Now that Israel's fighting back in Gaza, here are four media myths to be on the lookout for.
Myth 1) Israel's response to the rockets is disproportionate and excessive.
When measuring a response to an enemy in wartime, you don't just consider the amount of force needed to end the immediate threat. You weigh in the need to deter future attacks. Anything less sets you up for a war of attrition. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post summed this up best in 2006:
For Israel, a small country within reach, as we are finding out, of a missile launched from any enemy's back yard, proportionality is not only inapplicable, it is suicide. . . It is not good enough to take out this or that missile battery. It is necessary to reestablish deterrence: You slap me, I will punch out your lights.
Myth 2) Hamas merely wants to break the siege of Gaza.
Uh, rockets have been fired from Gaza since 2001. They were fired at Israel both before and after disengagement. They were fired during periods of time when the Palestinian Authority "controlled" Gaza, and they've been fired since Hamas took over. Just about any excuse has been a reasonable pretext to fire rockets at Israel.
Myth 3) This is just an escalation in a "cycle of violence."
If you really believe that the Israeli-Gaza fighting is simply a "cycle of violence," then you'll take this argument to its logical conclusion just as The Economist did in March:
In the preceding weeks exchanges of Palestinian rockets and Israeli missile attacks on Gaza, in which cause and effect had merged into a seamless continuum, had intensified.
"Cycles" and "seamless continuums" don't have clear beginnings and ends. Muddying the waters makes it harder for the outside observers to judge a constantly changing situation, which benefits the bad guys launching the rockets. The language encourages further terror.
Myth 4) The camera doesn't lie.