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A MEMO analysis of the British media coverage of the US-Israel relationship "crisis"

April 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Finally it seems that the scales are falling from the eyes of the British media and they are seeing Israel for what it truly is; an out of control, rampaging bully. The British press, with a few notable exceptions, rarely pays any real attention to what is happening on the ground in the Palestine – Israel but it seems that they are finally starting to sit up and take notice. This in itself is an indicator of the magnitude of the current crisis unfolding in that part of the world.

From the titles alone of some of today’s broadsheet editorials one can see what sort of stance people in the mainstream British press are now urging US President Obama to take: “Obama must be robust with Israel” says the Financial Times (FT); “Obama must not back down” says the Guardian. There is a clear sentiment emerging that the time has finally come for America to step up to the plate and to take a firm stance against Israel who has now “crossed the line”, according to the FT.

This has come on the back of another blatant Israeli insult to America last week. Within hours of US Vice President Joe Biden visiting Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, in which he was again pushing for the resumption of peace talks, Israel announced that it is to build another 1,600 illegal homes for Jewish Settlers in Jerusalem. This announcement, following America’s repeated calls for a halt to all such construction, has been called “a slap in the face” of America, a “poke in the eye”. Israel has, once again, severely wounded American national pride and is consequently ruining America’s image as a strong, independent nation. For America to be treated with such distain by a supposedly subservient, dependent country who is receiving billions of dollars of US aid annually is unthinkable and decidedly ungrateful and many are now urging America to call Israel out on its behaviour and attitude.

The FT’s excellent editorial today also touches upon how Israel’s actions “fly in the face of US national interests.” The Guardian similarly makes the point that there will be a loss of face for America if Obama is seen to blink twice. He has already backed down from the settlement issue once before and must not do so again if America is to retain any credibility at all. However, it too acknowledges that more is at stake than just America’s pride. “To make fresh demands and back down again would spell the end of the talks and, possibly, the two-state solution itself” warns the Guardian.

In fact, the Guardian goes so far as to suggest “another election” in Israel in order to bring about a change in the current policy towards Palestine. “Mr Obama has the power to ram the point home. And if it means Netenyahu’s coalition falls apart, so be it.”

The Telegraph however, a traditional sympathiser of the Israeli position, takes a conspicuously different but not surprising approach. They focus on the “dangers of Israeli rift” and argue that “Washington’s reaction is in danger of becoming disproportionate.” They argue that Israel is “an important regional ally – and one whose support is crucial to resolving more important global issues, such as tackling Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” The FT also point to a report by a team under General Petraeus in January which stated that “Israel’s intransigence threatened US standing in the Middle East.” However, while it is undoubtedly the case that America’s stance on Palestine and Israel will either hamper or aid its efforts elsewhere in the Muslim world, it is important to realise that the problems between Palestinians and Israelis are so deeply entrenched and complex that this is not the type of dispute that can be solved by quick-fix responses just so that problems elsewhere in the world can be dealt with easier by America. Substance and justice in Palestine must not be sacrificed for the sake of expedience.

Israeli delusions

The extent to which the Israeli perspective on the entire issue is skewed and deluded was highlighted when the FT said that “Ehud Barak, the defence minister and former prime minister, said last month, without a two-state solution, Israel would become an ‘apartheid state'”. It is not clear if Barak actually understands what an apartheid state is because Israel, right now, is by very definition an apartheid state. It is a state that segregates some sections of the community from others on the grounds of race and religion. It has separate application of the law for Palestinians and Israelis; and furthermore the Apartheid or Separation wall is a most blatant physical manifestation of that segregation and division. If this is not apartheid, then what is it?

The British media itself is starting to slowly shatter the Israeli myth as well. Even this morning’s FT editorial referred to “the way Israel has systematically and illegally colonised occupied land.” The fact that people in the mainstream British media are now openly referring to the Israeli colonisation of Palestine is a breathtaking development and the FT hit the nail on the head by describing it as such. The British press is slowly waking up to the harsh reality of the Israeli state. It is an apartheid state exercising grossly outdated colonialist policies in a world where such practices should long ago have been utterly rejected as archaic and unacceptable.

A humanitarian crisis

It is not just a political crisis that is unfurling in the region, but a humanitarian one of immense proportions as well. While the press were quick to pick up on the devastation that befell Gaza as a result of the Israeli led massacre in the region 15 months ago, in the time since then they seem to have lost interest and moved on to other often more trivial and frivolous stories. However, as Israel is inciting what may very well be the beginning of the third Intifada in Palestine this week, people are again slowly turning their focus back to the region. What they are finding is a Palestinian population who have been under an illegal Israeli siege for over 1000 days, the illegal Israeli demolitions of thousands of Palestinian homes leaving thousands of Palestinians homeless and having to resort to living in tents; an environmental crisis in which only 5% of water is fit for human consumption partly caused by Israel’s dumping of toxic waste into Palestinian land and water and so on. Only by facing the facts and describing Israel for what it truly is can any real prospect of peace ever be sought, and finally some elements of the British press are starting to do so. Let’s hope that this is a trend that continues.