Blind Palestinian practising throwing the discus while his son claps so he knows where to aim (channel4.com)
Channel 4 continued its attacks on Israel in Friday night’s Going for Gold in Gaza documentary, which was meant to follow the efforts of the men’s Palestinian Paralympics team to qualify for London 2012. Their disabilities consisted of congenital blindness and physical disabilities caused by either work accidents or intermarriage.
But as I settled down to watch I found that presenter Aidan Hartley couldn’t resist repeatedly taking the documentary gratuitously off-track in order to demonise Israel.
Here are my thoughts, in italics, as I watched:
It opens on a Gaza street showing posters of dead Palestinian men holding guns and with Hartley saying:
“In Gaza it’s those who have died fighting Israel who are seen as heroes, not sportsmen.”
FREEZE FRAME: Oh, Aidan! These men were not soldiers “fighting Israel” but Hamas terrorists who had probably walked into Israeli restaurants to murder innocent people or they had helped plan such attacks and were subsequently killed by Israel.
The next 10 minutes were fascinating as we found out about the athletes, their families, how the athletes became disabled, how they trained, the medals they had previously won, their excitement about London 2012 and also their concerns. A blind athlete is upset as he may be required to have his eyes retested.
Then there’s a scene of another blind athlete and his son, Mohammad, who had his eyes tested and he now knows he won’t go blind like his father. Sinister music then follows and Hartley says:
“Gaza is effectively under siege. Israel controls the goods that go in and its hard for people to get out. Israeli gunboats control the coastline. Gunfire is an everyday sound. The Gaza strip has the atmosphere of a large prison. People are hemmed in and its claustrophobic and travel outside of Gaza is very restricted for any reason.”
FREEZE FRAME: Ok, starting to go off-track now but you have to mention Israel as it is part of the picture, obviously, but why is Hartley solely blaming Israel for Gaza’s deprivations when Egypt also borders Gaza? Hartley could also have explained why Israel takes these security measures (see “freeze frame” above).
Hartley then tells us that they found out there is a women’s Palestinian Paralympics team and he goes to see them training.
FREEZE FRAME: Ok, that’s the Israel bashing out of the way, hopefully, and to hear about Palestinian women athletes will be interesting.
But it didn’t last long. Fatma needs a special prosthetic leg without which she won’t be able to go to London 2012, so Hartley visits the Artifical Limbs Centre of Gaza where he interviews amputees on the waiting list.
Nine year old Yousef lost his left arm to cancer and has been waiting 10 months for a new prosthetic arm. The medical centre’s director tells Hartley that Israel has stopped sending materials directly and that a donation from Slovenia has been left in Tel Aviv since February. Hartley repeats:
“Let me get this right. Yousef, that nine year old boy, could have had a prosthetic limb months ago had the materials not been sitting in a warehouse in Israel for the last, nearly, eight months?”
We then get a flash of the security wall and Hartley says:
“Israel denies blocking medical supplies to Gaza. The sense that Gaza is under siege is never far away. And the conflict swells the number of injuries and amputations. Gazan civilians are killed or maimed by Israeli strikes, often in retaliation for rocket fire from Palestinian militants.”
FREEZE FRAME: Aidan, did you mean that Israel attacks Hamas and accidentally kills civilians or that Israel intentionally targets civilians as retaliation? It’s unclear but sounds like you meant the latter, which is untrue. And why didn’t you investigate the whereabouts of Yousef’s prosthetic limb and maybe even help obtain it for him? How mean of you.
Next Hartley visits a Palestinian home where he says “there are family members who are injured in recent violence”. A man tells Hartley how two weeks earlier his two nephews had been playing in the street. Israel, he said, responded to Hamas rockets with missiles from pilotless drones. Hartley finishes the story himself:
“Out of the blue a drone fired a rocket in amongst the children horribly wounding his two nephews. Saba wanted to show me where the attack occurred. In the weeks before we arrived dozens of civilians had been killed or maimed.”
Hartley is shown a narrow hole in the ground where the rocket, apparently, hit and the uncle shows Hartley pictures of his nephews lying horrifically injured in hospital. Hartley points to their amputations and says that one of them, Ibrahim, subsequently died.
FREEZE FRAME: Could these horrendous injuries possibly have been Hamas inflicted, a case of a Hamas rocket misfiring? It wouldn’t be the first time. Hartley doesn’t bother investigating.
Next Hartley meets another Palestinian man who “had lost his left leg when he was blown up by an Israeli missile”.
FREEZE FRAME: Again, Hartley doesn’t investigate how he tragically lost his leg.
Eventually, Hartley, again meets up with the paralympians that he had started the programme telling us about, one of whom had just lost his mother to cancer. She passed away in an Israeli hospital but, we are told, her son had not been allowed by the Israelis into Israel to be at her bedside when she died.
FREEZE FRAME: This has now become a programme demonising Israel, while occasionally concentrating on Palestinian paralympians.
Hartley signs off with:
“The Palestinians who make it to the London paralympics in 2012 will be amongst the most remarkable athletes at the games”.
FREEZE FRAME: These Paralympians are incredible and I have full respect for them and wish them every success next year but ALL paralympians are incredible. I don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t.
It’s a shame Hartley wasted so much of this short programme gratuitously attacking Israel. But after Channel 4’s War Child and The Promise nothing surprises me.