Israel’s Operation Cast Lead dominated the newspapers, airwaves and internet for its duration, with the aftermath still generating headlines and opinion. It is extremely important to expose those cases where the story became agenda-driven or when the media simply got it wrong. This has been graphically illustrated by an about-turn by the UN.
One of the most serious and damaging episodes for Israel during the Gaza conflict centered around charges, amplified by UN spokespeople, that Israel had deliberately targeted a UN school compound, killing 43 civilians sheltering there.
HonestReporting highlighted the Canadian Globe and Mail’s investigation that concluded that the school itself was not shelled.
Following the publicity generated by the Globe and Mail report, the UN has been forced to admit that its initial claims were false. According to Ha’aretz:
It seems that the UN has been under pressure to put the record straight after doubts arose that the school had actually been targeted. Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said Monday that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself.
Gaylord said that the UN “would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school.”
As commentator Andrew Bolt writes in response:
But it seems the real story is that 43 people, including at least two Hamas militants, were killed when Israel returned fire from Hamas mortars launched from among a crowd in the street.
You might still not like what occurred. But it is very, very different to what was so widely alleged, and far more forgivable.
And after the earlier evidence of the media repeating pro-Hamas propaganda and gross exaggerations of the death toll in Gaza, especially among civilians, we need to ask again: how much can we trust the coverage of journalists and welfare groups reporting from territory run by terrorists?
We are sure that the truth behind many disputed stories is yet to emerge from Gaza. In the meantime the campaign to set the record straight in the media continues. HonestReporting takes a look back at some of the worst cases of anti-Israel media bias that came to light during the Gaza crisis.
MADS GILBERT: PROPAGANDA DOCTOR
Portrayed as the epitome of courage under fire, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert appeared on television screens around the world and in the pages of many newspapers, including the BBC, CBS, CNN, ABC, AFP, Independent, Sky News, and New York Times.
Working at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, Gilbert tells news organizations of the “horrors” inflicted by Israel, including unproven accusations that “Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons.”
But was Gilbert a neutral and objective observer? What the media didn’t tell you was his involvement in solidarity work with Palestinians since the 1970s and his membership of the hard-left Norwegian communist party R?d Valgallianse, which disbanded in 2007. He has criticized international aid organization Doctors Without Borders for refusing to take sides in conflicts. Dr Gilbert is employed by NORWAC, whose partner organisations include Hezbollah’s Martyr Foundation.
Asked by the Norwegian daily, Dagbladet, if he supported the 9/11 attacks, he said: “Terror is a bad weapon but the answer is yes.”
See HonestReporting’s communique for more on Mads Gilbert.
MORE UNRELIABLE SOURCES
Gilbert wasn’t the only less than objective source being used by the media. As Melanie Phillips wrote:
the [Daily] Telegraph carried this story on its foreign news pages by Ewa Jasiewicz, reporting from Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. It was exclusively about the suffering of civilians and children under bombardment by Israeli air strikes. It made no reference to any Hamas terrorists in the camp. Readers were given no indication that Ewa Jasiewicz was anything other than an objective reporter.
Yet the very next day, she appeared again in the Telegraph’s foreign news pages — but this time being interviewed by Tim Butcher as an ‘activist originally from Kingston, Surrey’ and the principal source of his story about two children being killed by a bomb from an Israeli warplane, an event which she claimed to have witnessed.
Indeed, Ms Jasiewicz is not a regular reporter at all. She is a highly partisan, deeply committed, experienced anti-Israeli International Solidarity Movement activist. She is an active player on the side of the Palestinians who are committing acts of terror against the Israelis — which she would describe as legitimate and justified ‘resistance’. Nor was this something she had hidden. Indeed, the web is heaving with examples of her hatred of Israel. Here she is in the Guardian spraying around claims that Israel was racist, that its democracy was a myth and that it deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians and activists for slaughter. Here is the statement she made after she was detained at Ben Gurion airport on 31 August 2004 by the Israeli authorities and told that she could not speak to the media, in which she justified Palestinian terrorism as
a liberation struggle – and a struggle of an occupied people that is thus justified under international law.
Read Melanie’s full post here.
CNN’S STAGED VIDEO?
Mads Gilbert also appeared in a CNN report, whose authenticity a number of bloggers questioned. Was the CPR being performed on a child staged for the cameras? Little Green Footballs and other blogs thought so with one LGF reader commenting:
I’m no military expert, but I am a doctor, and this video is bullsh-t. The chest compressions that were being performed at the beginning of this video were absolutely, positively fake. The large man in the white coat was NOT performing CPR on that child. He was just sort of tapping on the child’s sternum a little bit with his fingers. You can’t make blood flow like that. Furthermore, there’s no point in doing chest compressions if you’re not also ventilating the patient somehow. In this video, I can’t tell for sure if the patient has an endotracheal tube in place, but you can see that there is nobody bag-ventilating him (a bag is actually hanging by the head of the bed), and there is no ventilator attached to the patient. In a hospital, during a code on a ventilated patient, somebody would probably be bagging the patient during the chest compressions. And they also would have moved the bed away from the wall, so that somebody could get back there to intubate the patient and/or bag him. In short, the “resuscitation scene” at the beginning is fake, and it’s a pretty lame fake at that.
Such was the concern at CNN that the video was removed (although it currently exists on the archive).
FRANCE 2 APOLOGIZES FOR USING OLD FOOTAGE
France’s public broadcaster, the station that produced the original Mohammed al-Dura footage, was forced to apologize to viewers after it mistakenly used amateur footage shot in 2005 to illustrate a report on the current Gaza conflict.
France 2 television broadcast part of an amateur video presented in a voiceover commentary as showing the fallout from an Israeli air strike on a civilian area in Gaza on January 1. Dating from September 2005, the video, which has been widely circulated on the Internet, actually shows civilians wounded in the accidental explosion of a pick-up truck loaded with Hamas rockets at a rally in Jabaliya refugee camp. Alerted by the French website LePost.fr, France 2 admitted its mistake and made a formal apology to viewers in its midday news broadcast.
“It is an error on our behalf. There was an internal malfunction in the checking of information,” a France 2 executive told AFP. France 2′s head of news reporting, Etienne Leenhardt, told LePost.fr that the sequence was “intended to illustrate the war of images on the Internet. The people who put it together worked too fast”.
AUSTRALIAN PAPER APOLOGIZES FOR ANTI-SEMITIC OP-ED
Melbourne’s daily paper, The Age, has apologized for publishing Michael Backman’s commentary (subsequently removed from his and The Age’s website), “Israel living high on US expense account”. No apology online, but Caroline Overington quotes from the print edition:
A column by Michael Backman headlined “Israel living high on US expense account” was published in error. The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community and regrets publication of the column.
The column included some outrageous statements:
But Israel’s utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends has imposed big costs on us all. We have paid for Israel’s failure with bombs on London public transport, bombs in bars in Bali, and even the loss of the World Trade Centre towers in New York.
It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don’t like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in response. Rather, it is Israel – or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians – that is at the nub of these events….
Trekking in Nepal is fashionable among young Israelis…. But once you get on the trekking circuit and speak with local Nepalese guides and guesthouse operators you soon discover how disliked the Israelis are…. Rather, they say that the young Israelis are rude, arrogant, and argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means.
HAMAS OP-EDS: GIVING A VOICE TO TERRORISTS
We’ve previously questioned the morality and legality of giving the oxygen of op-ed space to terrorist organizations, as Hamas leaders have appeared on the pages of, amongst others, the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times.
This trend was repeated during the Gaza conflict as Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was given a voice by The Guardian (republished in Australia’s The Age). Presumably in an effort to portray “balance”, both papers also published a piece at the same time by Israeli MK Shai Hermesh, thus creating a false moral equivalence between the Israeli politician and the Hamas terror leader.
Meanwhile, Hamas’s Mousa Abu Marzouk appeared in the LA Times while Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh got his opportunity in The Independent, which bizarrely decided to give a posthumous platform to Yasser Arafat, reprinting the PLO leader’s November 1974 speech to the UN.
LAUDING A DEAD TERRORIST
Prominent Hamas terror leader Nizar Rayyan, killed by Israel on 1 January, would have enjoyed reading his own glowing obituary in The Guardian, which categorized him as a “political leader” and described him as “a man of the street… He was famed for fighting alongside his men and being seen with them publicly. And he was not merely a fighter. He was highly regarded as an Islamic academic.”
Given less prominence in his obituary – how Rayyan was responsible for a series of suicide bombings and attacks inside the Green Line, including the suicide bombing in Ashdod Port in 2004 in which 10 Israelis died. In a shocking illustration of his evil nature, Rayyan even sent one of his sons to carry out a suicide attack in Gush Katif’s Elei Sinai in 2001. Two Israelis were killed.
HATE SPEECH ON BBC ARABIC TV
Dr Kamal El-Helbawy, the founder of the Muslim Association of Britain, appeared to justify the targeting of Israeli children. Telling a discussion program that, while he condemned the killing of civilians, he believed all Israeli children were “future soldiers”. He said: “A child born in Israel is raised on the belief that the Arabs are like contemptible sheep.
“In elementary school they pose the following math problem – ‘In your village, there are 100 Arabs. If you killed 40, how many Arabs would be left for you to kill?’. This is taught in the Israeli curriculum.”
The BBC, referring to the school libel, admitted an error had been made.
ABUSING THE HOLOCAUST
Comparing Israel to the Nazis or attempting to draw false parallels with the deliberate genocide of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust is a tactic regularly deployed by anti-Israel activists despite being classified as anti-Semitism under the EU’s own working definition.
Nonetheless, many supposedly mainstream media and commentators saw no problem with resorting to Holocaust imagery to make a point. The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, for example, asked: “How many Palestinian Anne Franks did the Israelis murder, maim or turn mad?” while Time Magazine’s front cover of a Star of David behind a wall and barbed wire, made it impossible to ignore the parallel between Israel’s actions in Gaza and the Nazi Holocaust – a false association employed by those who seek to delegitimize Israel.
Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis wrote on his personal website: “It now seems clear the last disastrous act of the Bush administration was giving Israel a green light to launch its final solution campaign against the Hamas government in Gaza.” This prompted a protest from HonestReporting Canada who called for the Sun to reconsider keeping Margolis on as a columnist.
As the fog of war recedes and the clearer picture begins to emerge, HonestReporting, with your help, will continue to expose cases of anti-Israel media bias to set the record straight.