Palestine launched an armed attack on Israel on 7 October. It sent the UK’s corporate media into overdrive as it attempted to corral the public discourse into support for Israel. And there was one man they couldn’t help but circle like vultures to try and prise out a soundbite: Jeremy Corbyn.
Hundreds dead on both sides
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October. It sent thousands of rockets into Israel as well as fighters by land and air. Israeli soldiers responded, battling Palestinian fighters in the streets and sending air raids into Palestine.
World leaders were quick to back Israel, uniformly stating that the country had a ‘right’ to defend itself. The UK media was quick to follow, publishing headlines and front page stores that portrayed Israel as the victim. However, they were able to take a few minutes out of their day to return to one of their favourite pastimes: Corbyn-bashing.
Corbyn’s supposed ‘refusal’ to condemn Hamas
On 8 October, Channel 4 News published footage of its presenter Paul McNamara questioning Corbyn:
"I don't support any attacks. Therefore, I criticise them all. And that, I think, is the end of the matter."@PGMcNamara asks Jeremy Corbyn if he condemns Hamas' attacks on Israel. pic.twitter.com/AD7Qqc63ct
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— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) October 8, 2023
In the video, Corbyn states that “all attacks are wrong” and he is “calling for peace”. This apparently isn’t enough for McNamara, who asked Corbyn if he ‘condemns Hamas’. Corbyn repeated his stance, but McNamara asked the MP a second time if he condemned the attacks as Corbyn walked away.
McNamara’s questioning implied that Corbyn was morally wrong for not coming out in support of Israel. However, ITV News went one step further with its framing of the incident.
Sharing its own point of view on McNamara’s questioning, ITV News Politics claimed that Corbyn “refuses to say if he condemns Hamas”:
'Do you condemn Hamas?'
— ITV News Politics (@ITVNewsPolitics) October 8, 2023
The Independent also went with similar sentiments.
Corbyn’s position against attacks by both sides should be no surprise to anyone at all. His anti-war history is a matter of record. Of course, Corbyn’s alleged support for Hamas was one of his opponents’ favourite lines of attack. And the reporting on this incident revealed that the MP still lives rent-free in the corporate media’s head. But it also highlighted a fundamental problem with its portrayal of Palestine, a problem that a Palestinian official made explicit.
Biased expectations on accountability
Husam Zomlot, Palestine’s UK ambassador, appeared on BBC News on 8 October. Host Lewis Vaughn Jones repeatedly asked Zomlot if he condemned Hamas’ actions. Despite the ambassador’s repeated explanations of the separation between the Palestinian government and Hamas, and the aggression and occupation of Israel, Vaughn Jones presses the matter.
Eventually, Jones attempted to trip Zomlot up by saying the ambassador had condemned Israel but not Palestine “for killing civilians”, and Zomlot responded:
How many times Israel have committed war crimes… live on your own cameras? Do you start by asking them to condemn themselves? Have you? You don’t… You know why I refuse to answer this question? Because I refuse the premise of it. Because at the very heart of it is misrepresentation of the whole thing. Because it’s the Palestinians that are always expected to condemn themselves.
— Husam Zomlot (@hzomlot) October 9, 2023
With his answer, Zomlot very succinctly laid bare the absolute bias at the heart of the UK’s corporate media. Palestine is always expected to justify itself – even after 50 years of Israel’s violent occupation. Meanwhile, the world’s leaders and their media mouthpieces back up the Israeli state without question.
The media’s flurry around Corbyn’s so-called ‘refusal’ to condemn Hamas is just another attempt to push this pro-Israel discourse. And its framing shows that it will always consider Palestinians as secondary humans.
Featured image via ITV News Politics – screengrab
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