Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Fisking And Phosphorus

In honour of Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January, Michael Gove wrote an article for the Telegraph, sensitive, thought-provoking, and true. Gove reinforces the importance of Holocaust education, particularly in the face of current antisemitism, giving as one example Ahmadinejad's call to wipe Israel off the map.

A week after this article, Robert Fisk wrote a two page spread in the Independent on Israel's conference in Herzliya.

Fisk lists instances of where Israel has killed enemies (and one incident where it wasn't Israel, but still blames Israel), implying that Israel only killed civilians, and mentions in brackets that 13 Israelis were killed during Cast Lead, and that Cast Lead came after Hamas rockets – but not giving the number of Israelis killed and injured by rockets and other terrorist attacks over the years, nor the times war has been waged on Israel by it’s Arab neighbours. And of course no mention of Ahmadinejad’s desire to destroy Israel.

Instead he mocks the idea of Israel being under threat or a victim of some sort, and implicates that Israel has no right to criticise the press coverage of it and Cast Lead, as though the press is totally fair and factual (see paragraph above for example of how the press is the opposite of fair and factual when it comes to Israel).

He salivates (to use the nice word) over Goldstone; “Goldstone, Goldstone, Goldstone. The eminent lawyer who so bravely… inspires…” bla bla bla, and criticises Israel’s concern that the Goldstone report aims to de-legitimise it.

Then Fisk himself tries to de-legitimise Israel by comparing Israel to Hamas for not co-operating with Goldstone, and saying that Israel only gave “a slap on the wrist for a couple of officers who used phosphorus”, (which isn't true - read on) without actually referring to the fact that Israel and the IDF carried out their own investigations into their actions in Cast Lead, let alone revealing some of their findings.

If all that wasn't bad enough, Fisk's horrendous piece of "journalism" was reincarnated in the Independent the next day - this time in the form of an editorial, which was well 'fisked'* by Robin Shepherd.

The Times editorial was a lot more balanced, stating that whatever wrong Israel did in Cast Lead, it is not Hamas' equivalent, and is still the only democracy in the Middle East. "Israel is not a rogue state... It is an accountable, democratic, transparent nation, and fighting to remain one amid challenges that few other nations ever have to face."

Despite the balanced editorial, though, when there's a chance for a headline about phosphorus, the Times can't help itself - even if the story is wrong.

In the article "Israeli officers get ‘slap on wrist’ for white phosphorus use in Gaza", the Times claims they were "responsible for firing white phosphorus artillery shells at a UN compound", and quotes the report as saying they were guilty “of exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardised the lives of others”. Later in the article, the Times does acknowledge that the report doesn't state that the soldiers were responsible for specifically phosphorous shells, but since it was used in the incident the Times wrongly concludes that that must be what they were reprimanded for.

Melanie Phillips explains the truth:
"The two officers were reprimanded not for firing phosphorus shells but artillery shells. Phosphorus shells were being fired on this occasion, but entirely lawfully -- in order to create smoke to deter Hamas from firing its anti-tank weapons. The irony was that the officers were reprimanded for not firing phosphorus but disobeying their orders by firing artillery shells which endangered life (although no-one was actually hurt by them)." 
*Fisking: n. A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. Named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was [sic: and still is] a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment.
H/t Chas Newkey-Burden 

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