Saturday, December 27, 2008

War in Gaza: Media Watch

The London Times still has an item up from yesterday, about two Palestinian girls who were killed by rockets fired by their own side that were aimed at Israeli civilians but fell short. I mention this merely as a reminder of who Israel faces - and how it doesn't get reported in some media organs.

The New York Times gives the story in its context. Its top headline, "Israeli Gaza Strike Kills More than 200" is followed by the subtitle "Air Attacks are a Response to Hamas Rocket Fire on Israel". The following article tries to be factual:
Most of those killed were Hamas police officers and security men, including two senior commanders, according to Palestinian officials. But the dead included at least a dozen civilians, including several construction workers and at least two children in school uniforms.
The rest of the long new item is reasonable reporting. It doesn't dig back into the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor tell much about the Hamas charter which is blatantly antisemitic ("the Jews are to blame for both world wars"), but that's not how newspaper reporters understand the world; given how they do, this new item is fine. Only once does the reporters' (3 of them contributed to the item) lack of historical perspective trip them up:

The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said in a statement that “Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre.” Later, in a televised speech, he vowed to fight Israel. “We say in all confidence that even if we are hung on the gallows or they make our blood flow in the streets or they tear our bodies apart, we will bow only before God and we will not abandon Palestine,” he said.

Any idea what he's talking about, Mr. Haniya? It's a deft piece of propaganda. To Western ears, he makes it appear as if Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinians, massacre them and exile them from their land, none of which is true. For Palestinian ears, however, the same set of sentences means something different: "We're in this fight because we'll never give up any of Palestine", i.e Israel has no right to exist. Neat, huh? The NYT folks missed it, because though they're good journalists, you need to be more than a good journalist to understand this story.

The BBC has a 1000-word, titled "Massive Israeli air raids on Gaza". The fact of Hamas rockets on Israeli civilians is noted only more than 600 words into the report, unless you count an attribution to an Israeli announcement in the 5th paragraph; the BBC however only gets around to admitting that there may be some truth to that Israeli claim near the end of the report.

And then you've got the Guardian. I suppose I ought also to look at the Independent, and maybe tomorrow I will, since it really isn't fair to single out the Guardian for its straightforward antisemitism, but a few years ago the Independent starting requiring readers of its website to pay for the torture, so I stopped going there. The Guardian has a larger readership, I'm told, and is the top-notch paper of the British Left, so when it's antisemitic, this is the responsibility of all those who go along with it.

The Guardian starts it report with a headline one can stomach: Air strikes in Gaza kill 205 as Israel targets Hamas. But this is the first paragraph:

Israel stood defiant tonight in the face of mounting international condemnation, as it vowed to continue a massive bombing offensive against key targets in the Gaza Strip that left 205 dead and 700 others injured.

Most of the article is about how the international community, including the White House, is critical of Israel's actions; in the entire article there is only one, cryptic mention of the Hamas rocket attacks and that comes in an attribution to Ehud Barak.

I expect the fools at the Guardian really believe what they write, but that's no excuse. As for the facts, let's wait a day or two and see if the world's mumbles of caution really are "mounting international condemnation", or if they're mumbles of condemnation. One way or the other, it's hard to see what happened on the international scene today that might be described as mounting international condemnation. When that happens, it of course still won't mean the world is right, but so far, it hasn't even happened. It's a weekend, between Christmas and New Years, the Europeans are all on vacation....

And then the Guardian offers us Ian Black's punditry:

Devastating air strikes may limit Hamas's capacity to attack – but will almost certainly increase its support among Palestinians.

He doesn't know this, mind you; he's speculating. As he does throughout his article:

The bomb and missile strikes by F16 warplanes this morning hit Hamas compounds and positions from Gaza City to Khan Yunis in the south of the coastal strip. Civilian casualties, on a normal school and working day, must have been inevitable in the densely populated area.

In other words, he doesn't have any facts, but he assumes the Israelis "must have" killed many civilians.

Retaliatory Palestinian fire killed one woman in southern Israel – underlining the unequal military balance.

It's just not fair, is it. The Palestinians can't kill as many civilians as they'd like. And it's totally unreasonable that Israel is killing so many Palestinians when all the Palestinians are doing is kill your ocasional Israeli. (It was a man, by the way, Beber Waknin of Netivot. Not a woman.)

opinion polls shows that Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the rightwing Likud, is likely to beat Livni's centrist Kadima party in Israel's elections, set to take place in February. Prospects for revived talks, which were already slim, must have now diminished further.

Background, you see, so you get the general picture: not only are the Israelis attacking today and killing Palestinians civilians, but next month they're going to elect a government that will halt peace negotiations.

The looming general election is another reason Israel is not keen to send troops into Gaza on a large scale, which would expose its own forces to heavy casualties. Instead Israel prefers to use its unchallenged aerial superiority – clearly a blunt instrument that cannot distinguish between fighters and civilians.

Cowardly Israelis, killing Palestinian civilians from the air with blunt intruments (see "hammer", as in the title).

This is nothing short of a massacre, an outrage," the independent Palestinian MP Hanan Ashrawi – no friend of the Islamists – told the BBC from her Ramallah home. "The cycle of violence is generated by the occupation and by the ongoing state of siege that is attempting to collectively punish a whole people.

"This will enhance the standing of Hamas. People are sympathising with Hamas as the people who are being ruthlessly targeted by Israel. They are seen as victims of ongoing Israeli aggression."

Which is interesting, since Ashrawi lives - as noted - in Ramallah, and Ramallah - as not noted - is blooming. The economy is up, the quality of life is up, the distance from Hamas-controlled Gaza is growing ever greater, and all of this a stone's throw from Jerusalem. Weird, these Israelis; they try so hard to hit the Palestinains they don't even notice that right next door, in Ramallah, the Palestinians are beginning to do well for themselves.


Anonymous said...

Hi Yaacov -
I just recently made the mistake - and I have no clue as to why (unconscious curiosity?) - of having read the Times On-line. But one thing is for sure, I will never do that again! I should have known, afterall, you have warned me often enough here on your blog. Talk about getting it wrong....

Apparently, because (80) rockets fell on Israel from Gaza some day last week - and nobody was killed or injured - the Times (on-line) has caterogized them as having been ineffective. There is way too much horsesh_t in the front page article to even consider recounting for you here. Man oh man!!! It's like eating rotten eggs - I can't get the taste out of my mouth. G-D help their subscribers.

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Anonymous said...

yesterday afternoon and still today the top picture on the London Times UK-news page shows a little girl with blood on her face

if you switch to the world news page the same article comes with this much less dramatic and appealing picture

may all the Israeli soldiers be spared gruesome experiences as much as possible

I've read somewhere that the Hamas Top Brass has gone into hiding expecting the attack and I wait for the question to be asked whether they have replaced themselves in their security etc. buildings by civilians whose deaths and injuries are good for heart wrenching pictures. Of course I feel honestly sorry for the little Girl in the London Times but I also want to blame the right people for the horror she had to experience.

Silke Marx