Speaking Out

5 02 2009

SPEAKING OUT

The recent criticism surrounding the recent decision by the BBC and Sky not to devote air-time to the Gaza appeal, has provoked much debate on the questions of media bias and impartiality. Many Jewish readers would be forgiven for viewing the debate with a sense of irony, as the BBC could never really be described as being impartial when it comes to their reporting on Israel.

Many of us may spend a lot of time on the other side of this debate, defending Israel’s actions during times of war, but none more so than Israeli Defence Forces spokesman and Manchester born Captain Elie Isaacson.

As part of the IDF’s spokesperson unit, Elie has recently found himself being interviewed by the BBC, Fox news to name but a few international media agencies, and for once, these interviews were a welcome refreshing change to the usual interviews with Israeli spokespersons as the interviews were given in fluent, flowing English. “I think that there’s definite added value in people being able to hear the situation described in their own language and from someone who hails from their own culture. It’s often hard to relate to events happening thousands of miles away but I think that when it’s relayed by someone with the exact same language or even the same accent as you, it has a certain resonance.”

The IDF policy of not admitting journalists and media crews into the Gaza strip, met with widespread criticism but also lead to many unreliable witness accounts of the combat taking place within Hamas territory. Although there was an element of Hamas manipulating these reports, Elie expressed caution to those reading the witness accounts.“It is important to remember that there is a media element to every war and that there a large number of people who have a direct interest in damaging our well-earned reputation for being an ethical army who do everything in our power to avoid the risk of harming anyone but terrorists. For this reason, it is imperative that journalists and readers are discerning in the types of sources that they rely on, and that they do not rely on hearsay.”

29 year old Elie has not forgotten his roots, growing in up in Broughton Park and regularly visits his family who still live there. His experiences growing up in Manchester have helped lend perspective to his work in Israel and the recent rocket attacks from Gaza. “Having grown up [in Manchester] I feel that I have the ability to put recent events into proportion, in that, had residents of Manchester or any other city been targeted indiscriminately in their homes by terrorist rockets, there’d be no doubt in anyone’s minds that this would be a situation that was both unacceptable, and that demanded action.”

Much has been made of the high number of civilian casualties during the three week conflict, and the ensuing Humantarian Crisis surrounding the lack of aid reaching Palestinians in the Gaza strip. In such a densely populated area like Gaza it is inevitable that there would be a number of civilian casualties, but Captain Isaacson maintains that the welfare of civilians and distribution of Humantarian Aid were always a priority.

“Despite being engaged in intense warfare, we were aware that the Hamas deliberately put their people in harm’s way and did not care at all for their welfare. During the mission, The IDF coordinated daily with the worlds biggest aid agencies including The World Food Program, The Red Cross, Medecins sans frontiers to name but a few, as well as foreign governments such as those of Turkey and Jordan in order to do everything in our power to help the people of Gaza who are essentially being held hostage by the Hamas.”

Getting aid to civilians in those circumstances was extremely challenging, especially when faced with an enemy that would stop at nothing to attack Israeli troops.

“On hearing rumours that it was difficult for Gazan civilians to reach the aid meant for them, The Israeli government took further action and established a daily ‘humanitarian corridor,’ designed to allow them to do so. Then Hamas decided that they would attack both Israeli civilians and soldiers during the time corridor in an attempt to engage the IDF at the expense of their own people’s ability to reach vital aid. This further stresses the need for people to remember that the root cause of any humanitarian situation is not Israel’s actions, but those of the Hamas, who brought this on their own people by attacking Israeli civilians while using them as human shields. It was the Hamas who chose to fire rockets before, during and since the ceasefire leaving us no choice but to act.”

In his role as spokesperson , Elie is mindful of the efforts made by Jews and Israel’s supporters living in England and throughout the world. “I think that all citizens abroad, Jewish or otherwise, have an obligation to ensure that they are seeing things objectively and to realize that Israel faces some of the most cruel and violent terrorists in the world today and has a duty to protect its citizens.

People should not be afraid to speak up in favour of the side who are a democracy and to whom human rights, civil rights and women’s rights are paramount, rather than automatically siding with those who at first glance may appear to be an underdog, who, in actual fact invariably condone indiscriminate murderous attacks on civilians.

Anyone, Jewish or otherwise, should defend Israel or any other democracy that falls victim to terrorists who indiscriminately attack their civilians.”

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