Tag Archives: media bias

‘Viva Palestina’ breaks Gaza siege

photo from Hanini.org

Report from PressTV Monday, 09 Mar 2009 13:24:44 GMT

Despite efforts to prevent ‘Viva Palestina’ from breaking a long-term blocked on the Gaza Strip the aid convoy has entered the coastal sliver.

The convoy which made its way across Europe and North Africa arrived in the besieged strip on Monday, Press TV reported.

On Sunday, several activists traveling with the group were injured after the convoy was vandalized by a number of attackers in Egypt.

British lawmaker, George Galloway, who is traveling with the convoy, said that Egyptian authorities did not protect the convoy despite their promises. “They are blocking us inside, but they don’t protect us.”

The convoy of peace activists including Press TV presenter Yvonne Ridley and film maker Hassan Ghani left London on February 14.

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Yvonne Ridley Reports

Yvonne Ridley reports from Viva Palestina
9th March 2009


GAZA OR BUST

The last 24 hours have probably been the blackest since the Viva Palestina convoy set off from London.

Yesterday the convoy members became the target of an orchestrated wave of violence first started by Egyptian police and then culminating in vicious attacks by unknown thugs.

The end result was a number of peace activists whose only aim is to take humanitarian aid into war torn Gaza were treated in hospital for head injuries.

Mercifully the string of casualties was not too serious but the experience denied us the chance of fulfilling our mission to deliver aid to Gaza yesterday.

And dramatic images of the rioting and attacks could not be relayed to Press TV viewers because someone sabotaged the satellite van by deliberately cutting through a vital cable which would have beamed the shameful attacks across the world.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and I would like to take this opportunity of personally thanking the Egyptian authorities and those dark forces who tried to derail Viva Palestina.

The event has only served to make us stronger, unite and bond us together more and created a wave of international media interest in Viva Palestina.

I think it would be fair to say that when you bring a diverse group of 300 plus people together on a gruelling mission to cover 5,000 miles driving across North Africa the result can result in a less than harmonious state of affairs.

To be frank, there was friction and infighting and some of us generally got on each other’s nerves as you would when you are confined to close quarters with challenging living, sleeping and eating conditions.

However, the deliberate bloody-mindedness of the Egyptian authorities did something we had failed to do for ourselves … it caused us to unite, bond and emerge stronger than ever from underneath the rows of police batons, bricks, bottles and stones.
The trouble began when the police – who were only obeying their orders – tried to break up the convoy into small groups of medical and non medical aid. We were told the first would go through the Rafah crossing while the latter would go through an Israeli checkpoint.

This was never going to be accepted by anyone on board the convoy. Our aim from the outset was simple: Rafah or bust.

Giving aid to the people of Gaza has nothing to do with the Israelis and I do wish they would stop trying to make themselves centre stage in an affair that does not involve Tel Aviv.

As we dug in our heels about the convoy being physically divided, the authorities decided there was only one solution – batter us into submission, after all that is what police states do.

And so, when the police tried to get physical, the convoy members followed their natural instincts and used passive resistance to defend themselves.

Egyptian police are obviously not used to confronting stroppy westerners in such large numbers and so they retreated while a second wave was sent in. Hundreds of riot squad officers, wearing visors, carrying shields and batons tumbled in to one of the two car parks in a large town centre compound in the port of al Arish and set about the unarmed peace activists.

They too were heroically repelled and what followed was an uneasy stand off as some convoy members received medical attention.

The net result was scores of vehicles had been able to escape the compound in which they were being held behind metal police barriers.

It was a minor victory and what followed was a very British response – the lads decided to have a game of football. I did try to persuade the Egyptian police to join in stressing they would have much more fun kicking a ball instead of kicking my comrades, but they seemed reluctant to let go of their batons.

As the night drew in the convoy leader George Galloway who was 40 kilometres down the road, was made aware of the battle of al Arish and so he refused to cross the Rafah Border in to Gaza and returned to the convoy.

It was a hard call to make as the international media had gathered at Rafah for a party that never happened. As usual the Israelis also played to stereotype by shelling and bombing parts of Gaza.

By the time Britain’s best known parliamentarian reached the compound night had fallen and bright stadium-style lights illuminated the two car parks.

Suddenly the area was plunged into darkness by a powercut which coincided with a brick, bottle and stone attacks on the convoy members by youths in their late teens and 20s. Seconds before the lights went out some convoy members saw a couple of unidentified men scrawling anti-Hamas slogans on lorries.

The lights remained out for some minutes, during which time the vicious attack was unleashed – the whole proceedings failed to warrant one single Egyptian police officer to swing his baton into action.

Those who had wielded their sticks with such a passion before, stood impassively by and watched the onslaught.

The power kicked back in again and the bright lights illuminated the scene to reveal several convoy members lying dazed and confused, blood dripping from gaping head wounds.

While they were ferried to hospital for treatment, there was a second powercut and a repeat of the violence.

Once again the police stood by and watched the thugs launch their attacks on unarmed and defenceless members of Viva Palestina.

Galloway, incandescent with rage held an urgent meeting with the governor of the region and secured assurances this would not happen again. He also secured a pledge that the convoy would be allowed to make its way to the Rafah crossing for 6am on Monday.

We’re now only a few hours away from that deadline and it remains to be seen if the governor will keep his word.

But regardless of what he decides I want to thank him for pulling every single member of Viva Palestina into one, united front.

Thanks to him and the cack-handed police operation, Viva Palestina has emerged refocussed and stronger than ever with one, determined goal: Rafah or bust.

And it will happen, inspite of the best efforts of Tel Aviv meddling and Egyptian authorities’ bullying.

The people united can never be defeated.

Gaza, next stop.

* British journalist Yvonne Ridley and award-winning film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani are on the Viva Palestina convoy making a documentary about the journey from London to Gaza. her website is http://www.yvonneridley.org and you can follow her updates by Twitter or Facebook


A Chosen Blindness

from Majid Majidi's "The Willow Tree"

In the deeply spiritual film “The Willow Tree” by acclaimed director Majid Majidi, we find the lead character, a man in his forties, who has been blind since childhood about to undergo a personal journey.  The last time he had seen an image of himself was at age ten.  Now with his own wife and child, he regains his sight following a miraculous operation.  He is instantly overjoyed by a world again made visible.  And, within moments, he encounters a reflection of his aged features in the glass walls of the hospital.

Questions of faith and choice arise throughout the film as he rejoins the same people who had known him, including his own family, but whom he meets as if for the very first time.  Sight becomes a new experience that introduces him to a changed world, but it also sends crashing the same world he once knew.  The film culminates in a painful reawakening, a humbling down to the very core of one’s spirit.

The blindness that this sensitive film deals with is beyond the physical.  It is a powerful film that quietly works its way to reveal the darkness inside us, and the light that we sometimes refuse to see.

There are many ways of going blind.  Many ways of remaining in the dark.

Mainstream media – the BBC, CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, and all other big corporate media – currently suffer from a particular blindness.  They have chosen this affliction.  They continue to ignore the historic significance of a convoy of humanitarian aid that was organized by ordinary citizens from the UK and supported by ordinary people from various countries.

How can one choose blindness to a common humanity?

-o-

Viva Palestina Email Alert
Midnight, Sunday 8th March 2009

A message from the Viva Palestina website

Viva Palestina is your story

Thirty years ago, as an 11-year-old boy, I remember eagerly awaiting 5.05pm on a Monday and Thursday for the start of Blue Peter. I, like millions of other children, was desperate for our first glimpse of the totaliser – the bright flashing lights showing us how much money we had raised between programmes for that year’s Blue Peter Appeal. The 1979 appeal, with it’s bring and buy sales, had been launched after the horrors of Cambodia’s ‘killing fields’ had been exposed to the world.

And it wasn’t just children who wanted to know – the weekly total was reported on the national news and in the national papers, journalists sought out heart-warming stories of those who had given up their toys, clothes and books to help the impoverished and destitute thousands of miles away in South East Asia.


Working on the website for Viva Palestina I have had the daily task of making our own appeal totaliser reflect the generosity of another generation. Each day I’ve been overwhelmed by the scale of the donations and the stories that accompany them – of a four year old child in Manchester who emptied her piggy bank for the children of Gaza and so spurred her family into raising over £1,600; of the four girls in Torquay who baked cakes to sell at their school, of the hundreds of children in Preston who packed shoeboxes with toys and presents for other children whom they had never met. These stories have been repeated up and down the country – and they are a shining tribute to Britain at its best.


And just as in 1979 they should have been reported – shouted from the rooftops and celebrated in articles in the Sunday colour supplements.

Here was a truly incredible story – of an aid mission that in just eight weeks had galvanised community after community to create a convoy of over 100 vehicles, laden with over £1 million of aid and then driven over 5000 miles and two continents to relieve the suffering in Gaza.


And it was a movement that was created from scratch, with no full time staff – just a website, a few blogs, text messages, public meetings and a million conversations. Surely this would be worth reporting; surely this was news….

But the sad reality is that the Viva Palestina convoy, carrying the love and human solidarity from the people of Britain to the people of Gaza has been deemed un-newsworthy by nearly all of the British media.


The BBC, who next week will entreat us all to do ‘something funny for money’ in aid of Comic Relief has felt fit to mention the Convoy just three times on its website (and once hidden away in the Africa pages). The Guardian, that bastion of ‘liberal Britain’ only reported it once it thought it had the makings of a nasty little smear. The Independent showed its ‘independence’ by spiking a column by Mark Steel, which discussed Viva Palestina.


We did get media coverage from abroad – from France and Spain, Italy, Canada and a host of other countries but in Britain we had to rely on the work of a few journalists on local newspapers who still recognise a good story when they see one.


One can’t help but wonder how the national media would have responded had the convoy been headed for Darfur instead of Gaza – or had not been supported so over-whelmingly by Britain’s beleaguered Muslim community. Perhaps we may have even have made it onto Blue Peter.


Depressingly, our most prominent publicity came when nine of our convoy members were arrested in the piece of pure political theatre on the M65 – the day before the convoy departed. Yet the same media outlets, that reported the arrests with such gusto on the day of departure, chose to ignore or downgrade the news that all nine men were entirely innocent and had been released without charge. Even the terrible damage to community relations in Blackburn and Burnley resulting from these arrests was not a news-worthy topic for Britain’s ‘quality’ press.


The Viva Palestina convoy has been a remarkable achievement; it has overcome a virtual media blackout, the cynical arrests of some of its members and the refusal of banks to allow us to open accounts.


Yet despite all this we are now just a few hours away from taking our aid into Gaza. The vehicles and their contents represent the hopes of millions and the solidarity of whole communities: of families, mosques, churches and schools. Whatever happens at the Rafah crossing today – and we hope and pray for a swift and smooth crossing into Gaza – Viva Palestina has been a remarkable story.


It is a story that has only just begun. Its first chapter lasted just one hectic month from an inspired idea hatched by George Galloway in early January to the departure on Valentine’s Day in London’s Hyde Park. Its second chapter, the journey itself, is almost over and we hope it will soon be told in a film, report back meetings and, it has been suggested, perhaps a book as well.

The story will now continue into its third chapter with the distribution of the convoy’s aid and the purchase and delivery of even more – from water-purification systems for schools and neighbourhoods to a field hospital and medical equipment for the injured, tents for the homeless and much more. Convoy members will return with the names of clinics, schools and communities with which to twin their local communities in Britain.

If our media, whose own cynicism has been so badly exposed by their silence, continue to write Viva Palestina out of the news then we must do all we can to spread the news ourselves. We have shown that what ordinary people do can make a real difference – and perhaps that is what the editors and news-chiefs hate most of all. Or maybe we just didn’t have enough celebrities driving the fire engine!


So in the quiet moments before the crossing I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard for this project. Those who collected the aid, sorted it, packed it and filled the vehicles; those who donated online – from over thirty five countries across the globe – and who filled the collecting tins and buckets; the drivers with their legendary endurance and those who found time to blog their stories; the local newspaper journalists who reported the convoy and the journalists who wrote stories that their editors refused to print: to the people who sent in their pictures and video clips to the website – and finally to Farid Arada who kept us all up to date with his daily reports on the convoy’s location. The Viva Palestina story is your story.


The investigative journalist John Pilger, who broke the news of Cambodia’s ‘killing fields’ three decades ago, has made a film called ‘Palestine is still the issue’ – and he is right. The convoy story is but one bright spark in the ongoing tragedy of Palestine and its courageous people. The issue remains to be resolved but Viva Palestina has taken us one step closer to a solution – a solution based on solidarity, co-operation and love.

Clive Searle

Viva Palestina website


Who Told You What

I can only imagine what it’s like in Gaza today, the 21st day of systematic bombing and intensified ground assault. I wouldn’t want to be a screaming child looking for my mother who is probably one of over a thousand dead.

Where I live it is the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The strong Southeaster winds are sweeping through this land, heeding no borders. This country I now call home is where the term Apartheid was born. A term that has been used to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

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Magicians and Bunnies in the Newsroom

Magicians are in a trade. They satisfy an audience’s craving for the fantastic, the impossible, the breathtaking. They know the best contraptions to use, the best colours of smoke to release, the slightest gesture to reveal and conceal at the precise moment. They suck you in a narrative of sorts, preparing and priming you for that special moment, and then a quick flourish and VOILA!

They know the tricks of the trade, so to speak.

Mainstream corporate media is in a trade. They are run with the intent to sell texts and images and, unlike the distant origins of journalism that strives to reveal the uncompromising truth, mainstream media aims to keep the status quo and not rock the boat of complacency. There are exceptions, of course, but in more recent times there have been fewer and fewer brave media people willing to risk their jobs and even their own lives by going against approved storylines and perspectives.

Those who put out “news” have many ways of revealing and concealing things. Some tricks are easy to spot as outright lies and fabrications. Some “news reports” are mere repetitions or muffled Amens to greater powers – political, corporate, religious, military, etc. – and, by mere repetition, are assumed to be facts by the less critical reader or “consumer” of news, details not meant to be questioned.

These types of media people view their readers as uncritical and feed them the same information from the same sources but spiced up or slightly changed to add some variety. Their positions remain the same.

It would be quite easy to pinpoint outright lies in a news article. Some tricks are more subtle and so we shall reveal just one of them for now.

In the aftermath of the historic “Throwing of the Shoes at Outgoing President Bush” – which to some people may seem a mundane and totally irrelevant event in world affairs – there has been an unprecedented flurry of activities from protest rallies in various parts of the world to show support for the reporter, proliferation of internet-based games depicting alternate scenarios, and numerous articles full of accurate or fictional information.


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