Why doesn't the media ever mention the lack of progress in the Middle East?

No one reminds us that today’s carnage on both sides is an obscene replay

Share

Once, we used to keep clippings, a wad of newspaper cuttings on whatever we were writing about: Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Gaza. Occasionally, we even read books. Maybe it’s because of the internet, but in most of our reports, it seems that history only started yesterday, or last week.

For snobs, it’s called the loss of institutional memory. We journos seem to suffer from it more than most. Our readers, I suspect, do not. So here we go…

“Israel has ignored mounting international calls for a ceasefire and said it will not stop its crippling assault on Gaza until ‘peace and tranquility’ are achieved in southern Israeli towns in the line of Palestinian rocket fire… Arab delegates have met the United Nations Security Council in New York, urging members to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to the Israeli attacks and a permanent ceasefire.” This is from a Press Association report.

Now here’s an editorial from the right-wing Canadian National Post: “We [sic] have a great deal of sympathy for the ordinary people of Gaza. Israel’s attacks this week on the terrorist infrastructure within the tiny, heavily populated area are undoubtedly extremely hard on them… as Hamas officials and operatives use them as human shields. But remember: all that was ever required to forestall these attacks was for Palestinians to stop their violence against Israelis.”

And here’s The Guardian: “Yesterday, as three of his children were laid out dead on the hospital floor, Samouni was in a bed upstairs in the Shifa hospital, recovering from wounds to his legs and shoulder and comforting his son, Mohamed, five, who had suffered a broken arm… ‘It’s a massacre,’ Samouni said. ‘We just want to live in peace.’”

And, just for good measure, here’s Reuters: “Israel expanded yesterday its fiercest air offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in decades and prepared for a possible ground assault, after a three-day bombardment that has killed 300 Palestinians… The [Israeli] planes also attacked the homes of two top commanders in Hamas’s’ armed wing. They were not there, but several family members were among the seven dead.”

And last but not least, here’s writer Robert Fulford in the Canadian Post: “Israel has already proven itself the most restrained nation in history. It has set an all-time record for restraint.”

 

Now of course you are familiar with everything you’ve just read above. Since last week, Israel has been bombarding Gaza to prevent Hamas rockets hitting Israel. Palestinians suffer disproportionately, but it’s all Hamas’s fault. But there’s a problem.

The Press Association report was published on 6 January 2009 – five and a half years ago! The Post editorial was printed on 2 January the same year. The Guardian dispatch was on 6 January 2009, Reuters on 30 December of the previous year – 2008. Fulford’s nonsense was published on 5 January 2009.

READ MORE:
Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
Why I stand with Israel

Oddly, however, no one reminds us that today’s carnage is an obscene replay – by both sides – of what has happened before, and indeed before that. The leftist Israeli historian Illan Pappe has recorded how on 28 December 2006, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem reported that 660 Palestinians had been killed in that year alone, most in Gaza, including 141 children; and that since 2000, Israeli forces had killed almost 4,000 Palestinians with 20,000 wounded. But scarcely has there been a single mention of all of this in a single report on the latest slaughter in the Gaza war.

Why? Why do we as readers – let alone us journalists – allow ourselves to participate in what I can only call a collective memory-wipe? Because we are lazy? Because we don’t care? Or because we fear that explanations for the recurring bloodletting in Israel might lead readers to search for deeper reasons and that Israel’s “friends” abroad might accuse us poor harmless journos of suggesting that Israel – let alone the corrupt Hamas – is engaged in a far more pitiless, infinitely more wicked and obscene war than our bland agency-style reportage suggests?

There’s nothing new about memory-wipe. Take this warning of civil war in Lebanon, published in The Independent, no less: “For Lebanon, these are tense times… Since the Alawite community which dominates political power in Syria is in effect Shia and the majority of Syrians are Sunni, it is not difficult to understand the darker nightmares which afflict the people of this region. If the civil conflict in Iraq were to move west, it could open up religious fault lines from Baghdad to Lebanon… an awesome prospect for the entire Arab world.” Alas, this was written by one R Fisk, published on 7 July 2006 – almost exactly eight years ago – and printed on page 29.

But just to finish off, here’s a Reuters report from Mosul that will sound all too familiar to readers these past few weeks: “Insurgents have set police stations ablaze, stolen weapons and brazenly roamed the streets of Mosul as Iraq’s third largest city appeared to be sliding out of control...” A little problem, of course. This Reuters dispatch was filed in 2004 – 10 years ago! On that occasion, it was the US military, not the Iraqi army, which had to recapture Mosul from the rebels (for the second time, by the way).

I’m afraid it’s about context, this memory-wipe. It’s about the way that armies and governments want us to believe – or forget – what they are doing, it’s about ahistorical coverage, and it’s about – and here I quote the wonderful Israeli journalist Amira Haas – “monitoring the centres of power”.

The question we should ask – a question many readers and televison viewers have been asking – is: haven’t we been here before? And if so, why the repeat performance?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

£18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

Recruitment Genius: Designer

£32969 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence