Media Release 21 August 2016: ABC distorts facts to placate Israel lobby

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network notes with dismay that the ABC has declared that its description of Gaza as occupied was “not correct” and has removed the reference from its website.

“Australians have a right to expect that the public broadcaster will report the facts about Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in an accurate and unbiased manner,” said APAN President George Browning. “The ABC’s misrepresentation of Gaza’s status to placate the Israel lobby is a breach of its contract with the Australian public.”

On June 15, 7.30 anchorwoman Leigh Sales introduced a feature on Gaza by referring to the territory as “occupied”. According to The Australian Jewish News, the ABC amended the report following a complaint by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), a Melbourne-based lobby group that led an unsuccessful campaign to pressure the Sydney Peace Foundation to overturn its decision to award the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian feminist and peace activist Hanan Ashrawi.

Israel claims that it no longer occupies Gaza because it pulled its settlers out in 2005, yet the claim is rejected by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross and the US State Department because Israel continues to control Gaza by controlling its territorial waters and airspace, its imports and exports, its electricity supplies and even its population registry.  No serious observer of the Israel-Palestine conflict disputes this fact,” said Browning, who noted that the ABC’s misrepresentation of Gaza’s status takes place in the context of a longstanding AIJAC campaign against its Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeil.

“Ms McNeil is a dedicated and courageous journalist, whose forthright coverage of Palestinian suffering has offended AIJAC . In this case, she was reporting upon the public health crisis in Gaza arising from the Israeli blockade. If the ABC obscures the nature of this blockade to appease a special interest group, then they are doing a disservice to the public that they claim to serve,” Browning said.