Two observations about Jon Snow’s interview last night with Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, for which Snow has received a lot of criticism from those supportive of the Palestinian case.
First, we should notice how Snow chooses to frame the interview. This is his first question: “Israel has demonstrated that it is prepared to go on killing Gaza’s woman and children, civilians generally. Why are you encouraging them by continuing to fire your ineffective rockets?”
That is quite some opener. In using the phrase “prepared to go on”, Snow implies that Israel’s killing of civilians is to a degree deliberate. In fact, that becomes the essential frame of the whole interview – and is the source of his irritating, even puerile line of questioning. Why antagonise Israel, when it’s clear it’s going to vent its fury on women and children? Why not hand over your weapons and let Israel blow up your tunnels? Why not abandon resistance?
Snow’s framing does a great disservice to Hamas but it damages Israel even more. Hamas are stupid, according to this approach, but Israel is actually malevolent. We should not discount the significance of the assumption about Israel Snow is making on behalf of his viewers. This may be some sort of tiny victory for the Palestinians in the media war.
Second, Snow keeps telling Hamdan: “There’s no time to go into the history”. In other words, we must ignore the context. But this is precisely the criticism of media coverage of Israel-Palestine made by academics like Greg Philo. Their surveys show the media fail to provide the historical context of the conflict, and this failure puts the Palestinians at an immediate disadvantage, because their case is essentially historical – a demand for redress for the injustices of 1948 and 1967. After all, Hamas represents an enormous group of refugees from those wars, forced out of their homes in what is now Israel and imprisoned in Gaza. Without that context, we cannot understand what drives Hamas or Gaza’s will to resist.
The Israelis, on the other hand, would much rather we ignored the history, or only concentrated on marginal aspects of it, because the injustice – the dispossession of Palestinians – is precisely historical. So, in refusing to consider history, Snow is taking a side – Israel’s.