Gaza and the media

November 21, 2012 by Emily Gian
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As morning breaks on the 7th day of Operation Pillar of Defence, the current number of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip since the start of the Operation is over 665, including 67 from yesterday alone…write Emily Gian.

Emily Gian

Another 42 were intercepted by the Iron Dome. 

A lesser known statistic that you will not read about, at least in the Australian media, is that over 100 rockets fired at Israel have fallen short and landed in Gaza and caused death and destruction there. The most prominent example of this is the death of 4-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah, whose “plight” was publicised when Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil kissed the deceased child’s forehead during a visit to the Gaza Strip last Friday. Media outlets such as CNN did not get their story straight and reported that he was killed by an Israeli air-strike.

Meanwhile, other sources were beginning to question how the young boy may have died, with many factors not adding up.

For example, sources claim that the damage was not severe enough to have come from an Israeli F-16. Additionally, the IDF did not launch any airstrikes into Gaza while the Egyptian PM was there. Finally, the Telegraph published an article stating that “experts from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who visited the site on Saturday said they believed the explosion was caused by a Palestinian rocket”.  As PM Qandil held the young child he declared, “The boy, the martyr, whose blood is still on my hands and clothes, is something that we cannot keep silent about”.

I assume that the PM and many media outlets who rushed to judgement against Israel will more likely now remain silent about this and other such deaths and injuries. Of course, Hamas is not going to reveal to the world its complicity in killing its own citizens.  

The death of innocent civilians should never be either celebrated or exploited. Over 90 people have lost their lives on the Palestinian side, and I do not believe that any rational person would take comfort in these numbers but there seems to be a need for the media to constantly engage in a numbers game as a way to show some sort of disproportionality between the two sides, without any real context or depth of understanding.

Indeed, both of our local broadsheets today featured articles on the deaths of children and women in this conflict. 

Ruth Pollard’s offering, entitled ‘Children paying a heavy price in Gaza’, dedicates the majority of her space to detailing “the ferocity of Israel’s air strikes and the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza”. A small table on the side compares the number of Palestinians killed by the Israelis since 2006 as opposed to the number of Israelis killed by rocket attacks during the same time.
The sub-heading ‘Surgical strikes’ kill 90 Palestinians and a subsequent reference to such strikes seems to be making a point that if Israel is trying to “avoid civilian casualties”, they are not doing a good job in Pollard’s eyes. Although she no doubt must have missed videos such as this one, which shows the care the IDF takes to ensure that the area was 100% clear of civilians before striking on rocket launchers, or this one where the strike was called off when the pilots spotted uninvolved civilians in the area.

John Lyon’s front page offering in the Australian entitled ‘When the children of Gaza look up, run’ and Tom Coghlan’s offering in the World News section entitled ‘Most of the dead are women and children’ seem to make similar points about child casualties. 

None of those articles attempt to delve into the reasons why a number of civilians have been caught up in the fighting. None of these journalists, who are all reporting from Gaza and would see what is actually going on, have seen it fit to mention from what areas these terrorists operate from.

This video, taken from footage released by the terrorists themselves, shows just how close the rocket launchers are in relation to civilian buildings. In this video, we see the IDF targeting an underground launching site right next to a mosque.

The mosque was completely unharmed. Meanwhile, terrorists fired the Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from inside a soccer stadium. The stadium was subsequently targeted by the IDF. (As a side note, no one has really tackled the absurdity of Hamas targeting Jerusalem either) 

This picture, drawn up by the IDF, is of a Hospital Directory, to show that members of Hamas deliberately hide out in hospitals. There is something particularly vile about this exploitation of the sick.  

On the other side of the argument, most media sources seem to compare the number of casualties on both sides as a way of demonising Israel. This article from the IDF website helps to explain why the number of casualties is so low on the Israeli side.

This can be attributed to three major factors:

1. Preventative strikes on terrorists and weapon manufacturing sites in Gaza,

2. The Iron Dome System, which has been able to intercept a large number of rockets that were on course to hit populated areas, and

3. The readiness of the Israeli home front through bomb-proofing of rooms in houses and buildings, and the code-red alarm which gives citizens 15 seconds to get to shelter. The effectiveness of each of these elements cannot be downplayed. Preventative measures to ensure the safety of citizens, such as cancelling school for the day, also saves lives, as was the case when a Grad rocket hit a school in Ashkelon yesterday, while students were at home.
Interestingly, Ruth Pollard also mentioned Israel’s hit on a media building that houses Hamas controlled al-Quds television. She mentions the “grim scenes” of the building, but makes no mention of why the building was hit, or what precautions were taken to minimise injury there. The IDF’s twitter page issued a series of statements following the hit, which were readily available to Ruth Pollard two days before this article appeared in the paper, but the details were ignored. 

Here is what the IDF made available: 

‘The following are a series of tweets about the IDF targeting of Hamas communications centers in Gaza last night.’
‘Site 1: Hamas comms [communications] center, which was in civilian building. IDF only targeted devices on roof & left Hamas offices on 8th floor untouched’.
‘Site 2: Hamas comms [communications] equipment on building where several international news orgs are location. Roof antenna hit – rest of building untargeted.’
‘This is what we mean by precision strikes in Gaza. We targeted a specific point on the building. We did not target any other floors.’
‘If Hamas commanders in Gaza can communicate with each other, then they can attack us. This is the capability that we targeted.’
‘Advice to reporters in Gaza, just like any person in Gaza: For your own safety, stay away from Hamas positions and operatives.’

And finally, a video of the IDF pinpoint strike on the Hamas Operational Communications Infrastructure. 

Not one single piece of this information has been used by Ruth Pollard, even though the IDF has been very active on social media to ensure that all of the information is getting out there. 

Two other interesting stories have come out in the last 24 hours involving the media and Palestinian terrorists. Just 11 hours ago, the IDF posted on its twitter feed that a short while ago the IDF had targeted a cadre of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad Operatives that were hiding in a media building in Gaza. All four were identified as key figures within the Islamic Jihad terrorist infrastructure. They were not in the building to be interviewed, and were using the legitimate reporters in the building as human shields. The IDF tweeted “we targeted only the 2nd floor, which is where the senior terrorists were. The rest of the building was unharmed. Direct hit confirmed”.

Another interesting story was also revealed by the IDF, involving the targeting of Muhammed Shamalah, who was a commander of Hamas forces in Gaza and the head of Hamas militant training programs. At the time, Shamalah was driving a car clearly labeled “TV”, which would indicate it to be a press vehicle. As the IDF put it, this abuses “the protection afforded to journalists” (see more). 

If there is one journalist at the Age that can be relied on to understand the situation, it is one of their cartoonists, John Spooner, whose fantastic cartoon appeared in today’s Age. John captures the many issues of Hamas that other journalists routinely ignore.

There is another issue that has been widely ignored by Ruth Pollard, and even John Lyons in the Australian, and that is the issue of aid to the Palestinians by the Israelis. Two days ago, 124 trucks carrying aid was transferred to the Gaza Strip from Israel, including food, medicine and other goods via the Kerem Shalom crossing (see more). The Erez crossing was also opened, and twenty Gazans entered Israel for medical treatment.  Additionally, there is no food scarcity as Israel is not blocking the entrance of goods into Gaza, except for weaponry and dual-use materials (see more). Given the amount of rockets that have been fired into Israel, you can understand why Israel is cautious about certain materials. Despite an article in the Australian referring to dwindling medical resources, it is not Israel that is blocking the entrance of medical supplies into Gaza. In fact, there is a shortage in certain medical supplies in Gaza at present due to a disagreement between Hamas and the Palestine Authority in the West Bank.

While Israel supplies 125 megawatts of electricity to the Gaza Strip from the power station in Ashkelon, mortar fire on southern Israel did damage an electricity cable that resulted in power being out in areas of northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

In the meantime, there have been talks of an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire, with Israeli officials meeting in Cairo. They have since returned, and Prime Minister Netanyahu convened nine of his top Ministers to discuss the possible terms of the ceasefire (see more). In the meantime, while Israel has not launched a ground assault, rockets continue to be fired on Israel. I will update you further on a possible ceasefire as more information comes in.


One Response to “Gaza and the media”
  1. Rita says:

    Thank you for this information – it should go out as widely as possible, but I have a feeling, if the Fairfax press, the ABC and assorted BBC-like promoters of news sources like Al Jezeera really really wanted that information to get out, they would have put some balance into their reporting by now.

    You say: “Of course, Hamas is not going to reveal to the world its complicity in killing its own citizens.”

    But they do, or at least they did not so long ago:

    And here, a picture which says it (nearly) all:

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