Misleading Media on Israel and Gaza Rockets

In much of the coverage of Gaza, there is a media shorthand that is used torecall some of the most important recent history. Like in today’s New York Times (6/11/10):

Israel imposed the embargo, allowing in charitable goods and letting out people with medical emergencies. It invaded in late 2008 to stop a flow of rockets and destroyed thousands of buildings.

Israel invaded Gaza in order to stop rockets, destroying buildings in the process–a shorthand that makes the invasion seem more defensible. Butif reporters summarized this history accurately,they would be telling a far different story.It would go something like this:

A mid-2008 cease-fire between Hamas and Israelseverely curtailedrocket fire from Gaza.That was broken when Israel attacked and killed four Palestinians in early November. That breach of the cease-fire led to increased fighting and an escalation in rocket fire, culminating in a full-scale Israel invasion that killed over 1,000 Gaza civilians.

It would not be very difficult to report the story this way. (This graph would help make things relatively clear.) As FAIR noted (1/6/09),the New York Times has in the past reported these facts (12/19/08); in fact, the very same reporter, Ethan Bronner, who today wrote that Israel invaded “to stop a flow of rockets” had earlier acknowledged that Hamashad been”largely successful” in seriously curtailing rocket fire from Gaza. Henoted then:

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.

As Noam Chomsky wrote recently (In These Times, 6/8/10), the cease-fire rockets that were launched were not the work of Hamas, and that attempts to renew the ceasefire were rebuffed. That forgotten Times account also noted that an Israelieasing of the Gaza blockade–which was promised in return for reducing rocket fire–fell short of expectations.

Time magazine, meanwhile, floats the idea (underthe headline, “Can Israel Learn How to Make Its Case?”), that many Israelis see a weakness in their PR strategy:

The way Israelis see it, the failure of the commando mission was compounded by a failure to communicate the danger in which Israel finds itself. The Gaza Strip, besides being home to 1.5 million overwhelmingly poor Palestinians, serves as a launching pad for missiles usually fired by Hamas, the fundamentalist Islamic group that does not shy away from terrorist attacks. The Qassam rockets that reach nearby Israeli towns are cobbled together inside Gaza. The fear is that Hamas will one day be able to stockpile larger rockets that could reach Tel Aviv. These would likely be supplied by Iran and arrive by ship. Hence the blockade.

This is absurd. There is constant stream of reporting and commentary that stresses the threats to Israel posed by Hamas rockets–in fact, as described above, the coverage actually distorts that history to Israel’s benefit.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.