Sunday 19 January 2020

Two tribes 
go to war on 
the airwaves

Radio

GAZA: Keelin Shanley covered the conflict on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’
GAZA: Keelin Shanley covered the conflict on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’

Eilis O'Hanlon

Last week's Sunday Show on Newstalk posed the question: is Irish opinion biased against Israel?

As riddles go, that one is right up there with "is the Pope a Catholic?" on the internationally recognised 'well, doh!' scale, but it made for an interesting discussion all the same. Former diplomat-turned-columnist Eamon Delaney noted that Ireland was identified by Israel years ago as the single most hostile European nation, but Dublin councillor Hugh Lewis insisted that the media was pro-Israeli (being from People Before Profit, he naturally called this the "dominant hegemony"), while praising Irish public opinion, especially on social media, for upholding Ireland's "proud tradition of standing up against the oppressor." Delaney wondered why this tradition did not express itself in equal hostility to Russia and Iran for pumping arms into Syria where thousands more Arab civilians have died.

Two things have become clear from the coverage of the violence in Gaza. The first is that anyone who makes the slightest criticism of Palestinian terrorism will instantly be caricatured as an apologist for Israel's actions. That happened to Iranian-born commentator Hazhir Timourian on Tuesday's Today With Sean O'Rourke, currently being hosted by Keelin Shanley.

Timourian observed that Hamas was "rubbing its hands in glee" at the ongoing bombardment because "it's exactly what they wanted the Israelis to do." He also pointed out that trying to apply logic to jihadists was difficult because "this world is not important to them at all", it was the next world which mattered. For this, he was accused by the next guest, West Bank aid worker Elaine Bradley, of spouting "rhetoric and propaganda" which only helped to "fuel a one-sided battle." The idea that Timourian is a supporter of the government of Netanyahu is absurd, but this is an inevitable consequence when the media turns an issue into an either-or bun fight.

The second thing that happens is that there is an equally one-sided battle between logic and emotion, in which emotion always wins. That, too, was evident on Sunday's Marian on RTE Radio 1, where Yanky Fachler, of the Jewish Historical Society of Ireland, lamented that there was "not very much analysis" in the Irish media of "what's actually behind it, rather than what happened today", and defended the blockade of Gaza as a proportionate response to the wave of suicide bombings which had come from there before the infamous fence was built to keep them out.

With that in mind, Marian Finucane, doing her best to be fair, asked retired Irish army colonel Colm Doyle how the Israelis could get security. He replied: ""You don't do it by blanket-bombing schools, hospitals."

Colm O'Gorman, of Amnesty International, then followed that up with the story of a woman with cancer in Gaza who was denied entry to Israel for treatment. Against such awful personal details, everything else paled into insignificance, but it hardly answered the question.

Sunday Independent

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