Eyeless in Gaza
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With Palestine's recent bid for statehood at the UN, the mainstream British media have continued to downplay US-British military and diplomatic support for Israeli action in the occupied territories. Particularly since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Israel has stepped up its expansion of illegal settlements, bringing with it a sharp increase of civilian killings. British arms exports doubled during the second intifada from 2000 to 2001, reaching an impressive £22.5 million. No eyelids battered in Whitehall after three British citizens were killed between December 2002 and May 2003 (usually a prime concern for the BBC, compared with the 'impartial' lack of interest in the deaths of Iraqi and Afghan civilians over the past decade). In the years up the present, British supplies to its favourite client have included small arms, grenade-making kits, tanks, combat aircraft, electric-shock belts, chemical and biological agents such as tear gas, rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons. Blair’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, however, showed signs of sympathy in urging that 'whether one agrees with the stance of the Israeli government is not the point. What is important is to understand the huge pressures on them.' The deaths of Palestinians should be of no concern to the rational observer. New Labour also chose to abstain from a UN resolution condemning Israeli violence in December 2001, evoking little comment in the media. Contrary to the conventional pieties which portray Britain as a stern critic of Israel's separation wall (read: annexation wall) along the West Bank, in October 2003 (the same month Israel bombed 'an apparently abandoned Palestinian 'terrorist training base'' [Chris McGreal, 'Israeli jets hit Syria camp in blast revenge,' Guardian, 6 October 2003] in Syria, in retaliation for the bombing of a Haifa restaurant which killed 19 people, including four children) Britain abstained from the UN Security council vote declaring the wall illegal. In the same year, it was revealed that British missile trigger systems were being used in the US Apache helicopters sold to Israel, with the image of Israeli pilots in US helicopters becoming a familiar one over the decades. The violence escalated in 2006 after the Palestinians voted for the wrong party in a free election. Hamas may not be the most peaceful political group, and their tactics are certainly deplorable, but the US and Britain's alleged promotion of democracy is hard to square with Israel's subsequent violence in Gaza and its harsh US/British-supported sanctions on Palestine, cutting off international aid (the approved form of punishment for the Palestinians' 'successful defiance'). When reporting the deaths of Israelis at the hands of Hamas, the BBC (and the liberal media generally, with the occasional exception of the Guardian and Independent) never fails to point out the number of children killed and infrastructure damaged. But when reporting the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of professionally-armed Israeli forces, an 'impartial' death toll is simply quoted, leaving out the addendum 'including X children.' Here are Mike Berry and Greg Philo’s findings from their concise history of the conflict: In our samples of news content, words such as 'mass murder', 'savage cold-blooded killing' and 'lynching' were used by journalists to describe Israeli deaths but not those of Palestinians/Arabs. The word 'terrorist' was used to describe Palestinians, but when an Israeli group was reported as trying to bomb a Palestinian school, they were referred to as 'extremists' or 'vigilantes'. The possibility of trade sanctions against Israel has always been off the agenda. Instead, Israel 'continues to receive preferential trade treatment by the British government and the EU. Britain has designated Israel one of 14 favoured 'target markets'' (Mark Curtis). In a Joint Intelligence Committee report in 1969, Britain's ambassador to Israel commented on the economic motives for supporting Israel:
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