Gaza Border Coverage: Shame on the Media

Original article from by Simon Plosker –

Photo Abed Rahim Khatib (Flash 90)

We’re seeing a veritable tsunami of media commentary, most of it highly critical of Israel in the aftermath of this week’s Gaza border violence.

New information is now coming to light that calls into question the overwhelming and knee-jerk reaction of the media and elsewhere to place almost the entire blame on Israel for the violence and deaths that occurred.

Hamas publicly acknowledges 50 of its dead were operatives

The overwhelming narrative adopted by the media was one of Israel shooting dead unarmed civilians protesters who posed little to no threat.

This despite plenty of evidence to the contrary (see HonestReporting’s previous post) including social media posts from the protest organizers calling for participants to bring concealed weapons and encouraging them to breach the fence and kill or kidnap Israeli soldiers or civilians.

Yet, with the death toll at some 62 Palestinians, the truth is steadily leaking out. 50 of the dead were claimed by Hamas official Salah al-Bardaweel as their operatives.

In addition, Islamic Jihad have claimed three more of the dead as their own.

“But the IDF didn’t know their affiliation when snipers opened fire on them.”

So what?

However, it does go some way to explaining the malevolent intentions of those Palestinian men that most likely led to their deaths either in mounting direct attacks on the IDF or attempting to breach the security fence.

The Associated Press has published a dedicated report, which will hopefully make its way into many international media outlets.

While other media outlets such as CNN have reported the story, most of the British media, which has been some of the harshest, has, so far, conspicuously ignored it.

Some may question the credibility of al-Bardaweel when he claimed 50 Hamas dead. Yet, the media appear to have no problem with the credibility of casualty figures released by the Hamas controlled Gaza Ministry of Health.

Also of note is the attitude displayed by some media that still sticks the knife into Israel by implying that this is really about Israel’s own PR efforts. Take this from AFP:

The remarks were seized upon by Israel in an attempt to fend off the harsh global criticism over the deaths and prove they were orchestrated and led by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Why is it that the media malign Israel’s efforts to provide legitimate public diplomacy yet cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the deliberate media strategy deployed by Hamas?

Israel the baby killer?

The death of a baby is a tragedy however it comes about. Eight-month old Layla Ghandour was allegedly a victim of Israeli tear gas leading to shocking articles such as the one below in the UK’s Daily Express.

What the Express isn’t telling its readers is that a Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that the baby had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to disclose medical information to the media.

Unaddressed by the Los Angeles Times is why Palestinian parents bring babies (in this case with a heart defect) to a clash where they know tear gas and smoke from burning tires would be in the air. A similar New York Times report shed just a little more light on the question:

Layla was dozing at their home in Gaza City when a call went up: A bus was waiting, outside a nearby mosque, to take residents to the border fence, where the protest was raging. Her 12-year-old uncle, Ammar, bundled her up in his arms and carried her out the door.

The boy assumed that Layla’s mother was already on the bus. In fact, she was in another part of the house, suffering from a toothache. Still, Layla was hardly the only infant at the protest. Entire families had come along, some snacking on ice cream or sandwiches, as the protests raged hundreds of yards away.

A gas libel

As for the headline “Drones Drop Lethal Canisters” as seen in the Express above, this is simply a libel. Tear gas is a recognized form of non-lethal riot control and the IDF was clearly not dropping tear gas in order to kill.

Just as bad was a staff-ed in The Independent that referred to the death of the Palestinian baby:

In this context it is worth reminding ourselves of the worldwide wave of revulsion against chemical weapons we have seen in recent weeks. Palestinian victims deserve the same sympathy and protests as anyone else when their children suffer from gassing.

Drawing an equivalence between Israeli tear gas used as a means of non-lethal riot control and the use of chemical weapons as in Syria is both inaccurate and utterly despicable.

How Hamas encourages the riots

None of the media have asked the most obvious question – why would anyone bring babies or children to a riot in the first place?

A Gazan terrorist was apprehended by the IDF after attempting to infiltrate into Israeli territory. Watch him explaining how Hamas forces civilians to participate in violence against Israel.

Brett Stephens  writes in the New York Times:

The world now demands that Jerusalem account for every bullet fired at the demonstrators, without offering a single practical alternative for dealing with the crisis.

But where is the outrage that Hamas kept urging Palestinians to move toward the fence, having been amply forewarned by Israel of the mortal risk? Or that protest organizers encouraged women to lead the charges on the fence because, as The Times’s Declan Walsh reported, “Israeli soldiers might be less likely to fire on women”? Or that Palestinian children as young as 7 were dispatched to try to breach the fence? Or that the protests ended after Israel warned Hamas’s leaders, whose preferred hide-outs include Gaza’s hospital, that their own lives were at risk?

Elsewhere in the world, this sort of behavior would be called reckless endangerment. It would be condemned as self-destructive, cowardly and almost bottomlessly cynical.

A “disproportionate” response?

Many media outlets and commentators have noted the difference in casualty figures between Palestinians and Israelis (one IDF soldier has been lightly wounded by shrapnel).

The charge of disproportionate force has been leveled at Israel on numerous occasions, particularly within the contexts of military operations in Gaza in the past.

Financial Times, May 15, 2018

Eric Yoffie responded in Haaretz to the disproportionate charge:

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times acknowledged in passing possible grounds for blaming Hamas. But she more or less dismissed such claims, and noted “(t)he Israeli military’s disproportionate violence.”

John Cassidy, writing in The New Yorker, used similar language, pointing out that the “the casualty count was hugely asymmetrical.”

Again: Excuse me?

Charges of disproportionality are among the most common leveled against Israel in her long struggle against Hamas, and they are among the most infuriating.

Are Goldberg and Cassidy suggesting that if there were a lot more Israeli dead, and a hundred Jewish bodies were strewn across the desert in southern Israel, then Israel’s action would be acceptable, or at least more readily forgiven? If not directly stated, that is what is implied.

Indeed the term “disproportionate” has has been abused by those who have employed it without bothering to research precisely what it actually means in terms of international law. (Find out more about the concept by clicking here.)

Media complicity?

Some commentators have noted the role that the media have played in Hamas’s PR success.

Matti Friedman in the New York Times:

The press coverage on Monday was a major Hamas success in a war whose battlefield isn’t really Gaza, but the brains of foreign audiences.

Hamas understood that Western news outlets wanted a simple story about villains and victims and would stick to that script, whether because of ideological sympathy, coercion or ignorance. The press could be trusted to present dead human beings not as victims of the terrorist group that controls their lives, or of a tragic confluence of events, but of an unwarranted Israeli slaughter. The willingness of reporters to cooperate with that script gave Hamas the incentive to keep using it.

Liel Leibovitz in Tablet:

That so many of our elites still fall into a cheap propaganda trap set up by a terrorist cult is dispiriting, to say the least. That they further the goals of a terrorist organization by furnishing the backdrop to its macabre and murderous theater is deplorable. But after 2005, and 2009, and 2014, it has become increasingly hard to credit the idea that anyone involved on any side is naive about the nature and consequences of their actions.

What’s truly disturbing about yesterday’s events is the idea that they were theater. In other words, that the press knows exactly what it is doing—that news organizations are knowingly partnering with Hamas, and gladly whitewashing the crimes of a ghoulish leadership in return for pictures that they want as much as Hamas does, and that they are happy to pay for in uncritical coverage and free airtime.

That kind of cynicism, at the expense of Palestinian lives, is truly breathtaking, even for the Middle East. And it makes us all complicit.

Alan Dershowitz in The Hill:

One thing is crystal clear: Hamas will continue to use the ”dead baby strategy” as long as the media continues to report the deaths in the manner in which it has reported them in recent weeks. Many in the media are complicit in these deaths because their one-sided reporting encourages Hamas to send innocent women and children to the front line. Perhaps Israel could do a better job of defending its civilians but it is certain that the media can do a better job of accurately reporting the Hamas strategy that results in so many innocent deaths.

Israel as a moral actor

Debate will rage for some time concerning the actions of both Israelis and Palestinians and plenty of observers on all sides will probably conclude that Hamas, thanks to the body count that it encouraged, has come out on top, at least in the battleground of the media.

Criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate. Indeed, millions of Israeli citizens do just that on a regular basis as is normal in a democracy. Israel’s army should be held to the same standards as other Western militaries such as those of the US and UK.

Where the line has been crossed is efforts by some to demonize Israel as a uniquely evil and malevolent state.

One of the reservists at the scene has written of his experiences in The Times of Israel:

I want to testify that what I saw and heard was a tremendous, supreme effort from our side to prevent, in every possible way, Palestinian deaths and injuries.

Of course, the primary mission was to prevent hundreds of thousands of Gazans from infiltrating into our territory. That kind of invasion would be perilous, mortally dangerous, to the nearby communities; would permit terrorists disguised as civilians to enter our kibbutz and moshav communities, and would leave us with no choice but to target every single infiltrator. That’s why our soldiers were directed to prevent infiltration, in a variety of ways, using live ammunition only as a last resort.

The IDF employs many creative means of reducing friction with Gazans and uses numerous methods, most of which are not made public, to prevent them from reaching the fence. In addition, over the past few weeks there have been serious efforts to save the lives of children and civilians who have been pushed to the front lines by the Hamas, who are trying to hide behind them in order to infiltrate and attack Israel.

When there is no alternative, and live ammunition must be used to stop those who storm the fence, the soldiers make heroic and sometimes dangerous efforts not to kill and to only injure those on the other side.

The media have played a central role in this latest assault on Israel’s legitimate right to defend its borders and its citizens. Will the media climb down from their knee-jerk response now that new information has come to light?

It takes guts to admit you got it wrong but at least one journalist has done just that.

Either way, far too much of the media should hang their heads in shame for the scandalous coverage that has polluted our TV screens, newspapers and online news sites over the past few days.

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