by Robert Harris
Ireland’s public service broadcaster, RTE, featured reports of the visit to Ireland of young soccer players from Gaza, organised by trenchant anti-Israel group ‘Gaza Action Ireland’, on their premier ‘6.1 News’, and 9 PM News shows, on the 31st July 2016.
The report, by journalist Carole Coleman, featured contributions by the football players, as a man identified as a ‘Palestinian’, an organiser (one Zoe Lawlor), and Dr. Ahmad Abdelrazek, the Palestinian Authority ambassadorial representative to Ireland, but no one representing an Israeli stance. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) upheld a complaint against Near FM in 2013, after the radio station featured an uncritical report of an event held by ‘Gaza Action Ireland’. The slot was unsuccessfully defended by Near FM as simply restating the views of the group. Coleman (and RTE editors) produced a similarly one-sided presentation.
The RTE report featured the risible propaganda. The PA representative claimed that Gaza is 'a big prison'. The news presenters in both programmes claimed in the introduction that Gaza is occupied: 'The children who live under occupation…', even though it is firmly understood that the IDF withdrew in 2005, and Israel in no way fulfills the criterion for occupation of the territory – hence wars with the region since then.
The most emotive (and perhaps most contentious) feature of the report was the implicit claim that Gazan children are starved, even though the visiting team actually beat the local players of Ballybrack, Dublin, by two goals to nil! An Arab man remarked on the size differential of the children and teenagers. He added that 'they are not growing normally'. Carole Coleman also stated that 'though small for their age, the Gazans showed stature on the pitch…' The RTE report at that point featured footage of a particularly small player, in the divergent Gazan contingent, weaving through several fairly large Irish lads, which reinforces the starvation narrative. However, the reporter failed to note that the players were not of a reasonably uniform age group, as one might normally expect. The fourteen players are aged between nine and fourteen years. Israel facilitates the mass transit of food supplies in into Gaza on a near-24/7 basis, in rather considerable contrast to Assad’s conduct next door in Syria, toward his own people living in the rebel-held territories, and does not proscribe foodstuffs.
Carole Coleman added that the Gazan footballers 'came through multiple Israeli checkpoints, into Jordan, to come here'. Coleman appears to have a real issue with Israeli checkpoints, designed prevent violence and terrorism, since she even described checkpoints put up last October in Jerusalem as 'blockades'. Last August, she also presented security measures at the Temple Mount as part of a chain of 'reprisals'.
Whilst RTE coverage described the event as part of a ten-day 'cultural' exchange, the event was run by ‘Gaza Action Ireland’, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that the visit is in fact an action with a substantively politicised intent. The tone of Gaza Action Ireland's own features on the tournament demonstrate that the games are a cover for a series of political events, with an intent to demonise Israel. Whilst Gaza Action Ireland are fully within their rights to criticise Israel, it is misleading to present the events as anything other than political activism. Gaza Action Ireland played a significant role in the substantive Irish flotilla efforts to break the legal embargo so imposed on Gaza to limit Hamas, an EU-designated terrorist group, from re-arming more effectively, after assaulting the Jewish State's civilian populace. The group run street protests, advocate for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), and continue to seek the expulsion of Israel’s/ ambassador(s). The group has been criticised for ignoring the plight of Arab-Palestinians in Syria so can justifiably be deemed ‘anti-Israel’ rather than ‘pro-Palestinian’.
The expressions of Gaza Action Ireland’s leading members exemplify the group’s staunch political extremism. For example, in response to a letter describing the extent to which women and religious minorities are persecuted in the Islamic Middle East, Zoe Lawlor responded by claiming she has been treated better, as a woman, by Arab-Palestinians than by Israelis, while using words like ‘resistance’ perhaps inferring a justification of terrorism, including the Intifada-esque violence visited on Jewish civilians and security personnel, late last year. Academic Dr. Kevin McCarthy described her narratives, and other BDS advocates, as fundamentally motivated by destructive intent.