I finally think I understand what makes news headlines in our local papers, and what does not.
A story came across my desk on Monday morning with its basic premise being that between thirty and forty homes in a town were knocked down by bulldozers and the reason given by the governing body was that the homes were built illegally on government land.
I have read this story in our local newspapers a number of times over the years and the story has always been about Israel and critical of the Jewish State for enforcing its building and planning laws. The claim has often been made that such laws are applied in a discriminatory manner although the evidence is that it actually polices breaches by all manner of citizens.
This particular story about house demolitions did not appear in our local newspapers this week, even though I checked daily as the story mushroomed and continued to make headlines from other international news agencies. It didn’t make The Australian until this morning and then almost as a footnote to a much wider story by John Lyons on suggestions of the use of NATO Peacekeeping forces to help resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict (see more). The Age shunned the story altogether but this was no surprise to me.
You see the headline to this story from Ynet was: Hamas destroys dozens of homes in Gaza.
Certain Middle East correspondents don’t consider newsworthy a story about police wielding clubs clubbing and pushing residents out of their homes when the cops are really Hamas thugs.
The story has since gathered quite a bit of wind. In a New York Times report, Hamas is said to be calling for the removal of “aggressions on public properties”. Interestingly, since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a bloody and deadly coup in 2007, they have actually encouraged housing construction as an opposition to sanctions placed on the Hamas government. While one resident declared that “this is the Nakba of 2010”, the mayor of the city of Rafah has stated, “the Nakba is one thing, and the law is something else”.
According to a report in Haaretz today entitled ‘Hamas to raze 180 Gaza houses, leaving dozens homeless, to erect religious center’, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is now saying that the Hamas government has plans to demolish another 180 Palestinian houses, and have only halted the demolitions until the public outcry dies down.
Interestingly, another story that appeared in the Australian received my attention.
This story was about the construction of a wall around a major city. The wall would be 4.5 meters high and 112km long and would be made out of concrete. The reason for the wall? A series of deadly suicide bombings. According to the report, ‘every man, beast and vehicle entering will be searched at one of only eight gates along the main highway’. The construction of a concrete wall aimed at keeping terrorists out? This sounds a little like other stories that have appeared in The Age over the years, and yet the letters page of that newspaper was not filled the next day with angry readers voicing their outrage and the probable reason is that most Age readers are blissfully ignorant about the story.
Could the reason for this be that the purpose for the construction of this wall is not to save the lives of innocent Israelis from terrorists but rather, to save innocent Iraqi lives from terrorists? This wall is being built in Baghdad, which we all know has been plagued by terrorist car bombings and suicide attacks over the years. Please see ‘Construction begins on great wall of Baghdad’ from the Australian.
It seems that there is a simple formula for keeping a newsworthy story about this region out of the paper.
Can you guess what it is?
PS from a while back, David Horowitz from Jerusalem Report takes a CNN anchor to task for incomplete coverage and lack of context here – it clearly remains relevant.