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[This is a transcript of my full speech for the Bristol Palestine Alliance’s March Against Media Bias at College Green, Bristol, on Saturday May 4.]

Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, and it is fitting we mark it by highlighting two things.

First, we should honour the brave journalists of Gaza who have paid a horrifying price for making the Palestinian experience of genocide visible to western audiences over the past seven months.

Israel has killed a tenth of their number – some 100 journalists – as it tries to prevent the truth of its atrocities from getting out. Israel’s has been most deadly eruption of violence against journalists ever recorded.

Second, we must shame the western media – not least the BBC – who have so utterly betrayed their Palestinian colleagues by failing to properly report the destruction of Gaza, or name it as a genocide.

The BBC aired only the briefest coverage of South Africa’s devastating case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in January – a case so powerful the court has put Israel on trial for genocide. A fact you would barely know from the BBC’s reporting.

By contrast, the corporation cleared the schedules to present in full Israel’s hollow legal response.

The BBC’s double standards are all the more glaring if we recall how it reported Ukraine, also invaded by a hostile army – Russia’s.

Only two years ago the BBC dedicated its main news headlines to Kyiv’s citizens mass-producing molotov cocktails with which to greet Russian soldiers closing in on their city.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen felt emboldened to post – apparently approvingly – a diagram showing weak points where the improvised explosives would do most damage to Russian tanks, and the soldiers inside.

Two years later, in its coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the same BBC has performed a 180-degree turn.

It is quite impossible to imagine Bowen or any other British journalist posting instructions on how Palestinians might burn alive Israeli soldiers in their tanks – even though those soldiers, unlike Russia’s, have been occupying and stealing Palestinian lands for decades, not two years.

Israeli soldiers, unlike Russian soldiers, are now actively enforcing a genocidal policy of starvation.

But the double standards of establishment media like the BBC aren’t directed only towards the people of Gaza. They are directed at us, the public, too.

The same media that celebrated families taking in Ukrainian refugees has willingly conspired in the smearing of those whose only crime is that they wish to stop the slaughter of 15,000-plus Palestinian children in Gaza.

There is apparently nothing heroic about opposing Israel’s genocide, even if opposing Russia’s invasion is still treated as a badge of honour.

The media give politicians a free pass to vilify as an antisemite anyone outraged that UK weapons are being used to help kill, maim and orphan many, many tens of thousands of Palestinian children. That accusation assumes that every Jew supports this slaughter, and erases all those Jews standing alongside us today at this protest.

In the US, police forces are beating and arresting students who have peacefully called on their universities to stop investing in the arming of Israel’s genocide. When the police pulled back at UCLA, it was only to allow pro-Israel thugs to assault the students – again many of them Jews.

A clear war is being waged against the right to protest against a genocide. And in tandem, the media has declared a war on the English language.

The roles of aggressor and victim have been reversed. The BBC accused the students, encamped on university grounds, of “clashing” with pro-Israel groups that invaded the campus to violently attack them.

What explains these glaring inconsistencies, this gigantic failure by a media that’s supposed to act as a watchdog on the abuse of power.

Part of the answer is old-school racism. Ukrainains look like us, as some reporters let slip, and therefore deserve our solidarity. Palestinians, it seems, do not.

But there is another, more important answer. The establishment media isn’t really a watchdog on the abuse of power. It never was. It is a narrative factory, there to create stories that make those abuses of power possible.

State and billionaire-owned media achieve this goal through various sleights of hand.

First, they omit stories that might disrupt the core narrative.

The media’s script is a simple one:

What the West and its allies do is always well-meant, however horrific the outcomes.

And what the West does, however provocative or foolhardy, can never be cited as an explanation for what our “enemies” do.

No cause and no effect. They, whoever we select, are simply savage. They are evil. Theyare out to destroy civilisation. They must be stopped.

Nightly for weeks, I have watched the BBC news. If it were all I relied on, I would barely know that Israel is daily bombing the refugee camps of Rafah that are supposedly a “safe zone”.

Or that Israel continues to engineer a famine by blocking aid, and that Palestinians continue to die of hunger.

Or that the UK has actively assisted the creation of that famine by denying UNRWA funding.

Or that the protests to end the Gaza genocide – painted as terror-supporting and antisemitic – are backed by many, many Jews, some of them here today.

And of course, I would have little idea that Israel’s imprisonment and slaughter of Palestinians did not begin on October 7 with Hamas’ attack.

That’s because the BBC continues to ignore the siege of Gaza as the context for October 7 – just as it and the rest of the media largely ignored the 17-year siege throughout the years Israel was enforcing it.

If I relied on the BBC, I would not understand that what Israel is doing can be neither “retaliation”, nor a “war”. You can’t go to war, or retaliate, against a people whose territory you have been belligerently occupying and stealing for decades.

And when the media can no longer omit, it distracts – through strategies of deflection, misdirection and minimisation.

So when Gaza makes the news, as it rarely does now, it is invariably filtered through other lenses.

The focus is on interminable negotiations, on Israel’s plans for the “day after”, on the agonies of the hostages’ families, on the fears evoked by protest chants, on where to draw the line on free speech.

Anything to avoid addressing a genocide that’s been carried out in broad daylight for seven months.

In their defence, establishment journalists tell us that they have a duty to be impartial. Their critics, they say, do not understand how news operations work.

As a journalist who spent years working in major newsrooms, I can assure you this is a self-serving lie.

Just this week, an interview went viral of the Norway Broadcasting Corporation interviewing Israeli government spokesman David Mencer. Unlike on the BBC, Mencer’s lies did not pass unchallenged.

The Norwegian journalist spent 25 minutes unpicking his falsehoods and deceptions, one by one. It was revelatory to see an Israeli spokesperson’s claims stripped away, layer by layer, until he stood there naked, his lies exposed.

It can be done – if there is a will to do it.

Journalists at the BBC and the rest of the establishment media understand, however implicitly, that their job is to fail. It is to fail to investigate the genocide in Gaza. It is to fail to give voice to the powerless. It is to fail to provide context and aid understanding. It is to fail to show solidarity with their colleagues in Gaza being killed for their journalism.

Rather, the BBC’s role is to protect the political establishment from ever being held to account for their complicity in genocide.

The establishment media’s job is to create the impression of uncertainty, of doubt, of confusion – even when what is happening is crystal clear.

When one day, the World Court finally gets round to issuing a ruling on Israel’s genocide, our politicians and media will claim they could not have known, that they were misled, that they could not see clearly because events were shrouded by the “fog of war”.

Our job is to explode that lie, to deny them an alibi. It is to keep pointing out that the information was there from the start. They knew, if only because we told them.

And one day, if there is any justice, they will stand in the dock – at the Hague – their excuses stripped away.

The post Why the media have failed Gaza first appeared on Dissident Voice.

This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Jonathan Cook.


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