Monday, July 22, 2013

  • Monday, July 22, 2013
  • Elder of Ziyon
On Australian TV, there was an interview with Moira Kelly, a woman who is building a garden in Gaza, who makes the incredible claim that there are no birds in the sector (4:08):

Kelly: "And there are no birds in Gaza."
Hostess: "No birds at all."
Kelly: "There's no birds. This is a phenomenal little statistic in Gaza you don't realize."
Hostess: "Will the plants bring birds?"
Landscape designer Andrew Laidlaw: "Well, we hope they will...hopefully it will be a beginning."
The interview, when posted on the ABC website, is headlined "Peace garden to bring birds back to Gaza."

But as AIJAC shows, the claim that there are no birds at all in Gaza, this "phenomenal little statistic," is a ridiculousand easily disproven lie:
It is hard to imagine how ABC news staff could have not caught Kelly's blatant exaggeration and even felt free to put the ABC's imprimatur on the claim by including it in the story summary. Yet even the most cursory investigation would have confirmed that the Gaza Strip, like its neighbour Israel, is literally teeming with avian life.

Type "birds in Gaza Strip" into Google and the very second response you get, in terms of relevance (the first being a Wikipedia article) is a bird checklist by the World Bird Database which lists 171 species of birds in the Gaza Strip.

The third most relevant response is a scholarly paper from 2011 by Dr. Abdel Fattah N. Abd Rabou from the Department of Biology at the Islamic University of Gaza.

The paper, "Notes on Some Palestinian Bird Fauna Existing in the Zoological Gardens of the Gaza Strip" focuses mainly on birds in captivity in the Strip. However, the paper also includes a survey of the natural bird life in the area.

Writes Dr. Abd Rabou:

The Gaza Strip, which is located at the southern portion of the Palestine coast along the Mediterranean Sea, is blessed with a considerable number of bird fauna including terrestrial and aquatic forms. Dense concentration of birds occurs over the Gaza Strip during spring and autumn migration seasons [5, 6]. It is worth mentioning that wetlands, including the wetland ecosystem of Wadi Gaza, are considered as very productive ecosystems, having rich bird fauna. They provide bird fauna with all necessary requirements such as shelter, protection, food and breeding, resting and roosting places ... etc [7-13].
Here is a photo of Gaza birds taken last year:

Somehow this photographer managed to find several of the nonexistent birds.

AIJAC continues:
ABC goofed by giving Kelly a license to exaggerate claims about conditions in Gaza as a fundraising and propaganda tool. Even before the construction of this park, Gaza most certainly did, and continues to have, trees, bird life as well as green spaces (even some lavish ones, like the Dolphin Water Park and Resort which opened in April, compensating for another one which Hamas destroyed in 2010).

Kelly and the ABC effectively conspired to distort the reality on the ground in the interests of manufacturing sympathy for a doubtlessly worthwhile project. But when Australia's public broadcaster uncritically promotes such storytelling, it is acting counter to the principles of ethical journalism, and its own charter.

While this incident is, of course, peripheral to the more substantive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for ABC's journalists and editors to "parrot" the bizarre notion that Gaza is devoid of birdlife without anyone along the way bothering to exercise the most basic level of fact-checking is indeed troubling.

It raises the question of what other fact-checking, if any, is employed by the ABC regarding news items originating in Palestinian controlled areas on more important subjects.
By the way, in Moira Kelly's website, we can read:
The delegation had also been invited to meet with Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader and Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and his team in his compound. Moira was one of the last Australians to have met with him before his death and found him to be a misunderstood man of great faith and great compassion, and above all, passionate about his people.
In other words, some people will believe anything as long as they really, really want to.

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