Anti-Israel reportage, post October 7th
by Robert Harris (December 2023)
For some weeks I have wished to convey to journalist Piers Morgan a concern about his coverage on the current conflict in Gaza, as presented on Britain’s ‘Piers Morgan Uncensored’ (Talk TV) because he had appeared to be approaching the matter with genuine sincerity and seemed to be troubled by the violence since October 7th. It should not be taken as a backhanded compliment to say that he had made an effort to be balanced in his coverage in attempting to address the prevailing narratives on both sides. Ordinarily this would be sufficient to allow the viewer and listener of the various iterations of Talk Radio/TV the opportunity to discern what is legitimate and what is not. However, in the aftermath of Morgan’s interview with Israeli government spokesman, Eylon Levy, on November 27th, it became clear that it would have been more appropriate to level criticism due to bias which would be easy to miss given his outrage at the likes of Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to describe Hamas as a terrorist organisation. However, he would in time adopt far less challenging stances toward those with equally contentious views.
With Eylon Levy, Morgan levelled criticism at Israel’s conduct, with expectations that are unreasonable in the fog of war, such as his demands that Israel ought to do an ongoing count of belligerents versus civilians. Morgan erroneously presented Hamas figures, post-conflict, as having historically being largely accurate. This is incorrect as, for example, with Operation Cast Lead where numbers were greatly inflated which reports from within Gaza would also reinforce.
It may also be the case that Morgan has either allowed himself to unduly project qualities onto the regional Arab-Palestinian populace and/or seem unable or perhaps unwilling to truly engage with genocidal anti-Semitism in its scope and various forms. For example, he attempted to foster dialogue by bringing together trenchant advocates for each side but acknowledged that the successes have, to say the least, been rather limited.
A pro-Israel advocate, Brooke Goldstein, praised some aspects of Morgan’s coverage but criticised him for seeming to be unaware of the nuances of anti-Israel propaganda. In Morgan’s show on November 7th, Ms Goldstein was rather unfairly stacked against three, including Morgan himself and Glenn Grenwald, but would nonetheless successfully make the point that he did not seem entirely cognisant of the nature of anti-Semitism. Indeed Greenwald is a strong advocate for such theorising.
Shehab Elrefai was caught on camera proudly tearing down Israeli hostage posters in Los Angeles some blocks from the Holocaust Museum in Los Angelus. Morgan was strongly critical of Elrefai in his show on the 10th of November but while he denied being anti-Semitic, Morgan missed his invocation that the people ascribed as Jews are in fact not Jews—they are what some refer to as the “Khazar Mafia” —supposedly pseudo-Jews which are behind destructive world events. This theorising is straight out of the Neo-NAZI playbook which allows such people to deny their anti-Semitism with a straight face.
In recent coverage, the failure of many commentators to contend with the anti-Semitism that has erupted in the aftermath of October 7th has been shocking, perhaps even to seasoned observers, where it is questioned even when it is in front of them—Isabel Webster, a presenter on the weekday morning GB News show asked what were the riotous hoards in Dagestan doing when seeking out the passengers of a flight from Tel Aviv? Another surprise is the extend of the credulity of the media, which includes those sympathetic to Israel, about intent behind the anti-Israel protests, e.g. one interview widely shared of two young women saying they didn’t know anything about October 7th even though the first was laying on sacrcasm rather thickly second woman was actually casting doubt on the accuracy of the reportage so was in effect denying or at least questioning what Hamas had done – yet they were continually paraded in the mainstream media as nothing more than ignorant youth! Morgan and his colleagues would fail to size up the dimensions of this ancient hatred increasingly played out on the streets of London.
Time and time again Morgan would refer to the question of proportionality in war, to assert that the figures (provided by the Hamas-controlled Gazan health ministry). Proportion in war is a relatively straight-forward affair that has long been enshrined in international law, and relates to two elemental questions: (1) is the target a legitimate military target rather than a soft civilian target, and (2) would the likely consequence of destroying the target be disproportionate to that of the military objective. We can saw without much risk of contradiction that carpet bombing Gaza would be a disproportionate response. However, letting Hamas, which is clearly an existential threat to Israel’s civilian populace, continue to function largely unfettered within its adjacent vicinity would also be a disproportionate response. Morgan would ask anti-Israel speakers what would be a proportionate response. Such people regard all responses to Hamas to be unacceptable. Witness, for example, the absurdity of Arab-Palestinian journalist Ahmed Alnaouq claiming that it is a war crime for any civilians to ever be killed in war, claiming to a disbelieving James Whale that he had asked a hundred anti-Israel protestors what “to the river to the sea” meant as a refutation to the common claim that the objectionable chant was annihilationist in its intent.
Ms Sharone Lifschitz, an artist whose elderly parents were kidnapped on October 7th, was interviewed by Morgan for his November 28th show where, rather shockingly, he returned to his bug-bear, whether Israel was acting disproportionately in its response to October 7th. This question was wholly inappropriate given the ongoing circumstances in which her elderly father remains in the hands of Hamas, and she became notably more distressed when answering the question.
Piers Morgan then immediately followed her interview with an uncritical chat with Dr Gabor Mate. Morgan has long been a fierce critic of Prince Harry and would be aware that that he was interviewed with Dr. Mate, noted as an extreme anti-Zionist who has defended Hamas. Mate has a considerable record defending anti-Semites while using the Livingstone Formulation against those that try to delegitimise the charge of anti-Semitism so it is especially odious to feature Mate in the aftermath of the rise of anti-Semitic incidents, post October 7th in a wholly uncritical manner.
Dr Gabor Mate’s contentions to Morgan were just as absurd. Here he repeatedly claimed that he was not justifying the October 7th atrocities but states it is a response to occupation, trauma, etc. He reminded the viewers that he castigated Israel in 1967 for supposedly seeking to steal Arab land but Israel clearly had casus belli for pre-emptively attacking Egypt and Syria https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/background-and-overview-six-day-war before Jordan also joined the fight. Israel would seek to return the great majority of the land it legitimately seized immediately after the war but the Arab League issued the Three No’s of Khartoum. Israel gave back the great majority of these lands (particularly the Sinai) and sought to return Gaza which in fact Sadat blocked. In what way does these historical facts prove Dr Mate correct?
The interview featured another of Dr Mate’s bizarre and repeated contentions, namely that the Israeli people are not aware of the supposedly dreadful conditions in which Arab-Palestinians normatively live. He claimed to have found this on his visits to the region. This is puzzling since the great majority of Israeli citizens are obligated to serve in the army!
Dr Gabor Mate described Gaza as occupied. Morgan agreed, stating that Israel can control the food and the essentials. Gaza is not occupied—rather it is under an embargo which clearly is a distinct condition that only escalated after Hamas commenced belligerency against Israel in 2008. An occupation requires effective control, militarily and otherwise so the idea that Hamas could launch a massive attack on Israel itself, where Israel has to painstakingly weed the terror group out of the fabric of Gaza, is a gross absurdity. Gaza does have its own resources, including a water aquifer which Hamas has failed to maintain and the simple fact of the matter is that Israel has every right under international law to lay siege on a territory due to belligerent activity. No country is compelled to supply anything to another under siege, as per Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention but rather has an obligation to facilitate the transfer of aid if it is not used in conflict. The distinction is repeated and cannot be more explicit.
Morgan has cited a tweet in 2014 where he sharply criticised Israel’s strikes on Gaza with Operation Protective Edge, in which he stated that It was a disproportionate response to the killing of three kidnapped Jewish teenagers. This was a common misapprehension at the time, spread by the media. In fact Hamas had greatly intensified its rocket fire on Israel when the Jewish state launched its reprisals.
Morgan also agreed with Dr Mate that Israel drove the Arab-Palestinians off their land in 1948, with Mate falsely claiming that no one contests this version of events. To Morgan, it would seem that Israel is a country born in sin and that the only divergence of opinion with Dr Mate concerns the ethical significance Hamas’ scale and brutality of reprisals on October 7th. Sadly, Morgan’s purported sense of balance would only seem to extend to coverage of October 7th, certainly not before, nor afterward.
Robert Harris: Not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name, Robert lives in Ireland, is a post-graduate student of philosophy and has contributed articles to various libertarian and politically conservative websites on a number of contentious political issues since 2010. A selection of his articles can also be found at eirael.blogspot.com
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