because both sides got tired of killing. maybe the same will happen here ia 100 yrs or so?
David McMillan - Thursday 10 Dec 2009
\"In April 2002, at the height of the Palestinian intifada, media reports quickly began circulating that a massacre had been committed by the Israel Defence Forces in Jenin in the West Bank. Rumours circulated that hundreds of Palestinians had been killed. The BBC suggested 150. Saeb Erekat, interviewed on CNN, claimed 500. Yasser Abed Rabbo intimated 900...
In the final analysis, it was established that no such massacre took place in Jenin. The United Nations report into the fighting eventually concluded that, in actual fact, 52 Palestinians were killed, at least half of whom were militants.\"
During ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ in Jenin in 2002, there was genuine confusion about the number of casualties (there, like in Gaza, Israel restricted media access). On 9 April, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz published a story describing how Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was “very worried” about the international reaction to events in Jenin, “where more than 100 Palestinians have already been killed in fighting”, according to the newspaper. Apparently, Peres was referring to the battle in private “as a ‘massacre’”.
The next day, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat appeared on CNN and estimated that the number of Palestinians killed since the start of Operation Defensive Shield across the West Bank “could reach 500” (he was not talking about Jenin specifically). Meanwhile, a same day report on the BBC noted that “Israel says 150 Palestinians died in Jenin”. On 12 April, an IDF spokesperson suggested “hundreds of Palestinians” killed in Jenin, a figure later clarified to mean dead and injured.
Ironically, in citing the UN report on what happened in Jenin by way of some kind of vindication, you neglect to mention that the Israeli government obstructed and blocked that very same investigation - why, if there was nothing to hide?
Human Rights Watch published a report in May 2002, concluding that “many of the civilian deaths” they documented “amounted to unlawful or willful killings by the IDF”, with some cases amounting “to summary executions”. HRW said that the IDF used Palestinians as human shields and employed “indiscriminate and excessive force”, and that from an estimated 52 Palestinian deaths, at least 22 were civilians “including children, physically disabled, and elderly people”.
Physicians for Human Rights reported on 30 April 2002 that 38 percent of all reported fatalities in Jenin were “children under 15 years, women and men over the age of 50”.
We have no problem calling half a dozen victims in a high school shooting a ‘massacre’, or indeed suicide bombings inside Israel. But Palestinians cannot be victims of a massacre; only ‘collateral damage’. 96822
Ben White - Thursday 19 Nov 2009
The programme on Channel4 was one sided, with the exception of Lorna Fitzimmons, no proisreal view was presented. The constant pictures of \"suffering\" in Gaza had no connection with the Israeli lobby really. The hate on the face and voice of Peter Oborne was quite obvious.
Shame on Channel4 to present such a biased programme.
Janos Fisher - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
That channel 4 programme was so one sided that I think a prosecution for inciting racial hatred would stand a reasonable chance of success. I do hope someone more eloquent than I will petition the DPP to bring a case. a6dfa
trevor - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
In any event, it is high time that Israel, or its advocates exploded the myth that the occupation of the west. Bank is illegal. Thi is not a case of an unprovoked seizure like Turkey\'s of Northern Cypress (and about which we hear little in the media) but in this instance Israel was attacked from the West Bank and is absolutely entiled under International law to occupy so as to end the act on Soverign territory.
The real problem about Israel \"giving back\" the West bank is that in 1988 jordan relinquished ALL claims to the territory despite it having being mandated to Jordan way back in the 40s.
The idea that the West Bank occupation is illegal is a piece of propaganda so loudy shouted that people have come to believe it all over the world but it isn\'t in fact so. And really this needs to be fleshed out in the public domain. 960be
trevor leigh - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
Any time anybody dares to criticize Israeli politics cries of \"this is antisemitism!\" appear. I am Jewish myself and I dare to speak up for human rights in Israel. I am ashamed of what Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. Just what was the justification for \"Cast Lead\" which resulted in 1400 Palestinian civilians killed, hundreds of children included? e1a01
Inge Trott - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
I am disturbed this artice starts by suggesting the friends of Israel are doing no worse than the private health lobby. Since this lobby is trying to de-rail both the NHS and the Obama health reforms in the pursuit of private profit, this suggests that Jonathan Boyd\'s moral compass has come adrift somewhere. 84e1e
Prof T A Acton - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
Yet another tedious diversion piece from the fact of the 40 YEAR OCCUPATION and all the sordid murder, land theft and oppression that go alongside it. I can tell you that speaking as a proud jewish person that no person who holds dear genuine jewish values can be anything but disgusted at the policies of the state of Israel. Jews have never had it so good in all of recorded history so let\'s get over the victim mentality and move on into the post enlightenment world. 736f2
Aaron Dover - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
Inge - You are quite right to be ashamed, particularly for Trotting out the same old arab lies about 1400 civilians killed when the overwhelming number of casualties were Hamas terrorists. As you show no sympathy for the many thousands of Israeli victims, please don\'t try to make us believe that you\'re a humanitarian. b6497
Ben Chaim - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
The programme was disgraceful, insidiously suggesting the existence of a perfidious Jewish community, plotting, conspiratorial and rich - seamlessly dirceting UK foreign policy. Its echoes of the evil Protocols of The Elders of Zion was clear to see as it opened its diatribe with phrases as \'policy influenced by supportes of a foreign power\'. The diabolical invective posted on to the Channel 4 blog page following the film, vividly demonstrates the irresponsible nature of this appalling jounalism. It appears deliberately to have reignited the age old wicked stereotype of the perfidious jew - a calumny destined to continue under Oborne\'s leadership. 05819
Trevor Gee - Wednesday 18 Nov 2009
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