Last weekend, the Good Weekend magazine from the Age published a six page spread entitled ‘Project: Gaza’ by Paul McGeough. The article focused on six activists involved in the Free Gaza Movement, how they came to be involved and their involvement with the flotillas, in particular, the fleet that was involved in clashes with the IDF in late May.
Journalist Paul McGeough was on one of the ships involved in the flotilla, and has spent a large amount of his time since then obsessively covering the events that happened on Mavi Marmara. McGeough and a photographer were ostensibly placed by their employer on the flotilla to observe its mission from an objective viewpoint. They were not supposed to be there as supporters of its aims but rather to report the events as they occurred. Well, that was what was supposed to be the case.
Moreover, although he was on the flotilla, McGeough was not on the Mavi Marmara, when the violence occurred. Yet, he has constantly painted a one-sided picture that could only come from one with partisan views closely aligned to those of the flotilla organisers and, indeed to many impartial observers, has served as an apologist for the actions of those on the Mavi Marmara who were involved in the violence that took place on board. Despite a substantial body of evidence in the form of photographs, videos and oral and written statements that have contradicted most of his claims, McGeough has ploughed on relentlessly with his one-sided narrative.
It came as quite a surprise to me at least, that despite the considerably high volume of material already produced and regurgitated on the subject by McGeough, that the Age would devote another six pages dedicated to the dramatic lies that some of passengers of questionable integrity passed on to McGeough. What is more of a surprise is that his publishers, Fairfax believe that their “papers endeavour to be balanced, and to put both sides of the question”. That quote comes from a transcript of yesterday’s Fairfax AGM. The speaker was its chairman, Mr. Roger Corbett.
Despite Corbett’s extraordinary claim, the contrary view to that which has been repeated ad nauseum by McGeough, has barely seen the light of day in his publications.
You must be joking, Mr. Corbett but we would accept a six page lift out on the subject of terrorism and incitement to violence against Israel and its citizens any time.
To understand the one sided nature of the reporting from the Age, one needs to understand the great lengths that McGeough goes to in order to downplay the role of the violent elements from the IHH. His article made sly references to the “sleek and black” Zodiacs with their “bullet-shaped hulls” followed by the declaration: “As the helicopters moved in, activists on the upper deck rushed to the top level of the ship. By sunrise, nine activists were dead and 50 injured.”
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, he yada yada’d over the best part. (* Video of the cache of weapons including knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs, 5kg hammers and firebombs, * Close up video of “peace activists” attacking the metal batons, *Video taken by the IDF showing passengers of the Mavi Marmara violently attacking IDF officers trying to board the ship, *Video of the radio exchange between the soldiers on their way to the bridge and the IDF ship. The soldiers are reporting their encounter with live fire and serious violence., *Video of Israeli Navy officer describing the violent mob aboard the Mavi Marmara, *Video of the Mavi Marmara passengers attacking the IDF before the soldiers boarded the ship, *Video of the flotilla rioters as they prepared rods, slingshots, broken bottles and metal objects to attack IDF soldiers, *Video of Israeli naval officers addressing the ship )
McGeough has tried to clarify that “it needs to be stated here that precisely what happened on the Mavi Marmara is highly contested”. Strangely, however, McGeough has never reported on the “highly contested” aspects of the story although he has hotly contested the Israeli footage that exists about the violence perpetrated by the IHH and even declared, “all such Israeli charges are flatly denied by flotilla organisers who were close to the action”.
They would do that, wouldn’t they? (Although in light of the pictorial evidence only a fool would believe them).
All of the evidence that exists is in complete contradiction to McGeough’s claims, particularly given the weight of visual evidence showing the IHH preparing for a violent confrontation taken directly from interviews with passengers aboard the ship (see more here, here and here). Perhaps McGeough also missed that!
He certainly missed the photographs published in the Turkish media taken by IHH operatives in order to embarrass Israel of injured Israeli soldiers, and the removal of a knife and blood by Reuters of these pictures. He missed the actual video of a soldier being stabbed. He missed the footage of the soldier being thrown overboard. All of this has been whitewashed in his reports.
And of course, there was no mention by McGeough that the IHH is a militant Islamist movement with a record of supporting terror, or that several of the flotilla passengers were active terror operatives with links to al-Qaeda, Hamas and other organisations or that the IHH has been banned elsewhere in the world, such as in Germany for having links to Hamas. Perhaps it is because neither McGeough nor the Age believe that these matters are relevant to the story?
In the meantime, McGeough obviously saw some bogus footage of “what appears to be Israeli commandos shooting an activist near point blank range” because all over interpretations of the said footage seem to make it clear, even to non-military experts such as myself, that the gun was a paintball gun. But then again, McGeough also talked about supposed CCTV footage of assassins entering Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s hotel room in Dubai in January, another lie which was later exposed.
To add to McGeough’s tour de force of balanced journalism, he interviewed six people who he believed were the “movers & shakers” of the Free Gaza Movement. Two of the women stated that they became involved in this line of activism after the death of Mohammed al-Dura in 2000. McGeough adds his own commentary in parenthesis: “The 12 year-old-boy died at Netzarim Junction, Gaza, in his father’s arms after being shot by the Israel Defence Forces”.
Right, Mr. McGeough, you’ve researched your subject well except for that some simple fact checking would reveal this story to be not quite accurate (at this stage I would submit that accuracy is no longer relevant in the context of the picture being painted).
At the beginning of the Second Intifada, it was alleged that the IDF was responsible for killing the young child. The images, taken from footage by Charles Enderlin from France 2 Television Network and his Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu-Rahma, were dispatched worldwide, spurring international outrage directed at the IDF. Over time, various stories came out about the veracity of the reports, including claims that given all of the evidence and the positioning of al-Dura in relation to the IDF soldiers, the fatal shot could not have come from the IDF (see more).
Abu-Rahma’s footage was around 55 seconds but there was another 27 minutes of footage that was never publically released and was only viewed in a French Court after France2 was order to produce the original tapes. Those who were at the hearing and have seen the footage state that none of the frames support the claim that the Israelis were even involved in the particular incident. This is all due to the courageous work of Phillipe Karsenty, who has been dragged through the courts in order to bring this case to a close. Please read this recent interview with Danny Seaman, the former director of the Israeli Government Press Office for more on the al-Dura case.
That the Age has dedicated so much space to McGeough, the lies that were told to him and the stories he wrote about them is shocking enough but what makes it a complete mockery is that he has been nominated for a prestigious Walkley Award for his front-page piece on 4 June 2010 entitled ‘Suddenly sound bombs and tear gas exploded’.
I have checked the guidelines for the award, which state: “The emphasis should be on creative and courageous journalism – the different rather than the predictable. We are looking to recognise research and dedicated journalism that seeks out the truth.” Creative, well, yes. Courageous … I don’t think so. If you want to find a courageous journalist, take Khaled Abu Tuomeh who advocates the need for Palestinians to liberate themselves by speaking the truth. That’s courageous – not the constant repetition of the words of provocateurs who travelled on the Mavi Marmara.
The “code of ethics” for the award also state that the journalist does “not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment…. to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence” and that the journalist must “disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be to seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism”. You can make up your own mind as to whether this man is a worthy nominee, let alone potential recipient of such an esteemed award.
In the meantime, if McGeough and Fairfax are after awards, then I have done them a favour by nominating him for a Dishonest Reporting Award on the Honest Reporting website. There’s an outside chance that he might achieve the dual honour of a Walkley and a Dishonest Reporting award for the same piece and in an interesting linkage, if McGeough did win a Dishonest Reporting award he would be in good company joining 2007 recipients Charles Enderlin (for the al-Dura controversy) and Fairfax alum Ed O’Loughlin (see more).