...................................................for Australian friends of Israel.
08 August 2016
ABC's Sophie McNeill: biased Israel basher with a blind spot for Hamas
again largely missing from Sophie McNeill's latest Gaza expedition
and the national broadcaster's website (July 30), Middle East
correspondent Sophie McNeill returned to what is clearly her
favourite type of story - a one dimensional narrative focusing on
Palestinians suffering in Gaza, where only Israel is deemed culpable
for their plight.
Her hook was to focus on the challenges of rebuilding homes damaged
or destroyed in Gaza during the 2014 conflict.
...On ABC TV
"7pm News" in Victoria, newsreader Ian Henderson's
introduction said rebuilding is "painfully slow as Israel
tightly controls the importation of building materials,"
omitting from responsibility Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza
over which Israel has no control.
...reports began with McNeill's favoured style of opening -
introducing viewers to the travails of ordinary Palestinians who are
just trying to live their lives but are being unreasonably oppressed
According to McNeill, Fida Mosabeh's home was damaged when hit during
an Israeli airstrike on their neighbourhood on "the outskirts of
It is disappointing McNeill didn't name Mosabeh's neighbourhood. This
is important because most of the damage that occurred in Gaza
happened in the outer suburbs, such as Beit Hanoun and Shuja'iyya,
which are Hamas strongholds and were the scenes of some of the
fiercest fighting during the 2014 war.
This is not incidental because Hamas deliberately based its fighters
and military infrastructure in residential areas, using civilians as
The TV report said Israel restricts many building materials with
Israeli spokesman Adam Avidan quoted vaguely explaining that Hamas
diverts these materials for "military needs."
...On the website, she wrote that "the issue of importing concrete
into the besieged Strip" is now "the newest battleground
between the people of Gaza and Israel."
McNeill said one Palestinian, Abdel Rahman, who is currently
rebuilding his home, told her it was "humiliating that Israel
first destroyed his home; and now he needs their approval to rebuild
it" under the GRM arrangements.
she could've asked Abdel Rahman if Hamas' military doctrine of
fighting from within residential areas means it therefore holds even
a modicum of responsibility for the damage to his home. Indeed,
almost completely missing from the report was any sense that Hamas
could have any responsibility whatsoever for either the destruction
in Gaza or the slowness of Gaza reconstruction - even though it is
the governing authority of the territory - and even the UN has admitted that Hamas is stealing
cement intended for civilian reconstruction.
...the "AM" intro failed to acknowledge that in
addition to needing to neutralise rocket launches from Gaza, much of
the damage was a by-product of Israeli forces needing to destroy
terror tunnels whose entrances were inside houses, as well as
contending with houses that Hamas had booby-trapped.
...Robert Piper, UN Gaza humanitarian coordinator,
was quoted ..On TV ... "we need to call it what it is which is the
collective punishment on 1.8 million Gazans."
The "collective punishment" allegation was given special
prominence in the online article, appearing both as a bold headline,
and as a pull quote, screaming out to readers the message that the
blockade is inhumane.
Unsurprisingly, McNeill didn't ask how Piper can guarantee that
lifting a partial blockade won't lead to further attacks by an entity
that has spent 25 years carrying out terror attacks against a country
it has repeatedly vowed to destroy - because implying that Hamas has
any responsibility for the Gaza situation was apparently out of the
In that instance, McNeill decided to end the report with quotes from
Sabah Udar, whose son had died whilst excavating a tunnel. Udar said,
"If there was no occupation, our children wouldn't do such a
In other words, the message was that Hamas' terror is an
understandable reaction to occupation. Of course, Israel ended its
occupation of Gaza in 2005 - something not pointed out.
In fact the assumption that Gaza is occupied territory is clearly an
accepted convention of the ABC. The "7:30" website abstract
for McNeill's June 15 report called Gaza "occupied
Moreover, the ABC website has a dedicated page called
"Palestinian Territory, Occupied" under which stories about
Gaza are filed, including the latest McNeill effort.
Nor does McNeill ever pay more than lip service to Egyptian
enforcement of the blockade in assessing whom to hold responsible for
McNeill made the initial note of Egypt's participation in the
blockade on "AM" and the online article - but not on TV -
but it went no further than that.
Based on McNeill's past practice this was not an accident.
McNeill's June 15 "7:30" report was ostensibly
about an extremely rare opening by Egypt of the Rafah crossing
straddling its border with Gaza. But Rafah's opening was merely the
pretext that was used by McNeill to focus on alleged Israeli
responsibility for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.
Significantly, in that June 15 "7:30" report, Piper had
explicitly told McNeill that, "Our focus really is on that
Israeli border and on the imposition of a blockade on Gaza," not
the Egyptian border.
She apparently has the same skewed preoccupation - which is why it is
unsurprising that McNeill did not probe or push Piper to justify or
explain the rationale behind this policy position by elements of the
UN, which expects Israel, under threat of genocide by Hamas, to throw
open its borders, whilst Egypt is given a free pass.
Moreover, in her latest report McNeill was once again typically vague
in outlining the nature of the blockade.
The website article stated, "For nearly 10 years Israel and
Egypt have maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Movement in and
out is heavily restricted and so is the entry of many goods essential
As noted in the latest edition of the Australia/Israel Review (see
"Reporting by Numbers" in Noted & Quoted), a parallel
report on Gaza produced by SBS
TV "Dateline" (July) at least had the
professionalism to include on its website a statement by the IDF
which contained the following vital and relevant
over 850 trucks loaded with medical supply, construction materials,
food and so on into Gaza. As of today, over 2 million tons of goods
enter Gaza since the beginning of 2016.
You can see expansion of our civil policy towards Gaza over the course
of 2014, 2015, 2016:
2014: 1,017,628 million tons of goods entered Gaza as 143,264
crossings were registered
2015: 4,314,941 million tons of goods entered Gaza as 361,891
crossings were registered
2016: 2,222,392 million tons of goods entered Gaza as 151,841
crossing were registered
The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) as agreed upon by the UN, the
Palestinian Authority and Israel, works effectively as the numbers
speak for themselves.
Since October 2014, over 5.2 million tons of construction material
have entered Gaza for international projects, house repairs and road
Over 100,000 houses are in different stages of the reconstruction
process out of 130,000 houses damaged, according to the UN
Many international officials, including the United Nations Special
Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, have expressed their
impression by the progress of the reconstruction.
In the many reports McNeill has filed she has rarely if ever felt it
necessary to actually state the figures of either people or goods
entering and exiting Gaza.
always, McNeill chose not to include a spokesman from Hamas the
provocateur that ignited the spark of the last war and the governing
authority in Gaza, to explain and justify why Gaza reconstruction is
For over a year she has consistently refused to ask hard questions
about Hamas. This story was a classic example of how McNeill's
reporting typically operates - ordinary Palestinians suffering are
presented. The story is framed to imply that Israel is the sole cause
of that suffering. An Israeli spokesperson is briefly allowed a
sentence or two in defence so that the story can be said to have
"balance." The Palestinians are given the last word
supported by McNeill's largely sympathetic commentary. Hamas and
other Palestinian leaders barely exist unless the Israeli
spokesperson mentions them.
McNeill's stubborn refusal to expose Hamas' rightful place in the
firmament of terror and destructive effect upon the welfare of Gazans
in the story on July 30 was starkly laid out by Israel's arrest of
Mohammad El Halabi, the head of World Vision in Gaza.
As her own report on "AM" last Friday stated, El Halabi is
"charged with giving millions of dollars of World Vision funds
to Hamas to pay fighters, buy weapons, and build fortifications in
Gaza." In other words, here is more evidence Hamas is stealing
much of the aid Israel is facilitating getting into Gaza - so no
wonder Gaza's reconstruction is going slowly and ordinary families are
suffering. Ideally, this should be a wake-up call to McNeill.
...McNeill's reporting raises serious questions of
whether she meets the statutory requirements as the ABC's Middle East
correspondent of her professional obligations, as laid out in Section
4 of the ABC Code of Practice, which includes the following:
a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand
of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or
4.4 Do not
misrepresent any perspective.
4.5 Do not unduly favour one perspective over another.
Considering the numerous stories filed by McNeill on Gaza that have
virtually never included a Hamas spokesperson nor an independent
expert to talk about Hamas, her blind spot on Egypt's blockade and
simplistic assumption that Israeli security measures are a reason for
terror and not the other way around, one would have to entertain