When Does Israel/Palestine Violence Start?

Military attacks and other violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel have resulted at this point in over a dozen deaths, most of them Palestinians, and sparked fears of an Israeli ground invasion similar to the 2008-09 assault that claimed over 1,000 Palestinian lives.

The past 24 hours of violence was sparked by Israel’s killing of Hamas military leader Ahmad al-Jabari on Wednesday. The question, then, is a familiar one: What prompted this action? The conventional corporate media timelines usually stress, whatever the facts, that Israel is responding to violent attacks by Palestinians, as FAIR documented over 10 years ago (Action Alert, 4/4/02)–and noted in this blog as recently as last month (10/9/12).

A rare sight in U.S. media: A grieving Palestinian father on the front page of the Washington Post.

Are things any different this time? It would not appear so. The first sentence of the front-page New York Times article states that the Israeli assault came “after persistent Palestinian rocket fire.” On NBC Nightly News (11/14/12), Martin Fletcher told viewers, “Israel says it had no choice after Palestinians in Gaza fired at least 100 rockets at Israel in the last five days.” On NPR‘s All Things Considered (11/14/12), Audie Cornish explained that “the strikes were in retaliation for the launching of more than 100 rockets at Israel in recent days.”

In fact, recent rounds of violence had more to do with Israeli actions, which drew subsequent Palestinian rockets. Ali Abunimah has posted a timeline of recent events (Electronic Intifada, 11/15/12) that gives some sense of the missing context.

On November 4, Israeli forces shot dead an unarmed man inside the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces entered Gaza on November 8; a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed.  On November 10, Gaza militants attacked an Israeli military jeep, injuring four soldiers. That prompted a three-day Israeli response that killed five civilians, three of them children.

After that incident, a tentative truce brokered by Egypt appeared to be in place as of November 13. The following day, Israel carried out the attack that killed Ahmad al-Jabari.

The lesson for decoding media messages on Israel/Palestine: Take note of when reporters tell you that the latest violence “started.”  They’re picking a starting point for a reason.

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.