IT was George Orwell who once likened propaganda to the starting and stopping of a clock. Orwell’s observation was cited recently by the online news portal The New Arab, in its interpretation of how the Israel-Gaza crisis has played out in terms of media coverage.

It noted that for many Western outlets, the moment that Hamas struck Israel on October 7 was once again an example of when the clock started. What then followed, just as it has been in the past, was the removal of all wider and historical political context surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while Hamas is then framed and presented as the sole antagonist.

Ultimately, once the situation relents – again as in the past when Israel stops bombing Gaza – the clock is stopped again by the media and the focus goes elsewhere.

And so, as The New Arab article points out, the familiar cycle plays out, with a timeline of events, “that begins with Palestinian provocation and ends with Israeli retribution”.

As someone who has spent a good part of their working life covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict up close, it’s a scenario and interpretation of how things are handled by much of the media that I instantly recognise.

I should stress too that this doesn’t just apply to the media either and there is a flip side. For whenever Gaza in the past has been bludgeoned by Israel, a whole plethora of critics, protesters, pseudo-activists and mischief makers emerge from the woodwork, marching, shouting, proclaiming, while the bombs fall, only for their voices to go silent after the sounds of explosions and cries of Palestinian suffering appear to fade.

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That’s the thing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict you see, its flare-ups are always times for righteous indignation that see the usual placards dusted down and familiar slogans reiterated and brought onto the streets albeit briefly, only to be stashed away again until next time when the Palestinians “warrant” our sympathy and support.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying that people should not express their indignation, anger and solidarity, on the contrary. But I’ve long since tired of how the Palestinians’ plight is a cause celebre for so many one minute then dropped the next as they move on to something more immediate and conscience salving.

I for one would say more power to the elbow of those willing to publicly show their concern and desire to work for a just resolution of this long-festering litany of human rights abuses and occupation suffered by Palestinians. But for it to make any real difference it must be sustained, unrelenting and long term.

It’s only then that such activism will prevent those politicians – of which shamefully there is no shortage here in the UK and beyond – from falling unconditionally into step with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition government comprised of right-wing racist allies.

These past days watching the way Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and others have done just that has been an unedifying spectacle to say the least. Hats off then to those 15 Labour officers who have resigned over party rules about responding to the conflict in Gaza. The Scottish Labour Party’s ruling of a motion being out of order that called for an end to military action is exactly what it is – a “stifling of democracy.”

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It’s a move that could have come straight from the playbook of the Netanyahu government’s curbing of the powers of Israel’s judiciary that brought millions of Israelis on to the streets in protest at what they saw as a “judicial coup,” and the erosion of democracy.

Only one thing matters to Netanyahu and that this is holding onto power, which he does with the same disregard for democratic norms as Starmer does in his pursuit of being the next prime minister at almost any cost.

As Israeli newspaper columnist David Rothkopf asked in Tuesday’s edition of Haaretz: “Do you think the pro-Palestinian protests worldwide would have been so large or come so soon after the horrors of 10/7 committed by Hamas if Benjamin Netanyahu and his governments had not so damaged Israel’s international standing over the past several years?”

Rothkopf – like a number of Israeli journalists – has been a voice of sanity and reasonableness among the rage of late, his Haaretz colleagues Gideon Levy and Amira Hass included.

It’s all a far cry from much of the press in the UK who have revealed themselves in the most unedifying way as willing purveyors of the views of those politicians they endorse and echo over the conflict in Gaza.

As The New Humanitarian – a not-for-profit independent news agency – highlighted in an editorial a few days ago, yes, Hamas, is responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians and the taking of hundreds of hostages on October 7.

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But the Israeli government has also been responsible for killing thousands of Palestinian civilians since. And before October 7, 3803 Palestinian civilians had been killed – compared to 177 Israeli civilians – since 2008 as UN figures reveal. All civilian deaths on either side, Israeli and Palestinian alike, are of course unacceptable, but it’s more important than ever that events be placed in the correct context.

WHY is it, asks The New Humanitarian, that in some media coverage Palestinians “die” while Israelis are “killed,” or that senior Palestinian officials interviewed on British TV are asked to condemn Hamas “as a ticket of entry into the conversation”, while their Israeli counterparts are rarely asked to account for their government’s crimes?

The answer as the agency’s editorial rightly points out, is that so many of us are “preconditioned not to see Palestinian humanity because colonialism, white supremacy, and Islamophobia are still the dominant lens through which states, institutions, people, and media in the West view the world”.

Between this and serving our own geopolitical interests by siding with Netanyahu’s government and that of the US, the likes of Sunak, Starmer and others are more than willing to forfeit any moral compass or positioning when it comes to the conflict in Gaza and wider plight of the Palestinians.

Orwell was right when he said that propaganda starts and stops like a clock, the pausing or moving of the hands helping those politicians whose aim is to shape a narrative that cynically suits their own ends at the expense of even the most oppressed.

Such outright manipulators of the truth and those well-meaning but fleetingly committed activists who pick and choose the time when to raise their voice in outrage, have always presented the Palestinians with immense challenges in arguing their case for justice.

Now is the time for those politicians and their unconditional support for Netanyahu to be held to account like never before.

Now too as we do so, is the time to ensure such support for the Palestinians is not short-lived but sufficiently sustained enabling change for the better to come the way of both Palestinians and Israelis alike.