Biased Coverage Obscures Truth in Gaza

Jewish Light Editorial

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”  — Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

That quote is appropriate in evaluating the dreary, predictable coverage of the ongoing violence on the Gaza border with Israel. Much of it has played fast and loose with the facts and is driven not by honest journalism but by a preprogrammed contest between competing narratives about Gaza. 

On one side are reporters and columnists who consistently blame Israel for the violence on the border, where as many as 10,000 Gazans gathered with the goal of breaching the security fence to commit acts of terrorism against Israelis.  On the other side are those who staunchly defend Israel against any and all criticism.

Last week’s edition of the Jewish Light contained a story by Sam Sokol of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) headlined, “For reporters covering Gaza, charges of bias overshadow the stories they witness and tell.” As an example of inaccurate coverage, it cites the case of Layla Ghondour, an 8-month-old girl who “died after an uncle, himself only 12, brought her to the edge of the protest zone, where she was reported to have inhaled Israeli tear gas.”

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“Palestinians immediately raised Ghondour as a symbol of Israeli oppression,” Sokol writes, “elevating the infant to the status of martyr and blaming the Israeli army for her death. Many Israelis, meanwhile, countered in angry social media posts that it was irresponsible to allow a child into what essentially was a war zone.” 

Israeli doctors report that the girl had a medical condition that contributed to her death.

Sokol praises major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times for running long features on Ghondour, probing the circumstances surrounding her death and detailing arguments on both sides. Other publications, he says, including British tabloids, “didn’t hesitate to take sides, publishing headlines such as ‘Drones drop lethal canisters’ and describing Israel’s tear gas agents as ‘toxic gas.’ ”

In some quarters of the media, any use of force to defend against the Gaza violence is assailed as disproportionate. Israel was criticized for using live fire in the opening stages of the Palestinian violence and was urged to use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse mobs at the border. Yet when tear gas was used, Israel was condemned for using “lethal canisters” and blamed for the death of an 8-year-old girl brought to the border by her own uncle.

Exploiting the tragic death of Palestinian children for propaganda purposes is, of course, deeply immoral, to say nothing of being journalistically unethical.

A perceptive article headlined “The Real Palestinian Catastrophe” in the May 28 edition of The Weekly Standard by Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, points out that the nonstop coverage of Gaza violence is obscuring one of the major root causes of the Palestinian “debasement” as a movement seeking an independent Palestinian state. 

Abrams points out the recent anti-Semitic speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which shocked even United Nations officials and the European Union, and the utter failure of Hamas, which took over control of Gaza, to deal with the genuine human suffering that demands international action.

Where can a concerned reader find a source that separates honest reporting from such biased pieces?  Groups like CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Mideast Reporting in America, are an excellent source of accurate reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with mainstream Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee.

The sad news that Charles Krauthammer, a longtime columnist and commentator, has only weeks to live is a reminder of the importance of honest journalists who remain dedicated to accuracy, criticizing or praising where appropriate. His record of integrity and accuracy should be a lasting legacy to be emulated by all journalists.