Israel - a "holiday" from Hell?


By Marcus Dysch
July 25, 2011
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Admittedly I’m not a regular reader of the West Sussex County Times, but something in this week’s paper caught my eye.

The paper has an exclusive, headlined “Woman describes her Israel trip from hell”, on page six of this week’s edition.

It sounds a fascinating tale – the intro alone reveals how a West Chiltington woman told of her “ordeal in an Israeli prison”.

I decided to read on:

“Audrey Gray, 77, was invited to Bethlehem to a refugee camp to help plant olive trees.”

Average West Chiltington readers must have been gripped by this terrifying account of one of their own being banged up abroad. Indeed, even I was almost concerned about the poor pensioner’s plight. But then, with the next line, the penny dropped.

”However, when she reached Tel Aviv Ben Gurion international airport, she, along with 12 others, was arrested.”

Arrested with 12 others? Hmm, that sounds like something we should have heard about before, surely? If you havent worked it out already you soon will. But let us continue with our story. (Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find an online version of the story to link to.)

Ms Gray told the paper she was “just visiting friends” and “didn’t think there would be a problem”. Her treatment in the prison was “inhumane” – there was “just no humanity”. Ms Gray “lost all concept of time” and “couldn’t really remember a life before or after”.

According to reporter Charlotte Pearson, Ms Gray and her friends were “never told why they had been arrested”, even when boarding their plane home.

The story, as educated readers of the Jewish Chronicle will realise, is something of a perversion of the truth.

Even at her advanced age, Ms Gray is clearly a master of media spin. She was, of course, one of the 12 anti-Israel activists held after flying to the country as part of the “flytilla” campaign three weeks ago. Not that you’d know it from the West Sussex County Times’s story – it fails to mention the well-publicised campaign even once.

To an unknowing reader, this is viewed as an open-and-shut case.

So is this a one-off piece of poor standards from a reporter who has been fed a line and fallen for it, or something indicative of a wider problem?

Having served time myself on a number of local papers, I’ll suggest the former, with an element of the latter for good measure. Ms Pearson cannot really be expected to understand the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when reporting on village fetes in West Chiltington any more than I could have been expected to understand the situation facing Iranians in Barnet when I was reporting on their plight in between ducking in and out of Barnet Council meetings.

But did it not cross Ms Pearson's mind at any point to perhaps contact the Israeli Embassy to ask for its version of events?

Did she not think it wise to inform readers of the wider context of Ms Gray’s visit? It would have been perfectly possible to give a similar account of what happened to the 77-year-old while including the fact that she was in Israel specifically to take part in the "flytilla" protest.

Whether Ms Pearson will explain why her story failed to mention a single word of explanation about the true nature of pro-Palestinian activist Ms Gray’s visit remains to be seen.

But it is clear that the wider problem – the effectiveness with which anti-Israel campaigners are finding a voice in local and national media – is a rising problem for Israel and her supporters.

How many West Chiltingtonians will have taken the story at face value, convinced that Israel randomly stops British pensioners who have been “invited” to refugee camps, bangs them up for a few days and then sends them packing?

Out of its true context, the story presents a wholly negative view of Israel to readers who may rarely consider any in-depth news about the country, or indeed the Palestinian territories.

Thankfully, pro-Israel campaigners around Britain – many of them Christians like Ms Gray – are now raising their efforts to put across Israel's view and combat the overwhelmingly negative portrayal in the British media.

But with stories such as this slipping into local papers up and down the country every week - often missed and unchallenged by Israel's friends - a cynic might suggest the pro-Israel camp has its work cut out.

COMMENTS

MatthewHarris

Mon, 07/25/2011 - 17:49

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It seems that there is no end to the paper's coverage of this lady: http://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/community/exclusive_woman_s_ordeal_at_the..., with Worthing Today having also run the "exclusive" story, http://www.worthingherald.co.uk/news/west_chiltington_woman_arrested_in_.... Given that a Google News search brings up lots of reports of the flytilla, you would indeed think that West Sussex County Times would have noticed the wider context. Sloppy reporting on their part.


Eric HOFFMAN

Thu, 08/18/2011 - 17:58

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I have known Audrey Gray for almost 15 years. Though we have been and still are at opposite ends of the Israel-Palestine issue, I have no doubt to believe that Audrey is a well meaning person.

We all are entitled to have an opinion. She chose the Palestinian side of things, I have a rather different perspective, which by some have been interpreted as me being 'anti Palestinian' (this is complete and utter rubbish!)

When a few years ago Audrey made a presentation at Trinity Methodist Church in Storrington about her experience as an ecumenical accompanier near or at the Wall, it became quite clear that her mind was more than made up: The Israelis and the members of the IDF in particular were the 'bad' guys. Clever photography and comments loaded with innuendo did their work. Many of those present were shocked and dismayed about the Israeli attitude etc. etc. On previous occasions she did not shy away from using words such as 'misguided Jews'

Audrey was ecstatic about the adoption of a resolution during the 2010 Methodist Conference, to boycot goods emanating from the Israeli held territories on the West Bank. This was based on a recommendation by the WCC and also oo the very flawed Kairos document. A salient detail is that the 'historical facts' presented to the 2010 Conference were incomplete, which later (long after the event) one of the organizers acknowledged to me.

Though I am very happy that Audrey was able to return home safely, I frankly speaking cannot muster any sympathy for her nor for the other 11 British detainees of the group. Rather than being tourists, they went to Israel, as representatives of a Scottish politically motivated 'Pro Palestine' action group, to take part in a mass rally in Bethlehem. All 'participants' were properly warned that Israel would not allow demonstrations of this kind. They went anyway; they asked for trouble and they got it!

To now cry wolf and pretend to deserve a more or less 'martyr' status is absurd.

It is sad that so many in the West in particular are ignoring historical facts (among others the mess the UK created during and after the 'mandate' years) which are at the root of the problem. It is even 'sadder' that intelligent and undoubtedly well meaning persons such as Audrey do not realize that their actions are welcomed and greatly 'appreciated' by the corrupt and evil leaders of the Palestinians, such as Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah, who are hell bent to utterly destroy the Jewish State of Israel. In other words the 'good guys' (the poor Palestinians) are not being helped at all!

WAKE UP and for starters read your Bibles!

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