The first sentence in Patrick Cockburn’s latest Indy op-ed provides enough insight into the ideological myopia of the British far-left to properly contextualize the rest of the piece.
To many readers the New York Times coverage of the war in Gaza comes across as neutered or as having a pro-Israeli bias
The risible claim (easily refuted by a large volume of CAMERA’s reports on the NYT’s coverage of Israel) introduces readers to the main narrative being advanced:
But not to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, who lambasts the paper for failing “to mention that a million Israelis were in bomb shelters yesterday as 100 rockets were fired at our civilian population.”
Mr Dermer is considered so close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has been called “Bibi’s brain”. He is also a former student and employee of Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist who produced a confidential booklet in 2009, promptly leaked, advising Israeli spokesmen how best to manipulate American and European public opinion
It is a sophisticated document based on wide-ranging opinion polls, suggesting, for instance, that the removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank should be denounced as “a kind of ethnic cleansing”. Dr Luntz stresses that spokesmen must demonise Hamas, but above all emphasise that they feel for the sufferings of Palestinians as well as Israelis. As a sample of what they should say, he gives: “The day will come when Israeli children and Palestinian children will grow up together, play together, and work together side-by-side not just because they have to but because they want to.”
It’s as if Cockburn truly believes, and is asking readers to believe, that only Israel uses public opinion research to craft an effective message.
However, it gets worse:
The problem about this approach is that it sounds particularly hypocritical when, according to Unicef, 230 children have been killed in Gaza, an average of ten a day, and 2,000 have been wounded by Israeli bombs, shells and bullets. Israeli spokesmen are now denying their responsibility for the most notorious and televised atrocities such as the strike on the UN hospital [sic] last week…This is an old PR tactic, though not one recommended by Dr Luntz, which is sometime referred to as “first you say no story, then you say old story”. In other words, deny everything in the teeth of the evidence on day one and, by the time definitive proof of the massacre comes through, nobody notices when you have to admit responsibility.
He’s likely referring to the deaths of 15 Palestinians at a UN school (not a hospital) in Beit Hanoun, the one which a recently released video strongly suggests was not the result of an IDF shell.
Further, Cockburn has it completely backwards. As we revealed in a post on July 28th, the UK media almost universally blamed Israel on the strike, and most media outlets haven’t updated their stories (or published new ones) even after the IDF released footage showing that their errant shell hit an empty school courtyard, and couldn’t have killed the 15 children, as Palestinians claimed.
In other words, it’s the media – in classic hit ‘n run style journalism – which has ‘moved on’ after rushing to judge Israel. a dynamic which is the opposite of what Cockburn’s claims.
A problem here is that propaganda that works in a short war comes back to haunt you in a longer one. This is now happening in Gaza. Israeli air and artillery strikes and Hamas mortars and rockets are often presented as if they balanced each other out in terms of lethality. But the most important statistic here is that some 1,100 Palestinians have been killed as opposed to three civilians in Israel.
First, Cockburn conveniently neglects to note, in addition to the three civilians, 53 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the war. As far as the “lack of symmetry”, it does indeed exist, but not in the manner Cockburn describes. While Israeli strikes are aimed at legitimate military targets in Gaza, Hamas rockets are exclusively fired at Israeli civilians (all of which represent war crimes), and intentionally use their own civilians as human shields (another war crime).
The moral imbalance between the two sides couldn’t be starker.
Despite his tutoring by Dr Luntz, Mr Dermer only speaks these days to the converted. Attending a Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington he replied to protesters who called him a “war criminal” by saying that “the truth is that the Israeli Defence Forces should be given a Nobel Peace Prize”. Stuff like this may explain why a Gallup poll shows that among Americans aged between 18 and 29 some 51 per cent said Israel’s actions were unjustified while only 23 per cent said they were.
Cockburn neglects to mention that this same Gallup poll showed that a plurality of Americans, representing all age groups, believe Israel’s actions to be justified. Conversely, when asked about Hamas’s actions, 70% believe they are unjustified, while only 11% believe them to be justified. Such results are consistent with Gallup polling about Americans support for Israel over the past four decades, consistently showing overwhelming bi-partisan support for the Jewish State.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Indy chose to Tweet Cockburn’s op-ed using the following text and graphic: