Pro-War Media

Israel, Palestine and the UK Press

Over two million civilians in Gaza are facing death from airstrikes, artillery fire, homelessness and starvation.

Not working for Hamas. London protester, 28 October.

Yet most newspapers in the United Kingdom are unwilling to champion their precarity and criticise the war that created it.

Instead, platforms such as The Telegraph focus on the domestic security threats created by the fighting, sowing fears of Islamist and Iranian subterfuge.

If you want to understand the political value of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in today’s Europe, it’s all there.

It’s just another opportunity for incitement. Diversity means terrorism, and Muslims are always a third column.

It’s bad enough that the Tory government will not call for a ceasefire and that the Labour opposition is barely calling for a “humanitarian pause”.

Thankfully, there are a small number of people breaking ranks over the Sukkot War. Some of them come from very surprising places.

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers has written an article for the Financial Times arguing that the Israeli government will not be able to destroy Hamas.

Sawers favours a UN administration of Gaza as a step towards a two-state solution.

In his doubts about a military solution, the MI6 vet sounded a lot like anti-war critic Paul Rogers, who raised similar points in articles for The Guardian and openDemocracy.

However, the best criticisms are outside the mainstream. No matter what media you consume, finding dissenting voices on the Sukkot war is possible.

The problem is that the loudest voices are often the worst.

War on Terror Forever

Just days before Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, I was thinking about the War on Terror and how long ago it seemed.

It felt like maybe the world was moving on if only to take up new conflict paradigms with countries like Russia and China. I was wrong.

The Hamas atrocities burst onto social media, shocking many people in the West who have no sense of Middle Eastern history.

But many people who know better regressed to 9/11 narratives about jihadism.

We need to face reality: much of Muslim culture is in the grip of a death cult that sacralises bloodshed,” wrote Jewish Chronicle editor Jake Wallis Simons in a now-deleted tweet.

“Not all, but many Muslims are brainwashed by it,” he added. “That is a big part of the problem.”

This was one of many comments he posted on Twitter, now known as X, in the wake of Hamas’ bloodbath on 7 October.

Emotions and tensions were running high, granted. Simons quickly deleted the tweet and later denied having ever written those words.

Given such polemics, it should come as no surprise that on 26 October, Simons published an op-ed contending that only Israeli bombing would “end the suffering” of Palestinians living under Hamas.

Yes, really. The comment’s author was Conservative Lord Danny Finkelstein, no stranger to controversy.

Meanwhile, Douglas Murray is still banging the drum for a crackdown on pro-Palestinian protesters.

His most recent article for The Spectator asks why the London Met hasn’t gone after people chanting “jihad” at an Islamist march last weekend.

Murray is far from alone. The Met is getting a lot of flak for not enforcing a non-existent ban on the word “jihad” and arresting the idiots chanting it, as well as everyone around them.

Lots of people have mistook the protesters holding black flags with Arabic calligraphy for ISIS supporters.

The flags belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist group which has yet to be banned because it has not been legally tied to violence.

Many conservatives have jumped at the opportunity to blame the pro-Palestine demonstrations on “the failure of multiculturalism”. This is a favourite topic of recovering liberal centrist Matthew Goodwin.

Other pundits, such as Louise Perry, have even speculated on Substack that the antiwar protests are a sign of a coming “ethnic conflict” in the UK, while her colleague Mary Harrington described them on X as “antisemitic rioting”.

It’s become normal to smear the protests as “pro-Hamas” and even as “celebrations” of the mass killing of Jewish Israelis on 7 October. Around 500,000 people marched for Palestine in London on Saturday, but the false narratives will not stop.

There are many ready-made smears the right is deploying against the demonstrations. Spiked has predictably blamed it all on “woke ideology” and “identity politics”.

God forbid we ask more profound questions about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Mandatory Palestine, anybody?

Conservatives conveniently forget about it and how destructive British rule was during the thirty-one years the territory was run from London.

This is standard for members of the mostly WASP commentator class for whom the British Empire is an Indian restaurant.

Everything Palestinian is viewed through the prism of an imaginary kulturkampf.

A lot of soi-disant culture warriors have been mocking LGBTQ protesters holding signs like ‘Queers for Palestine’ and comparing them to “chickens marching for KFC”.

The atmosphere in British media is so ugly and foul that the cover of Private Eye‘s 30 October edition warns readers that it contains criticism of the Israeli government and may suggest that “killing everyone in Gaza” is not a long-term solution.

You’d think such a headline wouldn’t be necessary in a healthy media, but the reaction to it showed it was very much necessary.

Private Eye was soon accused of fuelling “antisemitic tropes” about “outsized Jewish power” by the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

The organisation even claimed Private Eye is “complicit” in the surge of Antisemitic hate crimes reported to the London Met.

Death By Broadcasting

The BBC has been attacked from all sides for its coverage of the Israeli war on Gaza, but only deservedly by one side.

If it sounds familiar, it is.

Rightwing critics have long argued that the BBC is anti-Israel and compromised by far-left and Islamist elements.

Many pro-Israel critics are enraged that the broadcaster has refused to label Hamas militants ‘terrorists’, especially as the BBC has been happy to drop the T-word into past reports of other groups.

Nevertheless, veteran war journalist John Simpson felt the need to defend the BBC’s policy in a televised statement. He explained that the T-word is a loaded term rather than a technical or objective description.

Even though it has been inconsistent over the years, the BBC is far from alone in taking this position today. It’s also the official Associated Press position, so any news organisation working by the AP style guide will take the same line.

At the same time, plenty of criticism is coming the other way.

People who support the Palestinians have been appalled by the BBC’s approach to interviews with such figures as Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to the UK.

Just after discussing the deaths of his loved ones, Kirsty Wark asked Zomlot: “Do you condemn Hamas?” No BBC presenter has asked an Israeli politician to condemn the IDF, certainly not a politician who has lost family in the bloodbath of 7 October.

By far, the best broadcaster covering the Gaza war has been Channel 4 News. The BBC may have great resources, talented journalists and almost unparalleled access, but Channel 4 is not subject to the same pressure as the corporation.

Most people expect Channel 4 to be a bit ‘out there’ with its coverage. Perhaps this is why its journalists have been more daring. For example, Channel 4 News has been the only UK broadcaster to question IDF claims about the Al-Ahli hospital bombing seriously.

The BBC came under harsh criticism for reporting that the IDF committed the Al-Ahli hospital bombing. This was a reasonable conclusion to draw, given the IDF has attacked hospitals in the past, but it was unverified at the time.

BBC News has said it was a ‘mistake’ to report it with such certainty and issued an apology. Nevertheless, MPs have grilled the BBC’s director over the coverage.

By contrast, Channel 4 News had Arabic experts listen to the alleged recording of Hamas officials discussing the hospital bombing. The experts reported that the accents and syntax didn’t make sense.

A follow-up analysis of the recording found it had been heavily edited. It may have even been two different recordings spliced together.

But the broadcaster’s journalists didn’t just stop there.

Channel 4 News managed to get hold of sound recordings of the missile strike and conducted analyses to ascertain the direction from which it came.

The result: The missile was not fired from north of the hospital where Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was based.

Of course, the world still waits for conclusive evidence of who initiated the strike.

What is clear is that the Israeli government and the IDF didn’t tell the right story, and most UK media didn’t verify their claims.

Neither Hamas nor PIJ has produced a warhead or fragment of the missile as proof of Israeli responsibility, either.

But this is a war zone. The fog of war remains thick for now, but there will eventually be answers – probably when no one is listening.

What’s more important is that there is an immediate ceasefire.

Somehow, this position, with seven out of ten Britons concerned about excessive civilian casualties, is unacceptable to most UK newspapers.

That’s not a sellout of Israel. It’s an abandonment of the entire region to war.

Photograph courtesy of Alisdare Hickson. Published under a Creative Commons license.