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The hijacking of our beloved press

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VANESSA VALKIN

The quote was from an account by a South African journalist, Gadija Davids, who was on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara when it attempted to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. Nine passengers were killed when they opposed Israel Defence Forces troops boarding the ship to prevent it from docking in Gaza.

This piece in the Cape Times and subsequent coverage in The Star, two of the most prominent titles in the Independent Media Group stable of newspapers, were written by Independent Group’s foreign editor Shannon Ebrahim.

Her story has since unleashed what one media outlet called a “war of words” over whether the SA Police Service (SAPS) has decided to comply with the arrest warrants (issued by Turkey) for the four Israeli generals considered responsible for blocking and raiding the vessel – or not.

The SA Zionist Federation and the Israeli embassy’s research found the Cape Times claims to be false. Our own newspaper talked to SAPS spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Malaudzi, who dismissed the claim as “gossip”.

Ebrahim wrote another piece on the weekend, defending her front page story, stating that the same SAPS spokesman, Brigadier Malaudzi, had confirmed that the same warrants of arrests were being processed for the sake of international compliance.

Malaudzi then clarified for the Jewish Report that South Africa still had to establish the veracity of the arrest alerts from Interpol and that it would then need to go through various regulating bodies before any decision was to be taken.

And so it continues. A pro-Israel, Jewish lobby claiming that South Africa would never comply and arrest the generals and a pro-Palestinian, Muslim lobby saying that they would. Both sides seem to think they have the true story and whether South Africa will actually observe the arrest warrants, remains to be seen. It will be interesting to follow in the coming weeks.

What is so disturbing is that this one-sided, anti-Israel, Muslim lobby on this issue is being led by Ebrahim, through her pieces, and in her role as foreign editor for Independent Media.

In her original, front page story, she quotes South African lawyer Ziyaad Patel near the top – “SAPS has sent a clear message to Israel that it can no longer continue to carry out war crimes with impunity.”

This is in essence the message of Ebrahim’s entire piece, with no opposing view that it may be Israel’s right to protect her people and borders.

I am not about to judge Israel’s behaviour regarding the raid on the vessel that broke the blockade or the veracity of the arrest claims – as we all know how easy it is for each side to ascribe evil intent to their enemies.

I cannot, however, help questioning the approach of South Africa’s major newspaper group who through both the content and tone of their coverage of this arrest warrant, have amplified voices that call Israel a violator of international law, perpetrator of war crimes and a censor of freedom of speech without giving any prominence to opposing views or facts.

Before her role at Independent Media, Ebrahim worked as an international affairs consultant for Al Jazeera, a news network that has recently had a spate of lawsuits filed against it by former employees, some of whom have complained that the news network advances a pro-Arabic/Middle Eastern agenda, often at the expense of Jewish people.  

Tragically, our beloved and longstanding newspapers of record – the Cape Times and The Star – that cater to a diverse South African audience, and by virtue of geographic distance are far from the Israeli-Palestinian battle lines, have brought themselves so close to it.

The cause of Muslims in the Palestinian-Israeli issue is evidently close to Ebrahim’s heart, but she has taken her agenda to the pages of the mainstream press with loyal support from a group of organisations that include Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions-South Africa, the Media Review Network (which aims to dispel myths about Islam) and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance.

Our largest, most important daily papers have moved out of the hallowed space of impartiality that we all used to look to them for and have become a battleground for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Let me please admit that our own paper has covered the story with a pro-Israel stance, but that is probably our job. We are the paper of record for South Africa’s tiny but feisty Jewish community. But the Cape Times, The Star and Independent’s other major newspapers, are a voice for our whole rainbow nation.  It is a sad day that they have come to be the voice of many among South Africa’s Muslim population.

 

 

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. David Abel

    Nov 26, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    ‘Well written, Vanessa!

    However, it is time for the local Jewish/Zionist community to recognize the Independent Newspaper Group for the enemy it has become and to act accordingly.

    Living as free citizens in a democratic country, we would do well to follow that great Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s exhortation: \”Be proud, generous and fierce!\”

    Fortunately, I personally believe our present SA Jewish/Zionist leadership in JHB & CT are up to the task and have been confronting the hostile media appropriately, going further than any previous leadership to date. Ben Swartz, Ben Levitas, Wendy Khan, David Saks, Eric Marks and Rodney Mazinter in particular deserve special mention in that regard. 

    Accordingly, it fitting that our community stands firmly in support of the SAZF & SAJBD (and their media teams) as they face up to the anti-Israel media in the turbulent times ahead.

    In addition, every SA Zionist  – Jewish or Christian – as well as certain sections of our community could, and certainly should, resort to innovative ways of curbing and neutralizing hostile SA print & electronic media.

       

      ‘

  2. yitzchak

    Nov 28, 2015 at 3:21 am

    ‘beware:

    Sekunjalo investments run by Surve Iqbal.

    They now own Independent Media,lock stock and barrel(not of oil)

    Never buy or advertise in their newspapers.

    As far as  I know there has never been a retraction of the bobbe maiser masqueraiding as a news item.’

  3. Myron Robinson

    Dec 11, 2015 at 9:33 am

    ‘What else can one expect from the Pro Islam/Muslim lobby. I have stopped reading the Star & the Sunday Times because of their anti-Semitic stance. They are entitled to their opinion however when their editors refuse to publish letters not supporting their view their true colours come out. Possibly Trump is the only politician honest enough to express his opinion openly on the Muslim immigration issue.  ‘

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