The first casualty of war is truth, so the saying goes.
In 2017, in a world fueled by 24-hour news and social media, a world that constantly seems to teeter on the brink of all-out chaos, this is more apt than ever. It’s a world hungry for content at any cost, desperate for hits and clicks, driven by advertisers fueled by their own political agendas.
we understand that all media carries some bias, we also expect that journalists
will attempt to be objective and impartial, especially when innocent lives are
at stake. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
term “fake news” has been bandied
about a lot in the last few months, ever since it became the catch-cry of
anything Donald Trump didn’t like in the 2016 election. But fake news has been
around forever: what has changed is our ability to instantly share and be
influenced by it. There is, however, a fine line between fake news and
entrenched media bias, between clickbait intended purely to make some noise and
a carefully orchestrated misrepresentation of the facts, something which has
devastating and far-reaching consequences.
deep into this murky world of media bias, Eyeless
in Gaza is a courageous attempt to re-write the narrative when it comes to
Israel and Palestine, examining in particular the most recent instance their
ongoing skirmish erupted into full-blown warfare in the summer of 2014. Too
often- the film asserts- Israel has been branded as the aggressor by the
world’s media in the bloody battle against Hamas.
film is painstakingly constructed and evenly balanced featuring interviews not
just with prominent Israelis but also with Palestinian civilians and
journalists, Hamas leaders, military analysts and UN officials. It is clear-
from those who are willing to talk- that we haven’t been told the full story.
Instead, the film suggests that the media’s traditional bias against Israel
combined with Hamas’ ability to control local coverage through threats and
intimidation resulted in a staggering lack of honest reporting, incorrectly
painting Israel as the well-funded bully to Palestine’s scrappy, defenseless
underdog. Few would deny there are complex issues on both sides of this
conflict, but what is also undeniable is that there is more to the story the
simple hero/villain narrative the media has perhaps let us believe. In reality,
it’s not quite as black and white.
Eyeless in Gaza sheds light on
this, on the entrenched prejudice within certain western news organisations and at the same time, the
degree to which Hamas was able to control the media, by intimidating
journalists deep within Gaza territory and threatening civilians for speaking out.
One of these was Harry Fear, a British TV correspondent for RTV, who was thrown
out of Gaza for tweeting that Hamas were firing rockets from within civilian
areas. Others- like AAP reporter Matti Friedman- tell stories of waiting until
they were safely out of Palestinian territory before filing any reports which
may have been critical of Hamas. Combined with raw footage- video surveillance
of Hamas fighters setting off rockets next to UN schools and people being used
as human shields- the documentary paints a vivid and disturbing picture about
the lengths to which Hamas- a democratically elected government, let’s
remember- were willing to go to, even putting their own citizens in harm’s way.
applauding this courageous documentary for blasting the media and exposing
their bias, it’s also important to have full disclosure about the creative team
behind it. (It would be hypocritical not to) Eyeless In Gaza was produced by Robert Magid, a wearer of many hats
including economist and property developer as well as filmmaker. He is also
publisher of the Australian Jewish News. With that in mind, one might be quick
to assume Magid has his own bias on this subject, though this assumption is
unfair. True, he has a vested interest in Israeli-Palestinian relations, yet
that interest comes from years living and working in the Middle East and
observing its politics. He has a unique and valuable perspective on this
complicated and divisive issue. The same can be said of his director, Martin
Himel, who notched up 25 years in the Middle East both as a correspondent and
then a bureau chief for a number of networks in the US and Canada. He’s since
become an award-winning documentary maker for CNN, Sky and PBS. In other words,
you can’t discredit the impeccable credentials of these two heavy-hitters. This
is clearly an important subject they believe hasn’t been addressed, and one upon
which they are more than capable of shedding light.
Whatever your perspective on the
Israel/Palestine conflict, it’s important to recognize that the responsibility
of the Fourth Estate is to seek out the truth and report it “without fear or
favour”, as Adolph S. Ochs, the founding father of the New
York Times once implored.
in Gaza presents a compelling and powerful case
that invites you to decide for yourself just how much truth was reported in
Gaza in 2014. It reminds us all that we must be ever vigilant in questioning
where our news comes from, who has filtered it and what they stand to gain.