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Israeli Ambassador To New Zealand’s Unchallenged On TVNZ Q+A Programme, Allowed To Spread Misinformation And Untruths

22 April 2024

New Zealand’s Palestinian community and Palestinian Youth Aotearoa are voicing alarm and disappointment with the lack of factual rigour present during the Israeli Ambassador’s appearance as a guest on TVNZ’s Q+A With Jack Tame Sunday (21/04).

The decision by the team at TVNZ to provide the Israeli Ambassador, Ran Yaakoby, with nearly an hour of screentime to promote an unfactual and dishonest narrative unchallenged is unjustifiable.

The Israeli Ambassador has perpetuated a domestic argument that justifies and excuses civilian deaths in the past. For example, in October ‘23, speaking as a guest of the NZ Initiative, Yaakoby and Oliver Hartwell proactively advocated for the bombing of Palestinian civilians. An apology for this inflammatory content and affirmation of bad judgement and accountability from the NZI Board remains unheard.

Inexcusable anti-Palestinian language, myopic analysis and one-sided propaganda is pervasive and unchallenged in Aotearoa with a lack of journalistic rigour and diversity of opinion in media spaces.

The pervasive Israeli narrative, based on documented inaccuracies, prejudicial tropes have been proven untrue on numerous occasions by independent journalists and respected international organisations alike, such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

It is a reasonable expectation that inaccurate and unproven claims by Israeli representatives be questioned and challenged.

What follows is a brief illustration of the issues:

An incorrect death toll

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Yaakoby and Tame both repeated an incorrect death toll for Israelis on 7 October 2023 that has been debunked. Both noted 1,400 people were “butchered” by Hamas. However, the real death toll is closer to 1,139 according to The Guardian, Agence France-Presse, and Al Jazeera, amongst other media outlets. Even with this significant difference of about 20%, the discussion completely ignored the large percentage of those deaths that were reportedly caused by friendly fire by Israeli Defence Forces on their own people (need sources for this).

False accounts of atrocities

During the longform interview, the ambassador promoted factually incorrect allegations that have been debunked due to a lack of evidence, such as instances of decapitation and gang rape. Yaakoby simultaneously denied the death toll of Palestinians which has been verified by many reputable organisations such as the United Nations (UN), the United States of America and independent observers, such as HRW. No one on the TVNZ team challenged these inaccuracies.

Dehumanising statements unchallenged

Tame did not challenge the dehumanising sentiments shared by the Ambassador, when he referred to fighters as beasts, and said that the deaths of 13,000 children was a fair price if Israel achieved its goals. Yaakoby went on to say that Hamas was democratically elected, to support his stance that any number of Palestinians killed is acceptable to secure Israel. We reject the idea that there is any justification for murdering 13,000 children and would like to see this narrative undergo a lot more scrutiny in our local media.

Lack of reference to international law

Tame failed to challenge the Ambassador on claims regarding Israel’s compliance with international law. Specifically, Israel not having the right to defend itself against a territory it occupies, attacking schools and hospitals, and the nature of illegal Israeli settlement expansion.

Dismissal of ICJ Ruling

The suggestion by the Ambassador that the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling that genocide was “plausible” in Gaza was essentially due to the fact that genocide is always plausible, not because Israel was potentially committing genocide. This was another harmful and unfounded statement that went unchallenged.

Lack of questioning on war crimes

Documented evidence of war crimes by Israel - massacres of civilians, medical facilities attacked, paramedics and white flag holders killed, and food and medicines embargoed - went without adequate challenge. Independent observers have verified these crimes.

Lack of factual evidence

Tame allowed the Ambassador to support his claims by stating he has “read reports” or “seen articles” without citing his sources. The way this interview was conducted does not abide by the BSA principles of fairness and balance, nor did Tame exercise journalistic integrity or preparedness.

The two state solution

The Ambassador failed to speak of any viable two state solution, and insisted that increasing settlements in East Jerusalem will not impact peace. The ambassador neglected to address ongoing settler violence across the West Bank as well as efforts by settler groups to purchase land in Gaza. Successive UNSC resolutions and ICJ rulings since 1967 have made it clear that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories and its settlement expansion are illegal.

The Ambassador went on to suggest that Palestine cannot be recognised as a state, because they first need to have clearly defined borders - something Israel continues to deny them, including through continued settlement building.

Q+A leaving these assertions unchallenged , perpetuates a lack of accountability by Israel in global political discourse.

Critique of NZ foreign policy and position on international security

The Ambassador was critical of New Zealand’s designation of only the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity, and suggested New Zealand should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran as a terrorist entity. The IRGC is a state military and, like the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), cannot be designated as a terrorist group under NZ law. This shows a misunderstanding of New Zealand legislation and an unreasonable expectation in a public conversation.

Finally, it is entirely inappropriate for a resident Ambassador to critique a host country's foreign and security policies. Along with the suggestion NZ was out of step with like-minded Western democratic nations is a serious accusation the Foreign Minister should respond to.

Sadly this interview proves the lack of presence of the Palestinian perspective in the NZ media, with numerous documented cases of bias and a pattern of systemic prejudice in reporting.

© Scoop Media

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