Wednesday, June 06, 2007

BBC explains it all

I was curious to see what exactly makes British academics believe Israel is the source of all evil, so I looked to see what's on the BBC News homepage.

BBC News has a slideshow about the "Arab-Israeli war of 1967". The slides and captions make it look like the war was a spontaneous, random act of Israeli aggression of which poor, defenseless Arabs were the victims. Israelis come across as up against no resistance whatsoever. Anyone whose knowledge of the war comes just from this slideshow would never in a million years guess that this war was about a tiny country surrounded by enemies poised to obliterate it.

Below are the captions for all of the photographs:

1) The capture of East Jerusalem on the third day of the war was a key objective for the Israelis.

2) Much of the Israeli victory in the West Bank depended on ground troops, including crack paratroopers.

3) "The Temple Mount is in our hands" declared Israeli radio as troops secured one of Judaism's most sacred sites.

4) Elated Israeli troops carried this portrait of Jordan's King Hussein upside down to mark their triumph.

5) This picture of troops by the Wailing Wall has come to symbolise the war of 1967 for Israelis.

6) Israel's arrival spelt the start of a long trek into exile by hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians.

7) Israel devastated the airfields of Egypt, the strongest Arab air power, at the start of the war.

8) Taken by surprise, some Arab troops stood and fought, while others pulled back rapidly before the onslaught.

9) Hundreds of Israeli tanks churned up the sands of Gaza and Sinai as they pushed Egyptian units back.

10) On the final day of the war, Israeli forces captured the tip of the Sinai, taking Arab prisoners as they advanced.

The implication from this slideshow is that the war was above all else about Israelis' desire to disturb an otherwise peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, out of a greedy desire to secure more "holy" sites. The whole Arab-states'-aggression angle is omitted entirely. Looking at these captions a bit more closely, what shall we make of the Arab troops being "taken by surprise"? In that Arab troops were on the verge of attacking Israel anyway, was this the surprise of, Oh my, I'd thought they were our friends! If only they would discuss their grievances with us over coffee.? Or was it the surprise of, damn, looks like the enemy we thought we were about to take down might win? And then there's that final photo, the parting image of Israelis taking Arab prisoners. I'm a graduate student and not a soldier, but my limited knowledge of war suggests that the taking of prisoners-of-war is not unusual and by no means an Israeli-specific practice. This final image leaves the impression that "the Arabs"--and not just the Palestinians--are the innocent and weak victims of the Israelis. This is exactly how I would see this war if all I ever saw was information like what the BBC just provided. Probably a few more people will see that than will read this, but I'm trying...

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