The Wretched Scandal of Reporting from Gaza

A girl sleeps in front of her house, destroyed by an earlier Israeli offensive: 'Gaza is one of the hardest places on earth to be a child’  Photo: Mohammed Salem / Reuters

In a visit sponsored by the non-governmental organization Save the Children (an NGO not immune to anti-Israel bias according to NGO Monitor), the Daily Telegraph’s Mary Riddell reports on “The wretched scandal of Gaza“. The real scandal, however, is Riddell’s Pavlovian need to attribute blame for Gaza’s situation solely to Israel.

She paints an almost apocalyptic vision of Gaza aided and abetted by the Daily Telegraph’s photo editor, who selected the following image to accompany the article:

Are Palestinian children really still sleeping outside in the rubble today? We traced the photo and found that it had been originally published on October 16, 2009, nearly two years ago. This isn’t the first time that the Daily Telegraph has been caught recycling old photos of Gaza to create an exaggerated image of suffering.

As for Mary Riddell’s article itself, it reads like a piece of anti-Israel propaganda.

Moral Equivalence

Three miles away, across the wasteland, is Sderot, the Israeli town regularly hit by Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. While those attacks have provoked international outrage, few outsiders ever see the return violence visited on innocent inhabitants of a territory under blockade.

Considering the huge amount of coverage of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the subsequent Goldstone Report and the steady drip-drip of articles highlighting the “suffering of Gaza”, it is testament to Riddell’s obscene and narrow view of reality to claim that the rocket attacks on Sderot had grabbed the world’s attention in comparison to Israeli responses to Hamas terror.

In addition, Riddell creates a moral equivalence between Hamas rocket attacks, which are intended to strike innocent civilians, and Israeli countermeasures aimed solely at terrorists in defense of Israeli towns and cities.

No Questions Asked

Surely the job of a professional journalist is to question and investigate. Riddell, however, accepts all that she is told by Gazans (and possibly Save the Children) without any desire to dig deeper for further context.

The fruit farm that was once his livelihood has been flattened by “sweepers” that have destroyed trees and bushes to allow maximum visibility in a buffer zone where, according to a local lawyer, a shoot-to-kill policy still operates. Farmers have been struck down as they tend their land, and a teenager collecting scrap metal from the rubble was shot the day before we drove in.

A similar story of arbitrary and seemingly indiscriminate Israeli shootings of innocent Gazans in the buffer zone was published in February 2011 by The Sunday Times. Failing to ask for the insights of the IDF, the article failed to explain why Palestinian terrorism necessitated a border zone in the first place and failed to mention the daily attempted terror attacks involving not only Qassam missiles but also mortars, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Having found many holes in the story, HonestReporting concluded that the journalist had deliberately embellished an incident to produce an article full of lazy journalism, conjecture and missing context that leaves the false impression that Israelis open fire on innocent Gazan children for no justifiable reason.

And who supplied The Sunday Times with some of the most egregious allegations? It was Save the Children, the very same NGO responsible for Mary Riddell’s visit to Gaza.

Could it be that Save the Children is continuing to promote a distorted and biased agenda through the cynical use of the media?

This certainly begs the question as to whether Riddell was acting in the capacity as an independent journalist or a shill for Save the Children, an NGO with a history of anti-Israel bias. Is Riddell a trusted journalist who can look at the facts and inform her readers or is she an advocate willing to distort the facts to promote a political agenda?

Riddell’s article provides a clear answer.

Mary Riddell

Skewing the Casualty Figures

Almost three years have passed since the start of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Air Force campaign that killed 1,300 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and injured 7,000 more.

Here, Riddell simply rehashes the disproved Palestinian claim of exaggerated civilian deaths with no mention of the number of active combatants and Hamas terrorists that should be included within the casualty figures, which were called into question not only by the IDF but by Hamas itself.

Hamas – No Responsibility

While Riddell understands Israel’s obvious dislike of Hamas, nowhere does she attribute any responsibility to the terrorist organization for the difficult situation in Gaza.

Riddell states that Hamas was elected to rule Gaza. Yet, there is no mention of the brutal takeover of the territory when Hamas operatives literally threw Fatah activists off rooftops.

There is no mention of the legitimate reasons for the Israeli blockade of Gaza nor Egypt’s former role in enforcing the blockade on its own border with Gaza. No mention of why the entry certain building materials and other goods are restricted (to prevent Hamas building military fortifications or weaponry). No mention either of the huge amounts of commodities and aid pouring through Israel’s border with Gaza that have left the Gazan tunnel smuggling operation unprofitable and Gaza’s supermarket shelves packed with items.

“Starving Gazan Children”

No mention of the the largest Palestinian shopping mall next to Gaza City or a new water park in Khan Yunis. Instead:

Electricity and the undrinkable tap water are intermittent, and – in a country that should be prosperous – children are routinely starving.

Claiming that Palestinian children are routinely starving is a particularly vicious and inaccurate canard, implying deaths, perhaps on the scale of famine-hit sub-Saharan African nations. In 2009, even the New York Times reported:

It [Gaza] is, of course, crowded and poor, but it is better off than nearly all of Africa as well as parts of Asia. There is no acute malnutrition, and infant mortality rates compare with those in Egypt and Jordan, according to Mahmoud Daher of the World Health Organization here.

It’s Only Israel’s Fault

Riddell concludes:

Countless lives depend on whether Israel can finally be persuaded or shamed into seeing that a prosperous neighbour would be less of a threat than a pariah land in which the Hamas government becomes more entrenched and misery engulfs the peaceful majority.

Gaza could be a prosperous neighbor if Hamas stopped turning the territory into a terror statelet. Gaza could be prosperous if Hamas chose to be a peaceful neighbor and refrained from firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities. Gaza could be prosperous if it were freed from the rule of an extremist and medieval ideology.

Is Israel really responsible for all of these conditions?

Buttressed by a recyled photo for added effect, Mary Riddell, the Daily Telegraph and Save
the Children have colluded to produce a one-sided piece of anti-Israel agitprop lacking in any context and placing responsibility for the Gazan situation solely and unfairly on Israel.

Send your considered comments to the Daily Telegraph – dtletters@telegraph.co.uk – remembering to include your address and telephone number in order to make your letter eligible for publication.

 

UPDATE

David Miliband

Only two days after Mary Riddell’s piece was published, Save the Children’s other invited guest, former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has published his account of his visit to Gaza on The Guardian’s Comment is Free site.

Contrast Miliband’s article with Riddell’s. While Miliband does deal with some of the political issues and is critical of Israel in part, his piece does not descend into the vitirolic tone and anti-Israel propaganda of Riddell’s that blights so much of the discourse surrounding the Mideast conflict.

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