'Could Prove Useful to Israel': Media Support for Western Arms Deals
An important job for the representatives of any world power is to fly around the world selling arms to client states. Despite David Cameron's constant rhetoric that countries to have a right to defend themselves (preferably using British-made hardware), it is certainly undeniable that continuous arms sales in no way make the world a more peaceful place. Yet depending on who is selling and buying weapons, the media report such transactions either in what might be considered to be the correct way (i.e. raising awareness of the dangers of such arms), or in a benign way. As we might expect, the former method of reporting is used when 'enemies' are involved, while the latter is reserved for western allies.
To take an example, in 2012 the BBC's Steve Rosenberg described an arms fair outside Moscow, where 'five Russian tanks weave gracefully back and forth, their gun barrels rising and falling in time to a waltz.' The report then contained the sobering line: 'But these weapons were not built for dancing'; a reminder to the reader that the weapons had huge destructive potential. The article was about Russian arms sales to the Syrian government who, presumably like all recipients of arms, are capable and ready to use such arms for the purpose for which they have been designed.
A few months before that, in a news report about Russian arms shipments to Syria, Richard Galpin at the BBC described a ship that
was carrying tons of ammunition destined for the Syrian security forces which stand accused of committing atrocities against their own people, killing and torturing thousands since the uprising began last year.
As we would expect, awareness is here raised about the atrocities being committed by the recipients of these arms. The criticism that is rightly due is applied by the journalist. The reader might react with suspicion of those selling the arms, anger at those using them, and sympathy for those on the receiving end of the violence.
Yet, when the US sells $10bn of missiles and fighter jets to Israel, as happened on Tuesday 22 April, we get a different story from the news. This time, the intended strategy is examined, and the uses to which the arms are to be put are neutrally put forward. On the BBC News website, no criticism whatsoever was made of the Israeli military’s past behaviour, despite an extensive list of atrocities for journalists to cite. Even after the assault on the neighbouring Gaza strip five months ago, the BBC report simply quotes US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who says that the ‘weapons would allow Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge over its neighbours’. Presumably Russian arms salesmen can concoct similar justifications for selling arms to their clients, however it would be hard to imagine such a quote being seriously and uncritically conveyed in a news report in the UK.
The fact that the planes may be used by Israel to launch an illegal attack is, it seems, neither here nor there. A sense of the indifferent response that Israel’s intended atrocities receive from the media can be seen in the BBC’s description of what the country could do with the new war planes:
The KC135 are capable of being used in a long-range operation by Israel against Iran
Jonathan Marcus also comes forward and offers advice on how Israel could use the new weapons. With the clear disregard for international law that Marcus often discusses Israel with, he says that the new planes
could prove useful to Israel for a variety of tasks, not least the insertion of special operations forces at significant distances from its own borders
The Reuters report republished in the Guardian was also devoid of any criticism of Israel. The destructive potential of the weapons themselves, and the record of the use of violence, was entirely omitted. Chuck Hagel is quoted as saying ‘Iran presents a threat in its nuclear programme and Israel will make the decisions that Israel must make to protect itself and defend itself.’ Indeed most of the news reports surrounding the issue make Iran – a country not even involved in the transaction – out to be the bad guy, reiterating the western ‘concerns’ about the country’s nuclear programme. Such warnings are also presumably intended to justify the sale of weaponry to Israel.
A truly balanced media would discuss arms deals between the US and Israel with the same scrutiny and reservations as are applied to arms deals between Russia and Syria. However, the skewing of reports that we see can dangerously lead to a black-and-white picture of the world being painted - one which is almost perfectly in line with western foreign policy.
|Categories in which this article appears: Arms Trade | BBC News | Israel | Syria ||
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|1. sannō torii||17 May 2013 05:57|
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