By Pat Bernstein – France
Apart from the humanitarian crises in Gaza, what has failed the entire Western world is the media. Most informed and concerned people have come to accept some of the inequities, injustices, and lack of balance. Any enlightened person knows about Fox News and the abject failure of the New York Times and Washington Post especially on Middle Eastern issues over recent years. However, some failures by all the major Western media have been so blatant and so prolonged, that even the enlightened no longer notice these.
Let me provide one example of this. The news media constantly draws attention to the rockets ‘smuggled’ into Gaza, through tunnels. Indeed, destroying the tunnels is one pretext for the Israeli invasion. Even Tony Blair, the so-called ‘Middle East Peace Envoy’ said that cutting off Gaza’s smuggling tunnels could secure an immediate ceasefire (1). The uninformed might easily therefore link the tunnels with illegal arms trafficking. In fact, many well informed and ‘liberal’ thinking people I know, never even question the issue of rocket ‘smuggling’. However, is that the reality? Is that even the issue the media should be reporting or is this just more Israeli propaganda masquerading as news?
Every day governments around the world buy locally manufactured or imported armaments. Take the United Kingdom defence budget for example. Capital expenditure, that is arms and equipment purchases excluding all the associated running costs for 2007-2008, was £7,404 million (2). That equates to around £123 per person, per year, in the United Kingdom. In fact, the total UK defence budget amounts to around £560 per head. Bear in mind that the UK is an island and hence the sea surrounding it provides a natural defence, so one could assume the defence budget to be below average.
Israel’s total defence budget in the previous year was 7.2 billion USD, plus of course, another 2.2 billion USD in US ‘aid’ (3) and this has risen since. At the current dollar to pound exchange rate, which means Israel spends around £900 per person, per year on ‘defence’. This is not far from double the per capita expenditure of the UK. Of course, Israel imports their arms directly, using seaports, airports and land borders, as does the UK.
The point about the media and their loss of all insight is this. Firstly, none of the Western media ever questions the UK’s right to buy arms. Similarly, no one questions the enormous Israeli arms budget or the US ‘aid’. Of course Hamas, (love or hate them) are the legitimately elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Despite the conditions imposed on ‘Palestine’, that is the West Bank and the Gaza strip, in the Gaza strip, Hamas is the de facto government. As the legitimate government of Gaza (such as it exists), they, like any other state around the world, must surely be entitled to purchase arms.
If Gaza was actually a state, without a total and illegal blockade, they too could import arms. Their qassam rockets would not need to be ‘smuggled’. Now the Gaza strip houses between 1.2 and 1.5 million people. If they spent the same per capita on ‘defence’ as Israel, their defence budget would be in excess of £1 billion per annum. The cost of a qassam rocket is not easy to come by, but using the highest estimate I was able to find, the same per capita budget as Israel, would buy Hamas over 1,000,000 rockets. Naturally, no one questions the UK’s right to manufacture and/or import armaments. Nor would they question, say Norway’s or Georgia’s right to do so.
So why do the media present a case suggesting that Hama’s rockets ‘smuggled’ into the country are a problem? So why focus on the smuggling, not the blockade? Why focus on rockets instead of the Israeli £900 per person, per year defence budget? This figure is actually more than the per capita income of the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank (4).
So on average, every Israeli spends more on arms, than a Palestinian in Gaza has to live on. There perhaps is the real story of the Palestine conflict. When the aggressor spends more on ‘defence’ than the oppressed have as their total income, surely humanity itself is demeaned.
Not to see this as an issue, either all the Western media reporters are stupid and do not ask any of the important questions. Alternatively, perhaps Gaza and Palestine are not states, or a third alternative, in my view the most likely, is that the Israeli and US propaganda machines have once again won a major part of the info war.
– Pat Bernstein’s family political credentials are traceable to Bolshevik activism in 1900. Both parents were committed activists in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and the family became exiles from their homeland. He has started to write about Palestine because the parallels between South Africa, Apartheid and Palestine, are irrefutable. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.