The degree of terror felt by ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza is barely noticed in the media, in stark contrast to the world's awareness of terrorised and shock-treated Israeli citizens.
Funeral of Palestinians killed by Israeli attack, Gaza, 11.11.2012
WHILE COUNTRIES across Europe and North America commemorated military casualties of past and present wars on November 11, Israel was targeting civilians.
On November 12, waking up to a new week, readers at breakfast were flooded with heart rending accounts of past and current military casualties.
There was, however, no or little mention of the fact that the majority of casualties of modern day wars are civilians.
There was also hardly any mention on the morning of November 12 of military attacks on Gaza that continued throughout the weekend.
A cursory scan confirms this for Canada's CBC, Globe and Mail, Montreal's Gazette, and the Toronto Star. Equally, for the New York Times and for the BBC.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) report on Sunday November 11, five Palestinian civilians including three children had been killed in the Gaza strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel.
Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer. Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six were women and 12 were children. (Since we began composing this text, the Palestinian death toll has risen, and continues to rise.)
Articles that do report on the killings overwhelmingly focus on the killing of Palestinian security personnel. For example, anAssociated Press article published in the CBC world news on November 13, entitled 'Israel mulls resuming targeted killings of Gaza militants,' mentions absolutely nothing of civilian deaths and injuries. It portrays the killings as 'targeted assassinations.' The fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in "targeted" killings, as in "collective" killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment.
Another AP item on CBC news from November 12 reads 'Gaza rocket fire raises pressure on Israel government.' It features a photo of an Israeli woman gazing on a hole in her living room ceiling. Again, no images, nor mention of the numerous bleeding casualties or corpses in Gaza. Along the same lines, a BBC headline on November 12 reads 'Israel hit by fresh volley of rockets from Gaza.' Similar trends can be illustrated for European mainstream papers.
News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties. What is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties. It doesn't take an expert in media science to understand that what we are facing is at best shoddy and skewed reporting, and at worst willfully dishonest manipulation of the readership.
Furthermore, articles that do mention the Palestinian casualties in Gaza consistently report that Israeli operations are in response to rockets from Gaza and to the injuring of Israeli soldiers. However, the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay.
Then, on November 8, a 13-year-old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event.
We, the signatories, have recently returned from a visit to the Gaza strip. Some among us are now connected to Palestinians living in Gaza through social media. For two nights in a row Palestinians in Gaza were prevented from sleeping through continued engagement of drones, F16s, and indiscriminate bombings of various targets inside the densely populated Gaza strip.
The intent of this is clearly to terrorise the population, successfully so, as we can ascertain from our friends' reports. If it was not for Facebook postings, we would not be aware of the degree of terror felt by ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza. This stands in stark contrast to the world's awareness of terrorised and shock-treated Israeli citizens.
An extract of a report sent by a Canadian medic who happened to be in Gaza and helped out in Shifa hospital ER over the weekend says: "the wounded were all civilians with multiple puncture wounds from shrapnel: brain injuries, neck injuries, hemo-pneumo thorax, pericardial tamponade, splenic rupture, intestinal perforations, slatted limbs, traumatic amputations. All of this with no monitors, few stethoscopes, one ultrasound machine. …. Many people with serious but non life threatening injuries were sent home to be re-assessed in the morning due to the sheer volume of casualties. The penetrating shrapnel injuries were spooky. Tiny wounds with massive internal injuries. … There was very little morphine for analgesia."
Apparently such scenes are not newsworthy for the New York Times, the CBC, or the BBC.
Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU.
Netanyahu is currently garnering Western diplomatic support for additional operations in Gaza, which makes us worry that another Cast Lead may be on the horizon. In fact, the very recent events are confirming such an escalation has already begun, as today's death-count climbs. The lack of widespread public outrage at these crimes is a direct consequence of the systematic way in which the facts are withheld and/or of the skewed way these crimes are portrayed.
We wish to express our outrage at the reprehensible media coverage of these acts in the mainstream (corporate) media.
We call on journalists around the world working for corporate media outlets to refuse to be instruments of this systematic policy of disguise. We call on citizens to inform themselves through independent media, and to voice their conscience by whichever means is accessible to them.
Hagit Borer, U.K.
Antoine Bustros, Canada
Noam Chomsky, U.S.
David Heap, Canada
Stephanie Kelly, Canada
Máire Noonan, Canada
Philippe Prévost, France
Verena Stresing, France
Laurie Tuller, France
Jonathon Marcus - Israel's voice on the BBC?
The BBC News, and particularly the reports from Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus, on the ongoing Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip has presented the violence as little more than a defensive policy manoeuvre by Israel, whose government, in Marcus's view, 'clearly wants' another ceasefire.
On Wednesday Marcus wrote that the Israeli assassination of Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, the head of the military wing of Hamas, was 'a taste of things to come'. As with his reporting on Israel's threats towards Iran, Marcus does not point towards the illegalities of such behaviour. Rather this shows, for him, Netanyahu's 'determination to act', his 'initial choice, a return to the policy of targeted killings'. Excluding the BBC's complacent response to news of Obama's 'kill list' in May 2012 (with North America Editor, Mark Mardell, choosing to emphasise ‘that the care taken by the president is significant’), in what other situations might a BBC correspondent nonchalantly report on a ‘policy of targeted killings’ by a country’s leader? How many other leaders are seen by news correspondents to have a valid ‘choice’ as to whether they want to establish a policy of targeted killings?
Marcus’s analysis goes on to say that ‘the danger’ of Israel carrying out such attacks is that it ‘could eventually prompt a major Israeli engagement on the ground’. Note the wording here: there is no mention of invasion, attack, or force; ‘engagement’ would merely be ‘prompted’ by such a situation. Israel, it seems, does not attack; it is merely drawn into ‘engagement’ as it works towards ‘re-establish[ing] its deterrence and achieve a longer-lasting ceasefire’.
With regard to rocket attacks from Hamas, Marcus reverts to more explicit terminology: there has been a ‘recent upsurge in rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip and the firing of a missile against an Israeli military vehicle patrolling the border fence’. In further defence of Israel’s behaviour it is commented that there ‘has been a significant increase in the number of armed jihadist elements in the Gaza Strip’, according to ‘analysts’. In other words, we are to infer from this that the people of Gaza have brought this violence from Israel upon themselves.
After his baffling flurry of reasons for justifying the Israeli attacks (increase in jihadists; choice of policy; a warning ‘taste of things to come’) Marcus somehow assumes that Netanyahu ‘wants to avoid a full-scale ground war, like Operation Cast Lead that was launched in December 2008’.
Discussing Operation Cast Lead, another recent report on the BBC website tells us that in 2008 ‘hundreds of Palestinians were killed on the first day of Israel's operation’. Note again that this was an ‘operation’, not an ‘attack’. Hamas rocket fire into Israel, in contrast, is never referred to merely as an ‘operation’. In another example, in the same vein as Jonathan Marcus’s reporting, Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East Editor, writes that ‘the danger of the kind of operation Israel has started is that rising casualties on both sides cause a violent escalation that neither side can control’. Once again, what Israel has started is an ‘operation’, and the depiction of the circumstance as a ‘violent escalation that neither side can control’ leads a reader away from any assumption of there being a clear instigator to this violence.
As ‘speculation … mount[ed] that the Israeli army [was] preparing to launch a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip’, the BBC news website of 15 November highlighted the conflict from what could be seen as a somewhat one-sided perspective. The homepage featured 5 headlines (pictured on the right), the top story of which read, ‘Gaza missiles fired at Tel Aviv’. Also featured were reports titled: ‘Israel’s Gaza rocket problem’; ‘UK’s Hague criticises Hamas’; ‘Determined to follow the path of Jihad’; and ‘Hamas targets our children’. In this range of headlines, the residents of the Gaza Strip, on the receiving end of Israel’s bombardment, do not feature. One might have wondered if any ‘problems’ were experienced on the other side of the separation barrier, but information of the effects on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip was sparse. On Thursday 130 casualties were reported in Gaza and 19 deaths, but details of the civilian deaths and casualties are absent from reports.
Providing an analysis of international media coverage from the beginning of the Israeli assault, Noam Chomsky and others wrote on 14 November ‘There was … hardly any mention on the morning of November 12 of military attacks on Gaza that continued throughout the weekend. A cursory scan confirms this … for the New York Times and for the BBC’. In news reports, they write, ‘[w]hat is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties’. This despite ‘[t]he fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians [which] indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in "targeted" killings, as in "collective" killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment’.
Responsibility for any escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza is firmly laid at the hands of Hamas. A headline in The Guardian reads: ‘Obama presses Egypt to rein in Hamas as Gaza conflict escalates’. The idea is not floated in the media that Israel could or should halt its attack (neither do condemnations appear of the initial breach by Israel of the ceasefire). It is noted in The Guardian that Egyptian foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, called on the US to ‘put pressure on the Israelis to halt the assault on Gaza’. Reports of reactions such as this from non-allied states form the only appearances of such a suggestion.
Further, a BBC report on the deaths of Israeli civilians provided ample space for Benjamin Netanyahu to justify civilian casualties in Gaza. Netanyahu claimed that Hamas ‘deliberately place their rockets next to their children’ we are told by the report. The message is clear: if Palestinian children die, it is not because of Israeli behaviour, but rather it is because of the evil ‘militants’ who have engineered the situation this way.
The reporting has so far downplayed the assassination that instigated the conflict, and omits altogether the killing by Israel of 20-year-old Ahmad al-Nabaheen on 5 November, and of the 13-year-old boy killed as he played football outside his home on 8 November, portraying the Israeli assault on Gaza instead as some a defensive measure. The history of these events is already being written from the point of view of the more powerful side of the conflict, and mainstream journalists are proving themselves complicit in this process.