The previous week was in many ways one of the worst in the Middle East. The plight of Gaza was a continuous story on Press TV of Iran. The BBC, CNN and many other news channels devoted some air time to the wholesale slaughter of defenceless Palestinians by the military wing of the Chosen People. In a certain programme one of the anchors on the BBC didn’t transmit a great deal of limpid thought down the lens. While interviewing a spokesperson for Hamas he kept interrupting the Arab with a one-liner thrown in at regular intervals, “Yes… but the Palestinians keep firing rockets into Israel.” Did he expect them to use water pistols, perhaps? Or catapults? The anchorman reminded me of the bloke who played a vicar in a 1960 British feature film and spent a good five minutes explaining why the vestry lavatory was blocked with dead bats.
The world learned that there was a split in the conservative leadership. Baroness Warsi’s resignation and the appropriate noises made by the opposition in the House of Commons indicate that there is a rift in British public opinion. There are still many people in Britain who stand up for the underdog. Before I sign off on the BBC I must mention an interview I saw on the channel where Robert H. Serry of the Netherlands, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. He came across as a genial bloke, the kind of tourist one runs into in a pub lunch in Yorkshire and wants to buy you a pint of bitter after hiking on the moors. He did express the hope that the ceasefire might be extended. At the end of his comments the only words that stuck in my mind were, “As long as Israel’s security is guaranteed….” I wouldn’t worry too much about the sons of Zion mate. They are well protected by the cabal of Western imperialists. It’s the poor Palestinians who need UN protection. Not a lot of highfalutin talk and speeches on the airwaves.
In our neck of the woods, from the beginning of the conflict, CNN was perceived as being biased. And in spite of efforts by President Obama and John Kerry to effect a peace settlement, the news channel appeared to be toeing the official line favoured by the neo-cons. The Palestinians always came across as the aggressors, as two-dimensional towel-heads who fought alongside granite-jawed terse steely types who didn’t care if they lived or died. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of feigned indignation in the broadcasts. Not even some sort of cutting insightful suture on the plight of wounded humans. The broadcasts were not offensive, just clinical strips of verismo. And then an incredible thing happened. A CNN reporter presented the full quilt of destruction as he took the viewer on a guided tour of a part of the wasteland where Israeli bombers had inflicted damage calculated at a little under five billion dollars.
It is not clear who is going to fork up the cash? An article in one of the US newspapers pointed out that in a survey the majority of the Americans indicated that they were solidly behind Israel in the recent conflict. As if we didn’t have enough problems in Pakistan, where governments have been known to survive from one crisis to another and have invariably managed to trundle along like an old tram, is now being threatened by a couple of organised protests on Islamabad on August 14. I cannot predict what is likely to happen. I can only hope some semblance of rationalism will prevail.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2014.
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