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When Israel fired back

By Emily Gian 

On Saturday morning (Saturday evening in Australia), news began to filter through about an incident in Israel’s north – an Iranian drone flying into Israeli sovereign territory, a downed F-16 jet. It was not clear straight away, but the IDF did post a timeline of the events and how the drama all unfolded:

4:25am – The IDF intercepts an Iranian UAV with an IAF helicopter
5:34am – IAF fighter jets attack Iranian targets in Syria
6:00am – During the attack, a number of anti-aircraft missiles were launched at the IAF aircraft. One of the jets was hit. The pilots evacuated the aircraft according to procedure and landed in Israeli territory.
8:45am – IAF fighter jets carry out a large scale attack against the Syria aerial defence array and additional Iranian targets in Syria.
8:55am – During the attack, a number of anti-aircraft missiles were launched at IAF jets. As a result, sirens sounded in northern Israel. The attack was completed successfully.

Following the incident, the Head of the International Media Desk with the IDF Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus stated, “The Syrians and the Iranians, from our point of view, are playing with fire. The Syrians are playing with fire when they allow the Iranians to attack Israel from their soil. We are willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price on anyone that attacks us. However, we are not looking to escalate the situation.”

Backing up what Lt. Col. Coricus said, Maj. Gen Yoel Strick, Head of the Northern Command said, “What we’ve known for a long time is now clear to everyone: Iran wants to establish a front in Syria that is aimed at harming Israel. We are not looking to escalate the situation, but we have abilities that we are not afraid to use.”

But the operation was vital with the head of the Air Group in the IAF Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein Dar declaring, “We carried out a wide-scale attack on the aerial defense system – radars, rockets, batteries, posts, and we performed a substantial strike, which as can be seen – they are trying to hide. He continued that it was “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has carried out against Syrian air defenses since 1982.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel. This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100% correct. Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”

And rightly so? What other nation needs to justify its own self-defence so frequently?

Meanwhile, Israel had the full backing of the United States, with the State Department releasing the following statement:

“The United States is deeply concerned about today’s escalation of violence over Israel’s border and strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.

Iran’s calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the‎ region — from Yemen to Lebanon — at risk.‎ The U.S. continues to push back on the totality of Iran’s malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.”

Unsurprisingly, Iran and Syria were both quick to issue denials as to the timeline of events with Iranian state television quoting Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahran Qasemi as saying, “Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous … Iran only provides military advice to Syria.”

The only surprising aspect of this is that Qasemie was able to utter that statement – an obvious lie – while keeping a straight face but speaking the truth is not a high priority with the Iranians.

Like the Iranians, the Syrians, who have been involved with butchering and murdering their own people for seven years have now also denied Israeli claims of a drone entering Israeli airspace and promised a “severe and serious” response from now on.

Naturally, many world leaders have chosen to comment on the incident but the award for the most ridiculous statement comes from notorious Israel basher Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who tweeted, “Worrying developments between Syria and Israel. Urge all to respect int’l law, show restraint & avoid actions that further escalate the situation. Must urgently refocus efforts to end the conflict in Syria, where the UN-led political process remains the only viable path.”

Ms. Wallström is of course, totally oblivious as to how ineffective the UN-led political process has been in Syria until now.

When it comes to Israel, it is not just what happened, but how it was reported in the media that becomes an issue. For almost two decades, I have kept a close watch on the media and what it writes. In many instances, there is a pattern that begins with the basic premise that “it all began when Israel fired back”.

Yet, despite knowing this, somehow I expected this incident to be different. Surely the world knows what a dangerous threat Iran is to the entire region, and that no country should have to tolerate an enemy country entering their sovereign space.

So what was the first headline I read in the Australian press? News Limited carrying a story with the headline “Israel launches ‘large scale’ attack”.

To its credit, that headline was subsequently altered slightly but it took five paragraphs into the article to finally read that Israel’s actions came as a response to an Iranian drone that entered Israeli air-space.

Other Australian press did not do much better with the Sydney Morning Herald headlining their article “Israel carried out large scale attack in Syria after Israeli jet crashes under anti-aircraft fire”.

Well, no actually.

HonestReporting covered some of the other instances around the world where this kind of reporting was the case. And in a world of social media and limited attention spans, these headlines matter more than ever.

In terms of the failure to point out that the Iranian drone in Israeli sovereign territory is what set off the chain of events, Honest Reporting says, “Iran’s military drone flying over Israel is the heart of this story, and the cause of all the events that followed, including Israel’s reactions which were responsive ones.

Just to put this in context: how do you think these publications would have reported if Iran had managed to fly a military UAV over American soil? (Or UK, EU, Australia, etc.)

And why should Israel be treated any differently?”

I often wonder exactly the same thing.

Emily Gian is the Media & Advocacy Director for the Zionist Federation of Australia.