Critics of Israel are not hard to find. It seems that every other day a new article or video is published that pushes a distorted perspective
on complex issues and, more generally, casts the Jewish…
But while anti-Israel bias in the press is all too prevalent, the recent stream of prejudiced stories appearing in the Chinese media is a disturbing new development.
The two countries have traditionally been allies and China represents Israel’s second-largest trading partner. While the relationship may not seem the most natural given their geographical distance, different cultures and political systems, and disproportionate sizes, a mutually beneficial economic partnership has nevertheless been cultivated over many years.
Yet this close economic relationship has not stopped the media arm of the Chinese government from recently churning out numerous stories that demonstrate a clear anti-Israel bias.
Following the hostilities between Israel and Hamas earlier this year, China Daily, a broadsheet with the widest circulation of any English-language newspaper in China, produced a number of stories that took aim at the Jewish state.
Announcing the Egypt-brokered ceasefire that ended the latest Gaza conflict, a May 21 article titled, Israel, Hamas agree to start ceasefire early Friday, reads:
“Israel has been launching massive raids on the Palestinian enclave with airstrikes, artillery shellings and drone attacks since May 10, in response to the rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza to retaliate for Israel’s violation of the sacred Islamic holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
This is the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza militants since 2014, which has so far killed 232 Palestinians, including 65 children and 39 women, and 12 Israelis.”
The article implied that Hamas terrorists were provoked into firing rockets because of a deliberate “violation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police. But this description misrepresents events as they actually transpired.
In fact, Israeli police raided the compound in response to Palestinian rioters who had violently clashed with security forces at the site, throwing rocks at officers among other things. The piece also neglects to mention that while the Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of Islam’s holy sites, it is built on the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism.
It is also worth noting that when providing figures on the death toll of the conflict, China Daily only highlights the number of Palestinian women and children who died and omits any reference to Israeli casualties, which included two children and a number of women.
It also overlooks intelligence that suggests 48 percent of Gazans who died were associated with terrorist groups, as well as the number of casualties who were killed by Hamas rockets.
Moreover, a June 26 article, titled “China calls for restraint by Israel over tension”, states:
“A Chinese envoy on Thursday asked for restraint in Gaza and called on Israel to stop illegal settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territory […]
The Security Council issued a press statement on May 22 welcoming the announcement of a truce in Gaza. Less than a month later, the Israeli government approved the flag march in the holy city, a move that escalated tensions. It also conducted airstrikes in Gaza again.”
First, there is the reference to “illegal settlements” on “Palestinian territory.” Yet the legal status of such settlements is in fact contested. Although they are frequently referred to as a violation of international law, this is not the position of the Israeli government.
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords – the comprehensive set of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – no consensus was reached regarding the status of settlements. For an incisive analysis on how such settlements are legitimate under international law, Andrew Lovy’s overview of the issue is a good place to start.
The second issue raised by the China Daily piece is the suggestion that the Israeli government inflamed tensions by authorizing a flag march in Jerusalem. The key element missing here is context.
The so-called “flag march” is an annual Jerusalem Day celebration that commemorates the reunification of the holy city following the 1967 Six-Day War. The claim that this event was deliberately provocative is thus untethered from reality.
Furthermore, the article mentions airstrikes in Gaza but omits entirely the fact the strikes were in response to incendiary balloons that were launched at Israel.
Another article, “No quick end seen to tensions in the Gaza Strip”, published on July 5, describes how peace between Israel and the Palestinians may be hard to achieve under the new government led by Naftali Bennett:
“With a shaky coalition, it might be best for the government to continue to follow Netanyahu’s path, such as exaggerating security issues, creating external enemies and taking measures to worsen the external environment to promote internal cohesion and support […]
Palestine on Thursday complained that Israel’s collecting Palestinian taxes and customs duty have limited the government’s scope for investment.”
In what way are these security issues exaggerated? Hamas’ own 1988 charter – The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement – explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel.
Terrorists from Gaza and the West Bank have perpetrated atrocities against Israeli citizens, including suicide bombings, knife and gun attacks, and the firing of rockets towards civilian-populated towns and cities.
Iran, which is currently enriching uranium to levels substantially beyond those allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal, has described Israel as a “cancerous tumor” that will be “uprooted and destroyed.”
Meanwhile, the Tehran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, which rules vast swathes of Lebanon, poses a continuous threat to Israel from the Jewish state’s northern border.
The article offers little clarification of its later assertions. Recent measures taken by Jerusalem have been aimed not at causing instability in the region, but at defending the Israeli population. The airstrikes alluded to in the China Daily piece have been in response to indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, and targeted Hamas weapons arsenals – many of which were hidden in densely populated civilian areas.
Furthermore, in the last year Israel has normalized ties with four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – in a major step toward greater stability in the Middle East.
As such, how can Israel’s foreign policy be construed as one that deliberately worsens the external environment?
The article also makes reference to the Palestinian Authority’s criticism of Israel for withholding taxes and customs duties.
As before, a critical component is missing from the China Daily piece. There is no mention as to the reason Israel withholds the money: Ramallah’s refusal to end its “pay-for-slay” policy that provides stipends to terrorists and their families.
Such anti-Israel rhetoric, which descended into outright antisemitism on at least one occasion, has not gone unnoticed. In May, the Israeli embassy in China criticized a segment shown on Beijing-based CTGN, which peddled the antisemitic trope that “wealthy Jews” influence US foreign policy makers so that they will favor Israel.
China’s volte-face on Israel may be attributed up to a number of reasons, but regardless of the motives behind this disinformation campaign, it should sound alarm bells for Israel and friends of the Jewish state around the world.