The Blame Game in Gaza

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Steve Rendall
srendall@fair.org
Tel: 212-633-6700 x13

The Blame Game in Gaza

Erasing Israeli actions to fault only Hamas

WASHINGTON - The Israeli attacks in the Gaza
Strip that began in late December have reportedly killed over 500
Palestinians, many of them civilians and children. As is often the
case, U.S. corporate media's presentation of the events leading up to
this dramatic escalation in violence have laid the blame for the
violence mostly with Hamas, whose rocket attacks on Israel are often
cited as the cause for the current Israeli attacks.

In many media discussions about the events that led to the fighting,
emphasis is placed on Hamas' decision in late December to allow a
cease-fire agreement with Israel to expire, or the group's failure to
adequately suppress rocket attacks into Israel during the cease-fire.

A USA Today timeline (1/5/09)
explained, "In November, the truce frays as Hamas rockets continue to
land in Israel, which closes several border crossings and kills
militants building tunnels Hamas was using to smuggle weapons and other
goods into Gaza." On NBC Nightly News
(12/27/08), Martin Fletcher explained that "a six-month truce ended
this week and Palestinians fired rockets into Israel, as many as 60 a
day. Israeli leaders said enough is enough."

A Washington Post editorial (12/28/08) announced that Hamas "invited the conflict by ending a six-month-old ceasefire," while Post columnist Richard Cohen (1/6/09) was much blunter: "It took no genius to see the imminence of war. It takes real stupidity to blame it on Israel."

The Dallas Morning News (12/30/08)
agreed emphatically in an editorial titled, "Blood on Hamas' Hands":
"The pictures of the civilian victims of Israeli airstrikes-especially
children-are heart-rending. But let's keep straight whose fault this
tragedy is: Hamas, the fanatical Islamists who rule Gaza and who have
used the land as a launching pad for firing rockets into Israel."

The New York Times' December 28
lead declared, "The Israeli Air Force on Saturday launched a massive
attack on Hamas targets throughout Gaza in retaliation for the recent
heavy rocket fire from the area." The next day, Times reporter Stephen Farrell asked (12/29/08),
"Why did Hamas end its six-month cease-fire on December 19?" He argued
that the "rejectionist credo" of Hamas made this step all but
inevitable.

These accounts fail on several grounds. For starters, the cease-fire
agreement from June through mid-December was credited by many for
ratcheting down the violence-- rocket fire into Israel dropped
significantly and claimed no Israeli lives during the truce. (Prior to
that, rocket and mortar attacks since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza
in late 2005 had killed 10 Israelis-theisraelproject.org.)
After the cease-fire expired, rocket attacks increased, though no
Israelis were killed until after the Israeli attacks were launched;
four have been killed since then (Agence France-Presse, 1/6/09).

Interestingly, as the truce expired, the New York Times published an article (12/19/08)
that began with a typical corporate media formulation-- Palestinians
are attacking, Israel is retaliating-- before noting that Hamas was
"largely successful" in curtailing rocket fire into Israel: "Hamas
imposed its will and even imprisoned some of those who were firing
rockets. Israeli and United Nations figures show that while more than
300 rockets were fired into Israel in May, 10 to 20 were fired in July,
depending on who was counting and whether mortar rounds were included.
In August, 10 to 30 were fired, and in September, 5 to 10."

The Times article, by Ethan Bronner, noted that what Hamas expected in return from the Israelis never arrived:

But the goods shipments, while up some 25 to 30
percent and including a mix of more items, never began to approach what
Hamas thought it was going to get: a return to the 500 to 600
truckloads delivered daily before the closing, including appliances,
construction materials and other goods essential for life beyond mere
survival. Instead, the number of trucks increased to around 90 from
around 70.

Bronner also added that "Israeli forces continued to attack Hamas and
other militants in the West Bank, prompting Palestinian militants in
Gaza to fire rockets," which produced Hamas response attacks. The Times continued:

While this back-and-forth did not topple the
agreement, Israel's decision in early November to destroy a tunnel
Hamas had been digging near the border drove the cycle of violence to a
much higher level. Israel says the tunnel could have been dug only for
the purpose of trying to seize a soldier, like Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the
Israeli held by Hamas for the past two and a half years. Israel's
attack on the tunnel killed six Hamas militants, and each side has
stepped up attacks since.

This straightforward recitation of events is rarely heard in much of
the rest of the media coverage of the violence in Gaza-including in the
Times, since Israel began its full-scale assault. But for many consumers of U.S. media, history is made irrelevant; a Time magazine piece (1/12/09) began:

Two sounds dominate the lives of Israelis
living near Gaza: the wail of a siren and, 25 seconds later, the
whistling screech of an incoming rocket fired by the Palestinian
militant group Hamas. That gives Israeli families just enough time to
dive for cover-even as they pray the rocket will miss.

At 11:30 a.m. on December 27, a new sound filled the azure
Mediterranean sky: the rolling boom of Israeli bombs and missiles
slamming into Gaza.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza are anything but "new," but presenting them
as such-and pairing that presentation with an Israeli family sheltered
against an incoming Hamas rocket-gives a wildly misleading impression
of a conflict where the deaths and suffering are overwhelmingly on the
Palestinian side.

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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

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