'Problematic content'

The worst of the Australian media coverage

'These are real Jews, not the filth we've got over there'

The wealth of video and audio footage showing in sickening detail the enormity of the crimes against humanity that Hamas’s terrorists perpetrated against Israeli civilians on October 7 resulted in the unusual situation wherein media coverage was overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel.

Of course, this did not mean there was no problematic content – and this will likely increase when Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza begins.

The most egregious example of bias was seen on the initial coverage of the massacre by SBS TV’s dedicated Arabic language program, News in Arabic.

Its first bulletin after the massacre, broadcast on October 9, whitewashed Hamas’s barbaric crimes. Hamas’s invasion of Israel was lionised as an “unprecedented military escalation … the first time in history that the front witnessed a Palestinian ground incursion into Israeli cities”.

The program strongly implied that the Israelis killed were combatants who fell fighting Hamas. No concrete examples were given of how Israelis died and the only Israeli testimony was of an apparently uninjured woman appearing to say she and three others were shot at whilst travelling in their car.

A Hamas spokesperson was heard claiming that “according to international law, settlers are not civilians” and therefore legitimate targets. No counter opinion was included to explain there is no such “international law” or that the Israelis who were massacred were not “settlers” but people living on territory that has been Israel’s since 1948.

The following night’s episode claimed the previous 24 hours was “the most violent and most brutal for civilians,” but this meant in terms of “deaths and injuries among Palestinians,” not Israelis. The word “massacres” was used, but in relation to Israeli strikes on Palestinian targets. An Israeli woman was included calling Hamas’s actions “unjustif[iable]”, but adding it’s because “they are hurting, frustrated, desperate people”.

Only at the end of the episode was an expert quoted admitting that the majority of those killed in Israel were civilians.

Following a complaint by AIJAC to SBS management, later programs included more balance and context.

On ABC TV News (October 8), anti-Zionist activist and writer Antony Loewenstein was asked, “Were you taken by surprise at this audacious operation by Hamas?” which let him avoid directly condemning the massacre.

Unsurprisingly, Loewenstein contextualised the violence by blaming the blockade of Gaza, saying “eventually people will snap, people will break. You cannot … expect Palestinians simply to lie down and accept it.”

Except, as Hamas and Loewenstein know full well, the blockade of Gaza would end today if Hamas renounced violence and recognised Israel’s right to exist.

Pro-Palestinian spokespeople asked to comment on the massacre spoke calmly and quietly – whilst essentially denying or avoiding uncomfortable questions.

On ABC TV News (October 8), Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) president Nasser Mashni’s tactic was to ignore the massacre, saying to discuss it was to “take yesterday out of context”. He then proceeded to craft a narrative of Palestinian victimhood stretching back 75 years.

At the very end of the interview, when asked if APAN “condone[s] the violence and bloodshed being inflicted upon Israelis by Hamas”, Mashni could only say, “we condemn all violence”.

On Nine Network’s Today (October 12), Mashni questioned whether antisemitic slurs heard at the Sydney Opera House pro-Palestinian protest really even happened, saying, “I’ve been advised by another senior journalist that nobody’s been able to verify the veracity of that audio.”

Mashni’s less urbane side was exposed by Sky News’ Outsiders on October 15, which showed him at a rally in Melbourne, saying, “We’d also like to thank members of the Jewish community for standing here with us today … These are real Jews, not the filth we’ve got over there.”

Speaking to Sky News’ Erin Molan on October 13, Egyptian-Palestinian-Australian activist Randa Abdel-Fattah had to be coaxed to “condemn the violence that Hamas” perpetrated, but added, “I don’t see them as a terrorist organisation.”

Claims Hamas beheaded babies were “actually refuted by Israeli authorities”, she said, while images of a “burnt baby was exposed as AI intelligence”.

Despite Molan screening a clip from the Sydney Opera House that included chanting of “gas the Jews” and f**k the Jews,” Abdel-Fattah insisted with a straight face, “I didn’t hear anything.”

In The Age (October 14) and Sydney Morning Herald (October 15), Palestinian-Australian playwright Samah Sabawi also chose to ignore Hamas’s massacre and instead condemned Israel’s targeting of Hamas assets in Gaza, implying Israel was deliberately targeting civilians. Sabawi accused Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant of calling Palestinians “human animals”, when he had clearly meant the Hamas terrorists involved in the massacre.

Allon Lee is a senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).

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