Following on from yesterday’s withering look at Irish media coverage (or lack thereof) of Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan’s visit to Gaza as part of a wider tour of the Middle East, I am compelled to once again put finger to keyboard to take investigate at two aspects of this visit. Firstly, the ongoing coverage in the Irish Times and, secondly (in a later post), dissecting what the Minister has said during the trip.
In the first instance, it’s important to at least acknowledge that the Irish Times has deemed this visit to Gaza, Israel and the West Bank as being newsworthy enough to have run three pieces on it, all written by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic. Contrast this with, for example, the total absence of this news from the Irish Independent – which did find the webspace for a story about something that happened in Israel, and which for much of today was the second item it the paper’s RSS newsfeed; the headline of this story was “Israeli divers find medieval coins“. Big news in archeological circles, to be sure, but more newsworthy than an Irish Ministerial visit to he region? Surely not.
The Irish Times appears to be the only Irish media outlet with any coverage of yesterday’s visit to Tel Aviv. So let’s look at what the ‘paper of record’ tells us in its piece entitled “Israeli minister cites ‘difficulties’ with Irish public opinion“.
(Note: I will leave the piece entitled “Charlie Flanagan says time running out for Israeli-Palestinian pact“, which is largely just quotes from the Minister, until a later posting looking at the meaning of the visit in a political context.)
Headline framing aside, the first thing to note is that when you open the page online the first thing we the reader is presented with is a 90 second video of Charlie Flanagan at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum. We see him express shock at the victims of the Nazi genocide (“all ages… very, very powerful”), lay a wreath at the eternal flame, and then deliver a statement saying, “It isn’t sufficient for us to just come here and see and witness, I believe it’s essential that we redouble our efforts throughout the world to resist and combat anti-Semitism in all forms, thank you”.
While this visit to Yad Vashem is no doubt interesting, and worth mentioning, it is hardly the most important aspect of the visit. Indeed, just about every head of state who visits Israel also visits the museum. It is curious, however, that there was no similar video made by the Irish Times during Flanagan’s visits to Gaza or the West Bank. Surely a video of Flanagan surveying the wreckage of Gaza, which he calls “truly shocking”, would be impactful and newsworthy? We know, from the byline on this piece, that Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is “in Tel Aviv”, yet yesterday’s piece did not say “Ruadhán Mac Cormaic in Gaza”. Why did Mr. Mac Cormaic, an accredited journalist who has visited Gaza previously and is based only an hour away from the border, not also accompany the Minister to Gaza? Did he deem the visit not newsworthy enough, or was there perhaps no budget from the Irish Times to do so? Perhaps we will never know, the the fact is that he didn’t, even though both he and the newspaper deemed the visit at least worth a 550 word piece yesterday. Incidentally, Flanagan also laid a wreath a at former Palestinian Authority President Yaser Arafat’s Tomb in Ramallah – but there was no video of this, not even a still photo, even though the interview with the Minister also published on the website leads with a photo of the Yad Vashem wreath laying.
Then we get to the article itself. It opens by referring to Israel as “the Jewish state” – a thoroughly disputable claim offensive to many Jews around the world, not to mention the Palestinians who reject this terminology applied to their homeland. A more accurate description would be “the Zionist state”.
Then, seven of the first eight paragraphs are given over to an Israeli state spokesperson, and the eight gives us some background information on Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which states:
Mr Lieberman, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party and lives in an Israeli settlement, has previously said he would be open to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a regional agreement but his controversial variant of the plan envisages the transfer of Israeli-Arabs – who amount to a fifth of Israel’s population – into a new Palestinian state.
While being essentially factual, this paragraph omits – as many Irish Times reports do – that Israeli settlements should be referred to as being “illegal Israeli settlements“, preferably followed by the words “on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank”. Also, what the Irish Times refers to as a “controversial variant of the plan”, is in fact much more than “controversial”; forcible population transfer is illegal, as is the forced stripping of citizenship. Finally, the use of the phrase Israeli-Arabs to describe the self-identified Palestinian Citizens of Israel is highly problematic. Such terminology denies this group – 20% of the population of Israel – their self-defined national-ethnic identity as Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, assigning them instead an identity designated and propagated by the Israeli state and Zionism.
Okay, so maybe we need eight paragraphs from the Israeli perspective – it’s news after all, and Lieberman is – for now at any rate – one of the major players. Surely we will get a similar smattering of quotes from the Palestinian side, as Flanagan is also visiting the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah…
On the third day of his tour of the Middle East, Mr Flanagan travelled from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, where he met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian prime minister, Rami Hamdallah.
Oh. That’s it? We are told that Flanagan met two Palestinian officials. We are not informed what they talked about, what the Palestinian reaction was. Palestinians are merely denied a voice in this piece. Presumably Mr. Mac Cormaic did not travel to Ramallah either.
Then, to end with, there are four paragraphs quoting Irish official sources.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sum total of the Irish Times coverage. Nowhere in any of the three pieces are Palestinians – officials, civil society representatives, or ordinary people – quoted or otherwise given a voice. The sources are weighted in the following order (ranked by number of paragraphs in which source is cited) of Irish (28): Israeli (7): Palestinian (0). In the eyes of the Irish Times – Ireland’s so-called ‘paper of record’ – Palestinians are simply not worth talking to, their opinions are of zero value.