Photographs of Gaza conflict bring accusations of media bias
(Majed Hamdan/ AP ) – The Washington Post received dozens of complaints about a front-page photo of a BBC Arabic journalist named Jihad Misharawi cradling the shrouded body of his infant son. One caller accused The Post of being “Palestinian sympathizers” for running the picture.
Complaints about bias flare with each spike in the struggle, but Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the Washington-based American Task Force on Palestine, isn’t convinced that either side dominates the media spin (“the dishonesty is pretty damn even, really,” he said), although he believes Israelis have the advantage of “cultural affinities” with Western journalists — that is, “they speak American” better than Palestinians.
What’s more, the asymmetrical nature of the conflict — pitting Israel’s modern and well-equipped army against irregular fighters — produces its own image imbalance, said Eric Rozenman, Washington director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a watchdog group that has been critical of news portrayals of Israeli actions.
Israel’s missile-defense system and shelters limit the number of casualties from rocket attacks, which results in fewer photos of Israeli suffering to balance the emotionally charged images of death and injury on the other side, he noted. At the same time, Israel’s modern weaponry produces “a telegenic disproportion” that feeds the Israel-as-aggressor framing. “A big fireball coming up from an F-16 strike on a mosque” makes a more shocking picture than scattered rocket fire from the other side, he said.
Israel’s supporters generally reject any portrayal that depicts the nation as the aggressor, and its military as an indiscriminate force that kills civilians with impunity — a narrative they think is promoted by Arab factions. They say that images of Palestinian suffering don’t convey a larger context: that Israel’s military response is in defense of its citizens, who have been deliberately targeted by militants firing rockets from sites within densely populated Gaza neighborhoods.
- CAMERA last week criticized Western news organizations for their handling of another series of potent images depicting the death of a 4-year-old Palestinian boy in a Gaza hospital.Wire services moved photos of the child — limp and lifeless in the arms of various adults — with captions that indicated he had died in an Israeli airstrike near his home. CNN aired video of the scene at the hospital as the child’s body was carried by a doctor and held by a senior Hamas leader and Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil in front of a jostling media pack. Reporter Sara Sidner called the child “another victim of an airstrike.”
- Except it appears he wasn’t. Subsequent reporting by media organizations indicated that the child more likely died as a result of an errant rocket launched from within Gaza. In effect, the photos may have revealed the opposite of what they purported to show — that the child’s death was inflicted by Palestinian sources, not Israeli.Reuters,which had circulated the photos, quickly issued a clarification saying the cause of the boy’s death was in dispute. CNN cast doubt on its initial reporting, too, saying the incident could have been caused by “the misfire of a Hamas rocket intended for Israel.”Some news organizations, including The Post, declined to publish the photos because they suggested exploitation — and manipulation of tragedy.“Every single alarm went off in my head when I saw them,” Golon said. “They looked like a media event around a dead child. They should not be parading this child’s body around for PR purposes.”
But displaying corpses as evidence of an enemy’s barbarity is an accepted practice in some parts of the world, and sometimes it’s news, said Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for the Associated Press. He cautions that any news photo needs to be set in its proper context, with captions that spell out “the same who, what, why” as a news story.
“The idea is to leave as few unanswered questions as you can,” he said. “If we have a doubt and can’t say something with authority, we’re probably not going to go there.” (AP’s photographers didn’t take the photos of the dead boy, but it distributed the pictures through a content-sharing agreement with another agency, Rex Features).
While photos often portray reality in ways more powerful than words, they can also easily distort. As Lyon notes, context is important: Cropping, inaccurate captioning or staging an image for effect can distort what’s really there.
Digital photo-altering tools also have made it easy to create outright fabrications — ”faux-tography” — although there are only a few documented cases of it slipping into the journalistic ecosystem. Reuters was blindsided in 2006 when a freelance photographer in Lebanon digitally altered a photo to make an Israeli attack on Beirut look more destructive. The agency withdrew the picture and severed ties with the photographer.
“We made a mistake,” said Alix Freedman, Reuters’s global editor of ethics and standards. “We dealt with it decisively and quickly and learned from it.”
Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine said the best advice for journalists is the same as in any other conflict — to remain skeptical of both sides. “There is in this world fairness, and a sense of proportion,” he said. “If you find yourself identifying with one side, it’s time to get a new job.”
Binyamin Netanyahu’s constant carping on Iran’s nuclear power ambitions, not proven beyond partisan allegations has caused American congressional and presidential elections, a laughing stock. Thank God, Mitt Romney failed, miserably and his most generous donors lost their money and mission.
In future, I wish you take issues with PR and propaganda, as you, as a respectable media find and target the guilty.
Among other known violaters, The Wall Street Journal, The New YorkTimes, Baltimore Sun and let me not forget, CNN, nasty bunch, I say.
…and I am Sid Harth@elcidharth.com
- © 1996-2012 The Washington Post
An Israeli soldier from the Home Front Command comforts and plays with a boy in an air raid shelter in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon on November 19. Many people in this border town close to the Gaza Strip stayed close to the shelters, and even spent most the day inside.
ASHKELON, Israel — Israel’s warplanes and Iron Dome anti-rocket missiles have been facing south for eight days, but their message was heard loud and clear to the north — by leaders in Iran and Lebanon.
The fighting against Hamas in Gaza, carried out by mostly missiles and planes, can be seen as a war game for what could happen if Israel moved to take out Iran’s nuclear program, a much larger action that could result in both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran firing rockets toward Tel Aviv.
And violent as it has been, one Israeli general described Hamas, when comparing its might to Hezbollah and Iran, as a rain drop in a storm.
In other words, there’s worse to come if Israel attacks Iran, much worse.
So, what, if any, lessons did Israel learn that can be applied to Iran?
The most obvious concerns the endurance of Israel’s “homefront,” which is simply a military, dehumanizing term for “the people.” Verdict: good.
There were almost no complaints by the people that they had to spend so long in bomb shelters. Southern towns like Ofakim, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva and even Ashdod closer to the center were attacked about a 150 times each in seven days. That means the people rushed to their shelters as the sirens wailed on average 21 times a day.
Shops and stores are reopening and a semblance of normalcy is returning to Gaza’s streets after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is put into effect. NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza.
Yet despite the discomfort and fear, most people did not call for an end to Israel’s assault on Gaza. They wanted it to last as long as necessary to stop all rockets from Gaza in the future.
The Iron Dome, Israel’s home-made anti-rocket missile system, Israel’s key defense against rockets from Gaza prevented carnage. Verdict: Very good with an official hit rate of 84 percent.
Israeli officials say over 900 rockets have been fired at the country in the past 6-days. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.
According to Israeli army figures, Islamist militants in Gaza fired 1,506 rockets at Israel in eight days. Eight hundred and seventy-five fell harmlessly into open areas like fields and the sea. The Iron Dome is programmed to let those alone and to intercept only rockets that would hit urban areas.
Iron Dome intercepted 421 rockets and 58 rockets actually got through, killing three civilians and wounding about 100 more, mostly lightly.
The small number of casualties was because a few people did not use Israel’s second defense layer, the bomb shelters. Verdict: Very good.
Nobody in a shelter was hurt. The three killed did not do as they were advised and stood on their balcony watching the action. A rocket shot right through the window, splattering them against the walls.
But while the world has been watching the war in the south, the threat from the north is much bigger. Israeli intelligence sources say Hamas and partners in Gaza had 10,000 rockets. Hezbollah in South Lebanon has between 100,000 and 200,000, including longer range rockets that carry heavier explosive warheads, according to Israeli military analysts.
The Iron Dome could be effective against several fired at the same time and even a dozen or two, but if hundreds of long-range rockets are fired, for instance, at Israel’s largest population center Tel Aviv, it is guaranteed that many would get through, causing havoc, heavy damage and possibly loss of life.
Israel needs America
How long could the homefront, or the people, withstand such an onslaught, especially if compounded by rockets from Iran?
The answer is not clear, but what is clear is that such an attack from Lebanon would provoke instant and massive Israeli retaliation.
That leads to another lesson, or rather byproduct, of the assault on Hamas — Hamas may already be eliminated from the equation of a post-Iran strike. Would Hamas fight for Iran after the punishment it received in the past week and the depletion of its rocket supply and rocket-manufacturing ability? Nobody knows.
Two sides exchange deadly airstrikes, rocket attacks.
More likely is that Islamic Jihad, which is armed, trained and financed by Tehran, would fire its rockets at Israel, even if Hamas tried to stop them. So another lesson for Israel: Take out Islamic Jihad in Gaza — and that could lead to conflict with Hamas anyway.
But as political and military leaders here analyze the results and lessons of the past week, the clearest lesson is probably this, and it is hardly new: Israel needs the United States.
It was President Barack Obama who insisted on a cease-fire, who called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi three times in 24 hours, and who had several calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shepherding both through the difficult process of reaching an agreement.
The fact is, Israel could not have carried out an invasion of Gaza without Washington’s support. And as Obama made clear in his talks with Netanyahu, the United States prefers no ground invasion. And Israel agreed.
So at the moment, Israel has Western support for latest action in Gaza. This support would evaporate if it decided unilaterally to invade Gaza.
If the cease-fire holds for 24 hours, Israel will start talking about lifting border control on Gaza. In the meantime, Israeli ground troops remain mobilized in case Hamas resumes rocket attacks from Gaza. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.
But if newly re-elected Obama says the same about an attack on Iran, only more forcibly, will Israel agree again?
That is a different issue. Israel’s homefront and defensive shield give Israel’s freedom to act, but the bit questions are, for how long? And against what strength enemy?
And critical will be this: Will Obama be for or against?
Martin Fletcher is the author of “The List”, “Breaking News” and “Walking Israel”.
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Gaza: Of media wars and borderless
By Lawrence Pintak
January, 2009. Yet again, the disconnect. Yet again, American and Arab viewers are
seeing two vastly different conflicts play out on their television screens. Yet again, the
media has become a weapon of war.
Add Gaza to Afghanistan, Iraq, the sieges of Jenin and Ramallah, and Lebanon; another
conflict that Arabs and Americans see through completely different lenses. More fodder
for the stereotypes. More reason each side fails to understand the other. More reason to
As with the 2006 Israeli war with Hizbullah, I spent the first two weeks of this conflict on
a family vacation in North America. The domestic U.S. media was, once more, reporting
from behind borders built of pre-conceived notions, simplistic explanations and an
Americentric view of the world.
Put simply, Gaza was background noise. Yes, it generally made the front page of the
newspapers and the main newscasts, but – particularly on television – the humanity, the
scale and the context of the conflict were AWOL. Arabs and Israelis were at it again; now
let’s get back to Obama, the economy and New Year’s Eve.
And the carefully-scripted talking points of the Israeli spokespeople who dominated the
airwaves made it clear that, yet again, the Arabs deserved what they were getting.
Driving through Washington State, I listened to a fawning half-hour interview with an
Israeli consul general on a Seattle talk show. In San Francisco, I saw another Israeli
official on TV fielding marshmallows from a local anchor. On CNN, it was more of the
same. And for the most part, U.S. politicians were working from those same talking
points, as a montage on Comedy Central’s Daily Show made so clear. Arabs, or those
presenting their perspective, were few and far between.
All the retroactive journalistic soul-searching over official media manipulation, lack of
balance in the selection of “expert” interviews in the lead-up to Iraq, self-censorship
“because of concern about public reaction to graphic images” in the early phase of that
war, and “misguided moral equivalence” in the 2006 Lebanon conflict was, yet again,
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 2
As in 2006, I returned to the Middle East to find a very different conflict playing out on
my television screen. To find Arabs enraged; yet again. To hear people asking how
Americans could sit back and ignore the carnage; yet again. More demonstrations
against Israel and America, more name calling, more people shaking their heads asking,
“Why don’t Americans understand?”
America’s public diplomacy chief offered part of the answer. “Americans are big
supporters of Israel, that’s just a fact,” he told a group of Egyptian bloggers in a briefing
in the virtual world Second Life. But the other half of the reason is that Americans were
not seeing the same images that were bombarding Arabs 24/7; the kind of pictures that
would melt the heart of the most diehard supporter of Israel. Which was precisely why,
according to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli media weren’t showing them to the their
own public either.
“Our media is systematically covering up the suffering in Gaza, and there’s only one
opinion present in the TV studios – the army’s,” liberal Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy
told the German magazine Der Speigel.
The world’s television news organizations were all taking the same feed from the
Palestinian video agency Ramattan TV; the difference came in how they edited the tape.
As in Afghanistan and Iraq and Lebanon, U.S. coverage leading up to the January 19
ceasefire mostly consisted of impersonal wide shots of bombs exploding, interspersed
with the occasional fleeting images of bodies wrapped in burial shrouds. Here in the
Arab world, television was dominated by heart-wrenching close-ups of dead and horribly
maimed infants and young children.
But Arab coverage was not monolithic. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have sought to prevent
Hamas from scoring political gains at the expense of the more secular Palestinian
authority, while Qatar is leading a Gulf block that equates support for Hamas with
support for the Palestinian people. The fault lines have produced a media war in the
Arab world. “What journalism we have today!” a leading Saudi columnist declared in
print, charging his colleagues with “marketing the idea that any anger at the Israeli
bombardment is unjustified and that any support for resistance is incitement for
The rift is most evident on the broadcasts of the region’s bitter television rivals. Al
Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, has focused on vivid images of bloodshed
accompanied by commentary thick with moral outrage. Rival Al Arabiya, owned by Saudi
interests close to the royal family, has chosen to avoid the most graphic footage and take
a more measured tone. The contrasting approaches reflect both the very different
perceptions of the role of Arab journalism in the two newsrooms and the political rift
between their respective patrons.
“Our coverage was closer to the people,” Al Jazeera’s news chief Ahmed Sheikh told me.
While he said the channel was “impartial” in that it gave airtime to Israeli officials, “we
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 3
are not neutral when it comes to innocent people being killed like this. The camera picks
up what happens in reality and reality cannot be neutral,” he said, adding that, as with
U.S. network coverage of Vietnam, Al Jazeera showed graphic images to turn public
opinion against the war. “The goal of covering any war is to reveal the atrocities that are
“We belong to two different schools of news television in the Arab world,” countered Al
Arabiya news chief Nabil Khatib, the target of death threats on Islamist websites for
refusing to allow the word shahid (martyr) to be used on the air to describe Palestinian
“There is the school that believes that news media should have an agenda and should
work on that agenda for ideological and political reasons, which is Al Jazeera’s. We are
in the school that believes you need to guarantee knowledge with the flow of news
without being biased and by being as much as possible balanced,” Khatib continued.
Just days into the conflict, in a linguistic play on the name of Al Arabiya, Hizbullah
leader Hassan Nasrallah called the channel “Al Ibryia,” which roughly means The
Hebrew One. The resulting campaign against Al Arabiya, which Khatib believes Al
Jazeera fed, has brought into the open long-simmering resentments between the two
Al Jazeera was “satisfying the mob” and “led a campaign for Hamas,” Khatib told me.
“They chose to highlight the dead bodies and bloody scenes in close-up, thinking this will
create shock. We were cautious with this out of respecting our viewers and our code of
Sitting in the newsroom of Abu Dhabi TV, Director of News Abdulraheem Al-Bateeh said
that was all nonsense. “Come on, it’s obvious. Al Jazeera is showing that it is pro-
Hamas and Al Arabiya shows that it is pro-Fatah.” His channel, he insists, sits in the
middle, in keeping with Emirati government policy. “We are with Hamas on the
humanitarian side, but politically we are with Fatah.”
But even in its most sanitized form, Arab coverage is a world away from that seen in the
Make no mistake, reporting by international news organizations was badly hampered by
Israel’s refusal to allow journalists to cross into Gaza and Egypt’s own decision to keep
its border with Gaza sealed. But all news organizations were struggling under the same
strictures. That doesn’t explain the vivid contrast in coverage between the U.S. networks
and those overseas.
And it’s not just Arab, or even European channels like the BBC, that provided coverage
different from that seen in the U.S. An American diplomat here in the Middle East told
me that he and a colleague were working out in the embassy gym one day with the
television on. The embassy gets a feed from Armed Forces Radio and Television, so
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 4
diplomats have access to CNN’s domestic service. Out of curiosity, they started
switching back and forth between CNN domestic and CNN international, the parallel –
separately staffed and produced – version of the network seen outside the U.S. “We
couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. The domestic CNN was dominated by commentary
supporting Israeli actions, while the international feed was focused on the devastation on
Balance is the goal of any quality news organization. But in the U.S., the quest for
balance in this complex and highly-charged conflict has sometimes seemed contrived.
Take ABC anchor Charles Gibson’s lead-in to a “children of war” piece on the January 8
World News Tonight: “Youngsters on both sides of the border are being killed, injured
and traumatized by the fighting in Gaza,” he reported. But is that strictly true? By the
day the piece aired, according to UNICEF, 292 Palestinian children had been killed, with
hundreds more wounded. The number has since grown. Of the three Israeli civilian
deaths at that point, none were children.
Yet American viewers who watched the piece that followed Gibson’s lead-in could be
forgiven for coming away with the impression that both sides were suffering equally and
that, as in Gaza —a ten mile by six mile strip that is one of the most densely populated
places on earth – there was nowhere in Israel where one could escape the torrent of
missiles. There is certainly no doubt that the last few weeks have been traumatic for
Israeli children living in towns near the border, but in the shorthand of U.S. TV news,
their suffering and that of Palestinian children in Gaza became indistinguishable.
The contrast between U.S. television and Al Jazeera English (AJE), the Westernmanaged
counterpart to the Arabic channel the Bush administration loved to hate, could
not be starker. After two years of missteps, Al Jazeera English has hit its stride. And
until shortly before the January 19 ceasefire, it was the only channel with international
reporters on the ground inside Gaza. And since late December, it has been all Gaza, all
the time. AJE essentially turned its entire broadcast day over to coverage of the conflict.
In terms of English-language broadcasters, the BBC and CNN International, both of
which have a mix of reporters and anchors from around the world, have been doing
excellent work from the Israel-Gaza border and beyond. London-based Tim Whewell’s
in-depth and carefully reported five-and-a-half minute piece, “The case for war crimes,”
on the BBC’s Newsnight is not something likely to have been aired on U.S. television,
while Palestinian producers, such as the BBC’s Rushdie Abualouf, have supplied a steady
stream of original footage and reporting from inside Gaza.
But with its mix of Arab and Western correspondents, news executives from Canadian,
British and Arab networks, and access to the regional infrastructure and expertise of Al
Jazeera Arabic, AJE is a channel born to cover this conflict.
Two correspondents from AJE were in Gaza when Israel sealed the border in mid-
December: Ayman Mohyeldin, an American who started his career as a producer for
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 5
NBC and CNN, and Sherine Tadros, a British-Egyptian former staffer at Al Arabiya who
was sent to Gaza as a producer but moved on camera when the fighting began. Their
reporting has been nothing short of riveting.
But it is the comprehensive nature of the coverage, the seamless integration of news and
programming, which has resulted in a body of work that not only brings viewers into the
heart of the conflict, but sets the war in its political, geographic and historical context.
Standouts include Sami Zeidan’s take-no-prisoners interviews with IDF spokespeople,
Kamal Santa Maria’s touching conversation with the secretary general of the Swedish
Red Cross on the human toll, and “Gaza: The Road to War,” a special that took viewers
back sixty years.
Whether in the field or in the studio, AJE’s coverage has been cool and collected, largely
free of the emotion that is often in evidence on its sister Arabic-language network; and
the word “martyr,” used by Al Jazeera Arabic and many other Arab news organizations to
describe Palestinian dead, has not crossed the lips of AJE’s staffers.
The overarching title of AJE’s coverage, “War On Gaza,” telegraphed the channel’s
perspective – “on” not “in” was a conscious choice. The reporting reflected a distinct
attitude; an implicit sense of identification with the Palestinian victims – the civilians,
not the Hamas fighters – evident, for example, in a crawl at the bottom of the screen
listing the names and ages of some of the more than 300 Palestinian children killed.
But it is an engaged journalism borne of empathy that, to this viewer’s mind, stopped
short of betraying an overt bias against Israel – much to the disappointment of some
Arabs, such as a guest columnist in Qatar’s Ash Sharq newspaper, who charged that “the
English-language channel either consciously or unconsciously is moving within the orbit
of the Israeli approach.”
AJE’s correspondents inside Israel – veterans of the BBC, ITN and CNN – have been
aggressive in their approach, as in reporter James Bays’ questioning of Israeli Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni, but they have also not shied away from reporting on the impact of
Hamas missiles on Israeli citizens.
The American networks, by contrast, have largely abandoned the Middle East. A few
weeks before the Gaza crisis broke CBS News fired most of the staff of its Israel bureau.
ABC recently cut a deal to use the BBC’s reporting from Baghdad so it can strip down its
own operation. The evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC together gave just 434
minutes of airtime to Iraq in 2008, according to the Tyndall Report, and there were days
in the first two weeks of the Gaza war when the networks did not bother to air a piece on
They are, essentially, ceding reporting of the region (and much of the world) to others.
Ironically, in the long run, given the U.S. networks’ track record in recent years, that may
be a good thing – if these alternatives become more available to the average American.
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 6
For the moment, BBC America is seen on some cable systems, CNN International cannot
be viewed inside the U.S., and, with a few localized exceptions, Al Jazeera English is only
available online via Livestation and YouTube.
The kind of borderless journalism these channels increasingly offer creates the potential
to replace the myopic coverage that has fueled misunderstanding since 9/11, staking out
space in the uncharted turf between the rival bloodshot lenses of the domestic U.S. and
It is a place where worldviews are not quite so fixed, where audiences are exposed to
more than just their own preconceived notions, and where a new definition of balance
just might be found.
Lawrence Pintak is publisher/co-editor of Arab Media & Society and director of the
Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at The American
University in Cairo. His most recent book is Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens: America,
Islam & the War of Ideas.
- © 2012 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors
- All editorial matter in CMAJ represents the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the Canadian Medical Association.
On the ground in the Gaza Strip
Throughout the Israeli offensive on Gaza, Sana Rajab and Mohamed “Abu Abed” Mughaiseeb worked at the heart of the emergency health services run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Sana, a nurse, and Abu Abed, a doctor, are first and foremost Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Every Gaza resident has suffered in this war, they explain.
Sana Rajab and Mohamed “Abu Abed” Mughaiseeb, a nurse and doctor from the Gaza Strip, say every Gaza resident suffered in the war. Image by: Médecins Sans Frontières
It began on Dec. 27, 2008. “It was 11 am when the bombing started. It was a Saturday,” says Abu Abed. “Within hours, there were lots of casualties. It was chaos. We visited the hospitals to find out what the medical needs were. Because MSF had emergency stocks in the area, we were able to donate drugs and medical supplies.”
Even as bombs continued to fall on Gaza City, the MSF medical team reopened its postoperative clinic. The clinic took in casualties who had undergone emergency operations in hospitals and needed medical follow-up. “Because of the bombings it was very difficult for patients and MSF staff to move around,” says Sana. “We gave our colleagues emergency medical kits so that they could give medical assistance right at the heart of their neighbourhoods.”
Despite the intense fighting, the MSF teams assisted 60 to 70 patients every day in Gaza City. The patients included injured people who needed medical treatment, as well as many others suffering from “normal” or chronic illnesses who could not access their regular treatments because of the war.
Twenty-two days after the Israeli offensive began, a ceasefire allowed MSF teams to administer more aid across the Gaza Strip. A tent-based hospital was set up to provide secondary surgical care and follow-up to those injured during the fighting. Within 2 weeks, MSF doctors had operated on about 40 people, many suffering from burns and infected wounds, some requiring orthopedic surgery.
A tent-based hospital was set up to provide secondary surgical care and follow-up to those injured in the war. Image by: Médecins Sans Frontières
Today, Sana works with mobile teams that visit areas worst affected by the violence, and various health care facilities, where she identifies and refers patients to the MSF hospital. Abu Abed coordinates MSF medical programs in the Gaza Strip. Both remain shocked at the trauma suffered by the Palestinian population.
Sana talks of the time she spent listening at length to an injured man. “He had been shot in the arm. Three of his brothers and his only sister had been killed. He couldn’t stop talking. I listened to him, and then kept on listening. It was very painful.”
Abu Abed says, “There are stories which are really difficult to hear. During the bombings, the Israeli army decreed a daily 3-hour ceasefire. There were children who used to wait for this relative calm to go to the toilet! Can you imagine a child of 5, so terrorized that he’s holding it in and asking his mother when the lull in the fighting will be so he can go to the toilet?”
The memories keep on coming. The conversation is animated. “If we begin to remember every tragic story, we’ll never stop,” says Sana.
Today, war has given way to the aftermath of war — to physical and psychological wounds. The MSF mental health program, which has been in place in Gaza for several years, is now offering psychological support for emergency medicine staff, who found themselves on the front line providing emergency war aid.
“Young or old, rich or poor, black or white, Muslim or any other religion, we’ve all been affected,” Abu Abed says. “So many people have been injured. Others have lost a brother or a friend, and still others have had their homes destroyed. … Every inhabitant of the Gaza Strip, without exception, has suffered in this war.”
CMAJ invites contributions to “Dispatches from the medical front,” which provide eyewitness glimpses of medical frontiers, whether defined by location or intervention. Submissions should be forwarded to: email@example.com.
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In medicine, in politics, and in war, there is a place for context; CMAJ failed CMAJ published online March 25, 2009
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Francois Dumont�s and Christopher Mason�s March 17 dispatches CMAJ published online March 25, 2009
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Congratulations for your reports with respect to Gaza CMAJ published online March 25, 2009
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Re: A note from Dr. Paul Hebert on articles regarding the health impacts of war CMAJ published online March 25, 2009
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Support for your items on Gaza CMAJ published online March 25, 2009
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CMAJ should shine its light everywhere CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Make Room for Honest Reporting CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Canadian Medical Association Journal’s Bad Medicine CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
- Natalie K Bj�rklund B.Sc. (Biochem) Ph.D.(Human Genetics)
HAMAS propaganda CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Continual Harassment CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Anti Israel bias in reporting CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Journalism or Propaganda? CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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bias re gaza CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Anti-Israel Rhetoric CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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A distorted one-sided view of the Gaza conflict CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Check your Facts! CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Canadian Medical Association sides with Hamas in unscientific, inappropriate manner CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Biased Gaza Publication CMAJ published online March 24, 2009
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Clarification CMAJ April 28, 2009 180:952
AFP – Israel blasted a harsh UN report on its three-week war on Gaza that is to be submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday, branding it biased toward the Islamist group Hamas and misleading.
The UN report says the Israeli military intentionally fired at UN facilities and civilians hiding in them during the massive offensive in December-January against the Hamas rulers of Gaza, media reports said.
“The state of Israel rejects the criticism in the committee’s summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world.”
The report is the latest criticism of Israel over the 22-day war it launched against the Hamas-run territory on December 27 in response to ongoing rocket fire from Gaza militants.
The war, which ended with Israel and Hamas declaring ceasefires on January 18, killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and left large swathes of the impoverished territory in ruins.
Several UN buildings, including its headquarters in Gaza, and several UN-run schools, were hit by Israeli fire during the offensive.
The foreign ministry said that despite Israel cooperating fully with the committee and presenting it with various intelligence material, “none of this information is reflected in the report.”
“The report completely ignores the eight years of attacks against Israel that preceded the decision to initiate the operation, and ignores the difficult circumstances on the ground as dictated by Hamas and its methods of armed operation” from within heavily-populated civilian areas, it said.
“The UN is responsible for drawing its own conclusions regarding the means it should implement to contend with the complex reality in which a terror organisation operates in proximity to UN installations without differentiation and in a manner that endangers UN activities,” said the ministry statement.
“We expect clear statements and action from the UN in this regard,” it said.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon received a copy of the report several days ago and has since softened some of the wording in the three-page document, which he is due to submit to the Security Council on Tuesday, wrote the Ynet news website.
But Israeli officials are worried that the current wording is still too critical towards the Jewish state, the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot said.
The newspaper quoted a member of the US delegation at the United Nations as saying the report was “unprecedented in its gravity towards Israel, and Israel will have to lick the wounds of the report for many years, if the current wording is accepted as is.”
The report, authored by a special committee led by a former head of Amnesty International, Ian Martin, contains several serious charges against Israeli forces.
“Israel deliberately fired at UN institutions even though it knew it was forbidden,” wrote the Yediot.
“The report accuses Israel of disproportionate fire and excessive use of force. The report also states that Israel shot at Palestinian civilians unnecessarily and excessively.”
The BBC During the Gaza War: Biased Coverage of the Conflict
March 22, 2009 22:00 by ManagingTeamPrevious Charges of Bias
Last year, we released an in-depth report analyzing one year of the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We found that the BBC has a consistent record of portraying Israeli actions in a negative light while increasing sympathy for the Palestinian point of view. Rather than respond to the criticisms in our report, the BBC chose to accuse us of bias:
HonestReporting has a particular view of the conflict and cannot be seen as an independent arbiter of our output.
That previous analysis examined the BBC’s reporting, based not on subjective opinion, but on the very journalistic standards that the BBC claims to uphold. We presented hard facts but our work was summarily rejected by the BBC, which has failed to provide its own analysis as to why HonestReporting should be considered an unsuitable judge.
HonestReporting is not alone in accusing the BBC of systemic bias against Israel. Several years ago, the BBC conducted its own investigation into whether the network held an anti-Israel bias. The result — a report by senior news editor Malcolm Balen — was a lengthy study that the corporation refuses to make public. In an ongoing legal battle to force the BBC to make the report public, the British House of Lords recently ruled against the BBC and sent the case back to the High Court. We hope the High Court will force the BBC to release its study into the public domain.
In light of this ongoing legal effort, we decided to examine the BBC’s coverage of the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. Images and accounts of the conflict have had a significant impact on public opinion, with many viewing Israel’s actions as, at best, “disproportionate” and, at worst, “war crimes”. The BBC is one of the most influential media organizations in the world. We wanted to see if its coverage encouraged such notions. What we found was an overwhelming tendency to highlight cases of both real and unproven Palestinian suffering while making Israeli actions appear trivial or illegitimate.
Comparison With Conflict in Sri Lanka
It is extremely appropriate to highlight the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East considering the importance that the BBC attaches to the region. During the conflict, the BBC published, on average, 4.5 articles every day dealing with the fighting. In contrast, BBC coverage of the Sri Lankan government’s campaign against the Tamil Tigers group — a conflict that resulted in an estimated 2,000 civilian deaths in January of 2009 — produced barely one article a day.
According to human rights organizations, the conflict in Sri Lanka includes intentional attacks by both sides on civilians, attacks on hospitals (twenty attacks from December through February alone), and the use of human shields. Yet the BBC gives this conflict, estimated to have resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, less than one quarter the average daily coverage of the Gaza conflict. If the BBC is going to focus this much on Gaza, it must expect scrutiny of that coverage.
We analyzed articles appearing on the BBC website beginning on December 22, 2008, when Hamas announced that it was ending the ceasefire, until January 19, 2009 when both sides announced a new temporary ceasefire. Over these 28 days, the BBC published 126 articles – an average of over four each day. We found that the vast majority of these articles contained unproven accusations against Israel, graphic and out-of-context images, and highlighted quotations that reflected negatively on Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces.
Unsubstantiated Eyewitness Accounts
BBC coverage of the war included 58 accounts from “eyewitnesses” about what was happening and how the war was affecting their lives. Forty of these accounts were from Palestinians while only 18 were from Israeli civilians living under a constant barrage of rocket and mortar attacks.
Often, these accounts were unsubstantiated charges. For example, on January 14, the BBC published a lengthy article containing allegations such as:
One testimony heard by the BBC and human rights group B’tselem describes Israeli forces shooting a woman in the head after she stepped out of her house carrying a piece of white cloth, in response to an Israeli loudhailer announcement.
The image on the right accompanying the story carried an implication that there was photographic proof of the woman’s story. In fact, that image was unrelated to the testimony heard by the BBC. The article contained several other graphic images as well as similar allegations of Israeli soldiers acting inhumanely and intentionally targeting civilians — all without any evidence besides the testimony of Palestinians.
“Not Possible to Verify Accounts”
The same article says that “Israel is denying access to Gaza for international journalists and human rights monitors, so it is not possible to verify the accounts.” However, rather than lending legitimacy to the article, such a statement is an admission that the whole article — with images and shocking headlines and quotations — may very well be a complete fabrication. One of the basic rules of journalism is the responsibility to corroborate testimony. In this regard, the BBC has failed miserably.
Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor, kept a running diary of the conflict. In one entry, poignantly titled “Tears of a Mother,” Bowen publicizes another shocking claim:
Zeinat said the Israeli troops had herded several families from the al-Samouni clan into one of the houses.
She said soldiers came in and asked for the house owner. Her husband, Atiya, put up his hand.
A soldier shot him through the head at point blank range.
Then the soldiers sprayed the room with gunfire, she says. Her four-year-son was killed.
Yet where were the follow-up investigations to these claims? What evidence besides one person’s word does Bowen have to support this horrific charge?
An Internet search of the woman whom Bowen interviewed (Zeinat Abdullah al-Samouni) shows that the only other places (besides the BBC) these charges are repeated is on anti-Israel blogs. It is strange that an alleged cold blooded murder carried out in front of multiple witnesses wo
uld receive no other mainstream coverage other than an account in Bowen’s diary.
The Palestinians have a well-documented record of using the media to disseminate propaganda. (See HonestReporting’s “The Big Lies” presentation). With this in mind, the BBC should have been even more careful to fact check such claims before publishing them.
The “Massacre” that Wasn’t
One example that created a fierce anti-Israel backlash was the alleged Israeli attack on a United Nations school in which refugees had sought shelter from the fighting. On January 7, the BBC claimed that Israeli mortar shells had killed 40 civilians seeking shelter at the school. (While this report is focused on the BBC, it should be pointed out that the accusation was reported by almost all other major media).
However, investigations revealed that not only had the Israeli shells fallen outside the school, but according to the IDF only 12 people — including 9 terrorists – were killed. HonestReporting had predicted that there would be tales of a massacre that would later be proven false 48 hours BEFORE the incident. If HonestReporting could predict that Hamas would attempt such a propaganda coup, why couldn’t the BBC?
Even when the truth emerged, the BBC’s “correction”, while acknowledging that the shelling occurred outside of the school compound, failed to correct the number of dead and continues to omit that the IDF was responding to Palestinian rocket fire in proximity to the school.
Accurate and Trustworthy Accounts?
The BBC is not ashamed of such unbalanced favoritism. In fact, Bowen has boasted about the accounts coming from the Palestinian side. In his Middle East Diary entry for January 15, he reported that:
The fact that there are good Palestinian journalists in Gaza means that accurate and trustworthy accounts of what is happening are getting out.
On what is he basing his opinion that the accounts are accurate and trustworthy? With so many Palestinian claims being investigated and later dismissed, it seems he is vouching for something over which he has no knowledge. As the BBC’s top Middle East reporter, he has a professional responsibility to be objective and not simply accept narratives without corroborating evidence.
While shocking accounts of alleged atrocities helped spread anti-Israel sentiment around the world, it was images of casualties and destruction that really galvanized people. For this reason, it is vital that the BBC presents a balanced range of images accompanied with appropriate context. Yet, as illustrated in the chart below, the BBC image selection was overwhelmingly weighted in favor of those eliciting sympathy for the Palestinians.
We analyzed 313 images that accompanied articles about the conflict. We broke these 313 into four main groups: Israeli soldiers, Palestinian terrorists, Israeli casualties or destruction, and Palestinian casualties or scenes of destruction. The images that the BBC selected overemphasize Palestinian suffering while underemphasizing Palestinian attacks.
Images require accompanying text to clarify and contextualize what the viewer is seeing. The BBC’s “in pictures” segments that highlighted certain images from that day, presented a significant problem. These images could often be found later accompanying BBC articles. These “in pictures” segments consisted solely of images and captions. We found that the captions frequently omitted critical information that would have an impact on the viewer.
Example I – Israel Destroys Government Ministries
For example, the caption accompanying the image on the right read:
Several Hamas buildings have been destroyed, including the Justice Ministry, Legislative Assembly and Education ministry.
Anyone reading that caption with knowledge of Hamas tactics would assume that Israel was maliciously bombing Palestinian government agencies. In Gaza, however, the line between municipal government agencies and branches of the terrorist group Hamas are vague. All three of the ministries named above were run directly by Hamas and functioned as Hamas military centers during the conflict.
Example II – Israel Destroys Houses of Worship
The caption accompanying this next image read:
As air strikes on Gaza continued, more buildings were damaged and at least 10 people were killed when a mosque was hit, local medics said.
The fact that mosques were frequently used by Hamas to store and launch rockets is relevant to the story. Yet the viewer is never give this critical piece of information. Since this picture and caption are a part of an “in pictures’ segment, the viewer is given no additional information from which to draw a conclusion.
One way that the BBC draws attention to certain points of its articles is by selecting a quotation from the story and highlighting it in a text box to the right of the main article. Any reader skimming the article will focus on the quotations. Unfortunately, out of 38 highlighted quotations in the articles in our study, only 4 defended the Israeli position. Here is a sample of the quotations:
From the Palestinian Side:
“We have never seen a situation like this, in all the history of Palestinians.”
“We’re trying to hide in different corners of the apartment.”
align=justify>”We are unable to function normally, we have no cars, we can’t even wear police uniforms because of Israeli drones.”
“I have been trying to stop my children crying – I try to keep them playing.”
“The glass of my windows all fell down, so we spent the night scared and cold, my children were screaming. The attacks were continuous.”
“I left because I thought that the shooting was getting closer to my home and my children were scared.
“We had to squash [the injured into the ambulance]… on top of each other, including the dead man, just to get them to some sort of place of safety.”
Quotations reflecting Israeli opinions were limited to the following:
“Since the majority of the Hamas militants are pretty much in hiding in those places, mainly urban places, then we operate in those areas.” (repeated twice)
“Our definition is that anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas is a valid target. This ranges from the strictly military institutions and includes the political institutions that provide the logistical funding and human resources for the terrorist arm.”
“For the children’s sake we felt we had to go out. We love Sderot. But we had to go out for some time.”
As you can see, the majority of the Palestinian quotations were personal observations on the fighting. Only the last Israeli quotation was similar. Could the BBC not find anyone else living in Sderot who could speak about living in terror? There is no doubt that when the highlighted quotations focus on only one side, the reader will come away with a certain perspective.
The BBC’s coverage of the Gaza conflict painted a picture of an Israeli attack that intentionally targeted civilians and may have included war crimes. Specifically:
The BBC relied upon Palestinians who were given the opportunity to make dubious accusations without any supporting evidence.
The BBC published image after image of Palestinians suffering under Israeli attacks while giving readers few views of the impact that the conflict was having on Israeli civilians living under a constant and daily rocket barrage.
The most damning Palestinian statements about the Israeli operations were highlighted on the side of the articles, while Israeli statements were almost never treated in the same way.
We have said before that as one of the world’s top news sources, the BBC has a tremendous responsibility to report accurately and fairly. While the BBC claims to be impartial, it has done everything possible to deflect scrutiny of its work from being made public. Right now, a pending lawsuit in the House of Lords seeks to compel the BBC to make public an internal review that allegedly found that its Middle East reporting was biased against Israel.
To read our earlier reports on the BBC, click here (first half of 2007) or here (2007-2008). We plan to continue publishing long term analyses of specific media to determine whether reporting is fair and consistent. If you are interested in sponsoring one of these reports, please click here.
Category: BBC Big Lies Gaza HR in the News Long-Term Analysis Operation Cast Lead Photo Bias Print Tags:BBC, bias, Big Lies, gaza, Hamas, honestreporting, IDF, images, israel, Jeremy Bowen, Operation Cast Lead, palestinian, United Nations school
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Israel is in the midst of a battle for public opinion – waged primarily via the media. To ensure Israel is represented fairly and accurately “‘HonestReporting’” monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and effects change through education and action. Read more
Anticipatory Stress in the Population Facing Forced Removal From the Gaza Strip
Billig, Miriam PhD*†; Kohn, Robert MD‡; Levav, Itzhak MD§
The Israeli government decided in March 2005 to remove the settlers of the Gaza Strip, a process known as disengagement. One person per household residing in 13 settlements was randomly selected for a telephone interview that included the Demoralization Scale of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Research Interview. Women respondents and those with fewer years of education, higher risk perception, greater alienation from government, poorer perceived health, no social support outside the West Bank or Gaza, worse religious coping, and residence in a secular settlement had enhanced risk for higher emotional distress. Positive current satisfaction with life was associated with greater place attachment, less risk perception, stronger ideological stand, less feeling of alienation from the government, a more positive view of the future, and plans to return to Gaza. This population, as others in transitional states, may be at risk for emotional distress compared with some but not all stable Israeli groups.
© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
Media and the Gaza War
Media played an important part of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict. Foreign press access to Gaza has been limited since November 2008 via either Egypt or Israel. On 29 December 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that journalists be allowed into Gaza whenever the crossings were opened, but the IDF refused to comply. There have been arrests of journalists due to violations of wartime censorship in Israel, and these have been denounced by international press organizations. Media infrastructure, including Al-Aqsa TV transmission equipment and foreign and local press offices, were hit during the conflict. Media relations also played an important role, with the use of new media on the part of Israel, as well as a clear public relations campaign.
Following Israel withdrawal from Gaza there were number of cases of violence targeted at foreign journalists claimed by previously unknown groups sometimes linked to Al Qaeda. The most notable case is kidnapping of BBC journalist, Alan Johnston. Palestinian security sources urged all foreigners (especially Europeans and Americans), including aid workers of international organizations, to leave Gaza soil “for fears of new kidnappings”. Hamas is known to take part in negotiation and release of hostages in many cases. Subsequently the Foreign Press Association issued a statement saying Gaza had become a “no-go zone”. International organisations instead relied on their local staff to gather information.
Foreign press in Gaza
Israel and Egypt, the only two countries sharing borders with Gaza, have refused access to Gaza by foreign journalists since November 2008. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on 29 December that journalists must be allowed access to Gaza at times when the main border crossing is open, but the military has not complied. A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in the United Kingdom said that Israel was restricting entry into Gaza because Gaza is a war zone, and that other countries would do the same.
Various press associations and organizations have called this ban as “unprecedented”, and the Foreign Press Association (FPA) of Israel called the ban a “violation of press freedom” as practiced by other regimes. The International Federation of Journalists said that the ban on foreign media entering Gaza, combined with the Military Censor’s now following strict guidelines issued by the head censorship office in Israel, meant that the world was not being allowed to see what is happening in Gaza. As of January 2009, Al Jazeera, whose reporters Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros were already inside Gaza when the conflict began, is the only international broadcaster with a journalist reporting from inside Gaza. The BBC has a local producer Rushdi Abu Alouf within Gaza.
The New York Times reported on 10 January that “Israel has also managed to block cellphone bandwidth, so very few amateur cellphone photographs are getting out of Gaza.”
On 18 January, journalists entered Gaza via the Erez crossing after a ceasefire was declared.
Hamas officials stopped the BBC from filming at one site, possibly because there was a military target nearby.
Hits by IDF
Media facilities in Gaza, both foreign and domestic, have come under Israeli fire since the military campaign began. On 29 December, the IDF destroyed the facilities and headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV (though broadcasts continue from elsewhere), and on 5 January, the IDF bombed the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala newsweekly. On 9 January, the IDF hit the Johara tower of Gaza City, which houses more than 20 international news organizations, including Turkish, French, and Iranian outlets. Haaretz publish video tape of Gaza reporter confirming Hamas fired rockets near TV offices. Gaza reporter Hanan Al-Masri from Johara tower on Al-Arabiya: “A Grad rocket from here? It’s here. Listen, it’s here, below the building…”. Al-Jazeera reported that at least one journalist was injured in the attack and Press TV reported that satellite transmission equipment was damaged. An IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the building had not been targeted, though it may have sustained collateral damage.
Two Arab journalists from East Jerusalem working for an Iranian TV station were arrested by Israeli authorities on 12 January, and charged with violating IDF censorship protocols for allegedly reporting on the IDF ground offensive into Gaza hours before they were given permission. The journalists denied the charges, maintaining that they merely reported what was being said in the international media. One Italian journalist, after obtaining clearance from the IDF to travel to Netzarim, was fired on at an Israeli checkpoint even after renewed telephonic contact with the military authorities about the incident led to assurances he could proceed safely.
Government Press Office chief Daniel Seaman on 25 January denied that Israeli government policy banned foreign reporters from Gaza from 8 November 2008 through 21 January 2009, and denigrated the media as “crybabies…unwilling to make effort” to get to Gaza, and asserted that all but 3 percent act as “a figleaf for Hamas”. The Foreign Press Association had petitioned Israel’s High Court to get unfettered access to the Gaza strip. Press restriction appears to have been part of the propaganda campaign of Operation Cast Lead
Nachman Shai, a former Israeli army spokesman, claimed that Israel’s tight regulation of the media was a reaction to “confusing” repoting during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The Foreign Press Association of Israel released a statement saying, “The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.”
Haaretz reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni “instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign in order to gain support for Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip.” Israeli officials at embassies and consulates worldwide have mounted campaigns in local media, and to that end have recruited people who speak the native language. Israel has also opened an international media centre in Sderot. Deputy Israel’s consulate in New York began holding online press conferences on Twitter, a microblogging website.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee has criticised some of the international media for not showing the Israeli perspective, saying that some outlets “have often failed to report on the pervasive Kassam attacks that preceded the [current] violence”, according to the Jerusalem Post.
There has been a YouTube channel opened by IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, with many combat videos and a narrative video log. The videos are intended to bolster Israel’s positions on contentious issues. The accuracy of one of the videos has been disputed B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch who claimed that a purported Israeli strike on militants, in fact, killed several civilians. Hamas has also launched a YouTube-like video site broadcasting criticism of Fatah and videos of Hamas attacks and Israeli casualty numbers.
Media bias accusations
Israel’s media has been criticized for practicing alleged self-censorship and muzzling dissent with coverage on the conflict that has been described as overtly patriotic and biased against Hamas. Eight Israeli human rights groups wrote a letter to newspaper editors, broadcasters and websites claiming, “opinions criticising the decision to launch the offensive or the army’s conduct during the war are hardly heard.” Critics pointed to newspaper headlines describing the surprise airstrikes against Gaza, including the Yedioth Ahronoth headline “Better Late Than Never” and the Maariv headline “Fighting Back.” Keshev, an Israeli media watchdog group, said Israeli television channels dispatched their anchors to towns hit by Hamas rockets, but provided little attention to reports of the devastation inside Gaza. As an example, Yizhar Be’er, head of Keshev, cited the relatively little Israeli coverage afforded to the deaths of almost 50 people on 6 January airstrikes on three United Nations schools, which Israeli forces mistakenly believed were used as militant hide-outs. Regarding the overall coverage, Be’er said:
“The media’s coverage of the first days of the fighting was characterised by feelings of self-righteousness and a sense of catharsis following what was felt to be undue restraint in the face of attacks by the enemy, along with support for the military action and few expressions of criticism.”
A Channel 10 senior editor acknowledged a large amount of patriotism in coverage of the conflict, but attributed it largely to Israel’s refusal to allow journalists into Hamas and the army’s restrictions over information coming from the battlefield. He told the Agence France-Presse, “There are no means to develop criticism because we receive very few details from the army on the fighting inside Gaza… When there is no criticism there is more room for patriotism.”
The BBC received accusations of bias, both for and against Israel, during the conflict, but received particularly intense criticism for its decision not to broadcast a television appeal by aid agencies for victims of the airstrikes against Gaza. BBC officials said the decision stemmed from a policy of maintaining impartiality in the dispute. But many parties criticized the decision, including both Church of England archbishops, British government ministers and even some BBC employees. BBC officials described the criticism as unprecedented, including more than 11,000 complaints in a three-day span. Some protests have accused the company of giving in to pressure from Israel or Jewish groups, while others attribute it to a fear of controversy in light of prior embarrassments over Middle East coverage; the BBC has strongly denied both claims.
A study by Arab Media Watch, an London-based watchdog striving for objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media, states the BBC decision was only one example of a pro-Israel bias in the British press. According to the study, when the British press represents one party as retaliating, the party is Israel more than three-quarters of the time; in the tabloid press, Israel is portrayed as the relatiating party 100 percent of the time. Violent actions by Israel were portrayed as “retaliations” three times more often than they were portrayed as “provocations.” An Arab Media Watch advisor said “inevitably, these trends in reporting leave Palestinian violence largely unexplained, causing it to appear as unwarranted ‘aggression.’”
New York Times
Taghreed El-Khodary, a correspondent for New York Times, was among the few correspondents reporting from Gaza during the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict after Israel prevented correspondents from crossing the Gaza-Israel border. El-Khodary describes herself as among the “very few objective reporters” covering the conflict. She was praised for the “in-depth, balanced coverage” of the conflict.
El-Khodary, who covered the conflict from a position near the Al-Shifa Hospital, was criticized for failing to cover Hamas’ use of homes, mosques, hospitals and schools for weapons storage, not reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields, not reporting on Hamas’ use of children as to assist soldiers, not reporting on Hamas’ wartime execution of accused “collaborators,” and not reporting on the location of the Hamas leadership in a bunker beneath the Shifa Hospital. The Times was accused of failing to balance reports by a journalist whose “personal perspective” placed blame for the conflict on Israel alone. As El-Khodary put it in a CNN interview, “The real issue” in the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict is “The Israeli military occupation.” And of publishing a distorted picture of, as El-Khodary expressed it, a situation in which “ordinary people are squeezed between suicidal fighters and a military behemoth,” and of covering civilian casualties in Gaza “to the virtual exclusion of any other issues.”
The conflict also engendered considerable propaganda, hacktivism and cyber warfare (both on the part of the combatants and polities directly involved and of independent, private parties) which resulted in numerous website defacements, denial-of-service attacks and domain name and account hijackings. An opt-in anti-Hamas botnet created by Israeli students appeared, and new media diplomacy appeared on social networking sites such as Facebook and Second Life, and on new media such as Twitter.
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- ^ “Israel explains Gaza media restrictions”. CNN. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
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- ^ Butler, Nicole (9 January 2009). “Journalists say truth is the casualty of Gaza shut-out”. ABC News. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
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- ^ “Israel wants rapid Gaza pullout”. BBC. 18 January 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
- ^ a b c “Airstrike hits media building in Gaza”. Committee to Protect Journalists. 9 January 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
- ^ England, Andrew; Vita Bekker (10 January 2009). “Criticism of Israel’s conduct mounts”. Financial Times. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
- ^ “Jawwara building, with more than 20 press offices inside, hit by Israeli missiles”. Ma’an News Agency. 9 January 2009. Archived from the original on 10 January 2009.
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