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Israel

How media misled the world on Gaza

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MAURICE OSTROFF

Take it away, Maurice…

If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” (Mark Twain)

Sadly, Mark Twain’s quip could have been written about media reporting on the current conflict in Gaza.

While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s distress at seeing the carnage in Gaza is shared by all decent persons, it has now become obvious that his impression of Israel’s responsibility is a result of misinformation by the media. Though belated, several brave journalists who have returned from Gaza now admit that their reports from Gaza were not impartial because they were unable to speak freely while they were there. And being the fair minded person that he is, one must hope that these revelations will be brought to the notice of the secretary general.

Even after reaching their homes some speak with trepidation about possible consequences and some published statements have even been withdrawn due to threats, reminding us of the fear that intimidated the media during the 2005 violent Danish cartoon controversy.

Intimidation by Hamas has reached such proportions that the Foreign Press Association (FPA) numbering some 480 members representing TV, radio and print media from 32 countries felt it necessary to issue an official protest about “the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month… reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over stories or information they have reported through their news media or by means of social media.”

Furthermore, most Western reporters in Gaza suffer from the substantial disadvantage of a lack of knowledge of Arabic which makes them completely dependent on their translators whose behaviour is undoubtedly guided by the dictates of Hamas.

The question must be asked why the press and TV have failed to draw attention to this serious impediment to the accuracy and impartiality demanded by the rules of ethical journalism?

When four children were tragically killed on a Gaza beach last month, world media indulged in a frenzy of knee-jerk condemnation of Israel indicating with certainty that there was no reason to fire on that beach, close to the Al Deira Hotel occupied by international journalists who witnessed the tragedy. Sadly, among all the reports, I have come across only one that added some context enabling readers to evaluate the story. William Booth in his July 16 report in the Washington Post opened the story explaining why that location was targeted. He wrote what others ignored: “It is not unusual for militants to launch rockets from sites near my hotel.”

He could have added that it is unlikely that the naval vessel that fired the shell saw the children.

Recently there has been a welcome spate of conscientious honest reporting by journalists who have returned from Gaza telling how Hamas has been committing war crimes; using hospitals, mosques and schools (including UN schools) to hide combatants (dressed as civilians) and weapons. Some have resorted to social networks to publish what the mainstream media are too biased or too timid to publish. This is what Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati tweeted on July 29.

Take it back, Maurice…

[At this point, readers, the illustrations that Maurice has uploaded on his ORIGINAL TIMES OF ISRAEL blog become important to illustrate his point – so for those interested in following his argument to its conclusion, please follow the link we have given -ED]

  • Maurice Ostroff is an expat South African and a regular contributor to this website. He is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel

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