Due to the lack of world outrage at the massive rocket barrage that has been launched by Hamas and its allies against Israel’s southern communities, and fully expecting international outrage the moment Israel retaliates or carries out any kind of defensive action, I decided to check out what the British media have been reporting about this latest violence. After all, if the rockets are not reported and no context is given, can you blame people for accusing Israel of unprovoked aggression? The media have a very great burden of not only reporting the truth, but of reporting the facts as they happen and not cherry-picking which facts to omit in order to suit their political agenda.
The Guardian, my (un)favourite bugbear, has very little to say about the rocket fire, and what it does write is buried within a report on the Syrian mortars falling in Israel. I’m sorry, let me rephrase that. The Guardian’s report on the Gaza rocket fire is buried within a report on Israel’s response to the Syrian mortars being shot at Israel. In other words, “Israel hit back first”. Colour me surprised. Here’s what they say:
Israeli troops are engaged on two of the country’s borders, firing warning shots into Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli army post on the Golan Heights and targeting militants in Gaza in an escalating round of violence over the weekend. Four Palestinian civilians were reported killed in air strikes on Gaza.
Note how Israel is reported in this opening paragraph as “targeting militants in Gaza” without any context or background given, no mention of the rocket fire or the anti-tank missile fired onto an IDF jeep within Israeli territory. That only comes later, after the misleading first impression has been given.
In the south, dozens of rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza between Saturday evening and midday on Sunday by militants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organisations. Six Palestinians, including four civilians, were reported killed in at least nine separate Israeli air strikes.
The round of violence followed a similar spike almost three weeks ago, which subsided after intervention by Egyptian mediators. But some observers believe Netanyahu may be more inclined to order a robust approach in the runup to Israel’s general election on 22 January.
Who are these mysterious observers who believe a completely unproven guess? Why is there no quote from some other observers who believe that Netanyahu hasn’t got the guts to do more than bomb empty buildings in Gaza? Way to go to smear Israel. In fact CiFWatch has a deeper analysis of this tendency – as displayed here by Harriet Sherwood – to impute the worst possible motives on Israel’s actions, even actions that have not yet taken place.
In these paragraphs Sherwood reveals one of the more telling polemical ticks often employed by Guardian journalists reporting on Israel: using blurry language which conveys an idea in a manner which is clear to those who understand the context, but without explicitly advancing the narrative – a journalistic version of ‘plausible deniability’.
Moving on to the Independent, I was just starting to get frustrated at their lack of reporting since Sunday (when an article was published about the cross-border attack, Israel’s response and that 15 rockets had been launched at Israel), when I refreshed their Middle East page and found this report entitled Rocket attacks force Israelis to spend nights in bomb shelters:
Israeli leaders have begun preparing domestic and international opinion for a renewed onslaught against Palestinian militants after more than a million Israeli citizens spent a third night in bomb shelters as more than 100 rockets rained across the Gaza border in less than 48 hours.
Politicians and former generals lined up to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take decisive action to stop the most intensive rocket barrage since Israel’s ill-starred invasion of the Hamas-controlled enclave ended in January 2009. Mr Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from both politicians and residents to end Israel’s policy of pinpoint attacks against weapons smuggling, storage or production facilities and “ticking bombs” – militants identified with specific attacks.
The article continues with coverage of the political discussions surrounding an Israeli response and then moves on to report on Israel’s response to the mortar fire from Syria. I would have preferred wider coverage of the suffering undergone by Israel’s southern residents, but I take my hat off to the Independent for making mention of the enormous number of missiles to have hit Israel, and making the suffering of the south’s residents the headline.
The Daily Mail, astonishingly enough, has nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Not a word about Israel, rockets, Gaza, terror. Should I bate my breath to see with what outrage they will report Israel’s eventual retaliation? Nah. Better not. Blue does not suit my complexion.
The Daily Telegraph has a fair article entitled “Israel to take ‘whatever action necessary’ to stop Gaza rocket fire” but unfortunately reports that:
Rockets continued to hit towns and empty stretches of desert in Israel’s south and Israeli aircraft pummelled militant bases and arms stores across the Gaza Strip again on Monday.
More than 15 rockets were fired into Israel, despite Egyptian claims that a truce had been agreed by both sides on Sunday evening. Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system intercepted several rockets above Ashqelon but others landed in the small border town of Netivot, destroying an abandoned residential home.
I suppose technically the Telegraph is right that more than 15 rockets were fired into Israel on Monday but over 100 – yes, that reads one hundred – rockets have been fired into Israel since Saturday. Why not mention the other rockets? They have been falling incessantly for days. This kind of reporting, while technically accurate, minimises the reality of what is going on in the south of Israel and makes Israel’s response seem disproportionate. Although I would like to see any other country suffer even 15 rockets without retaliating.
As for the BBC’s coverage, just take a look at BBC Watch’s latest blog post. Read it and weep.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one heard it, did it make a sound? In a similar fashion, as I noted at the beginning of this post, if the media do not report accurately on the size of the rocket onslaught on Israel, can it be considered to have happened at all? And if not, how can Israel’s response then be justified? This tendentious reporting by omission is not only untruthful and unfair, but ultimately jeapordises Israel’s international standing.
That’s their intention I suppose.