Charlie Flanagan in Gaza (Photo: UNRWA)
Of the three Irish media outlets that deemed it newsworthy to mention the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan’s, visit to Gaza yesterday, none of them deemed it necessary to go beyond reporting what was in the government press release on the matter.
Well that’s not entirely true, while the Irish Examiner managed to omit entirely that he was in Gaza, and just reported the €4.7m blood money thrown at UNRWA, the Irish Times gave a little bit of background, noting that:
“[Last summer] Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza. More than 10,000 Gazans and some 700 Israelis were wounded while some 20,000 homes in the strip were estimated to have been left uninhabitable by shelling and air strikes.”
Let’s deconstruct these two sentences which say so much (about the Irish Times‘ method) while saying very little (about what happened in Gaza last summer).
1) “Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead”
No mention of the Israeli ground invasion, which was brutal and saw many Palestinian civilians being killed by Israeli troops on the ground, not merely by means of bombardment.
2) “left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza.”
Why not give the figures, for what does “the great majority” mean in real terms? The UN (via UNOCHA) gives the figure of 2,205 killed (1,483, or 67%, civilians). The Palestinian Center for Human Rights gives the figure of 2,191 killed (1,660, or 75%, civilians). So two reputable human rights monitoring NGOs give the figures for Palestinians killed as being in the low 2000s.
The official figures from the Israeli government meanwhile give the figures for killed Israelis as 72 (6, or 8%, civilians).
Taking the average between the UN and PCHR numbers, we thus have 2,198 dead Palestinians stacking up against 72 dead Israelis. In percentage terms that is 97% and 3%. And when we take civilians (again using the average) we have 1,572 Palestinian civilians and 6 Israeli civilians – in percentage terms 99.6% to 0.4%.
These are the grim realities the Irish Times hides with it’s bland statement that the “the great majority of the [dead were] Palestinians in Gaza”.
It is also important in understanding that when the Irish Times says “rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza”, even after we take the time deconstruct the actual figures, this phrase could potentially be understood to mean that “many” or “the majority” of the dead on the Israeli side were caused by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Yet the breakdown provided by the Israeli government shows that 92% of the Israelis killed were military personnel – this tells us that in fact the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the military was besieging the enclave.
A similar massaging of facts is noticeable when the Irish Times cites the figure of “some 700 Israelis” being wounded, with the same qualifier of being caused “by rocket attacks on Israel”. The Israeli government gives the official Israeli wounded figure as 556 (“some 550”, not “some 600”, but let’s ignore that). Of those, 496 (82%) were military operatives, while 87 (18%) were civilians, which tells us, once again, that the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the Israeli military was besieging the enclave, not merely by “rocket attacks on Israel”.
The piece also helpfully tells us that:
“[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region while building infrastructure and maintaining camps. During the war in Gaza last summer, its schools gave shelter to hundreds of thousands of families forced to flee their homes. Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed.”
So let’s briefly deconstruct that too.
1) “[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region”
These Palestinians are merely “displaced… across the region”. How they became displaced, what forces compelled them to become displaced, what their rights as displaced people are and who keeps them displaced is all a mystery, and seemingly irrelevant. As is the fact that the “great majority” (some 80%) of people living in Gaza are in fact refugees and their descendants from the 1948 Zionist ethic cleansing and colonisation of Palestine that gave birth to the State of Israel.
2) “Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed”
This is essentially accurate, but also leaves out a giant important fact about homelessness in Gaza. Yes, UNRWA buildings are currently sheltering some 12,000 people – but this is only about 10% of the total population that is still homeless almost six months after the end of the Israeli assault. Why are over 100,000 Gazans homeless, thousands of them living in UNRWA shelters? This question is neither asked nor answered, but the reason is of course the illegal Israeli imposed, Egyptian-enforced, and UN-facilitated siege of Gaza.
That only three mainstream media outlets in Ireland felt that the Minister for Foreign Affairs’ visit to an area of the world that was headline news half a year ago was newsworthy, and that all played up the “Ireland gives almost €5 million to Palestinian refugees” angle that framed the government press release, rather than some other angle – for example, the continued devastation of the region, the ongoing illegal siege, the routine Israeli ceasefire violations and so on – tells us that the mainstream Irish media continues to be part of the problem. The silence and the elisions represent, quite simply, complicity with the ongoing Israeli policies of occupation, colonisation, war crimes and apartheid.
If you’re interested, here are the three pieces, and the official Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and UNRWA press releases on the matter. Note that RTE, the Irish regime broadcaster, did not deem this visit newsworthy, which places it in the unenviable position of being worse at news than the Chinese regime news service Xinhuanet, which did pick it up:
Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/government-pledges-4-7m-to-help-palestinian-refugees-1.2106185
Irish Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/government-announces-nearly-euro5m-in-funding-for-palestinian-people-662459.html
DFA Press Release: https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/press-releases/press-release-archive/2015/february/funding-for-the-palestinians-announced/