An op-ed by Independent Mid-East correspondent Bel Trew on the electoral hopes of Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party expresses skepticism that the former IDF Chief-of-Staff truly holds a more centrist view on the Palestinian issue. The central argument of her piece (Centrism is finally returning to Israeli politics, but there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned) is found in these paragraphs:
[Gantz’s] new party is expected to win 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, according to polls by Israel’s Channel 12 and 13 news. The two networks predicted Netanyahu’s Likud party would secure just 30 and 26 respectively.
There were discussions of Israel finally embracing a centrist agenda. The word progressive was even bandied about.
It is true that Netanyahu, his party and his people were quick to scaremonger the largely right-wing Israeli electorate, criticising Gantz-Lapid for being “left wing” and “pro-Arab”.
But how much of this is actually the case?
While it is unlikely the pair will peddle the same fervent nationalist and populist line that Bibi has sculpted into his own brand, don’t expect a major break from the norm.
Lt Gen Gantz’s first campaign video was a disturbing rolling body count of the Palestinians killed by his soldiers during the 2014 war on Gaza that he oversaw. The advert, layered over footage of funerals and destroyed civilian neighbourhoods, concluded by saying that Gantz was responsible for killing 1,364 Gaza militants in the seven-week military campaign. The problem is that this militant body count is even higher than Israel’s agreed numbers and nearly double the United Nations’ figures.
The video effectively glorifies the killing of civilians.
The 1,364 “terrorists” cited by Gantz does include both those Palestinians identified as terrorists (936) and those killed who were of fighting age but not categorized as either terrorist or civilian (428). So, whilst the video can be faulted for assuming – without evidence – that the unidentified 428 Palestinian males of fighting age killed were definitely terrorists, Trew’s argument rests on the reverse blind assumption – that the 428 were all civilians. If Gantz wanted to “glorify” the killing of civilians, he would have used a much higher figure, over 2,100 (which includes those 761 Palestinians identified by the IDF as civilians), not the 1,364 figure.
It’s also worth mentioning that images in the video solely depict Palestinian fighters, not civilians – further undermining the Indy reporter’s claim that Gantz is glorifying the killing of civilians.
Trew’s characterisation of Gantz’s video serves to bolster the narrative continually advanced by the Indy, Guardian and other British media outlets, one painting Israel as a warmongering state that takes pleasure in the suffering of innocent Palestinians. This baseless smear turns reality on its head, as it is Palestinians and Palestinian officials who often literally cheer, celebrate and pass out candy when hearing news of a ‘successful’ Palestinian terror attack against innocent Israeli civilians.
But, of course, no analysis on the prospects that Palestinian society may move to the centre will be offered by Trew, as her reporting follows the MSM pattern of denying Palestinians agency, thus preventing any real reporting on, for instance, the injurious impact to the peace process of their high levels of support for violence, extremism and antisemitism.
If you want to delve more deeply into such double standards, as well as other related flaws in media reporting about Israel and the Palestinians, we strongly recommend watching the following speech by former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman.