This sad story begins back in November during Operation Pillar of Cloud (or Defense) when a baby boy, Omar Masharawi was killed in what looked like a missile strike.
On November 14, 11-month-old Omar al-Mishrawi and Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Mishrawi, 19, were killed by shrapnel, widely reported to have been the result of an Israeli airstrike on the family’s home in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. The death of Omar, the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad al-Mishrawi, garnered more than usual media attention and focused anger for the death on Israel, which was initially blamed.
In the wake of this incident and others during which Palestinian civilians were hurt, several human rights groups accused Israel of conducting its airstrikes without sufficient regard for civilians living in Gaza.
Images of the bereaved father tearfully holding the corpse of his 11-month-old baby went around the world during Operation Pillar of Defense, the eight-day military campaign during which the Israeli Air Force carried out 1,500 airstrikes on Gaza, and Palestinian terrorists fired about 1,500 rockets at Israel’s south.
Obviously Israel was immediately suspected, accused, indicted and found guilty without the benefit of any evidence or even a proper investigation. The story resounded more furiously around the world because the baby was the son of a BBC employee, Jehad Masharawi, hence it received the widest coverage and the picture became iconic of the mini-war.
Shortly afterwards, the famous blogger Elder of Ziyon investigated the incident and, having looked at the pictures and read the descriptions of what had happened, and after receiving more insight from a military source, came to the conclusion that it was much more likely that baby Omar was killed by a Hamas missile that fell short of its target and landed in Gaza. Read the whole article for a great example of investigative journalism, but here is a prime snippet:
On Wednesday, when Omar was killed, the media was not attuned to the idea that Hamas rockets sometimes fall short. As the comments above show, even the Arabs living there were wondering how Israel with its pinpoint accuracy could have failed so badly – yet no one considered that this could have been because of Hamas rockets falling short, as was the case with Mahmoud Sadallah.
I received an email from someone with serious military experience. Here is the analysis:
First of all, Israel isn’t using incendiary weapons, and won’t, so any “mass of fire” that hits anyone is going to be a secondary effect from the original high-explosive effect, and will involve something like a propane container, chemical container, etc. Israeli bombs and air-to-surface missiles don’t produce masses of fire hitting people’s roofs.
Second, if the “round” of an Israeli weapon had literally come through the roof where the hole is visible in the photo, there’d be no house to take pictures of now. Compare the photos of the Masharawi house with the photos of the wreckage of the Al-Dalu (Doula) house. Then compare the Masharawi photos with photos of the Israeli homes hit by Hamas rockets.
OK, now I’m looking at the second photo of damage. If the blast from an Israeli weapon had occurred inside this home, the wood on the windows would be entirely gone. No trace left. The walls wouldn’t be intact. Their top portions, at least, would be a pile of rubble around the base of the wall. The iron grilles on the windows would probably be lying on the ground somewhere.
The story doesn’t hang together. An Israeli bomb could not have penetrated the roof of this structure, then exploded, and have left the structure looking as it does: charred on some surfaces, but still intact.
I note that a Hamas rocket could have done exactly this damage, including the projectile-through-the-roof feature. There are other conceivable scenarios in which secondary damage could have been done by an Israeli hit nearby, but in no case would it have been possible for an Israeli weapon to penetrate the roof as described, and then do nothing more than char the surfaces and rearrange the furniture.
Similarly, and at the same time, the BBC Watch website also launched an investigation of its own into the ostensible Israeli air strike and criticised the highly biased reporting of the BBC’s journalist on the scene, Jon Donnison.
Last week Elder of Ziyon and other pro-Israel activists were proven right by no lesser an authority than the UN Human Rights Council itself. Elder’s story was picked up by a whole slew of major media outlets, both Israeli and foreign. His biggest success was being scooped up by AP who wrote:
A U.N. report indicates an errant Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli airstrike, likely killed the baby of a BBC reporter during fighting in the Hamas-ruled territory last November.
The death of Omar al-Masharawi, the 11-month-old son of BBC stringer Jihad al-Masharawi, became a symbol of what Palestinians see as Israeli aggression during eight days of fighting that killed more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis. A woman was killed alongside the baby.
Israel launched hundreds of airstrikes to stop Palestinian rocket salvos.
The U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a March 6 report that the incident was caused by “what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.”
Hamas had no response Monday. BBC officials were not immediately available for comment.
One would think that with the UN final report, the story would be over and at the very least Israel would receive some sort of apology. One would be wrong.
Honest Reporting shows us how the foreign media ignored the UN report for several days, and has only now reluctantly picked up the story.
The BBC itself still had no update to the original story as of 10th March, three whole days after the UN report. You can be quite sure that if the UNHRC had indicted Israel, it would have been immediately splashed all over the front pages.
On the 11th March the BBC finally got around to reporting on the UNHRC announcement, but inserted so many caveats and hedging that one could almost lose sight of the truth. (Update: BBC Watch also picked up on the same article and accuses the BBC of putting the onus of damage control onto the inexperienced Jon Donnison rather than his boss Paul Danahar).
Israel Matzav reports on the Washington Post’s very lukewarm report about the UNHRC exoneration of Israel, saying it doesn’t really matter who killed baby Omar. But as Carl retorts:
Well, yes, it does matter. Because one side – Israel – does all it can to avoid civilian casualties, while the other – Hamas – seeks to place civilians, including children, in the line of fire in the hope of creating precisely the kind of news story that Mishrawi’s death created. Fisher’s and other mainstream media reporters’ refusal to acknowledge that reality ensures that Israel will continue to have to fight a biased media in addition to murderous terrorists.
Meanwhile, the bereaved father himself, perhaps understandably, condemns the UN report exonerating Israel as “rubbish”:
Days after a United Nations report seemed to have cleared Israel in the death of a baby during Operation Pillar of Defense last winter, suggesting that Hamas was responsible for the tragedy, the bereaved father dismissed the finding as “rubbish.”
According to the BBC, UN officials also said they were not completely certain that the baby died because of a misfired Palestinian rocket aimed at Israel — as last week’s UN report indicated — and that the explosion in the family’s house could have been the result of a “secondary explosion” that followed an Israeli air strike.
A report released last week by the UN Human Rights Council appeared to exonerate the Israeli air force for the Mishrawi deaths. Rather, the report suggests, they were hit by shrapnel from a rocket fired by Palestinians that was aimed at Israel, but missed its mark.
“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in al-Zaytoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel,” the report states. A footnote explains that this case was “monitored” by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
Jihad al-Mishrawi told the BBC’s correspondent Ramallah that the UN report’s findings were “rubbish.”
“He said nobody from the United Nations had spoken to him, and said Palestinian militant groups would usually apologise to the family if they had been responsible,” the BBC’s Jon Donnison quoted al-Mishrawi as saying on Thursday.
Besides quoting al-Mishrawi’s dismissal of the UN account, Donnison’s story mentions several factors that ostensibly undermine the UN’s report on the November 14 incident. His article states that the IDF did not report on rockets being fired from Gaza so soon after Pillar of Defense began. It also states that IDF officials told journalists at the time that they targeted a Palestinian terrorist in the building that was hit.
In the wake of all the egregious reporting on this tragic incident, major Jewish groups are calling for media outlets to be held accountable. I wish them luck with that:
Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner he wasn’t surprised that the media got the story wrong, but felt that this incident in particular was especially egregious. “We have all become inured to the serial bashing of Israel, but this incident borders on blood libel,” he said.
At the time of the incident, the news organizations and human rights groups attributed the boy’s death to an errant Israeli airstrike. An iconic photo of the boy’s father, who was employed by the BBC, holding his deceased child made the front page of the Washington Post and was published with an accompanying article by, among others, the BBC and the Huffington Post, the latter of which attributed the boy’s death to Israel in the headline of its story which is still posted online.
“Israel has been a convenient target for certain international human rights groups who reflexively cast blame on Israel whenever there is military action involving the Palestinians. We have seen it over and over again in the so-called Jenin ‘massacre’ in 2002, the Second Lebanon war in 2006, Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. These groups rely primarily on reports from the Palestinians and they are unwilling to withhold judgment until all of the facts are known. Unfortunately, even some mainstream media outlets publish stories based on these biased reports.”
Calling for editors to be held accountable for inaccuracies, the ADL added, “When the facts become fully known at a considerably later time and the story is no longer ‘news’, editors still have a responsibility to acknowledge the inaccuracies in the initial reports and they should be called on to do so.”
B’nai B’rith International echoed the sentiments of the ADL and Rabbi Cooper, telling The Algemeiner: “This is, yet again, more evidence that too much media reporting is inherently biased against Israel. There is a pre-disposition to believe the worst about Israel which colors reports and results in the spreading of false information.”
The statement continued: “It’s especially unfortunate since most people will never read a correction, even in the limited cases where news outlets actually admit to errors and bother to correct their inaccurate reporting. Falsehoods are carried on page 1. Corrections are buried inside the paper.”
That last sentence epitomises everything that is wrong with biased reporting on Israel. As I quoted from Israel Matzav above, these falsehoods go beyond the simply ethical aspect of accurate journalistic reporting. Every lie, every blood libel, every falsehood or exaggeration about Israel stirs up anti-Semitism around the world endangering Jews everywhere, not just in Israel. The media have to be held to account loudly, publicly and persistently for every distortion and smear they propagate about Israel.
However, I’m not holding my breath. We should consider ourselves lucky that they reported on the UNHRC correction at all.