29 December 2008

29 November 2008 - The media does its part to help Hamas

Israel has continued to strike Hamas targets in Gaza with a high degree of accuracy. The UN claims that 50 civilians have been killed. If true, that's 50 too many, but it also means that with over 300 total deaths, more than 85% of them have been combatants. As Dore Gold points out in this excellent post about international law and the Gaza war:

What is critical from the standpoint of international law is that if the attempt has been made "to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage - but is directed at a target with very large military value - would be lawful."

Meanwhile, the international media is playing its usual role: demonizing Israel and sanitizing terror. Let's take as an example an article from this morning's New York Times, by Taghreed El-Khodary and Isabel Kershner, among others (including someone identified merely as "an employee of The New York Times from Syria").

When the article was first published in the wee hours of the morning, it was entitled: "Israeli Troops Mass Along Border; Arab Anger Rises." We'll call that Version 1. This morning the article appears on the newspaper's website as "Israeli Aircraft Continue Raids on Gaza; Arab Anger Rises." That's Version 2.

Version 1 began:

Israel troops and tanks massed along the Gaza border and the government said it had called up reserves for a possible ground operation, as the death toll increased to nearly 300 after Israeli aircraft pounded Gaza for a second day on Sunday.

Note that the article does not mention whether the dead were Israeli or Palestinian, military or civilian. Version 2 adds more information about the attacks but still fails to distinguish among the dead:

In a third straight day of deadly air strikes against the emblems and institutions of Hamas on Monday, Israeli warplanes pounded targets in Gaza including the Interior Ministry while the Israeli Army declared areas around the beleaguered enclave a “closed military zone.”

The attacks brought the death toll in Gaza to more than 300, according to Palestinian medical officials.

Here at least the newspaper cited a source for its figure, but still failed to distinguish among the dead, which is critical for judging the legality and morality of Israel's campaign.

Next, we read about the justification for the attacks. Version 1:

The continued strikes, which Israel said were in retaliation for sustained rocket fire from Gaza into its territory, unleashed a furious reaction across the Arab world, raising fears of greater instability in the region.

Where to begin? The authors refuse to admit that the Israeli attacks were a response to Hamas; they have to frame that fact in subjective terms, as a mere claim by Israelis, vulnerable to potentially valid counter-claims from the other side. They also throw in the word "retaliation," as if Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" is mere tit-for-tat violence, morally equivalent to Qassam rockets aimed at civilian population centers in Israel, rather than a military operation with a clear military objective of ending Hamas's capability to launch rockets in the future.

Note, too, how Israel itself is blamed for the "furious reaction" in the Arab world, rather than the hatred and demonization in in Arab countries that causes any legitimate attempt by Israel to defend itself to be seen an unspeakable outrage. Also, the reaction hasn't even been that "furious," since several Arab countries are openly blaming Hamas for the violence. And the result of all of this, we are told by the journalists, is potential "instability"--whatever that means. Actually, if Israel crushes Hamas's ability to wage war, that will have the effect of increasing stability. But never mind. Let's see how this segment was cleaned up in Version 2:

Israel says that its onslaught — its most ferocious against Palestinians in decades — is designed to prevent Palestinians from attacking towns in southern Israel with missiles. But a rocket fired from Gaza killed a man and wounded seven in the Israeli town of Ashkelon on Monday, the Israeli Army said. Three Israelis were also stabbed by a Palestinian in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the army said.

This version actually reports Israel's aims accurately. But not without editorial commentary: we have to be told--mid-sentence--just how "ferocious" the attacks are. Not extensive, or widespread, or intense: just "ferocious," like the expression of some primordial animal rage. And the result? Complete failure, the newspaper suggests, because Hamas was still able to fire a lethal rocket from Gaza. Note that the tone of the sentence suggests not only that the operation has been a practical failure, but that the justification provided by Israel is somehow suspect.

It gets worse. Here's Version 1 on Israel's successful bombing of Hamas's tunnels under the Egyptian border:

At dusk on Sunday, Israeli fighter jets bombed over 40 tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt. The Israeli military said that the tunnels, on the Gaza side of the border, were used for smuggling weapons, explosives and fugitives. Gazans also use many of them to import consumer goods and fuel in order to get around the Israeli-imposed economic blockade.

The bias here is staggering: Israeli claims about the uses of the Gaza tunnels--fully and extensively documented by the international media on several previous occasions, by the way--are reported as subjective opinion; Palestinian claims about the uses of the tunnels are reported as objective fact. The article also gets the embargo against Gaza wrong: it's not "Israeli-imposed," but endorsed by the entire civilized world because of Hamas's refusal to give up terror; and furthermore, it's not an economic blockade but a comprehensive military blockade whose primary aim is to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and which allows for the massive importation of humanitarian aid. Again, let's look at Version 2:

Footage recorded from Israeli warplanes showed bombs striking the entrances to tunnels allegedly used to smuggle weapons into Gaza from Egypt.

Allegedly, allegedly, allegedly! What is wrong with these people? Hamas itself has admitted it uses the tunnels to smuggle weapons--as reported one year ago by Kershner herself:

A Hamas representative in Gaza acknowledged on Wednesday that the group brought in weapons through tunnels.

Sigh. This article is just one example of the bias and willful idiocy that infests every major news source whenever Israel defends itself. It's getting so tiresome, and so silly, that one almost imagines people have stopped taking these reports seriously anymore. But they do, and the New York Times, despite its declining circulation and sinking revenues, still sets the tone for the intellectual and policy elite.

Please do yourself a favor and get your news from other sources. Here's one place to start.

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