By Mike Small
Whether it’s Boris Johnson’s commitment to withdraw from Europe, or Britain’s trade in arms to Israel and around the world, the myth of British security, and the infallible ‘strength’ of the Union is a lie as well as a moral failure.
But let’s not pretend this is an issue just for the Tories, it’s an issue for Labour too.
Only last year Douglas Alexander spoke to the Labour Friends of Israel praising them to the hilt. With his default “As the son of a Presbyterian Minister, raised hearing my father read the scriptures” line duly inserted – he noted that Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and, of course Tony Blair had also been recent speakers before continuing:
“So let me say very clearly – especially to those within our own Labour movement – desist from a language of de-legitimisation; stop the movement to sever academic and trade union links; now is the time to deepen, not weaken, our economic and cultural ties across the region.”
Our understanding of our place and role in the world is essential in making a calculated choice on September 18th.
The media, particularly the broadcast media, is key in allowing us to get an understanding of foreign affairs. Ignorance of our ow history, never mind our role in current affairs, is essential in continuing placid support for Britain.
Whilst the Unionist parties emphasise the humanitarian efforts of Britain, they downplay and evade the reality of billions, not millions in arms sales to the region ‘Britain Admits Selling $12 Billion in Weapons to Israel’.
The reality is that whilst Better Together trumpet the generosity of DFID: “UK to provide additional £2m in emergency assistance to Gaza bringing to £7m the amount released this week”. This looks rather different if put in the context of that figure being less than 0.1% of value of UK current arms sales to Israel.
One of the ways in which this media coverage is skewed is by constant pressure against journalists doing their job. This week the BBC has been accused of removing its chief Middle Eastern correspondent from Israel under extreme pressure, an act it denies. In 2005 Orla Guerin, the BBC Middle East correspondent was accused of bias by the Israeli government, and had to be withdrawn from the region.
Back in 2002, John Pilger’s film ‘Palestine is Still the Issue’ came under attack by chairman of Carlton, Michael Green, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Board of Deputies, the Conservative Friends of Israel and the Israeli embassy. He remarked then:
“At the heart of this is a failure to acknowledge the overwhelming imbalance in the British media in favour of the Israeli point of view. ITV deserves great credit for funding and broadcasting my film, which sought to redress a little of this. The BBC would have never dared to incur the wrath of one of the most influential lobbies in this country, as Tim Llewellyn, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent for many years, says in a letter in today’s Guardian. He accuses the BBC of “continuing to duck” its public service duty to explain “the true nature of the disaster [of the occupation] and Israel’s overwhelming responsibility for it”. This general bias is verified by a remarkable study of the television coverage of the Middle East, conducted last May by the Glasgow University Media Group. The conclusions ought to shame broadcasters. The research shows that the public’s lack of understanding of the conflicts and its origins is actually compounded by the “coverage”. Viewers are rarely told that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation. The term “occupied territories” is rarely explained. Only 9% of young people interviewed know that the Israelis are both the occupiers and the illegal “settlers”.
The reality is that the Unionist case for security and safety in foreign affairs falls apart under the briefest scrutiny. Media coverage of the ‘conflict’ in Palestine is pivotal and so it’s great to see Russell Brand repeatedly take on America’s far-right Fox News coverage in a despite that’s escalating week by week: