Channel 4 Allowed Sentiment To Get The Better Of Reason

25 March 2010

Published in The Jewish News: 25th March 2010

Last week Channel 4 aired a Dispatches documentary called Children of Gaza, which followed the lives of four Palestinian children after Operation Cast Lead. They recounted poignant stories of loss and suffering, of parents killed, houses obliterated and lives torn apart by the tragedy of war.

One would have felt less than human not to sympathise with these youngsters. But sentiment should never get the better of reason. Far from being accurate and objective, this documentary was unbalanced and misleading the result of a blatantly partisan political agenda.

The filmmaker offered little context for Operation Cast Lead and no Israeli spokesman was interviewed. The narrative was effectively provided by children whose responses suggested they had been primed by Gazan terrorists. When interviewed they made statements such as: 'Why are they attacking Gaza?'and 'Did we hurt them?'and 'My father wasn't a terrorist.'One says of his former home: This house was inanimate. It didn't do anything or fire rockets... so why did they destroy it?'

The implication was that the Israeli bombardment was a punitive and reckless action targeting vulnerable citizens. But this gives a totally distorted picture of the war. Some Palestinian fathers were terrorists who belonged to a variety of murderous organisations.

Had Hamas not launched an incessant barrage of rockets from 2005 onwards, causing disruption, trauma and death to Israeli citizens, Cast Lead would never have happened. Those poor children would now be living in their original homes surrounded by their loving parents.

Imagine if the BBC had interviewed German children in 1943 and asked them to recount their horrific experiences of aerial bombardment. Their comments would have aroused understandable sympathy but would not have explained why they had suffered in the first place. Without the accompanying context of Nazi aggression, an observer would conclude that the Anglo-American governments were uniquely barbaric and worthy of condemnation.

This documentary was also lopsided by refusing to accept the real reasons for the civilian casualties. Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre has just released a report showing how Hamas used 'human shield' tactics throughout the war. Improvised explosive devices were placed inside homes, command centres were set up near hospitals and rockets were fired from schools. Inevitably civilians died in counter-terror operations, despite Israel's best efforts to avoid harming non combatants.

Yet none of this comes across in the programme. In another part of the documentary children in a UNWRA school were asked to draw images of their wartime experiences. In a lesson on human rights, an educator told them that the 'Jews' children' were not to blame for their suffering.

While the focus on non-violence was commendable, it offered a misleading picture of the Palestinian education system. Like Fatah, Hamas terrorists are not in the business of instilling liberal sensibilities in their people. If they were, they would have altered their anti-Semitic charter and ended racist incitement at the Islamic University in Gaza.

Towards the end of the documentary a young boy, who lost his father, expressed his desire for 'martyrdom' while caressing his uncle's Kalashnikov. The adult interviewees implied that the child's desire for murder was inevitable, given the horrors he experienced. Israel was implicitly blamed for creating another potential terrorist in an unending 'cycle of violence.' Of course, this is what Hamas would like us to believe. The less naive among us know that Palestinians are taught the value of jihad from childhood and Jewish 'infidels' are their ultimate enemy. It is this lethal brainwashing which feeds the genocidal war against Israel.

Operation Cast Lead certainly was tragic for innocent Palestinians, as are all wars for non combatants. But this should not cause us to lose sight of the fundamental facts. Hamas, and its Iranian backers, provoked the conflict in 2009 and they must take ultimate responsibility for the ensuing casualties.


31 December, 2013

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