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by Neil Godfrey

Is there anything at all that can be said? I can only feel — appropriate words won’t come. I gather news updates from a range of sources and have been distressingly learning for years now about the increasing attacks by Israelis on Palestinians, including the killing of women and children, with the clear winks from far right government members (even calling for a Palestinian town to be “wiped out“) and with the protection and sometimes outright facilitation of Israeli security forces (both the IDF and the police) — all this and not one word of protest from those national leaders who are now roused to speak up and cry out for a total vindication of Israel’s “right to defend itself” against the atrocities of Hamas — with that condemnation morphing all to often into an implicit condemnation of all Palestinians. The world cries out “War Crime” when a Russian missile destroys a power plant in Ukraine. But when Israel blocks all food and power from entering the overcrowded home of 2 to 3 million people….

As the correspondent Jonathan Cooke wrote:

The current outpouring of sympathy for Israel should make anyone with half a heart retch.

Not because it is not awful that Israeli civilians are dying and suffering in such large numbers. But because Palestinian civilians in Gaza have faced repeated rampages from Israel decade after decade, producing far more suffering, but have never elicited a fraction of the concern currently being expressed by western politicians or publics.

The West’s hypocrisy over Palestinian fighters killing and wounding hundreds of Israelis and holding dozens more hostage in communities surrounding and inside besieged Gaza is stark indeed.

This is the first time Palestinians, caged in the coastal enclave, have managed to inflict a significant strike against Israel vaguely comparable to the savagery Palestinians in Gaza have faced repeatedly since they were entombed in a cage in 2007, when Israel began its blockade by land, sea and air.

. . . .

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas, which nominally runs the open-air prison of Gaza, of starting “a cruel and evil war”. But the truth is that the Palestinians have “started” nothing. They have managed, after so much struggle, to find a way to hurt their tormentor.

Inevitably for the Palestinians, as Netanyahu also observed, “the price will be heavy” – especially for civilians. Israel will inflict on the prisoners the severest punishment for their impudence.

Watch how little sympathy and concern there will be from the West for the many Palestinian men, women and children who are killed once again by Israel. Their immense suffering will be obscured, and justified, by the term “Israeli retaliation”.

. . . .

No one really cared while Gaza’s Palestinans were subjected to a blockade imposed by Israel that denied them the essentials of life. The few dozen Israelis being held hostage by Hamas fighters pale in comparison with the two million Palestinians held hostage by Israel in an open-air prison for nearly two decades.

No one really cared when it emerged that Gaza’s Palestinians had been put on a “starvation diet” by Israel – only limited food was allowed in, calculated to keep the population barely fed.

No one really cared when Israel bombed the coastal enclave every few years, killing many hundreds of Palestinian civilians each time. Israel simply called it “mowing the lawn”. The destruction of vast areas of Gaza, what Israeli generals boasted of as returning the enclave to the Stone Age, was formalised as a military strategy known as the “Dahiya doctrine“.

No one really cared when Israeli snipers targeted nurses, youngsters and people in wheelchairs who came out to protest against their imprisonment by Israel. Many thousands were left as amputees after those snipers received orders to shoot the protesters indiscriminately in the legs or ankles.

Western concern at the deaths of Israeli civilians at the hands of Palestinian fighters is hard to stomach. Have not many hundreds of Palestinian children died over the past 15 years in Israel’s repeated bombing campaigns on Gaza? Did their lives not count as much as Israeli lives – and if not, why not?

After so much indifference for so long, it is difficult to hear the sudden horror from Western governments and media because Palestinians have finally found a way – mirroring Israel’s inhumane, decades-long policy – to fight back effectively.

This moment rips off the mask and lays bare the undisguised racism that masquerades as moral concern in western capitals.

. . . .

I listened to an American diplomat try to explain that the reason there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians is because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. No-one said that the United States’ refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the mainland Chinese government from 1949 to 1972 made it impossible for the two countries to live in the same world together. Hamas has called for a two-state solution recognizing the 1967 borders — an implicit acknowledgement that a regime they consider illegitimate and illegal and immoral will exist alongside a Palestinian state. Israel has persistently thumbed its nose at international law by expanding its own settlements in the only place a Palestinian state could exist, — and effectively winking at their settler pogroms against Palestinian villages.

An Israeli military spokesperson said the “breakout” by Hamas from Gaza proved that Hamas were animals who could never be satisfied. After all, he “explained”, Israel “unilaterally” withdrew its forces totally from Gaza leaving Gaza entirely to the Palestinians; “What more could Israel do in giving the Palestinians all they asked for!” — Like leaving caged prisoners to their own devices within their barbed wire and spike defended walls on their subsistence diet and patchy power supply.

It’s all too sickening. But it seemed so wrong to post about intellectual fancies like biblical studies without acknowledging something infinitely more important right now.

I have not heard first hand or face to face from Palestinians themselves or from anyone who has visited the West Bank and Gaza recently so I rely on media reports (only partly on the mainstream media, though that has a place, too) and published research and testimonies to keep abreast of what is happening. A while back, during the time of the wave of suicide bombings, I learned that many ordinary Palestinians despised Hamas for their cold use of youngsters to blow themselves up. Since then, there have been changes within Hamas and they were democratically elected in Gaza (to much of the world’s horror) — they were the only party that most Palestinians trusted to actually deliver needed humanitarian services. I don’t know what most Palestinians think of the recent Hamas attacks but I would not be surprised if a good many feel despair and dismay. But it doesn’t matter now. The fire has started. If only individuals like us could do a little more to try to raise awareness of the hypocrisy and racism among our national leaders that is giving comfort to the governing powers of Israel as they ignore the rules of humanity and justice. Except when their own prisoners violate them to their own hurt.




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Neil Godfrey

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28 thoughts on “Unspeakable…”

  1. I saw pictures on the BBC News website front page of some ‘worthy’ victims of the recent violence and to me, it was a stark reminder of the many hundreds of Palestinian children who had been murdered over the last few years and whose faces and family stories would never feature on a BBC News report. And who I only even know about because I don’t rely on the BBC to tell me.

    “the mainstream media … that has a place, too” – in the case of the BBC, its place is in providing relentless propaganda which ignores and dehumanises one side while showing an exaggerated humanitarian interest in the other.

    1. The BBC has consistently reported on the situation; it has had staff killed by the Israeli armed forces. Israel has constantly complained about and blocked the BBC from accessing data and sites because it dislikes the fact that the BBC have a perspective which is not dictated by them. The BBC has been under enormous political pressure to label Hamas as terrorists and has refused to do so. The BBC has shown docu-dramas depicting the way in which Palestinian people have been forced out of their homes at gunpoint.

      “Propaganda” is not simply saying something that you disagree with from time to time.

      1. I have been following this very carefully, and I fully stand by my propaganda allegation. The media analysts at “Media Lens” (medialens.org) have carefully documented the propaganda role of the BBC over many years. If you have read Noam Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’ you will understand that it is not simply a difference of opinion. The way that the BBC treats ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ victims is systematic, longstanding and always in the interests of power.

        The opening lines of this article are very illustrative: https://www.medialens.org/2021/the-savage-punishment-of-gaza-israels-latest-assault-on-palestines-open-prison/

        QUOTE: Recent media coverage of Israel and Palestine, not least by BBC News, has been full of the usual deceptive propaganda tropes: Israel is ‘responding’ or ‘reacting’ to Palestinian ‘provocation’ and ‘escalation’; Palestinian rockets ‘killed’ Israelis, but Palestinians ‘have died’ from unnamed causes; Israel has ‘armed forces’ and ‘security forces’, but Hamas has ‘militants’.

        As for the BBC not wanting to use the word ‘terrorist’, well, not giving into the most rabid Hasbara voices is less a sign of independence, and more an attempt to preserve at least some credibility for their more subtle propaganda campaign. And hey, it seems to work.

      2. I should add that one cannot deny that there are good reporters working within the BBC and other major networks, but I also think that the only readers who know how to appreciate their work are those are better informed about the background to the news and can appreciate more comprehensively where those reporters are coming from.

        In our ABC (Australian, not the American one) I sometimes find myself impressed with certain honest and hard-hitting reports, but in time I also have to acknowledge that most listeners/viewers do not have the same background or life situation that I have and so do not seek out and read the same information that I make time for. Accordingly, it is not the “stand-out” items that shape their view, — although they may raise some questions over time — but the main headlines that shape the inputs received.

        As alluded to here already, it is often the grammatical construction of the language in which the news is reported that shapes “reality” — passive voice vs active; technical and euphemistic jargon; what is not shown contrasted with what is shown in video images — these are the subtle ways by which world-views are presented.

        1. I have to say in counter to your posts and Geoff Sheridan’s that I am very well aware of what’s been going on in Palestine during my lifetime and beyond and pretty well my only source for that has been the BBC. So they’re doing something right.

          The idea that the Israeli government and its catspaws constantly rail against the BBC and reporters like Jeremy Bowen (a hate-figure for the “Campaign Against Antisemitism” and “Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland” for his reporting) as some sort of a smokescreen doesn’t stand up to scrutiny IMO. Yeah, the Beeb may flex a bit here and there to avoid being thrown out completely but they have managed to present a reality which is very far from “Jews constantly under attack by unreasonable/ungrateful/noe-nazi neighbours”. The most radical line the BBC follows on the topic is that last-man-standing isn’t a great solution for anyone.

          I would admit that during immediate crises of any kind the BBC’s caution often leads to bland reporting and (cited) repeating of official lines. But year-in, year-out, the corporation has not been at all sympathetic to Israel’s attempts to airbrush history, often against substantial local political pressure. Outside of this context it’s something that we see domestically in the UK regularly – the BBC tries to take a neutral view and pisses off all sides of some polarising topic (Brexit, monarchy, Northern Ireland, etc.).

          Print-news has been much much worse, by and large being mostly the hidden opinion of one man – the owner – filtered through his hand-picked editor.

          But, as you say, there are exceptional reporters in all media.

          1. That’s encouraging to hear. I don’t follow the BBC as much as I do our ABC, but how do you respond to Jonathan Cooke’s point:

            Can one seriously imagine the BBC describing Hamas’ bloody storming of a rave next to Gaza last weekend, killing hundreds of partygoers, as retaliation for years of blockade of Gaza by Israel, or for the thousands of Gaza protesters left amputees by Israeli snipers shooting them in the leg, or for the children denied a future in an open-air prison Israel patrols by land, air and sea?

            Of course not.

            No one at the BBC, however, has second thoughts about describing as “retaliation” the daily massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, including children blasted to pieces by Israeli missiles raining down from the sky.

            While in a doctor’s waiting room I watched one Murdoch network’s news report of the Al-Ahli hospital horror.

            It was described as “the bombing of a hospital” — no blame was attributed to anyone. The images shown on the tv were of people being carried somewhere. No images of anything as gruesome as the blood stains that they showed as a result of the Hamas attacks. At the end they said the two sides blamed each other. Hamas was said to blame Israel and Israeli military and government officials were blaming Hamas or its military wing. No Palestinian hospital persons were depicted but we did see images of Israeli government and military persons delivering their blame of Hamas — that is, far more time, detail and graphic presentation to the Israeli claim.

            Meanwhile, I was left wondering why reporters or the editors did not offer the evidence cited by each side for their respective accusations. It would only have taken half a minute to point out — with graphics — the differential power of a Hamas rocket against an Israeli bomb for anyone to see that the scale of destruction being described is atypical — even unimaginable — as being caused by a home-made rocket.

            In another interview by the ABC an Australian politician was given free time, with no probing questions, to explain that even if the destruction was from Israel it was unimaginable that Israelis would do such a thing deliberately and that “we all know” Hamas hides weapons and fighters in hospitals, using them as human shields, with the implied blame falling on Hamas forcing the Israelis with superior humanity and morality into doing something by accident that they were forced to do anyway…thus twisting listener’s heads about the mindset of Israelis.

            Our mainstream media here seem to be competing for first place in avoiding any risk of portraying Israel in a negative light.

          2. Another plug for the BBC ….. from Arnaud Bertrand

            Something interesting I’ve noticed.

            It all starts with my genuine surprise that there seems to be a rather refreshing amount of honesty by a great number of Western media and multilateral organizations and NGOs as to what’s actually going on in Gaza.

            The BBC has been shockingly even-handed so far, the FT has had stories after stories calling for a ceasefire, same thing for the Washinton Post and we even have Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan!) now writing daily tweets to denounce the ongoing massacre. I’m not even mentioning the various UN bodies, the WHO, the red cross, etc. all screaming outrage at Israel’s blatant disregard for human life.

            That’s very much new. There were very few periods in history with such an immense disconnect between official foreign policy and the media, except maybe late in the Vietnam war; but this was really confined to America and it was after years of tiring war. By contrast this occurs almost throughout the entire globe and it started immediately. . . .

              1. I have thought about you a little, Thomas, since we spoke. On the one hand, I’m quite impressed* that you manage to get a good understanding of what’s going on from a diet of BBC news. I feel you must be a person of good will. On the other hand, I wonder if your list of ‘unknown unknowns’ as Donald Rumsfeld might have said, is longer than you imagine. How do you know what the BBC *don’t* report?

                It certainly does not seem to me that the occasional counter-example disproves my thesis. I wonder if you looked at the trove of research at MediaLens or have read Chomsky, ‘Manufacturing Consent’ as I suggested. The BBC must maintain some arguable defence that it reports both sides. Its effectiveness as a propaganda organ relies on people believing in its vaunted but false ‘impartiality’. So in a conflict where Israel has killed vastly more civilians, if it devoted equal time to victims on both sides (and it doesn’t) it is still giving ~20 times the weight to Israeli victims.

                And on the ‘unknown unknowns’ side, just as an example, you are probably unaware, if the BBC is your sole source, of these three pertinent facts:

                1. Israel, and Netanyahu in particular, have a long record of supporting Hamas, which they have seen as useful in blocking a negotiated settlement and so avoiding a two state solution.

                2. Lots of interviews with Israeli survivors of the Hamas ‘prison breakout’ describe the majority of killings being carried out by IDF troops, tanks and helicopters. The burnt-out cars and collapsed buildings were not done with small arms. Have you heard of the ‘Hannibal Directive’?

                3. Israel has thousands of Palestinian ‘prisoners’, thousands of them children, who are indefinitely imprisoned without charge, trial or due process, and so have the same status as the ‘hostages’ held by Hamas. Both sides have hostages, Israel just has a lot more. How many heart-rending stories have you seen about Palestinian mothers waiting for news about *their* kidnapped children on the BBC?

                Seriously, did you know these things? Could you ever hope to find them out from the BBC?
                And please do read the ‘Turmoil at the BBC’ article Neil posted below, it has BBC staff making similar points about language, omission and emphasis, and the overall effect of these.

                Warm regards,


                *but perhaps a little sceptical

  2. It needed to be said. This problem has existed since 1948, when Israel was created by military force. Both sides in the conflict have done “unspeakable” things to each other, but Western media always refer to the Palestinians as “the terrorists” that Israel has a perfect right to defend itself against. There is enough blame to go around and and the actions of both sides should be condemned, but the fact is the Israel “started it” and has always been the strongest side, by itself and in double measure because of the steady support in all forms by the United States.

  3. I agree completely. I also was pleased to see Jonathan Cooke’s historically informed piece.

    I’m afraid there’s no escape from the cycle of violence in Palestine.

    Hamas seems to have committed real atrocities on Saturday, but the eagerness with which most US commentators have seized on them as a means of suppressing the memory of Israel’s own is dismaying.

    1. Yes. An excellent read highlighting the complexities of the conflict and the many deliberate efforts by the Israelis to push the Palestinians aside; but, the atrocities and outright cold-blooded murders of many innocent Israeli citizens by Hamas cannot be justified.

      As much as Israel can be criticized for its treatment of the Palestinians, these acts cannot be excused as
      anything other than hatred and racism run amok.

      See: https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2023/10/09/visuals-the-attack-on-israel/


      1. Yes, but provoking hate and anti-semitism seems to have been part of Israel’s long-term strategy. Keeping 2 milliion people in a concentration camp on a starvation diet for 15 years was bound to produce violence eventually. The Israelis resorted to terrorism (see Irgun) under much less provocation.

        But you’re right that the indiscrimate killing in the kibbutzim, and especially at the music festival, were appalling.

        Now it is time to watch Hamas’ cynical strategy play out successfully: get Israel to overreact with its own atrocities, this time with the world playing close attention, and watch the MidEast go up in flames.

        The situation is hopeless.

  4. What sad stories are being ‘written’.
    We hold remembrances for various wars that saved us by our own sacrifices and perfectly mirror the Ideas written into the Jesus tale … “no greater love has any than to lay down their lives for others”

    Could it be that the methods of philosophical History in Plato used to found the Judaeo-Christian-Moslem world of old have been upgraded to plan and act them into reality to found an extremely real seeming philosophically planned ‘History’?

    Could we be seeing similar in yet again?

    Of course those in a philosophical narrative don’t know it, and when it is pointed out to them … well many of us have been there and know how difficult it can be to ‘part that veil’ and see the reality behind the priestly temple constructs that are the mental world (unknown god) we live and move and have our being in, to varying degrees.


  5. The “bothsides” story of Palestinian and Israel is a 75 year history of failed opportunities to reconcile by both states. Get ready for it to blow.

  6. I happened to catch a little of our “most trusted news source” in Australia, the ABC, reporting on the al-Ahli hospital bombing in Gaza City. I had already read about it yesterday evening on Al Jazeera who quoted the Gaza Health Ministry saying there were “at least 500 casualties”, and a conclusion noting that 3000 Palestinians had so far been killed and 1400 Israelis.

    Contrast the ABC news this morning reporting it thus:

    300 dead — no reference to Gazan official statements;
    Israeli authorities were reported as saying that the government “knew nothing about it/the details”;
    4000 dead on both sides.

    The differences in the way information is presented are surely clear and the agendas plain to see.

    1. I didn’t know about Cook until you posted the link in the OP. He offers a valuable PoV, and that latest article is interesting, reminding us not to put too much stock early reports from a war.

      But I was disappointed that he himself promoted false reports of an Israeli attack on a Gaza hospital on Oct 17. Now his credibility will be tarnished when describes true Israeli atrocities.

      1. Does he “promote false reports” of the bombing of the hospital? He wrote:

        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. . . .

        Yes, I find Jonathan Cook to be filling a most worthy role since the sad departure of Robert Fisk.

        1. Cook has toned it down a bit in the most recent post, but he was all in on sole Israeli culpability at the time. Even now he clearly believes that, e.g. “… even less credibly, that Palestinian militants were the most likely culprits.”

          I’ve looked into this, and the evidence is that it was Hamas rocket that caused the damage Oct 17. That is not definitive, but clearly Cook isn’t taking his own advice when it comes to early reports from war.

          Josh Marshall has done good reporting on this.

          Nevertheless I’m also skeptical about early reports of Oct 7, which still have not been thoroughly vetted. The news from Palestine is a constant minefield of disinformation from both sides.

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