In the four weeks of unprecedented human tragedy unfolding in Gaza after the October 7 attacks by Hamas, Israel has unleashed one of the heaviest and most concentrated carpet bombing campaigns in modern history, responding with a level of force that has shocked the world, making a mockery of proportionality, leaving those that justify or apologise for it seeming callous, cold, inhumane and out of touch with reality. And yet the Australian foreign policy press has fallen victim to narratives imposed by the belligerents, omitting realities experienced by the victims of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, while also displaying a clear lack of basic understanding of history, or international law – which they seem reticent to apply to their tradecraft – corrupting their analysis from inception, and misleading audiences as a consequence. It’s fucking embarrassing.
Nowhere was this more evident than at the National Press Club this week, as the UN Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, fronted questions from the gallery. She delivered a sobering account of the situation in Gaza, and a crystal-clear presentation using legal precedents to demonstrate why Israel’s action is in breach of international humanitarian law.
After facing a taste of the stupidity and inherent bias of the Australian media landscape on a poorly managed QandA program the evening before, Albanese would not have been surprised when NPC Treasurer and Sky News heavy Tom Connell pushed back on her conclusion that there is a possibility genocide is being committed by Israel in Gaza, with, “If they wanted to, it could probably be done, to be blunt about it, yes it’s a dire situation for civilians but Israel did say, ‘civilians please leave’… so that wasn’t them actually targeting civilians at that point.”
Gasps and kerfuffles in the room.
“I beg your pardon, I don’t mean to be rude, but can you really keep a straight face as you ask me this question?” a staggered Albanese replied, coming to the realisation once again that the people asking her these questions didn’t seem to have a grasp on the issue, that they couldn’t recognise the legal precedents she spoke so clearly about, and that Australian media shamelessly reports on such an important issue while appearing ignorant of such key considerations.
One by one they got up, dressed in their best threads, hair combed and spectacles smart, as they curved their questions around the objective gravity of Francesca Albanese’s address, an exhausting bottleneck approach that seems to have filtered down from special interest groups and allies abroad who have a direct grasp on our national conversation. Matthew Knott, Peter Hartcher’s US junket partner, whose career has been reduced to parroting lines from the US state department and a humiliating Paul Keating sound bite, dusted himself off to base a question on a false premise about whether Hamas could be considered a “potential partner for peace”, after Albanese had tried to educate his ilk that there is no current case for war in an occupied territory as per the bloody rules of war.
Daniel Hurst from the Guardian slackly challenged Albanese’s phrasing of the word “domination” in relation to Israel’s intergenerational occupation of the Palestinians, only to have her recommend he read the “Apartheid Convention” and see how it applies to “racial domination”, giving him the look of a tired primary school teacher scolding a child on a Friday afternoon. “It’s not a ‘trope’, it’s real,” she exhaled at the gormless Guardian journo.
Several months after Paul Keating cut ribbons through the gaggle over AUKUS, Albanese’s post-NPC address was a whirlwind of sclerotic questioning that glaringly exemplified the extent of decay and rancour in the journalistic class. Members of the press revealed a disturbing lack of ability to understand simple legal definitions, comprehend historical imperatives, seeming to lack the skill to report on this complex and vital issue of national importance. They’re just not good enough at this.
Perhaps, also, this could be partly attributed to the paid for junkets by lobbies and private interest groups for the media and government who attend a “Journalists’ Mission to Israel”? Or maybe influenced by the dealmaking and political compromise of the senior producers, editors and executives who impose remits upon them? But sometimes, like at this NPC, it seems like many of the brains in the room are just not interested in learning the subject matter. Maybe they’re only in it to look cool at the pub after work? With all the subjectivity and disingenuousness that floats around the halls of those who permit and facilitate the human tragedy of war for their own gain, rarely before have we seen such a complicit acceptance of their narratives by the fourth estate media, and in the case of Palestine, the denialism and omission of the glaring seventy-five year crisis and ignorance toward the worsening humanitarian nightmare that defies international law.
After what felt like an utter schooling, it was left to NPC prefect Tom Connell to gather the raucous classroom. But instead of highlighting the disproportionality of horrible death that the Gazans are facing in his closing, Connell spoke about the disproportionality of the fifteen UN resolutions criticising Israel for its actions, daring to callously imply that it wasn’t fair, while hospitals with incubator-less premature babies in them are being attacked by snipers, tanks and bombs. These closing remarks reiterated the pox that has fallen on all our journalistic houses, and the kind of hand-picked people that currently serve as purveyors of “fact” within them.
It was tough to watch one Albanese attempt to passionately educate the misinformed Canberra class about the simple legal definitions pertaining to international laws being broken by Israel in Gaza, facts that disable arguments and refute statements that mention “Israel’s right to self-defence”, while the other Albanese limped up in parliament repeating those very same limp, legally inaccurate statements. He is refusing once again to call for a ceasefire from a state that has responded to one day of terror with four weeks of indiscriminate carpet bombing on a densely concentrated civilian population with no end in sight. The government position on such an action is unprecedented, the whole world watched as we abstained on a UN vote for a ceasefire and wondered why Australia refuses to repudiate the genocidal actions of a rogue state.
Perhaps people like Francesca make such an impact because they speak from a place of a well understood truth on a widely understood issue. When she points to the fact that a subjugated people will always “resist their jailers”, in the case of the long and publicly available history of the occupied territories and many others throughout history, those facts can’t be ignored. This is a statement that most of the world understands, except for the captured few that manufacture narratives for moribund legacy media entities who defy the public interest.
Francesca Albanese’s powerful address was simple, forthright and based on international law, a consideration of the history in the region, and compassion for our shared humanity. With the UN urging Israel to enact a ceasefire, with people of all backgrounds protesting daily in major capitals around the world, with one thousand Gazan children dying each and every week, the other Albanese’s government – and Australia’s media class – has lacked that clear understanding of history, lacked that clarity around international law, and most devastatingly lacked that compassion for our fellow humans.