One day, historians examining this period of crisis will have to consider the circular process by which the media were transformed from observers to participants. From covering the story to playing a major part in it, to stimulating and sometimes agitating the environment for their own media purposes. The media in this cruel Israeli-Palestinian conflict are like a very rich junkie, who parks his Mercedes on the high street of a slum. You can be sure that in no time at all, everyone will be out there, pushing a whole variety of merchandise.The reason I'm citing him here, however, beyond the value of his comments, is because of the story with which he opened his talk, the story of one Abu Ali of Jenin who told a gullible European journalist the IDF had killed all nine of his children, even while all nine were still very much alive; the European newspaper which turned this into a two-page story somehow never got around to informing its readers that thankfully, the story actually wasn't true. In case you wonder if Abu Ali might at least have been sincere, though mistaken, Marmari makes it quite clear later on that this couldn't have been true: whoever was there and knew the facts, such as his one anti-Israeli reporter Amira Hass, knew fully well that there had been no massacre.
Which means Abu Ali lied. Me, I'd be superstitious to tell someone about the death of my children, but perhaps that's just me.
Those of you old enough to remember the turn of the century may recollect the persistent story, repeated endlessly as an article of faith, whereby the international blockade of Iraq throughout the 1990s had caused the death by starvation of half a million Iraqi children. That's 500,000 children, a large number by any standard.
Then, in 2003, the Americans invaded Iraq, and for a few months it was safe enough for Western journalists to wander around the country, reporting on the lack of WMD and how awful the Americans were. One story that didn't get told was the story of the parents of those half a million dead children. So far as I can remember, there was never a single interview with a single Iraqi parent who told about how their child had starved to death. Moreover, there were no pictures of Iraqi children on the verge of starvation. Nor any stories about the allies rushing large convoys of basic foodstuffs to a famished populace.
The entire story disappeared. I'll go out on a branch here and speculate that it was never true, and was tailored from full cloth by a combination of liars who invented it and malicious ignoramuses who gleefully disseminated it.
If anyone wishes to disprove me, I will of retract this allegation once it has been proven wrong.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 of course gave birth to a whole industry of unverified and often wrong numbers of casualties. Of course, unlike the previous case, when the Americans and British invaded Iraq in 2003 they set in motion a train of events in which many tens of thousands of Iraqis did die, most of them civilians, and most of them at the hands of their fellow Arabs. Yet Google enables you the opportunity of going back to the media reports of 2003 and 2004, where you'll see that the numbers of the purported dead were significantly higher than the numbers being cited in, say, the horrific year of 2006; an indication that once again some observers were not being careful with their numbers, peculiar as this may sound.
Compared to the true and false numbers bandied carelessly around for Iraq, the numbers of dead in Gaza in this campaign are paltry: not hundreds of thousands, but hundreds, period. Were the real number to be in the thousands, we'd be hearing about it; since the IDF itself says its troops have identified hundreds of fighters they have personally killed in battle, it's likely the total is more or less correct. That some of them, probably even a few hundred, really are non-combatants, most horrifically children, is true. Yesterday, according to the reports, the troops reported they had killed up to fifty armed Hamas fighters.
Yet that number deserves to be looked at again. The IDF and the armed wing of Hamas are engaged in fierce face-to-face combat in a densely built city. Hamas prepared for this battle for quite a while, it dug tunnels, stored explosives in homes, booby trapped schools, a zoo, and many residential buildings - and the number of civilian dead on a typical day of fighting is... Five? Ten? Twenty?
That's what the international tumult is about? Did I miss something?