THE figures coming out of Gaza on the number of casualties are reliable – that’s according to the World Health Organisation. But how can they be reliable if the information is coming from Hamas? That's the barked demand coming from the IOF, the Daily Mail, the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, RTÉ, the Daily Express and GB News.

Well, we know because in the countless other massacres that have taken place since Israel stole the keys to Palestine in 1948, the number of occupied people killed by the occupier have subsequently been proved to be pretty accurate. And that’s particularly the case in the 15 years since Hamas has been in charge of the Gaza Strip. No propaganda – just broadly accurate statistics, mostly because when you make up figures about dead people you get found out very quickly.

That history of reliability is not good enough for the aforementioned media outlets, which qualify the figures supplied to them by the Gaza Health Ministry on the number of dead and injured (c. 30,000 and 70,000) by saying “The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry” so that people can raise their eyebrows, tap their nose and say “Aaaah” when the numbers are given.

Otherwise the UK media is not keen on qualification. Consider this: Not one Western print or broadcast organisation is in Gaza, for the very simple reason that Israel doesn’t want journalists to report on what’s happening there. The total absence of outside media is unprecedented in conflict and it’s only unprecedented because Gaza is occupied and  Israel – and to a lesser extent Egypt – have a vice-like grip on movement in and out of the Strip.

Against that background, you may think it of some importance that the media point this out. And you may think it particularly important for the Beeb, a state-licensed broadcaster that’s not in hock to non-dom billionaires and which merely has a Tory cabal at its head. But no – you will never be apprised of the pretty important fact that none of the reporting you are hearing is coming from outside Gaza because journalists are banned from the killing fields and may as well be sitting on their laptops in London coffee shops as Israeli hotels.

* This report was written by Phil White in Tel Aviv (which is not in Gaza) and Robin Livingstone in Hannahstown (which isn't in Gaza either).

Unionist unity isn't entirely unanimous

THE DUP and the UUP might not have got into bed together this week, but they’ve been rolling about on the sofa with the lights out and one ear on the door.

Party leaders Deadly Doug and Jumpy Jeff took to the stage at Queen’s in midweek for a palsy-walsy chat with invited guests about how great it would be if it was like this all time. Meanwhile, Nolan Show co-hosts Jim ‘Laughing Boy’ Allister and Jamie ‘Eddie the Legal’ Bryson were touring Orange halls across Our Wee Country confirming Mary Lou McDonald’s post-Stormont reopening comment that the union is finished.

COSYING UP: Doug Beattie and Jeffrey Donaldson have been playing a little footsy this week

COSYING UP: Doug Beattie and Jeffrey Donaldson have been playing a little footsy this week

It used to be that union jacks got waved enthusiastically in tin-roof huts up the country when Sinn Féin/IRA were getting a verbal kicking or when Sammy Sausages was waving about a packet of cooked ham he’d managed to sneak through the sea border. Now what gets the biggest cheer, what gets the loyal juices flowing fastest, is a veteran barrister and KC explaining the technical details of the end of the Precious Union©. Weird or what?

Can it be long before Jim’s walk-on music is a Kneecap number?

Gorgeous George is back in the limelight

FIRST person ever to block me on Twitter was George Galloway. It was during the Scottish referendum campaign and I was more than a little surprised to find out the Georgie Boy was backing the union with England.

The exact wording of my query on learning this escapes me, but it was something to do with whether the now Rochdale MP was quite comfortable with the UK status quo because he had a bigger profile south of the border than north of it. Bye, bye, Robin.

Since then, the evidence that Galloway has an inordinately high opinion of himself has continued to come thick and fast and so thoroughly has he alienated former friends and colleagues that he had become something of a sad and lonely figure in politics. Then along came the Gaza slaughter and Keir Starmer and – hey, presto! – the guy who last year had to get a blue bus to get a drink is again at the beating heart of British politics.

Needless to say, it’s sent the retired Home Counties majors into a tizzy, and for once I’m on the side of the old blokes in the check shirts and gilets because George has turned into a comic book caricature of the man who in 2005 single-handedly took apart the Washington subcommittee investigating the Iraq oil-for-food programme. Nowadays you feel George couldn’t take apart a Jenga tower.

CONVINCING: George Galloway scored a thumping victory over Keir Starmer in Rochdale

CONVINCING: George Galloway scored a thumping victory over Keir Starmer in Rochdale

But even someone whose powers are so dramatically reduced is capable of racking up votes from brown people in what was seen as a straight race against Keir Starmer, a man who posterity will identify as the Labour leader who gave a cheery two thumbs-up to Israel’s deprivation of food and water from innocent Gazans. (In the event, Keir’s boy – who he dumped at the last minute – failed to make it a straight race, straggling in a sorry fourth.)

The overturning of a 10,000 majority is not what Starmer – or Tel Aviv Keith, as he’s now popularly known – wants to hear, even when he’s 26 points ahead of the Tories in the polls. An electoral rejection of Labour by Muslims even on a smaller scale to Rochdale has the ability to kill the party’s dream of an overall majority in this year’s election. Shorn of his solid Muslim base, the day after the election Starmer's more likely to be negotiating a bouncy castle than running a victory lap. 

The Labour leader apologised after Galloway’s election for the party’s catastrophic performance; had he apologised a week or two earlier to Muslims for green-lighting the starving of their brothers and sisters in Gaza, perhaps Galloway would be back cosying up to Nigel Farage instead of getting ready to make merry mayhem among Starmer’s jumpy backbenchers keen to stop their seats turning into Rochdales.