Wednesday 19th of June 2024

framing the debate with "objectivity"..........

Australian journalists still cling to ‘objectivity’ as the hallmark of ‘good journalism’. And yet, Palestine has shown us how colonial notions of ‘objectivity’ pave the way for genocide.


Objectivity serves the powerful, and silences the oppressed

By Amy McQuire


Last week, ABC journalist Leigh Sales, formerly of flagship ABC program ‘7:30’, delivered the annual Andrew Olle lecture. In it, she sought to explain the public’s growing distrust of the media, but not before recounting a long, mundane anecdote about the time she stole the parking space of ABC chair Ita Buttross (which is probably of no interest to anyone outside of the small, Australian media landscape, which to me, suggests a limited capacity to understand what’s in the ‘public interest’).

According to Sales, the public’s lack of trust in the media comes down to one key factor: the lack of independence and integrity, and the abandonment of core journalistic principles like ‘objectivity’.

“Too often, too many journalists, at all media organisations, are abandoning values espoused by people like Andrew Olle, for various reasons. One is that some reporters prefer to be activists and crusaders rather than fact-finders or straight reporters,” she said.

“They enjoy their heroic status among the tribes of social media or their subscribers. I’m not sure they can even identify their own bias. Others haven’t had enough training to understand what independent journalism actually is, or their organisation has an ideological bias and the reporter knows the way to get ahead is to toe the line … better still, to step over it.

“Or perhaps it’s awkward and exhausting to constantly push back against the groupthink of your colleagues. Another reason is fear of the consequences of reporting the full picture: that inconvenient facts could set back a cause the journalist believes in. Others think objectivity is impossible and so even striving for it is pointless.”

Sales’ treatise on journalistic ethics came in the midst of an ongoing genocide in Gaza, in which Australian journalists have shown their sheer cowardice in supposedly gathering the ‘facts’, ‘independently’. This is largely due to colonial notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘balance’, which in fact are orientated towards those in authority. Palestinian voices can not speak the truth of a 75-year occupation, and 16-year seige on Gaza, without first being asked questions about whether they condemn Hamas, or Palestinian resistance at all.

Meanwhile, Palestinian journalists in Gaza are reporting relentlessly on the ground, while their families are being targeted and killed. Twenty-four Palestinian journalists have been killed by Israel since October 7. While I watched Al Jazeera, or via social media as they courageously continued reporting even in the midst of mourning, I thought of the cognitive dissonance required for Australian journalists to lecture on ‘objectivity’. Do the journalists in Gaza have the luxury of being objective?

Meanwhile, the bravery of Palestinian journalists is juxtaposed by the shameful timidity of Australian journalists, who are so weak-kneed that they cower, not from airstrikes, but on whether to call Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza a ‘genocide’. Last week, Sales’ colleague Patricia Karvelas, re-tweeted a statement put out by the ABC after an interview with Labor minister Tony Burke, who spoke out forcefully against media silencing of Palestinian voices. According to the ABC statement: “As part of a lengthy, detailed interview with Federal Minister Tony Burke on Friday 27 October she put to him the usage of the word “genocide” — which is being widely discussed, for example in a UN statement last week — and asked for his thoughts on its usage. Karvelas did not use the word herself.”

How is this ‘balance’? How is this ‘objectivity’? Several scholars of genocide have already labeled Israel’s war on Gaza as a ‘genocide’, including the Israeli scholar of genocide and holocaust studies Professor Raz Segal, who labeled it “another chapter in the Nakba and a textbook case of genocide”. Karvelas was so quick to deny using the term ‘genocide’, with no explanation on why it could not be called a ‘genocide’, simply because the ABC, for its claims, is not ‘independent’. Instead, through it’s purported striving for ‘impartiality’, it elevates the powerful over those deemed powerless.

This is the same ABC that in 2021 banned journalists from using the term ‘Apartheid’ in describing Israel, even as international human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, labeled it an ‘apartheid’ state. According to the ABC, it had a specific use in the context of South Africa, even as South Africa labels Israel an apartheid state. The fearless former ABC journalist Sophie McNeill, herself targeted by Zionist lobbies for her reporting on Palestine, who claimed she was not ‘objective’, said at the time: “As a former Middle East correspondent for the ABC, I know how coverage of Israel and Palestine can work. It’s not that anybody tells you specifically not to cover something, it is just routinely put in the ‘too hard’ basket, with editors fearful of complaints over coverage of the controversial topic. The ABC should explain to its audience the modern-day legal definition of apartheid. Failure to do so will lead to misunderstanding and self-censorship, and ill-serve the millions of Australians who rely on the broadcaster for news.”

Is this the ‘objectivity’ that Sales is referencing? Is this ‘balance’? Is this ‘impartiality’? Sales suggests that diversity in newsrooms is the answer, with no understanding that black and other journalists of colour are only afforded space if they report in the limited confines of white media discourse, and have to continually fight to tell their truths and the truths of their own communities.

In turn, they are punished if dare to be unapologetic. The brave Palestinian Australian journalist Jennine Khalik outlined the continual barrage of criticism she received when joining the Australian newspaper at age 21 in John Lyon’s expose Dateline Jeruselum’. As Anthony Lowenstein summarised: “The Israel lobby routinely complained about her presence on the newspaper. Within News Corp, some key editors and sub-editors were vehemently pro-Israel and made her life hell. After writing a story about a visiting Palestinian refugee and singer, Oday al-Khatib, a sub-editor came over to her desk and accused her of being a poor journalist and informed her that, ‘Palestine does not exist.’ Khalik left the paper soon after.”

Lyons, a veteran ABC journalist and Middle East correspondent wrote: “It’s the story of how the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the single issue which the media will not cover with the rigour with which it covers every other issue. And, most importantly, it’s the story of how the Australian public is being short-changed — denied reliable, factual information about one of the most important conflicts of our time.”

I’m guessing Sales is not critiquing the ABC’s dreadful coverage of the war on Gaza, which, through aiming at ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity’, conceals the historical context of the issue in which Israel is the occupier and the Palestinian people are the occupied. To tell the truth about the occupation would mean being accused of being an ‘activist’ or a journalist with ‘agenda’. The determinations of who is an ‘activist’ and who is a ‘journalist’, are made by those who are already close to power, those who are awarded for timidity with high-ranking positions in the ABC (and cooking shows!), who are part of the daily news cycle but in turn, have no capacity to interrogate anything outside of the ideological confines of their own reporting.

The issues with ‘impartiality’ and ‘two-siding’ were on clear display during the recent coverage of the Voice referendum, in which ABC journalist Laura Tingle made it clear (paywall) that striving for balance had resulted in the elevation of misinformation coming from the racist no camp: “In the interests of trying to be balanced … we’ve ended up not doing a good job of covering the referendum debate,” she said.

In turn, journalists are not held accountable for not only their failures but their complicity in the continuing oppression of Aboriginal peoples on our own shores. Patricia Karvelas, who has claimed to be a supporter of First Nations rights, spent many years at the Australian uncritically publishing stories which paved the way for the Howard government’s neoliberal agenda in Indigenous policy, while also making time to lead campaigns against our First Nations scholars like Professor Larissa Behrendt. Australian journalists claim to be ‘impartial’, but only in ways that support the interests of the powerful.

Let me make it clear: Objectivity is a colonial notion that bypasses the voices of Black Witnesses by making their legitimacy conditional on the backing of White Witnesses and authoritative accounts of those who are perpetrating violence. ‘Objectivity’ is a rope handed to the colonisers to continue strangling the oppressed, to restrict them of air in which to speak.

‘Objectivity’ means lying about your own positionings because every single article we see today is biased. Bias affects the way a story is framed, and the way a people are represented. If I can again use the example of Indigenous Australia, many of the stories about ‘violence’, are predicated first on colonial representations of Aboriginal men as inherently violent and upholders of violent traditional culture. These representations are not innocent, but instead have history: Australian journalists are working within a regime of representation in which this is the only way to speak of Aboriginal peoples. By abiding or striving for false notions of ‘objectivity’ that deny the very reality that everyone is biased, you obscure another journalistic cornerstone: that of transparency.

And it is here I want to speak of the Australian media landscape’s lack of transparency when it comes to Palestine – because it is surely the most concerning case of the severe lack of ethics. As Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook wrote on Twitter recently: “All journalists are activists. The proper distinction is whether we declare our activism or not, and whether our activism is for the good of humanity or in the narrow interests of a state or a billionaire. What you should care about more is whether journalists are independent’.

So where is the scrutiny over the fact for many years, Australian journalists have been going on propaganda tours of Israel funded by Zionist lobby groups? Are these Australian journalists independent? Are these Australian journalists ‘impartial’? Isn’t there a fundamental conflict of interest in accepting a propaganda tour? Is this journalistic ethics? Why is Leigh Sales focusing on ‘journalists with an agenda’ and not those with ‘hidden agendas’?


Original article first published in Black on 30 October 2023.




making hitler look good.....


Netanyahu invokes Genocide

By George Browning


Prime Ministers Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison have signed a statement drafted for them by the Zionist Federation of Australia in support of Israel. In doing so, were they aware that on Sunday, in launching the ground offensive into Gaza, Netanyahu invoked a genocidal precedent for his war on Gaza?

In describing this stage of Israel’s war, a “holy mission” he said: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible”. His words are reference to a text which goes on to read: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass,” (1 Samuel 15:3). This statement frighteningly tells you all you need to know about the mindset and intention of Israel’s vengeful Prime Minister, and of the future that lies ahead for all Palestinians in the lands of their birth. What on earth possessed these six former prime ministers to lend support in terms drafted by the Zionist Federation of Australia. This is the political and nationalistic advocacy group that seeks possession of all these ancient lands. It is tragically consistent with stated goals, that Zionists, not religiously, but politically and nationalistically driven, should call upon the most war like of all Hebrew sacred texts. They would do well to dwell on the writings of their ancient prophets who consistently call for peace, justice, and mercy, but no, they seek justification in historical behaviours that their prophets frequently condemn.

A little more about the Amalekites. According to Hebrew scripture and genealogy, they are descendants of Esau, the elder son of Isaac who had his birthright stolen by the younger, Jacob. So, they are geologically related to Hebrews, to use contemporary language, they were Semites, like their Hebrew cousins. The similarities with today are obvious. Palestinians are also Semites. Language used by members of the Knesset who have referred to Palestinians as animals, dogs, less than human, is on the extreme end of ‘antisemitism’. Palestinians suffer cruelly from ‘antisemitic’ language uttered by Israeli leadership, which in turn encourages violence against them by the wider Israeli population. Most particularly this violence emanates from Israeli zealots who occupy the illegal settlements on the West Bank. Many Palestinians on the West Bank have lost their lives since October 7.

There is another similarity. Amalekites appear not to have been a settled people such as the Edomites or even Canaanites, but nomads who grazed across lands, giving the impression the lands were not occupied. Although skirmishes with the Amalekites apparently occurred in the Negeb under Moses’ leadership prior to the occupation of Canaan, major confrontation occurred following Israel’s settlement. The catalyst would almost certainly have been loss of their grazing lands. You see the picture, in similar vein, Palestinian lands were never ‘unoccupied’ as the Israeli narrative claims; they were home to a living, thriving culture and people.

Amongst all Semitic peoples there is a strong sense of clean and unclean, what is permitted or not permitted. We understand these ideas through the words Kosher and Halal. In biblical Hebrew what is kosher, or clean, must be protected from what is unclean or foreign. Something unclean soils what is clean. What is unclean is not redeemed by what is clean. In the confrontation between Saul and the Amalekites the Amalekites are declared ‘haram’ and must be destroyed, not simply as pay back for past incursions, but because their very presence is a threat. Saul is commanded to destroy them completely. On his return, he is asked by Samuel if he has completed the task. He claimed he has. Samuel asks: “what then is the bleating of sheep I hear in my ears?” In other words, the spoils Saul brought back, have the capacity to despoil the Hebrew kingdom. The text suggests this oversight was the reason he lost the kingship.

Netanyahu has invoked this narrative to justify his ‘mission’. The settlers who in their hundreds of thousands illegally occupy Palestinian territories treat this ‘historical’ narrative as the foundation for their actions. The new speaker of the US congress, a rightwing evangelical, Christian gives unconditional support for Israel because he sees in this narrative the working of God. Does one group’s sacred text override international law, and international compacts of acceptable behaviour? Does Israel have the right to occupy land, drive out those who have lived there for generations, keep 2.2 million Gazans in an open prison, many in view of the land and homes they used to occupy, and refuse to give Palestinians the same rights as other citizens, because of a 3000-year-old narrative?

Christians also need to answer an equally important question. Do we believe ‘biblical’ text in its minutiae wields such power and authority, because it is biblical text, that it overrides contemporary understandings of truth and moral judgement.

Modern day Israel is not a continuation of the northern nation state of the same name that disappeared and was absorbed into the Assyrian Empire in 720 BC. Nor is it a continuation of the southern State called Judah which disappeared in 586 BC absorbed into the Babylonian Empire. On the other hand, it is true that Jewish people have cultural, religious, and ancestral ties, along with many other peoples, with this land for 3000 years.

Modern Day Israel was not created by fiat of the Divine. It was created through an act of partition by the United Nations in 1948. This partition was infamously preceded by the Balfour Declaration of 1917. That Palestinians were not jumping for joy in being told from afar they were about to lose 50% of their ancestral lands, is not surprising. In fact, they have lost 78%. Apparently, Israel considers 78% to be insufficient.

You six prime ministers who have signed a statement prepared for you by those who demand not 78% but 100%, will you issue another statement which clearly articulates the state of play which you believe should exist post the ‘war’, setting out your moral and legal arguments to support what you think should be the ‘new normal’?

You may also be interested inPaul Keating’s article regarding his refusal to sign the same draft....





civilian deaths....


Grim milestone: Civilian deaths in Gaza exceed those in Ukraine

By John V. Whitbeck


The number of civilians killed by Israel in Gaza, in three weeks, has now exceeded the number of civilians killed by Russia in 19 months of the Ukraine war. How likely is it that Western mainstream media will deem this milestone newsworthy?


According to the latest update by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on civilian casualties during the war in Ukraine, as of September 11, 2023, the UN’s official confirmed figure for “those killed in territory controlled by the [Ukrainian] Government when casualties occurred” since February 24, 2022, was 7481.

As of October 29, the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s official confirmed figure for those killed by Israeli bombing and shelling of the territory of the Gaza Strip was more than 8000, including more than 3400 children, which, statistically, is one child killed every 10 minutes since October 7 — to the apparent delight, or at least satisfaction, of Messrs. Biden, Blinken, Scholz, Sunak and Albanese and millions of other moral monsters infesting and disgracing the Global West who do not believe that this slaughter of innocents should be brought to an immediate end.

These Palestinian figures count only bodies brought to hospitals or other Ministry of Health facilities. There are also an estimated 1650 bodies, at least half of them children, remaining under the rubble of their homes. Anyone seeing the appalling scenes of devastation, with over half of the homes in Gaza flattened or damaged, must presume that the true number of those killed significantly exceeds the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s official confirmed figure.

It follows that more civilians have now been killed, with full-throated Western support and approval, during three weeks of Israel’s exercising its “right to self-defense” than were killed during 19 months of “Putin’s brutal war of aggression.”

How likely is it that the pro-occupation, pro-apartheid, pro-genocide Western mainstream media will deem this milestone of savagery newsworthy?





media failure.....


What our Media fails to tell you about October 7     By Jonathan Cook


It is journalistic malpractice for the media to still be repeating so credulously the Israeli military’s account of that day.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson was taken once again this week to view the terrible destruction at a kibbutz community just outside Gaza attacked on October 7. As we have been shown so many times before, the Israeli homes were riddled with automatic fire, both inside and out. Sections of concrete wall had holes in them, or had collapsed entirely. And parts of the buildings that were still standing were deeply charred. It looked like a small snapshot of the current horrors in Gaza.

There is a possible reason for those similarities – one that the BBC is studiously failing to report, despite mounting evidence from a variety of sources, including the Israeli media. Instead the BBC is sticking resolutely to a narrative crafted for them, and the rest of the western media, by the Israeli military: that Hamas alone caused all this destruction.

Simply repeating that narrative without any caveats has by now reached the level of journalistic malpractice. And yet that is precisely what the BBC does night after night.

Just a cursory look at the wreckage in the various kibbutz communities that were attacked that day should raise questions in the mind of any good reporter. Were Palestinian militants in a position to actually inflict physical damage to that degree and extent with the kind of light weapons they carried?

And if not, who else was in a position to wreak such havoc other than Israel?

A separate question that good journalists ought to be asking is this: What was the purpose of such damage? What did the Palestinian militants hope to achieve by it?

The implicit answer the media is supplying is also the answer the Israeli military wants western publics to hear: that Hamas engaged in an orgy of gratuitious killing and savagery because … well, let’s say the quiet part out loud: because Palestinians are inherently savage.

With that as the implicit narrative, western politicians have been handed a licence to cheerlead Israel as it murders a Palestinian child in Gaza every few minutes. Savages only understand the language of savagery, after all.

Brutal tango

For this reason alone, any journalist who wishes to avoid colluding in the genocide unfolding in Gaza ought to be increasingly wary of simply repeating the Israeli military’s claims about what happened on October 7. Certainly, they should not credulously regurgitate the latest agitprop from the IDF press office, as the BBC is so evidently doing.

What we know from a growing body of evidence gleaned from the Israeli media and Israeli eyewitnesses – carefully laid out, for example, in this report from Max Blumenthal – is that the Israeli military was completely blindsided by that day’s events. Heavy artillery, including tanks and attack helicopters, was called in to deal with Hamas. That appears to have been a straightforward decision in regard to the military bases Hamas had overrun.

Israel has a long-standing policy of seeking to prevent Israeli soldiers from being taken captive – chiefly, because of the high price Israeli society insists on paying to ensure soldiers are returned. For decades, the military’s so-called “Hannibal procedure” has directed Israeli troops to kill fellow soldiers rather than allow them to be taken captive. For the same reason, Hamas expends a great deal of energy in trying to find innovative ways to seize soldiers.

The two sides are essentially engaged in a brutal tango in which each understands the other’s dance moves.

Given Hamas’ situation, effectively managing the Israeli-controlled concentration camp of Gaza, it has limited resistance strategies available to it. Capturing Israeli soldiers maximises its leverage. They can be traded for the release of many of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners held in jails inside Israel, in breach of international law. In addition, in the negotiations, Hamas usually hopes to win an easing of Israel’s 16-year siege of Gaza.

To avert this scenario, Israeli commanders reportedly called in the attack helicopters on the military bases overwhelmed by Hamas on October 7. The helicopters appear to have fired indiscriminately, despite the risk posed to the Israeli soldiers in the base who were still alive. Israel’s was a scorched-earth policy to stop Hamas achieving its aims. That may, in part, explain the very large proportion of Israeli soldiers among the 1,300 killed that day.

Charred bodies

But what about the situation in the kibbutz communities? By the time the army arrived and was in position, Hamas was well dug in. It had taken the inhabitants as hostages inside their own homes. Israeli eyewitness testimony and media reports suggest Hamas was almost certainly trying to negotiate safe passage back into Gaza, using the Israeli civilians as human shields. The civilians were the Hamas fighters’ only ticket out, and they could be converted later into bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The evidence – from Israeli media reports and eyewitnesses, as well as a host of visual clues from the crime scene itself – tell a far more complex story than the one presented nightly on the BBC.

Did the Israeli military fire into the Hamas-controlled civilian homes in the same fashion as it had fired into its own military bases, and with the same disregard for the safety of Israelis inside? Was the goal in each case to prevent at all costs Hamas taking hostages whose release would require a very high price from Israel?

Kibbutz Be’eri has been a favoured destination for BBC reporters keen to illustrate Hamas’ barbarity. It is where Lucy Williamson headed again this week. And yet none of her reporting highlighted comments made to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper by Tuval Escapa, the kibbutz’s security coordinator. He said Israeli military commanders had ordered the “shelling [of] houses on their occupants in order to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages”.

That echoed the testimony of Yasmin Porat, who sought shelter in Be’eri from the nearby Nova music festival. She told Israeli Radio that once Israeli special forces arrived: “They eliminated everyone, including the hostages because there was very, very heavy crossfire.”

Are the images of charred bodies presented by Williamson, accompanied by a warning of their graphic, upsetting nature, incontrovertible proof that Hamas behaved like monsters, bent on the most twisted kind of vengeance? Or might those blackened remains be evidence that Israeli civilians and Hamas fighters burned alongside each other, after they were engulfed in flames caused by Israeli shelling of the houses?

Israel will not agree to an independent investigation so a definitive answer will never be forthcoming. But that does not absolve the media of their professional and moral duty to be cautious.

‘Hamas as savages’

Consider for a moment the stark contrast in the western media’s treatment of events on October 7 and its treatment of the strike on the car park at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in northern Gaza on October 17, in which hundreds of Palestinians were reported killed.

In the case of Al-Ahli, the media were only too ready to cast aside all the evidence that the hospital had been hit by an Israeli strike immediately Israel contested the claim. Instead journalists hurriedly amplified Israel’s counter-allegation that a Palestinian rocket had fallen on the hospital. Most of the media moved on after concluding “The truth may never be clear”, or even less credibly, that Palestinian militants were the most likely culprits.

In telling contrast, the western media have not been willing to raise even a single question about what happened on October 7. They have enthusiastically attributed every horror that day to Hamas. They have ignored the reality of utter chaos that reigned for many hours and the potential for poor, desperate and morally dubious decision-making by the Israeli military.

In fact, the media have gone much further. In advancing the narrative of “Hamas as savages”, they have promoted obvious fictions, such as the story that “Hamas beheaded 40 babies”. That piece of fake news was even taken up briefly by US President Joe Biden, before it was quietly walked back by his officials.

Similarly, it is still a popular throwaway line among the western commentariat that “Hamas carried out rapes”, though once again the allegation is evidence-free so far.

We should be clear. If Israel had serious evidence for either of these claims, it would be aggressively promoting it. Instead, it is doing the next best thing: letting innuendo gently sink into the audience’s subconscious, settling there as a prejudice that cannot be interrogated.

Hamas undoubtedly committed war crimes on October 7 – not least, by taking civilians as human shields. But that kind of crime is one we are familiar with, one “ordinary” enough that the Israel military has been regularly documented carrying it out too. The practice of Israeli soldiers taking Palestinians as human shields goes under various names, such as the “neighbour procedure” and the “early warning procedure”.

Worse atrocities may have happened too, especially given the unexpected scale of Hamas’ success in breaking out of Gaza. Large numbers of Palestinians escaped the enclave, some of them doubtless armed civilians with no connection to the operation. In such circumstances, it would be surprising if there were no examples of the headline-grabbing atrocities being committed.

The issue is whether such atrocities were planned and systematic, as Israel claims and the western media repeats, or examples of rogue actions by individuals or groups. If the latter, Israel would be in no position to judge. Israel’s own history is littered with examples of such crimes, including the documented case of an Israeli army unit taking captive a Bedouin girl in 1949 and repeatedly gang-raping her.

Savagery would certainly not be a uniquely Hamas trait. Following the October 7 attack, videos have been emerging of systematic abuses of any Hamas fighters captured, whether alive or dead. Images show them being beaten and torturedin public for the gratification of onlookers, when there is clearly not even the pretence of information gathering. Others show the bodies of Hamas fighters being defiled and mutilated.

No one can claim the moral high ground here.

What the media’s uncritical promotion of Israel’s “Hamas as savages” narrative has achieved is something sinister – and all too familiar from the West’s long colonial history. It has been used to demonise a whole people, presenting them either as barbarians or as the willing protectors and enablers of barbarism.

The “savages” narrative is being weaponised by Israel to justify its mounting campaign of atrocities in Gaza. Which is why it is so important that journalists don’t simply allow themselves to be spoonfed. Far too much is at stake.

Hamas committed war crimes on October 7 on a scale that is unprecedented for any Palestinian group. But there is little more than Israeli narrative spin so far to suggest that there was an unparalleled depravity to Hamas’ actions. Certainly from what we know, it is hard to see that anything Hamas did that day was worse, or more savage, than what Israel has been doing daily in Gaza for weeks.

And Israel’s actions – from bombing Palestinian families to starving them of food and water – has the blessing of every major western politician.


First published by Jonathan Cook November 2 ,2023






censoring aussies.......


A new law is about to kill free speech and democracy in Australia

A bill on fighting “misinformation and disinformation” and “harm” aims to empower a government agency to police online expression

By Augusto Zimmermann, Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Australia, President of WALTA – Legal Theory Association, and former Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia


The Australian Government has recently introduced in Parliament a new law proposal to ban officially unapproved online content. Digital companies are expected to adopt a code of conduct which will see them censor speech based on broad, vague and far-reaching directives.

The Communications Legislation Amendment (Combating Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 foreshadows the imposition of a legal obligation on digital platforms to police alleged ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’. If that does not work, the law proposal provides for the full empowerment of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to directly intervene for the purpose of preventing ‘harm’.

Section 2 of the proposed legislation defines ‘harm’ as follows:

  • (a) hatred against a group in Australian society on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion or physical or mental disability; 

  • (b) disruption of public order or society in Australia; 

  • (c) harm to the integrity of Australian democratic processes or of Commonwealth, State, Territory or local government institutions; 

  • (d) harm to the health of Australians; 

  • (e) harm to the Australian environment; 

  • (f) economic or financial harm to Australians, the Australian economy or a sector of the Australian economy.

The concept of ‘harm’ peddled by the bill is illusory, and its content would be subjectively determined by a powerful government agency. The definition of what is and what isn’t harm is malleable and can expand and contract depending on ACMA’s prevailing views. Ultimately, any type of speech with which the government is uncomfortable could be deemed ‘harmful’. For example, describing “disrupting social order” as serious harm could be interpreted to stop the organization of legitimate political protests. This could certainly be used to suppress legitimate political speech that should be part of a functioning democracy.

Above all, ACMA would gain sweeping powers to require any person to appear at a time and place of its choosing to answer questions about misinformation or disinformation. These powers include infringement notices, remedial directions, injunctions and civil penalties, including fines of up to AU$550,000 (US$358,000) for individuals and AU$2.75 million for corporations. Criminal penalties, including imprisonment, may also apply in cases of alleged “extreme harm.”

The provisions found in this law proposal put the communications and lives of free-thinkers, human rights defenders, independent journalists, and ordinary citizens under constant risk. They go in direct opposition to international human rights experts’ advicethat “general prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘false news’ or ‘non-objective information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression… and should be abolished.”

It is noteworthy that the Australian Government is exempted from the proposed legislation. Hence, the content issued by the government is never to be considered ‘misinformation’ but criticisms of the government by ordinary citizens can. It is certainly ironic that views incompatible with the government’s preferred narrative could be deemed to ‘harm’ the integrity of Australia’s democracy since it would disallow speech and expressive conduct that is integral to the maintenance of democratic processes.

In its 12-page submission to the Law Council, the Victorian Bar Association explains that this proposed legislation effectively creates an “unlevel playing field between governments and other speakers” that disadvantages government critics in comparison to government supporters. “The bill’s interference with the self-fulfilment of free expression will occur primarily by the chilling self-censorship it will inevitably bring about in the individual users of the relevant services,” says the Victorian Bar.

Above all, ACMA’s enforcement of the proposed legislation will inevitably stymie discussion of controversial topics, especially if they involve criticism of government policy and actions. This scenario is likely to unfold when the impugned speech is incompatible with the government’s official narrative. Thus, the proposed legislation targets those who, merely exercising their right to free speech, critically assess the desirability of government decisions and actions.

Other concerns with the proposed ‘misinformation’ legislation include the possibility of suspending the activities of internet companies in Australia if they fail to comply with the obligations created, as well as increased criminal penalties for libel and defamation which are incompatible with international human rights standards.

As can be seen, the proposed legislation constitutes a serious attack on the democratic right of Australians to free speech. Digital platforms will be legally obliged to police commentators’ discussion of controversial topics. Under this ‘misinformation’ legislation, any honest and robust debate about government policies will be effectively outlawed.

To conclude, our freedom of political communication is under attack in Australia. If the Misinformation and Disinformation Bill is enacted, then the free expression of ideas will be basically outlawed by the Australian Government. In short, the enactment of this law proposal will spell the end of authentic democracy in Australia. Australians are basically witnessing the transformation of their system of representative government into nothing more than a less open, or more disguised, form of elective dictatorship.







balanced genocide....


When is genocide ever balanced?      By Alison Broinowski


Balance’ between supporters of Israel and of the Palestinians is what most police and State governments in Australia say they seek. So does the ABC. But what’s happening in Gaza isn’t balanced: it is asymmetric warfare.

Genocide is never balanced. Reporting on Gaza isn’t balanced either. Israel’s disinformation industry went quickly into overdrive after 7 October, reporting to credulous Western media that Hamas had beheaded 40 babies. This claim was later withdrawn by the Israeli government, but the damage was done and the lie went on circulating.

Chris Hedges, based on his years of experience as an American reporting from Israel, says the government and military are practiced liars. He explicitly calls what they are doing ‘genocide’.

Last week, Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Netanyahu, claimed that Palestinians in Gaza were ‘faking injuries’. The footage he used as evidence was from a short film recently shot in Lebanon.

At last, journalists on the ground have confirmed for the New York Times that the Al-Shifa hospital was bombed from the air by Israeli shells, and not attacked by ‘misfired’ Hamas missiles as the Israel Defence Force (IDF) had alleged.

Israeli ministers and military have long practiced propaganda on the world and on their own people. Israel’s military assaults on Gaza are always backed by the accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields in hospitals and schools, where their ‘terrorist’ headquarters are concealed underground. Such medical staff as remain deny it, but they and their patients get bombed anyway.

To further justify the slaughter, Hamas are alleged to be Nazis. Headlines in the Australian media repeatedly call them ‘terrorists’, and John Spooner’s atrocious carton (Australian, 16 November) suggests Nazis as well. It shows an undamaged Al-Shifa hospital on top of a swastika-shaped arms storage tunnel.

A reputable Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, says the view of the Palestinians as sub-human is widespread. Several Israeli leaders have said so in recent days. Most believe that ‘we are the “chosen people” and can do whatever we like to whoever we like’. (Levy quoted by Jafar Ramini, 14 November 2023).

Doing that particularly means taking over Palestinians’ houses and land for Israeli settlements. Daniella Weiss, in a recent New Yorker interview, explicitly supported apartheid, dismissed human rights and sovereignty for Palestinians, and said Israelis should displace the whole population of Gaza, whatever others think. She explained: ‘We want to close the option for a Palestinian state, and the world wants to leave the option open. It’s a very simple thing to understand’.

What Israelis have had inculcated in them is that Hamas, and perhaps all Palestinians, are terrorists. But Prime Minister Menachem Begin was a former anti-British terrorist, and hence honoured as a patriot. What has been inflicted by Israelis on Palestinians and by Hamas on Israel ever since 2006 is indeed terrorism (violence for political or religious purposes). But State terror is done with powerful weapons and military forces, against poorly armed opponents who resort to guerilla tactics, at great human cost, to advance their aims.

A thousand Palestinians were released in exchange for one Israeli soldier in 2006. That’s asymmetry for you. In the breakout from Gaza, Hamas killed 1200 Israeli military and civilians. Since then, between 11500 and 12000 Palestinians have died in Gaza, and many more bodies have not been recovered.

Now, Israel justifies its indiscriminate attacks on Gaza by demanding return of the 230 hostages, military and civilian, captured by Hamas on 7 October (the 50th anniversary of Yom Kippur war). But between 6000 and 7000 (Scott Ritter says 10000) Palestinians are in jail in Israel, and Hamas won’t give the hostages up without their release. Political and military leaders in Israel have repeatedly stated their intention to rid Gaza of all 2.23 million Palestinians, either by forced emigration to Sinai, or by death.

While a shocked world looks on and does nothing, the usual accusations of anti-Semitism are aimed at anyone who accuses Israel of permitting a new Nakba. The UN Secretary-General and the Pope call for an immediate cease-fire and hostile Israeli invective follows. Talk about ‘balance’ is an indulgence. In only one respect is the fight equal: neither side will give up.





genocide defined....


Craig Murray: Activating the Genocide Convention


There are 149 states party to the Genocide Convention. Every one of them has the right to call out the genocide in progress in Gaza and report it to the United Nations. 

In the event that another state party disputes the claim of genocide — and Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom are all states party — then the International Court of Justice is required to adjudicate on “the responsibility of a State for genocide.”

These are the relevant articles of the genocide convention:

Article VIII
Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Article IX
Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.”

Note that here “parties to the dispute” means the states disputing the facts of genocide, not the parties to the genocide/conflict. Any single state party is able to invoke the convention.

There is no doubt that Israel’s actions amount to genocide. Numerous international law experts have said so and genocidal intent has been directly expressed by numerous Israeli ministers, generals and public officials.

This is the definition of genocide in international law, from the Genocide Convention:

Article II
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”

I can see no room to doubt whatsoever that Israel’s current campaign of bombing of civilians and of the deprivation of food, water and other necessities of life to Palestinians amounts to genocide under articles II a), b) and c).

It is also worth considering Articles III and IV:

Article III
The following acts shall be punishable:
(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.

Article IV
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

There is, at the very least, a strong prima facie case that the actions of the United States and United Kingdom and others, in openly providing direct military support to be used in genocide, are complicit in genocide. 

The point of Article IV is that individuals are responsible, not just states. So Israel’s Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak bear individual responsibility. So, indeed, do all those who have been calling for the destruction of the Palestinians.



Definition of Genocide