UK media coverage of the rocket fire onto the south of Israel

Media BiasDue 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.

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13 Responses to UK media coverage of the rocket fire onto the south of Israel

  1. Rob Harris says:

    Excellent analysis, thanks Anne. Its time for media moguls to get off their behinds and get an Israeli English language channel out there to report basic news from your country. If it does then that may put pressure on Al Guanuiad (Guardian’s nickname due to typos) et al to do the same.

    The infuriating thing is that it doesn’t have to cost a huge sum of money or even need to be an international channel. There are so many channels of crap carried on digital satellite today – including Al Jazeera (or Al Jizya as I like to call it), Al Jazeera Kids, and the Iranian controlled Press TV, along with cut price Asian channels. There is absolutely no reason why there cannot be one or two Israeli news channels, and mixed entertainment channels too. With modern technology it doesn’t cost a massive amount to run a fresh channel, especially if it is running from a pre-existing transmission base, and it would be guaranteed great viewer coverage because of the huge interest in the issue internationally. I hope peeps will spread the word if at all possible. Sure many will dismiss it but at least people will have an alternate less partisan information source.

    • anneinpt says:

      How I agree with you Rob! Now if only you could persuade the Israeli powers that be of the vital necessity of a 24/7 English language news channel (and ultimately, French, German and Spanish too) I would be forever in your debt.

      It’s beyond belief that the gov’t has neglected this for so long. Israeli PR is beyond pitiful.

      • Rob Harris says:

        Hi Anne, Thanks for saying so. A Spanish channel would also be a good idea especially to reach latin and South America. Unfortunately I have next to no influence in Irish pro-Israel circles, let alone in Israel itself. If you have some time perhaps you might consider seeing if there is any public support for one in Israel, perhaps email a few of your local representatives, pro-Israel groups and start an online petition – there are sites that do that sort of thing? If its of interest to you I would be happy to help if I can. 🙂

        • anneinpt says:

          Honest Reporting has a Spanish and French site. Perhaps they would be an address to start with, but I shall leave that bright idea up to you. I simply have no time! Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) have a Russian site. I think the JPost also appears in French. So there’s no real shortage of foreign language Israeli news. It’s just the organizing of a TV channel that doesn’t seem to get off the ground. Perhaps someone with connections to Sheldon Adelson or other philanthropists could get them involved.

          • Rob Harris says:

            Hi Anne, I was just suggesting that the media moguls should get off their backsides because it is self-evidently true that such a channel would be a success. Starting any sort of campaign would be something I couldn’t initiate as have no real contacts, e.g. when I message pro-Israeli’s in Ireland I’m lucky to even get a one line reply. If you change your mind sometime in the future or get in touch with others who share the same views then do let me know if you think I could help, which I would of course be keen to do.

  2. Andrea says:

    I completely agree with mr. Harris – excellent proposal. It is time to have an Israeli channel in English and possible other languages. After all it is not a problem to find native speakers of every language in each Jewish community around the world or gentiles as well.
    In any case this channel will not ever be the Israeli version of Iranian /Arab channels. Since Israel is a democrat and pluralistic society I would not be surprised to see Haaretz commenters and the likes of Friedman on the screen of this yet to be Israel channel . Maybe the outcome could not be the hoped one ….
    I can not forget that there was an Israeli channel on Astra satellite many years ago and I happened to see ( as I wrote many months ago here ) an interview with Marwan Barghouti ( sorry for mispelling ) after his trial or before being sentenced ( I do not remember exactly ). Well Israeli reporters treated him like a star with his (I have to suppose) fluent hebrew language – talking about Mandela, Gandhi and fascism in Israel ( !!) . I supposed it was a joke or a Palestinian channel in Hebrew but when I talked about this episode to one of the few Israeli colleagues at the time I had confirmation that Barghouti was going to be portrayed like the Palestinian version of Nelson Mandela.
    Fine, this is democracy and open minded approach to israeli/palestinian issues and makes honour to Israel ( not joking here ) but if an Israeli channel has to be opened -well – better to give a glance at curricula of journalists to be recruited before 🙂

    • anneinpt says:

      Your point matches the one raised by Rob. And of course you are so right pointing out that Israeli channels tend to have all the extremists from the other side, and never enough representatives of our own side. It’s the same in the print media and internet. The Israeli media try to prove to their foreign counterparts how liberal they are, and bend over backwards to show it. But it doesn’t work does it?

    • Rob Harris says:

      @ Ruth Andrea and Anne: You are both completely right that there are bad elements in the media. The fact is that the media has a very intensive liberal bias and for historic reasons it tends to be anti-Israel and pro-Islamic. Such a channel cannot be controlled directly by the Israeli government but regulations can be introduced to minimise the impact of liberal perception. There can be a regulation stating that the news channel focuses minimally on opinion pieces and concentrate on news content. There is also strict regulations of the media in some parts of the Western world such as Canada where “any false or misleading news” is prohibited as is the incitement of hatred of particular groups and advocating actions in contravention of the law. Similarly stiff regulations would prevent a “Haaretz TV” pulling the kind of lies it does with impunity in Israel. It would face its licence to broadcast being revoked.

      The thing is that Israel is absolutely terrible at media relations, in comparison to the Arab world as an interesting new article points out. It is clear that it won’t change anytime soon so the first step in defending Israel is to have a reliable news source covering all the major stories in Israel for international attention. I believe such a channel should also be critical of Israel when necessary because its ability to be impartial, and be seen to be impartial, is essential. We are fortunate enough to have truth on our side. Israel does not need manifold layers of lies and fabrication to defend itself unlike the Palestinian cause. Shining a light on events, even if at times critical, will only do a great deal of good.

      An economic war is being waged against Israel with BDS and proper information is the first step in fighting it so a channel is essential – if BDS takes hold it will have as drastic an impact on Israel as war. We’re all fighting a lonely cause because sadly most pro-Israeli’s don’t care enough to stand up either.

      @ Andrea, can you recall the name of the Israeli channel that used to be on Astra? Terrible that Marwan Barghouti was treated as a latter-day Ghandi but with the likes of Gideon Levy around…

      • Andrea says:

        Good afternoon Rob – sorry for being so late in answering ! I was “lost” among all posts and comments over this intense week that I missed the chance to answer in a proper time. I can not recall the name after many years and therefore I have not any documented evidence to support my memory. I will try on youtube or similar but chance to find this again are almost zero…..

  3. Ruth Adams says:

    Bob Harris’s suggestion is excellent. Something else that bothers me is the fact that some of the people responsible for Israel-bashing are infact Israeli “leftists” – some of whom make “excellent and compelling” films etc. These people are very dangerous because they play on peoples’ ignorance.

    • anneinpt says:

      Hello Ruth, thank you for your comment and welcome to my blog.

      You are so right about Israeli leftists. It is a well-known fact unfortunately that some of the worst antisemites are Jews, if not Israelis. And their influence is much more pernicious because besides the lies that they peddle, they provide cover for the other antisemites and anti-Zionists with their “Jewish” credentials. It’s a problem that’s been with us for millennia. The Prophet Jeremiah himself (or was it Isaiah?) said “those who will destroy you come out from you”.

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