As cyberwarfare heats up, allies turn to U.S. companies for expertise
Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post – In the spring of 2010, a sheik in the government of Qatar began talks with the U.S. consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton, aboev, about developing a plan to build a cyber-operations center.
By Ellen Nakashima, Published: November 22
Anup Kaphle NOV 22
Washington Post’s reporter in Gaza has been capturing scenes from the war using her mobile phone.
Max Fisher NOV 21
Short answer: no one. Longer answer: sort of everyone, except for civilians, Mahmoud Abbas, and prospects for long-term peace.
Anup Kaphle NOV 21
The text was distributed at the news conference in Cairo with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr.
Max Fisher NOV 21
Meanwhile, Israel’s deputy foreign minister says, “Most of the people who were hit in Gaza deserved it.”
Calls were made to U.S. government officials and experts in the elite world of defense consulting. It became clear to McConnell that the notion of conducting attacks was a deal-killer.
“We can’t have Americans at the keyboard running offensive operations,” said McConnell, a retired admiral who also ran the top-secret National Security Agency, according to those present. “It could be interpreted as an act of war.”
The Qatar incident highlights the reality of a new arms race — the worldwide push to develop offensive and defensive cyber-capabilities. Like many other countries, Qatar wanted to improve its computer defenses in the face of a growing network warfare threat. And like others, Qatar turned to the United States, where technology firms are acknowledged leaders in the field of cyberwarfare and cyberdefense.
The potential worldwide market means that U.S. companies must walk a fine line between selling their products and staying within export controls that are struggling to keep pace with the rapid technological advances in the field.
After Booz Allen backed off, so did Qatar. But not for long, in the case of Qatar.
In August, a cyberattack shut down the Web site and some internal servers at RasGas, a major producer of liquid natural gas in Qatar. A similar attack destroyed computer data at Saudi Aramco, the Saudi national oil and natural gas operator and the world’s most valuable company. In both cases, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded Iran was the aggressor.
A senior Middle Eastern diplomat seconded that view, saying Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran attacked Aramco “to send a message that we can hurt you.” But identifying the sources of cyberattacks is tricky, and some experts said they see no evidence that Iran was behind the episodes.
Iran understands the potential damage from a cyberattack. A virus called Stuxnet, attributed to Israel and the United States, disabled hundreds of centrifuges at its primary uranium enrichment plant in 2009 and 2010. Last year, Iran announced that it had started its own military cyber-unit, and Tehran has been blamed for several cyberattacks.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and countries such as Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates now are clamoring for cyber-tools and expertise. Like Qatar in 2010, many want help from the U.S. government and U.S. companies. Saudi Arabia is setting up a cyber-unit for defensive purposes and Saudi Aramco has hired U.S. consultants to help protect its networks.
The United States and its defense contractors have long sold sophisticated arms to allies and provided training in their use. Cyber-technology is the latest weapon to emerge as a product.
But helping friendly countries boost their cyberdefenses against a common foe is desirable to many in and out of the U.S. government.
“Every modern country in the world is creating some sort of offensive or defensive cyber-capability either in its military or intelligence service,” said Richard A. Clarke, a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official whose firm Good Harbor provides cybersecurity advice but does not currently work for any foreign government in that area. “It’s getting to be the norm.”
Benjamin A. Powell, a former national security official, said the uncertainty of the new terrain means companies are treading carefully. “It’s a sensitive thing for a company to go down the path of training for offense, even with approval,” said Powell, a partner at the WilmerHale law firm who advises companies on export controls. “You’re closer to the pointy end of the spear.”
One challenge is that technology is evolving so quickly that it is difficult for the rules to keep up. Another is that the field is so new that many companies, especially smaller ones, may not always know what is required.
“There’s not a lot of convention and structure around this,” Powell said.
Under State Department export-control rules, U.S. companies need a license to train foreign governments in cyber-capabilities for a national security purpose. License applications are reviewed by the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration. The National Security Agency, which conducts electronic surveillance on foreign intelligence targets overseas, may also be consulted.
The State Department declined to say how many licenses have been issued. But one company, CyberPoint of Baltimore, was granted a license to provide advice on cyberdefense and policy to the United Arab Emirates. In September, the UAE established the National Electronic Security Authority to protect its computers against cyberthreats. Cyber Point declined to talk about the UAE license, but industry officials said its work is defensive, not operational.
Industry officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic and to avoid antagonizing customers.
The August attacks on RasGas and Saudi Aramco have been traced to a virus dubbed Shamoon. Experts said it wasn’t overly sophisticated and was built using commercially available software. But it nearly destroyed more than 30,000 business network computers at Aramco and erased backup copies of data. Operating systems had to be reinstalled, and for two weeks the company could not conduct business.
Given that Saudi Arabian oil provides the vast majority of the kingdom’s income and keeps the world’s markets relatively stable, shielding Saudi infrastructure from cyberattacks has emerged as a top priority.
Saudi Arabia has been talking with Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. officials to “set up a system where it can provide protection against cyberattacks,” said the senior Middle Eastern diplomat.
Technology industry officials said the U.S. government will not approve licenses that would allow a company’s personnel to conduct attacks on behalf of another country. And they said there are general concerns about how sophisticated a capability the United States should provide even a friendly country.
Booz Allen is not the only U.S. company to offer cyber services. So do major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. And the list of allies looking to buy their cyber-wares extends well beyond the Middle East.
But not everyone looks to the United States for help. Ecuador and Venezuela have turned to Cuba, where experts have been trained by top-tier Russians, according to industry officials.
“You thought we had the Wild West now in cyberspace?” said a former senior U.S. official. “We haven’t seen it yet. We thought it was script kiddies hacking computers from their basement, criminal gangs hacking businesses. We haven’t seen the Wild West of nation states and hacktivist organizations flexing cyber-muscle.”
There are crazies, lunatics and warmongering monkeys like Israel and India, who needs peace?
Let the final war, the war that ends all wars, begin.
…and I am Sid Harth@elcidharth.com
same as firefighters setting house on fire then offering to put fire out
- © 1996-2012 The Washington Post
1 killed, 19 wounded in Israeli gunfire near Gaza
KARIN LAUB, Associated Press, SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press | November 23, 2012 | Updated: November 23, 2012 6:46am
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian man and wounded 19 people as crowds surged toward Gaza’s border fence with Israel on Friday, a health official said, the first violence since a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers took hold a day before.
The shooting did not appear to pose an immediate threat to the Egypt-brokered cease-fire, which called for an end to Gaza rocket fire on Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The truce came after eight days of cross-border fighting, the bloodiest between Israel and Hamas in four years.
The Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, has urged militant factions to respect the cease-fire. It appeared unlikely Hamas would retaliate for the Friday’s shooting because that could jeopardize the militant group’s potential gains from the cease-fire deal, such as an easing of restrictions on movement in and out of the Palestinian territory.
On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians approached Israel’s border fence in several locations in southern Gaza, according to an Associated Press Television News cameraman. In the past, Israel’s military has barred Palestinians from getting close to the fence, and soldiers opened fire routinely to enforce a no-go zone meant to prevent infiltrations into Israel.
Since the cease-fire, growing numbers of Gazans have entered the no-go zone.
In one incident captured by Associated Press video, several dozen Palestinians, most of them young men, approached the fence, coming close to a group of Israeli soldiers standing on the other side.
Some Palestinians briefly talked to the soldiers, while others appeared to be taunting them with chants of “God is Great” and “Morsi, Morsi,” in praise of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whose mediation led to the truce.
At one point, a soldier shouted in Hebrew, “Go there, before I shoot you,” and pointed away from the fence, toward Gaza. The soldier then dropped to one knee, assuming a firing position. Eventually, a burst of automatic fire was heard, but it was not clear whether any of the casualties were from this incident.
Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said a 20-year-old man was killed and 19 people were wounded.
Israel’s military said roughly 300 Palestinians approached the security fence at several locations in southern Gaza, tried to damage it and cross into Israel. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to distance the Palestinians from the fence, but after they refused to move back, troops fired at their legs, the military said. It also said a Palestinian infiltrated into Israel in the course of the unrest, but he was returned to Gaza.
The truce allowed both Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step back from the brink of a full-fledged war. Over eight days, Israel’s aircraft carried out some 1,500 strikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Gaza fighters peppered Israel with roughly the same number of rockets.
The fighting killed 166 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, and six Israelis.
In Cairo, Egypt is hosting separate talks with Israeli and Hamas envoys on the next phase of the cease-fire — a new border deal for blockaded Gaza. Hamas demands lifting of all border restrictions, while Israel insists that Hamas must halt weapons smuggling to the territory.
In Israel, a poll showed that about half of Israelis think their government should have continued its military offensive against Hamas.
The independent Maagar Mohot poll released Friday shows 49 percent of respondents feel Israel should have kept going after squads that fire rockets into Israel. Thirty-one percent supported the government’s decision to stop. Twenty percent had no opinion.
Twenty-nine percent thought Israel should have sent ground troops to invade Gaza. The poll of 503 respondents had an error margin of 4.5 percentage points.
The same survey showed Netanyahu’s Likud Party and electoral partner Israel Beiteinu losing some support, but his hard-line bloc would still able to form the next government. Elections are Jan. 22.
Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City and Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed reporting.
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© Copyright 2012 Hearst Communications, Inc.
For Israel, Gaza Conflict Is Test for an Iran Confrontation
An Israeli missile is launched from a battery. Officials said their antimissile system shot down 88 percent of all assigned targets.
By DAVID E. SANGER and THOM SHANKER
Published: November 22, 2012 1 Comment
WASHINGTON — The conflict that ended, for now, in a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel seemed like the latest episode in a periodic showdown. But there was a second, strategic agenda unfolding, according to American and Israeli officials: The exchange was something of a practice run for any future armed confrontation with Iran, featuring improved rockets that can reach Jerusalem and new antimissile systems to counter them.
Factions in Gaza Make Unity Vow After Cease-Fire (November 23, 2012)
Reporter’s Notebook: Life in Gaza’s Courtyards: Displays of Pride and Sacrifice (November 23, 2012)
It is Iran, of course, that most preoccupies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama. While disagreeing on tactics, both have made it clear that time is short, probably measured in months, to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
And one key to their war-gaming has been cutting off Iran’s ability to slip next-generation missiles into the Gaza Strip or Lebanon, where they could be launched by Iran’s surrogates, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, during any crisis over sanctions or an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“In the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. was not confronting Cuba, but rather the Soviet Union,” Mr. Oren said Wednesday, as the cease-fire was declared. “In Operation Pillar of Defense,” the name the Israel Defense Force gave the Gaza operation, “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.”
It is an imprecise analogy. What the Soviet Union was slipping into Cuba 50 years ago was a nuclear arsenal. In Gaza, the rockets and parts that came from Iran were conventional, and, as the Israelis learned, still have significant accuracy problems. But from one point of view, Israel was using the Gaza battle to learn the capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad — the group that has the closest ties to Iran — as well as to disrupt those links.
Indeed, the first strike in the eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel arguably took place nearly a month before the fighting began — in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, as another mysterious explosion in the shadow war with Iran.
A factory said to be producing light arms blew up in spectacular fashion on Oct. 22, and within two days the Sudanese charged that it had been hit by four Israeli warplanes that easily penetrated the country’s airspace. Israelis will not talk about it. But Israeli and American officials maintain that Sudan has long been a prime transit point for smuggling Iranian Fajr rockets, the kind that Hamas launched against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over recent days.
The missile defense campaign that ensued over Israeli territory is being described as the most intense yet in real combat anywhere — and as having the potential to change warfare in the same way that novel applications of air power in the Spanish Civil War shaped combat in the skies ever since.
Of course, a conflict with Iran, if a last-ditch effort to restart negotiations fails, would look different than what has just occurred. Just weeks before the outbreak in Gaza, the United States and European and Persian Gulf Arab allies were practicing at sea, working on clearing mines that might be dropped in shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.
But in the Israeli and American contingency planning, Israel would face three tiers of threat in a conflict with Iran: the short-range missiles that have been lobbed in this campaign, medium-range rockets fielded by Hezbollah in Lebanon and long-range missiles from Iran.
The last of those three could include the Shahab-3, the missile Israeli and American intelligence believe could someday be fitted with a nuclear weapon if Iran ever succeeded in developing one and — the harder task — shrinking it to fit a warhead.
A United States Army air defense officer said that the American and Israeli militaries were “absolutely learning a lot” from this campaign that may contribute to a more effective “integration of all those tiered systems into a layered approach.”
The goal, and the challenge, is to link short-, medium- and long-range missile defense radar systems and interceptors against the different types of threats that may emerge in the next conflict.
Even so, a historic battle of missile versus missile defense has played out in the skies over Israel, with Israeli officials saying their Iron Dome system shot down 350 incoming rockets — 88 percent of all targets assigned to the missile defense interceptors. Israeli officials declined to specify the number of interceptors on hand to reload their missile-defense batteries.
Before the conflict began, Hamas was estimated to have amassed an arsenal of 10,000 to 12,000 rockets. Israeli officials say their pre-emptive strikes on Hamas rocket depots severely reduced the arsenal of missiles, both those provided by Iran and some built in Gaza on a Syrian design.
But Israeli military officials emphasize that most of the approximately 1,500 rockets fired by Hamas in this conflict were on trajectories toward unpopulated areas. The radar tracking systems of Iron Dome are intended to quickly discriminate between those that are hurtling toward a populated area and strays not worth expending a costly interceptor to knock down.
“This discrimination is a very important part of all missile defense systems,” said the United States Army expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe current military assessments. “You want to ensure that you’re going to engage a target missile that is heading toward a defended footprint, like a populated area. This clearly has been a validation of the Iron Dome system’s capability.”
The officer and other experts said that Iran also was certain to be studying the apparent inability of the rockets it supplied to Hamas to effectively strike targets in Israel, and could be expected to re-examine the design of that weapon for improvements.
Israel currently fields five Iron Dome missile defense batteries, each costing about $50 million, and wants to more than double the number of batteries. In the past two fiscal years, the United States has given about $275 million in financial assistance to the Iron Dome program. Replacement interceptors cost tens of thousands of dollars each.
Just three weeks ago, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited an Iron Dome site as a guest of his Israeli counterpart during the largest American-Israeli joint military exercise ever. For the three-week exercise, called Austere Challenge, American military personnel operated Patriot land-based missile defense batteries on temporary deployment to Israel as well as Aegis missile defense ships, which carry tracking radars and interceptors.
Despite its performance during the current crisis, though, Iron Dome has its limits.
It is specifically designed to counter only short-range rockets, those capable of reaching targets at a distance of no more than 50 miles. Israel is developing a medium-range missile defense system, called David’s Sling, which was tested in computer simulations during the recent American-Israeli exercise, and has fielded a long-range system called Arrow. “Nobody has really had to manage this kind of a battle before,” said Jeffrey White, a defense fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “There are lots of rockets coming in all over half the country, and there are all different kinds of rockets being fired.”
A version of this military analysis appeared in print on November 23, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Gaza Conflict As Trial Run.
23 November 2012 Updated
Israel Gaza Kill and Maim
Gaza Escalation Report of 22 November 2012:
|Gaza, November 19, 2012|
|An emergency rescue worker carries a child’s body found in the Daloo family house rubble following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, on November 18, 2012. Palestinian medical officials say at least 10 civilians, including women and young children, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. AP|
|Shaheed Muatazz al-Sawwaf, 6 years old June 23, 2012. Rosa Schiano|
|Bissane Barhoum, 3, screams as she is treated by medics for a head wound caused by falling down stairs when she ran in panic reacting to a nearby blast, according to her uncle, at the an-Najar hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009. AP|
|Palestinian medics wheel a man wounded in an Israeli missile strike into hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. Israel’s Security Cabinet will vote Saturday night on an Egyptian proposal for a truce to end the 3-week-old offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, a senior government official said. AP|
|Palestinian medics wheel a wounded girl to the treatment room of Shifa hospital following Israeli military operations in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Israel showed no signs of slowing its bruising 19-day offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, striking some 60 targets on Wednesday. Israel launched the onslaught on Dec. 27, seeking to punish the Hamas militant group for years of rocket attacks on southern Israel. The offensive has killed more than 940 Palestinians, half of them civilians. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** Palestinian Akram Abu Roka is treated for burns at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. The hospital’s chief doctor said the injuries might have been caused by munitions containing white phosphorus. Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Israel’s military has fired artillery shells packed with the incendiary agent over populated areas of Gaza, putting civilians at risk. AP|
|** EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** A severely injured Palestinian man is helped as he lays on the ground moments after being hit in an Israeli missile strike outside his home in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip,Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. Five Palestinians were killed in the strike, Palestinian medical sources said. Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** A Palestinian woman reacts over relatives moments after they were killed in an Israeli missile strike outside their home in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip,Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. Five Palestinians were killed in the strike, Palestinian medical sources said. Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a new front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with a bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip. AP|
|A severely injured Palestinian man is carried moments after being hit in an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. Five Palestinians were killed in the strike, Palestinian medical sources said. Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a new front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with a bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed nearly 700 people. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** A Palestinian carries a wounded girl who according to Palestinian medical sources was injured in Israeli forces’ operations in Gaza, at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. An Israeli bombardment hit outside a U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday, and Palestinian medics said at least 34 people died as international outrage grew over civilian deaths. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** Palestinian medics examine the body of a boy who according to Palestinian medical sources was killed in Israeli forces’ operations in Gaza, at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. An Israeli bombardment hit outside a U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday, and Palestinian medics said at least 34 people died as international outrage grew over civilian deaths. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** Palestinians lay down the bodies of Ahmed, center foreground, and Mohamed Samouni, right, who according to Palestinian medical sources were killed in an Israeli strike, during their funeral in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip houses, mosques and smuggling tunnels on Monday from the air, land and sea, killing at least seven children as they pressed a bruising offensive against Palestinian militants. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** Palestinian boys kneel over the bodies of Issa, left, Ahmed, center, and Mohamed Samouni, right, who according to Palestinian medical sources were killed in an Israeli strike, during their funeral in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip houses, mosques and smuggling tunnels on Monday from the air, land and sea, killing at least seven children as they pressed a bruising offensive against Palestinian militants. AP|
|A Palestinian medic carries a wounded girl to the treatment room of Shifa hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. More than 400 Gazans have been killed and some 1,700 have been wounded since Israel embarked on its aerial campaign, Gaza health officials said. AP|
|** FILE ** In this Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 file photo, the body of 4-years-old Palestinian girl, Haya Hamdan, killed with her sister, Lama, 12, in an Israeli missile strike, is seen, during her funeral in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip. At least 169 children and teens, ages 17 and under, have been killed, and many more wounded since Dec. 27, according to Palestinian medics and human rights researchers. AP|
|A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Edwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Israel’s overwhelming air campaign against the Gaza Strip inched closer to the territory’s Hamas rulers as the assault entered its third day Monday, as missiles struck a house next to the Hamas premier’s home and destroyed symbols of the Islamic movement’s power. AP|
|Palestinian children from the Balosha family, who were all killed in the same Israeli missile strike, are seen in the morgue before their burial at Kamal Edwan hopsital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Israel’s overwhelming air campaign against the Gaza Strip inched closer to the territory’s Hamas rulers as the assault entered its third day Monday, as missiles struck a house next to the Hamas premier’s home and destroyed symbols of the Islamic movement’s power. AP|
|An injured Palestinian prisoner shouts for help as he is trapped in the rubble of the central security headquarters and prison, known as the Saraya, after it was hit in an Israeli missile strike in in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel’s campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday. AP|
|An injured Palestinian prisoner is helped as he and others flee through the rubble of the central security headquarters and prison, known as the Saraya, after it was hit in an Israeli missile strike in in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel’s campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday. AP|
|Palestinians try to dig out the remains of a security force officer from Hamas as he lays in the rubble following an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza City,Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel’s campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday, Palestinian medical sources said. AP|
|A Palestinian man wounded in an Israeli missile strike is helped into the emergency area at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** A Palestinian man reacts over the body of a member of the security forces of Hamas at the site of an Israeli missile strike at the security headquarters in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. AP|
|** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT ** Palestinian medics gather around the body of a dead militant after he was brought to hospital in Deir El-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 5, 2007. Israeli troops clashed with Hamas militants inside the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing eight in fierce fighting that drew in Israeli aircraft, tanks and bulldozers, and sent militants laying mines against troops. AP|
The Hypocrisy of US Foreign Policy: Obama agrees, all countries have the right to defend themselves against drone strikes
Posted by salviad on November 21, 2012
To emphasize the hypocrisy of US foreign policy in the following reply from President Obama, the word “missiles” has been replaced by “drones”, the word “landing” replaced by “striking”, and the word “Israel(i)” replaced by “the country’s”. Obama’s actual video reply follows the modified quote.
“Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of drones that were striking, not just in the country’s territory, but in areas that are populated, and there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate drones raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.
“So we are fully supportive of the country’s right to defend itself from drones striking people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians, and we will continue to support the country’s right to defend itself.”
4:34 AM EST
I am glad that WaPo finds this single photo incidence, so
interesting. What about words? The entire discussion over Hamas using
crudely made rockets, always in round numbers, never accurately aimed,
nor very useful, or otherwise, being the headlines?Israel has a very
strong lobby, strong media owned and operated by Jews, Israel has some
nasty newspapers, almost towing official government line about gravity
or propaganda, how come WaPo tries to grovel on a single photo?This is a
war and both sides used social media, Israel lobby, more than
Hamas/Palestine. Very successfully. Examples are noted by British media,
among others. Does that reflect a fair technic/tactic Israel’s very attitude
about their neighbors, Arab or non Arab stinks, high heavens.Binyamin
Netanyahu’s constant carping on Iran’s nuclear power ambitions, not
proven beyond partisan allegations has caused American congressional and
presidential elections, a laughing stock. Thank God, Mitt Romney
failed, miserably and his most generous donors lost their money and
mission.In future, I wish you take issues with PR and propaganda, as
you, as a respectable media find and target the guilty.
Among other known violators, The Wall Street Journal, The New
York Times, Baltimore Sun and let me not forget, CNN, nasty bunch, I say.
…and I am Sid Harth@elcidharth.com
yes lets all pretend Gaza hasn’t been under an unrestricted economic and starvation war for years.
this outcome is the one the west really wants. Palestinian rural dwellers are forced off their lands through terrorism and sabotage, the cities are gripped by a strangling blockade and moderate efforts by Palestinian activists are ignored. the west wants Gaza plunged into violence to fit their narrative.
Photographs of Gaza conflict bring accusations of media bias
(Majed Hamdan/ AP ) – The Washington Post received dozens of complaints about a front-page photo of a BBC Arabic journalist named Jihad Misharawi cradling the shrouded body of his infant son. One caller accused The Post of being “Palestinian sympathizers” for running the picture.
- CAMERA last week criticized Western news organizations for their handling of another series of potent images depicting the death of a 4-year-old Palestinian boy in a Gaza hospital.Wire services moved photos of the child — limp and lifeless in the arms of various adults — with captions that indicated he had died in an Israeli airstrike near his home. CNN aired video of the scene at the hospital as the child’s body was carried by a doctor and held by a senior Hamas leader and Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil in front of a jostling media pack. Reporter Sara Sidner called the child “another victim of an airstrike.”
- Except it appears he wasn’t. Subsequent reporting by media organizations indicated that the child more likely died as a result of an errant rocket launched from within Gaza. In effect, the photos may have revealed the opposite of what they purported to show — that the child’s death was inflicted by Palestinian sources, not Israeli.Reuters,which had circulated the photos, quickly issued a clarification saying the cause of the boy’s death was in dispute. CNN cast doubt on its initial reporting, too, saying the incident could have been caused by “the misfire of a Hamas rocket intended for Israel.”Some news organizations, including The Post, declined to publish the photos because they suggested exploitation — and manipulation of tragedy.“Every single alarm went off in my head when I saw them,” Golon said. “They looked like a media event around a dead child. They should not be parading this child’s body around for PR purposes.”But displaying corpses as evidence of an enemy’s barbarity is an accepted practice in some parts of the world, and sometimes it’s news, said Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for the Associated Press. He cautions that any news photo needs to be set in its proper context, with captions that spell out “the same who, what, why” as a news story.“The idea is to leave as few unanswered questions as you can,” he said. “If we have a doubt and can’t say something with authority, we’re probably not going to go there.” (AP’s photographers didn’t take the photos of the dead boy, but it distributed the pictures through a content-sharing agreement with another agency, Rex Features).While photos often portray reality in ways more powerful than words, they can also easily distort. As Lyon notes, context is important: Cropping, inaccurate captioning or staging an image for effect can distort what’s really there.Digital photo-altering tools also have made it easy to create outright fabrications — ”faux-tography” — although there are only a few documented cases of it slipping into the journalistic ecosystem. Reuters was blindsided in 2006 when a freelance photographer in Lebanon digitally altered a photo to make an Israeli attack on Beirut look more destructive. The agency withdrew the picture and severed ties with the photographer.“We made a mistake,” said Alix Freedman, Reuters’s global editor of ethics and standards. “We dealt with it decisively and quickly and learned from it.”Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine said the best advice for journalists is the same as in any other conflict — to remain skeptical of both sides. “There is in this world fairness, and a sense of proportion,” he said. “If you find yourself identifying with one side, it’s time to get a new job.”
- © 1996-2012 The Washington Post
Israel’s operation in Gaza is meant to compel Hamas to stop shooting rockets into Israel and to better police its territory. But with Hamas unable to bend to Israeli pressure, and Israel unable to escalate or back off, it will be up to outside states to end the fighting.
Palestinians wave Hamas flags near Ramallah. (Mohamad Torokman / Courtesy Reuters)
The escalation in the fighting last week between Israel and Hamas caught many observers by surprise. Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2008 campaign against Hamas, had led to an uneasy calm between the warring sides. And last year’s release of Gilad Shalit (the Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped by militants in 2006) in exchange for a thousand Palestinian prisoners had even given observers hope that Israel and Hamas had found a way to manage their conflict. But then, Hamas attacked an Israeli mobile patrol inside Israeli territory on November 10 and Israel retaliated by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’s military chief. This time, the violence that has followed has not faded quickly; indeed, the fight is still intensifying.
Given the destruction wrought by Israel and Hamas’ last major conflict, Hamas’ calculations in the lead-up to this round of fighting are especially puzzling. The typical explanation is that Hamas ramped up its rocket campaign earlier this year in an effort to break Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip. Under fire, Israel had to retaliate.
That answer, though, is unsatisfying. In many ways, the siege had already been broken. True, the Gaza Strip is tiny, densely populated, squeezed between Israel and Egypt, and dependent on both countries for the passage of people and goods. And all of that makes it a rather claustrophobic place. Yet Israel’s efforts to tightly control the area’s borders, which started after Hamas won elections there in 2006, had gradually wound down. After the public relations disaster that followed Israel’s 2010 mishandling of the Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla, the flow of goods over the Israeli border into Gaza increased substantially. Moreover, the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, through which most of the goods coming into Gaza are smuggled, became so elaborate that they resembled official border crossings. In fact, the volume of trade that travels through the tunnels could be up to $700 million dollars a year.
To some extent, Hamas had a political interest in perpetuating the siege idea, which could be used to foment anger against Israel and drum up popular support. Further, it made sense for the movement to preserve some limitations on the movement of goods into Gaza, since the smuggling industry lined its coffers. Thus, although life in Gaza might not have been all that pleasant for Gazans, Hamas wanting to break the siege is not a compelling explanation for its renewed violence against Israel.
In fact, two factors pushed Hamas to ramp up its bombing campaign: competition from Salafi groups and Hamas’ belief that its strategic environment had improved in the wake of the Arab Spring. Since Hamas was elected, it has found the Salafi groups in Gaza especially difficult rivals to manage. Fatah, Hamas’ main competitor before it pushed the group out of the area in 2006, was never such a challenge: with the Oslo peace process discredited and Israel’s retreat from the Gaza Strip largely attributed (at least in the Gazan psychology) to Hamas’ militant activities, the remnants of Fatah just couldn’t compete. The small jihadi outfits, though, embodied the fighting ethos. And unlike Hamas, they were free from the constraints that governing puts on ideological purity.
Under pressure, Hamas repeatedly tried to quell the Salafi threat, and it did not shy from using brute force to do so. The clearest demonstration came in August 2009, when Hamas killed the leader of Jund Ansar Allah, a Salafi group that had openly challenged Hamas’ authority, and a number of its members. But short of using extreme violence to suppress Salafism in Gaza, which would have been too costly for Hamas, Hamas could not eliminate the Salafi challenge. It watched with worry as new Salafi groups emerged and strengthened throughout the strip.
The pressure on Hamas only increased in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. The Egyptian revolution and the subsequent chaos in the Sinai Peninsula were a backwind in the sails of Gaza’s Salafis. The collapse of authoritarian regimes in North Africa unleashed a flood of weapons and fighters, which Salafis channeled into the Sinai Peninsula. With the Egyptian military unable to control the area, Gazan Salafis turned the peninsula into a staging ground for attacking Israel. They believed (correctly) that Israel, anxious not to kill its peace accord with Egypt, would not dare to respond directly.
Indeed, Israel resorted to thwarting attacks emerging from Sinai and the Gaza Strip as best it could by preventing Gazans from getting to Sinai in the first place. On a number of occasions, Israel preemptively targeted Salafi leaders in Gaza. The Salafis responded by lobbing rockets back at Israeli’s southern towns. Periods of quiet between rounds of violence became shorter and rarer.
The new regional order presented Hamas with a serious dilemma. As the ruler of Gaza, it could not sit on the sidelines while Israel targeted territory under its control. But it was unable to fully rein in the Salafis without proving once and for all that it was no longer a resistance movement. For Hamas, then, the only choice was to tolerate the attacks. It portrayed them at home as a way to preserve the struggle against Israel. Abroad, it refused to acknowledge any role in them at all to reduce the danger of a backlash. Over time, pressure from Hamas rank and file led the organization to take a more active role in each round of violence.
The flaw in Hamas’ logic, though, was that it assumed that Israel would cooperate and not retaliate. Israel would not let Hamas shirk responsibility, though, and demanded that Hamas assert its authority over the radical factions. To reinforce the message, this year, Israel carried out a number of strikes on Hamas targets. Once it became a target itself, Hamas was even less able able to show restraint. It eventually resumed carrying out its own strikes on Israel, a move that was cheered by the Hamas rank and file, who, without such attacks, might have defected to the more radical groups.
Another of Hamas’ miscalculations was expecting Egypt to be supportive of its actions, which, when combined with Israel’s fear of alienating the regime in Cairo, would allow Hamas to escalate the conflict without it spinning out of control. The hope was not off base. In August, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi had retired the military’s top brass and taken full control of Egypt’s foreign and security police. The development was particularly significant given that the Supreme Military Council, which had maintained close relations with the United States, was not as interested in helping Hamas. But, the group was wrong again. Hamas’ closer ties with Egypt did not discourage Israel from fighting back.
Simply put, Hamas’ strategic environment was not as favorable as it thought. When it tried to push Israel’s boundaries, Israel pushed back. Now the group is in a bind. It needs a face-saving resolution to the fighting, one that would allow it to claim some achievement worth of the devastation inflicted this month on Gaza. Even after that, the group will still face the same old tension between its ideology of resistance and the responsibilities that come with governing. And all the while, its Salafi challengers will be lurking, challenging its commitment to the struggle against Israel. If Hamas wants to avoid future such escalations, it will need to crack down on these groups. But that would come with a price — in popularity and legitimacy — that Hamas seems unwilling to pay. Hamas must also finally make the transition from resistance movement to normal political party. It will probably take a push from Cairo for that to happen. Hamas’ alliance with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood offers the group some of the cover it needs to make the much-needed transition. And the Muslim Brotherhood is a good model for Hamas to follow, besides. Absent Hamas’ political transformation, no cease-fire with Israel will hold for long. The next round of violence awaits, just over the horizon.
Gaza: Of media wars and borderless
By Lawrence Pintak
January, 2009. Yet again, the disconnect. Yet again, American and Arab viewers are
seeing two vastly different conflicts play out on their television screens. Yet again, the
media has become a weapon of war.
Add Gaza to Afghanistan, Iraq, the sieges of Jenin and Ramallah, and Lebanon; another
conflict that Arabs and Americans see through completely different lenses. More fodder
for the stereotypes. More reason each side fails to understand the other. More reason to
As with the 2006 Israeli war with Hizbullah, I spent the first two weeks of this conflict on
a family vacation in North America. The domestic U.S. media was, once more, reporting
from behind borders built of pre-conceived notions, simplistic explanations and an
Americentric view of the world.
Put simply, Gaza was background noise. Yes, it generally made the front page of the
newspapers and the main newscasts, but – particularly on television – the humanity, the
scale and the context of the conflict were AWOL. Arabs and Israelis were at it again; now
let’s get back to Obama, the economy and New Year’s Eve.
And the carefully-scripted talking points of the Israeli spokespeople who dominated the
airwaves made it clear that, yet again, the Arabs deserved what they were getting.
Driving through Washington State, I listened to a fawning half-hour interview with an
Israeli consul general on a Seattle talk show. In San Francisco, I saw another Israeli
official on TV fielding marshmallows from a local anchor. On CNN, it was more of the
same. And for the most part, U.S. politicians were working from those same talking
points, as a montage on Comedy Central’s Daily Show made so clear. Arabs, or those
presenting their perspective, were few and far between.
All the retroactive journalistic soul-searching over official media manipulation, lack of
balance in the selection of “expert” interviews in the lead-up to Iraq, self-censorship
“because of concern about public reaction to graphic images” in the early phase of that
war, and “misguided moral equivalence” in the 2006 Lebanon conflict was, yet again,
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 2
As in 2006, I returned to the Middle East to find a very different conflict playing out on
my television screen. To find Arabs enraged; yet again. To hear people asking how
Americans could sit back and ignore the carnage; yet again. More demonstrations
against Israel and America, more name calling, more people shaking their heads asking,
“Why don’t Americans understand?”
America’s public diplomacy chief offered part of the answer. “Americans are big
supporters of Israel, that’s just a fact,” he told a group of Egyptian bloggers in a briefing
in the virtual world Second Life. But the other half of the reason is that Americans were
not seeing the same images that were bombarding Arabs 24/7; the kind of pictures that
would melt the heart of the most diehard supporter of Israel. Which was precisely why,
according to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli media weren’t showing them to the their
own public either.
“Our media is systematically covering up the suffering in Gaza, and there’s only one
opinion present in the TV studios – the army’s,” liberal Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy
told the German magazine Der Speigel.
The world’s television news organizations were all taking the same feed from the
Palestinian video agency Ramattan TV; the difference came in how they edited the tape.
As in Afghanistan and Iraq and Lebanon, U.S. coverage leading up to the January 19
ceasefire mostly consisted of impersonal wide shots of bombs exploding, interspersed
with the occasional fleeting images of bodies wrapped in burial shrouds. Here in the
Arab world, television was dominated by heart-wrenching close-ups of dead and horribly
maimed infants and young children.
But Arab coverage was not monolithic. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have sought to prevent
Hamas from scoring political gains at the expense of the more secular Palestinian
authority, while Qatar is leading a Gulf block that equates support for Hamas with
support for the Palestinian people. The fault lines have produced a media war in the
Arab world. “What journalism we have today!” a leading Saudi columnist declared in
print, charging his colleagues with “marketing the idea that any anger at the Israeli
bombardment is unjustified and that any support for resistance is incitement for
The rift is most evident on the broadcasts of the region’s bitter television rivals. Al
Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, has focused on vivid images of bloodshed
accompanied by commentary thick with moral outrage. Rival Al Arabiya, owned by Saudi
interests close to the royal family, has chosen to avoid the most graphic footage and take
a more measured tone. The contrasting approaches reflect both the very different
perceptions of the role of Arab journalism in the two newsrooms and the political rift
between their respective patrons.
“Our coverage was closer to the people,” Al Jazeera’s news chief Ahmed Sheikh told me.
While he said the channel was “impartial” in that it gave airtime to Israeli officials, “we
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 3
are not neutral when it comes to innocent people being killed like this. The camera picks
up what happens in reality and reality cannot be neutral,” he said, adding that, as with
U.S. network coverage of Vietnam, Al Jazeera showed graphic images to turn public
opinion against the war. “The goal of covering any war is to reveal the atrocities that are
“We belong to two different schools of news television in the Arab world,” countered Al
Arabiya news chief Nabil Khatib, the target of death threats on Islamist websites for
refusing to allow the word shahid (martyr) to be used on the air to describe Palestinian
“There is the school that believes that news media should have an agenda and should
work on that agenda for ideological and political reasons, which is Al Jazeera’s. We are
in the school that believes you need to guarantee knowledge with the flow of news
without being biased and by being as much as possible balanced,” Khatib continued.
Just days into the conflict, in a linguistic play on the name of Al Arabiya, Hizbullah
leader Hassan Nasrallah called the channel “Al Ibryia,” which roughly means The
Hebrew One. The resulting campaign against Al Arabiya, which Khatib believes Al
Jazeera fed, has brought into the open long-simmering resentments between the two
Al Jazeera was “satisfying the mob” and “led a campaign for Hamas,” Khatib told me.
“They chose to highlight the dead bodies and bloody scenes in close-up, thinking this will
create shock. We were cautious with this out of respecting our viewers and our code of
Sitting in the newsroom of Abu Dhabi TV, Director of News Abdulraheem Al-Bateeh said
that was all nonsense. “Come on, it’s obvious. Al Jazeera is showing that it is pro-
Hamas and Al Arabiya shows that it is pro-Fatah.” His channel, he insists, sits in the
middle, in keeping with Emirati government policy. “We are with Hamas on the
humanitarian side, but politically we are with Fatah.”
But even in its most sanitized form, Arab coverage is a world away from that seen in the
Make no mistake, reporting by international news organizations was badly hampered by
Israel’s refusal to allow journalists to cross into Gaza and Egypt’s own decision to keep
its border with Gaza sealed. But all news organizations were struggling under the same
strictures. That doesn’t explain the vivid contrast in coverage between the U.S. networks
and those overseas.
And it’s not just Arab, or even European channels like the BBC, that provided coverage
different from that seen in the U.S. An American diplomat here in the Middle East told
me that he and a colleague were working out in the embassy gym one day with the
television on. The embassy gets a feed from Armed Forces Radio and Television, so
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 4
diplomats have access to CNN’s domestic service. Out of curiosity, they started
switching back and forth between CNN domestic and CNN international, the parallel –
separately staffed and produced – version of the network seen outside the U.S. “We
couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. The domestic CNN was dominated by commentary
supporting Israeli actions, while the international feed was focused on the devastation on
Balance is the goal of any quality news organization. But in the U.S., the quest for
balance in this complex and highly-charged conflict has sometimes seemed contrived.
Take ABC anchor Charles Gibson’s lead-in to a “children of war” piece on the January 8
World News Tonight: “Youngsters on both sides of the border are being killed, injured
and traumatized by the fighting in Gaza,” he reported. But is that strictly true? By the
day the piece aired, according to UNICEF, 292 Palestinian children had been killed, with
hundreds more wounded. The number has since grown. Of the three Israeli civilian
deaths at that point, none were children.
Yet American viewers who watched the piece that followed Gibson’s lead-in could be
forgiven for coming away with the impression that both sides were suffering equally and
that, as in Gaza —a ten mile by six mile strip that is one of the most densely populated
places on earth – there was nowhere in Israel where one could escape the torrent of
missiles. There is certainly no doubt that the last few weeks have been traumatic for
Israeli children living in towns near the border, but in the shorthand of U.S. TV news,
their suffering and that of Palestinian children in Gaza became indistinguishable.
The contrast between U.S. television and Al Jazeera English (AJE), the Westernmanaged
counterpart to the Arabic channel the Bush administration loved to hate, could
not be starker. After two years of missteps, Al Jazeera English has hit its stride. And
until shortly before the January 19 ceasefire, it was the only channel with international
reporters on the ground inside Gaza. And since late December, it has been all Gaza, all
the time. AJE essentially turned its entire broadcast day over to coverage of the conflict.
In terms of English-language broadcasters, the BBC and CNN International, both of
which have a mix of reporters and anchors from around the world, have been doing
excellent work from the Israel-Gaza border and beyond. London-based Tim Whewell’s
in-depth and carefully reported five-and-a-half minute piece, “The case for war crimes,”
on the BBC’s Newsnight is not something likely to have been aired on U.S. television,
while Palestinian producers, such as the BBC’s Rushdie Abualouf, have supplied a steady
stream of original footage and reporting from inside Gaza.
But with its mix of Arab and Western correspondents, news executives from Canadian,
British and Arab networks, and access to the regional infrastructure and expertise of Al
Jazeera Arabic, AJE is a channel born to cover this conflict.
Two correspondents from AJE were in Gaza when Israel sealed the border in mid-
December: Ayman Mohyeldin, an American who started his career as a producer for
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 5
NBC and CNN, and Sherine Tadros, a British-Egyptian former staffer at Al Arabiya who
was sent to Gaza as a producer but moved on camera when the fighting began. Their
reporting has been nothing short of riveting.
But it is the comprehensive nature of the coverage, the seamless integration of news and
programming, which has resulted in a body of work that not only brings viewers into the
heart of the conflict, but sets the war in its political, geographic and historical context.
Standouts include Sami Zeidan’s take-no-prisoners interviews with IDF spokespeople,
Kamal Santa Maria’s touching conversation with the secretary general of the Swedish
Red Cross on the human toll, and “Gaza: The Road to War,” a special that took viewers
back sixty years.
Whether in the field or in the studio, AJE’s coverage has been cool and collected, largely
free of the emotion that is often in evidence on its sister Arabic-language network; and
the word “martyr,” used by Al Jazeera Arabic and many other Arab news organizations to
describe Palestinian dead, has not crossed the lips of AJE’s staffers.
The overarching title of AJE’s coverage, “War On Gaza,” telegraphed the channel’s
perspective – “on” not “in” was a conscious choice. The reporting reflected a distinct
attitude; an implicit sense of identification with the Palestinian victims – the civilians,
not the Hamas fighters – evident, for example, in a crawl at the bottom of the screen
listing the names and ages of some of the more than 300 Palestinian children killed.
But it is an engaged journalism borne of empathy that, to this viewer’s mind, stopped
short of betraying an overt bias against Israel – much to the disappointment of some
Arabs, such as a guest columnist in Qatar’s Ash Sharq newspaper, who charged that “the
English-language channel either consciously or unconsciously is moving within the orbit
of the Israeli approach.”
AJE’s correspondents inside Israel – veterans of the BBC, ITN and CNN – have been
aggressive in their approach, as in reporter James Bays’ questioning of Israeli Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni, but they have also not shied away from reporting on the impact of
Hamas missiles on Israeli citizens.
The American networks, by contrast, have largely abandoned the Middle East. A few
weeks before the Gaza crisis broke CBS News fired most of the staff of its Israel bureau.
ABC recently cut a deal to use the BBC’s reporting from Baghdad so it can strip down its
own operation. The evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC together gave just 434
minutes of airtime to Iraq in 2008, according to the Tyndall Report, and there were days
in the first two weeks of the Gaza war when the networks did not bother to air a piece on
They are, essentially, ceding reporting of the region (and much of the world) to others.
Ironically, in the long run, given the U.S. networks’ track record in recent years, that may
be a good thing – if these alternatives become more available to the average American.
Arab Media & Society (January, 2009) Lawrence Pintak
Publisher’s Column 6
For the moment, BBC America is seen on some cable systems, CNN International cannot
be viewed inside the U.S., and, with a few localized exceptions, Al Jazeera English is only
available online via Livestation and YouTube.
The kind of borderless journalism these channels increasingly offer creates the potential
to replace the myopic coverage that has fueled misunderstanding since 9/11, staking out
space in the uncharted turf between the rival bloodshot lenses of the domestic U.S. and
It is a place where worldviews are not quite so fixed, where audiences are exposed to
more than just their own preconceived notions, and where a new definition of balance
just might be found.
Lawrence Pintak is publisher/co-editor of Arab Media & Society and director of the
Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at The American
University in Cairo. His most recent book is Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens: America,
Islam & the War of Ideas.
- © 2012 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors
- All editorial matter in CMAJ represents the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the Canadian Medical Association.
On the ground in the Gaza Strip
Throughout the Israeli offensive on Gaza, Sana Rajab and Mohamed “Abu Abed” Mughaiseeb worked at the heart of the emergency health services run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Sana, a nurse, and Abu Abed, a doctor, are first and foremost Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Every Gaza resident has suffered in this war, they explain.
Sana Rajab and Mohamed “Abu Abed” Mughaiseeb, a nurse and doctor from the Gaza Strip, say every Gaza resident suffered in the war. Image by: Médecins Sans Frontières
It began on Dec. 27, 2008. “It was 11 am when the bombing started. It was a Saturday,” says Abu Abed. “Within hours, there were lots of casualties. It was chaos. We visited the hospitals to find out what the medical needs were. Because MSF had emergency stocks in the area, we were able to donate drugs and medical supplies.”
Even as bombs continued to fall on Gaza City, the MSF medical team reopened its postoperative clinic. The clinic took in casualties who had undergone emergency operations in hospitals and needed medical follow-up. “Because of the bombings it was very difficult for patients and MSF staff to move around,” says Sana. “We gave our colleagues emergency medical kits so that they could give medical assistance right at the heart of their neighbourhoods.”
Despite the intense fighting, the MSF teams assisted 60 to 70 patients every day in Gaza City. The patients included injured people who needed medical treatment, as well as many others suffering from “normal” or chronic illnesses who could not access their regular treatments because of the war.
Twenty-two days after the Israeli offensive began, a ceasefire allowed MSF teams to administer more aid across the Gaza Strip. A tent-based hospital was set up to provide secondary surgical care and follow-up to those injured during the fighting. Within 2 weeks, MSF doctors had operated on about 40 people, many suffering from burns and infected wounds, some requiring orthopedic surgery.
A tent-based hospital was set up to provide secondary surgical care and follow-up to those injured in the war. Image by: Médecins Sans Frontières
Today, Sana works with mobile teams that visit areas worst affected by the violence, and various health care facilities, where she identifies and refers patients to the MSF hospital. Abu Abed coordinates MSF medical programs in the Gaza Strip. Both remain shocked at the trauma suffered by the Palestinian population.
Sana talks of the time she spent listening at length to an injured man. “He had been shot in the arm. Three of his brothers and his only sister had been killed. He couldn’t stop talking. I listened to him, and then kept on listening. It was very painful.”
Abu Abed says, “There are stories which are really difficult to hear. During the bombings, the Israeli army decreed a daily 3-hour ceasefire. There were children who used to wait for this relative calm to go to the toilet! Can you imagine a child of 5, so terrorized that he’s holding it in and asking his mother when the lull in the fighting will be so he can go to the toilet?”
The memories keep on coming. The conversation is animated. “If we begin to remember every tragic story, we’ll never stop,” says Sana.
Today, war has given way to the aftermath of war — to physical and psychological wounds. The MSF mental health program, which has been in place in Gaza for several years, is now offering psychological support for emergency medicine staff, who found themselves on the front line providing emergency war aid.
“Young or old, rich or poor, black or white, Muslim or any other religion, we’ve all been affected,” Abu Abed says. “So many people have been injured. Others have lost a brother or a friend, and still others have had their homes destroyed. … Every inhabitant of the Gaza Strip, without exception, has suffered in this war.”
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Clarification CMAJ April 28, 2009 180:952
AFP – Israel blasted a harsh UN report on its three-week war on Gaza that is to be submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday, branding it biased toward the Islamist group Hamas and misleading.
The UN report says the Israeli military intentionally fired at UN facilities and civilians hiding in them during the massive offensive in December-January against the Hamas rulers of Gaza, media reports said.
“The state of Israel rejects the criticism in the committee’s summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world.”
The report is the latest criticism of Israel over the 22-day war it launched against the Hamas-run territory on December 27 in response to ongoing rocket fire from Gaza militants.
The war, which ended with Israel and Hamas declaring ceasefires on January 18, killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and left large swathes of the impoverished territory in ruins.
Several UN buildings, including its headquarters in Gaza, and several UN-run schools, were hit by Israeli fire during the offensive.
The foreign ministry said that despite Israel cooperating fully with the committee and presenting it with various intelligence material, “none of this information is reflected in the report.”
“The report completely ignores the eight years of attacks against Israel that preceded the decision to initiate the operation, and ignores the difficult circumstances on the ground as dictated by Hamas and its methods of armed operation” from within heavily-populated civilian areas, it said.
“The UN is responsible for drawing its own conclusions regarding the means it should implement to contend with the complex reality in which a terror organisation operates in proximity to UN installations without differentiation and in a manner that endangers UN activities,” said the ministry statement.
“We expect clear statements and action from the UN in this regard,” it said.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon received a copy of the report several days ago and has since softened some of the wording in the three-page document, which he is due to submit to the Security Council on Tuesday, wrote the Ynet news website.
But Israeli officials are worried that the current wording is still too critical towards the Jewish state, the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot said.
The newspaper quoted a member of the US delegation at the United Nations as saying the report was “unprecedented in its gravity towards Israel, and Israel will have to lick the wounds of the report for many years, if the current wording is accepted as is.”
The report, authored by a special committee led by a former head of Amnesty International, Ian Martin, contains several serious charges against Israeli forces.
“Israel deliberately fired at UN institutions even though it knew it was forbidden,” wrote the Yediot.
“The report accuses Israel of disproportionate fire and excessive use of force. The report also states that Israel shot at Palestinian civilians unnecessarily and excessively.”
The BBC During the Gaza War: Biased Coverage of the Conflict
March 22, 2009 22:00 by ManagingTeamPrevious Charges of Bias
Last year, we released an in-depth report analyzing one year of the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We found that the BBC has a consistent record of portraying Israeli actions in a negative light while increasing sympathy for the Palestinian point of view. Rather than respond to the criticisms in our report, the BBC chose to accuse us of bias:
HonestReporting has a particular view of the conflict and cannot be seen as an independent arbiter of our output.
That previous analysis examined the BBC’s reporting, based not on subjective opinion, but on the very journalistic standards that the BBC claims to uphold. We presented hard facts but our work was summarily rejected by the BBC, which has failed to provide its own analysis as to why HonestReporting should be considered an unsuitable judge.
HonestReporting is not alone in accusing the BBC of systemic bias against Israel. Several years ago, the BBC conducted its own investigation into whether the network held an anti-Israel bias. The result — a report by senior news editor Malcolm Balen — was a lengthy study that the corporation refuses to make public. In an ongoing legal battle to force the BBC to make the report public, the British House of Lords recently ruled against the BBC and sent the case back to the High Court. We hope the High Court will force the BBC to release its study into the public domain.
In light of this ongoing legal effort, we decided to examine the BBC’s coverage of the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. Images and accounts of the conflict have had a significant impact on public opinion, with many viewing Israel’s actions as, at best, “disproportionate” and, at worst, “war crimes”. The BBC is one of the most influential media organizations in the world. We wanted to see if its coverage encouraged such notions. What we found was an overwhelming tendency to highlight cases of both real and unproven Palestinian suffering while making Israeli actions appear trivial or illegitimate.
Comparison With Conflict in Sri Lanka
It is extremely appropriate to highlight the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East considering the importance that the BBC attaches to the region. During the conflict, the BBC published, on average, 4.5 articles every day dealing with the fighting. In contrast, BBC coverage of the Sri Lankan government’s campaign against the Tamil Tigers group — a conflict that resulted in an estimated 2,000 civilian deaths in January of 2009 — produced barely one article a day.
According to human rights organizations, the conflict in Sri Lanka includes intentional attacks by both sides on civilians, attacks on hospitals (twenty attacks from December through February alone), and the use of human shields. Yet the BBC gives this conflict, estimated to have resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, less than one quarter the average daily coverage of the Gaza conflict. If the BBC is going to focus this much on Gaza, it must expect scrutiny of that coverage.
We analyzed articles appearing on the BBC website beginning on December 22, 2008, when Hamas announced that it was ending the ceasefire, until January 19, 2009 when both sides announced a new temporary ceasefire. Over these 28 days, the BBC published 126 articles – an average of over four each day. We found that the vast majority of these articles contained unproven accusations against Israel, graphic and out-of-context images, and highlighted quotations that reflected negatively on Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces.
Unsubstantiated Eyewitness Accounts
BBC coverage of the war included 58 accounts from “eyewitnesses” about what was happening and how the war was affecting their lives. Forty of these accounts were from Palestinians while only 18 were from Israeli civilians living under a constant barrage of rocket and mortar attacks.
Often, these accounts were unsubstantiated charges. For example, on January 14, the BBC published a lengthy article containing allegations such as:
One testimony heard by the BBC and human rights group B’tselem describes Israeli forces shooting a woman in the head after she stepped out of her house carrying a piece of white cloth, in response to an Israeli loudhailer announcement.
The image on the right accompanying the story carried an implication that there was photographic proof of the woman’s story. In fact, that image was unrelated to the testimony heard by the BBC. The article contained several other graphic images as well as similar allegations of Israeli soldiers acting inhumanely and intentionally targeting civilians — all without any evidence besides the testimony of Palestinians.
“Not Possible to Verify Accounts”
The same article says that “Israel is denying access to Gaza for international journalists and human rights monitors, so it is not possible to verify the accounts.” However, rather than lending legitimacy to the article, such a statement is an admission that the whole article — with images and shocking headlines and quotations — may very well be a complete fabrication. One of the basic rules of journalism is the responsibility to corroborate testimony. In this regard, the BBC has failed miserably.
Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor, kept a running diary of the conflict. In one entry, poignantly titled “Tears of a Mother,” Bowen publicizes another shocking claim:
Zeinat said the Israeli troops had herded several families from the al-Samouni clan into one of the houses.
She said soldiers came in and asked for the house owner. Her husband, Atiya, put up his hand.
A soldier shot him through the head at point blank range.
Then the soldiers sprayed the room with gunfire, she says. Her four-year-son was killed.
Yet where were the follow-up investigations to these claims? What evidence besides one person’s word does Bowen have to support this horrific charge?
An Internet search of the woman whom Bowen interviewed (Zeinat Abdullah al-Samouni) shows that the only other places (besides the BBC) these charges are repeated is on anti-Israel blogs. It is strange that an alleged cold blooded murder carried out in front of multiple witnesses wo
uld receive no other mainstream coverage other than an account in Bowen’s diary.
The Palestinians have a well-documented record of using the media to disseminate propaganda. (See HonestReporting’s “The Big Lies” presentation). With this in mind, the BBC should have been even more careful to fact check such claims before publishing them.
The “Massacre” that Wasn’t
One example that created a fierce anti-Israel backlash was the alleged Israeli attack on a United Nations school in which refugees had sought shelter from the fighting. On January 7, the BBC claimed that Israeli mortar shells had killed 40 civilians seeking shelter at the school. (While this report is focused on the BBC, it should be pointed out that the accusation was reported by almost all other major media).
However, investigations revealed that not only had the Israeli shells fallen outside the school, but according to the IDF only 12 people — including 9 terrorists – were killed. HonestReporting had predicted that there would be tales of a massacre that would later be proven false 48 hours BEFORE the incident. If HonestReporting could predict that Hamas would attempt such a propaganda coup, why couldn’t the BBC?
Even when the truth emerged, the BBC’s “correction”, while acknowledging that the shelling occurred outside of the school compound, failed to correct the number of dead and continues to omit that the IDF was responding to Palestinian rocket fire in proximity to the school.
Accurate and Trustworthy Accounts?
The BBC is not ashamed of such unbalanced favoritism. In fact, Bowen has boasted about the accounts coming from the Palestinian side. In his Middle East Diary entry for January 15, he reported that:
The fact that there are good Palestinian journalists in Gaza means that accurate and trustworthy accounts of what is happening are getting out.
On what is he basing his opinion that the accounts are accurate and trustworthy? With so many Palestinian claims being investigated and later dismissed, it seems he is vouching for something over which he has no knowledge. As the BBC’s top Middle East reporter, he has a professional responsibility to be objective and not simply accept narratives without corroborating evidence.
While shocking accounts of alleged atrocities helped spread anti-Israel sentiment around the world, it was images of casualties and destruction that really galvanized people. For this reason, it is vital that the BBC presents a balanced range of images accompanied with appropriate context. Yet, as illustrated in the chart below, the BBC image selection was overwhelmingly weighted in favor of those eliciting sympathy for the Palestinians.
We analyzed 313 images that accompanied articles about the conflict. We broke these 313 into four main groups: Israeli soldiers, Palestinian terrorists, Israeli casualties or destruction, and Palestinian casualties or scenes of destruction. The images that the BBC selected overemphasize Palestinian suffering while underemphasizing Palestinian attacks.
Images require accompanying text to clarify and contextualize what the viewer is seeing. The BBC’s “in pictures” segments that highlighted certain images from that day, presented a significant problem. These images could often be found later accompanying BBC articles. These “in pictures” segments consisted solely of images and captions. We found that the captions frequently omitted critical information that would have an impact on the viewer.
Example I – Israel Destroys Government Ministries
For example, the caption accompanying the image on the right read:
Several Hamas buildings have been destroyed, including the Justice Ministry, Legislative Assembly and Education ministry.
Anyone reading that caption with knowledge of Hamas tactics would assume that Israel was maliciously bombing Palestinian government agencies. In Gaza, however, the line between municipal government agencies and branches of the terrorist group Hamas are vague. All three of the ministries named above were run directly by Hamas and functioned as Hamas military centers during the conflict.
Example II – Israel Destroys Houses of Worship
The caption accompanying this next image read:
As air strikes on Gaza continued, more buildings were damaged and at least 10 people were killed when a mosque was hit, local medics said.
The fact that mosques were frequently used by Hamas to store and launch rockets is relevant to the story. Yet the viewer is never give this critical piece of information. Since this picture and caption are a part of an “in pictures’ segment, the viewer is given no additional information from which to draw a conclusion.
One way that the BBC draws attention to certain points of its articles is by selecting a quotation from the story and highlighting it in a text box to the right of the main article. Any reader skimming the article will focus on the quotations. Unfortunately, out of 38 highlighted quotations in the articles in our study, only 4 defended the Israeli position. Here is a sample of the quotations:
From the Palestinian Side:
“We have never seen a situation like this, in all the history of Palestinians.”
“We’re trying to hide in different corners of the apartment.”
align=justify>”We are unable to function normally, we have no cars, we can’t even wear police uniforms because of Israeli drones.”
“I have been trying to stop my children crying – I try to keep them playing.”
“The glass of my windows all fell down, so we spent the night scared and cold, my children were screaming. The attacks were continuous.”
“I left because I thought that the shooting was getting closer to my home and my children were scared.
“We had to squash [the injured into the ambulance]… on top of each other, including the dead man, just to get them to some sort of place of safety.”
Quotations reflecting Israeli opinions were limited to the following:
“Since the majority of the Hamas militants are pretty much in hiding in those places, mainly urban places, then we operate in those areas.” (repeated twice)
“Our definition is that anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas is a valid target. This ranges from the strictly military institutions and includes the political institutions that provide the logistical funding and human resources for the terrorist arm.”
“For the children’s sake we felt we had to go out. We love Sderot. But we had to go out for some time.”
As you can see, the majority of the Palestinian quotations were personal observations on the fighting. Only the last Israeli quotation was similar. Could the BBC not find anyone else living in Sderot who could speak about living in terror? There is no doubt that when the highlighted quotations focus on only one side, the reader will come away with a certain perspective.
The BBC’s coverage of the Gaza conflict painted a picture of an Israeli attack that intentionally targeted civilians and may have included war crimes. Specifically:
The BBC relied upon Palestinians who were given the opportunity to make dubious accusations without any supporting evidence.
The BBC published image after image of Palestinians suffering under Israeli attacks while giving readers few views of the impact that the conflict was having on Israeli civilians living under a constant and daily rocket barrage.
The most damning Palestinian statements about the Israeli operations were highlighted on the side of the articles, while Israeli statements were almost never treated in the same way.
We have said before that as one of the world’s top news sources, the BBC has a tremendous responsibility to report accurately and fairly. While the BBC claims to be impartial, it has done everything possible to deflect scrutiny of its work from being made public. Right now, a pending lawsuit in the House of Lords seeks to compel the BBC to make public an internal review that allegedly found that its Middle East reporting was biased against Israel.
To read our earlier reports on the BBC, click here (first half of 2007) or here (2007-2008). We plan to continue publishing long term analyses of specific media to determine whether reporting is fair and consistent. If you are interested in sponsoring one of these reports, please click here.
Category: BBC Big Lies Gaza HR in the News Long-Term Analysis Operation Cast Lead Photo Bias Print Tags:BBC, bias, Big Lies, gaza, Hamas, honestreporting, IDF, images, israel, Jeremy Bowen, Operation Cast Lead, palestinian, United Nations school
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Israel is in the midst of a battle for public opinion – waged primarily via the media. To ensure Israel is represented fairly and accurately “‘HonestReporting’” monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and effects change through education and action. Read more
Anticipatory Stress in the Population Facing Forced Removal From the Gaza Strip
Billig, Miriam PhD*†; Kohn, Robert MD‡; Levav, Itzhak MD§
The Israeli government decided in March 2005 to remove the settlers of the Gaza Strip, a process known as disengagement. One person per household residing in 13 settlements was randomly selected for a telephone interview that included the Demoralization Scale of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Research Interview. Women respondents and those with fewer years of education, higher risk perception, greater alienation from government, poorer perceived health, no social support outside the West Bank or Gaza, worse religious coping, and residence in a secular settlement had enhanced risk for higher emotional distress. Positive current satisfaction with life was associated with greater place attachment, less risk perception, stronger ideological stand, less feeling of alienation from the government, a more positive view of the future, and plans to return to Gaza. This population, as others in transitional states, may be at risk for emotional distress compared with some but not all stable Israeli groups.
© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
Media and the Gaza War
Media played an important part of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict. Foreign press access to Gaza has been limited since November 2008 via either Egypt or Israel. On 29 December 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that journalists be allowed into Gaza whenever the crossings were opened, but the IDF refused to comply. There have been arrests of journalists due to violations of wartime censorship in Israel, and these have been denounced by international press organizations. Media infrastructure, including Al-Aqsa TV transmission equipment and foreign and local press offices, were hit during the conflict. Media relations also played an important role, with the use of new media on the part of Israel, as well as a clear public relations campaign.
Following Israel withdrawal from Gaza there were number of cases of violence targeted at foreign journalists claimed by previously unknown groups sometimes linked to Al Qaeda. The most notable case is kidnapping of BBC journalist, Alan Johnston. Palestinian security sources urged all foreigners (especially Europeans and Americans), including aid workers of international organizations, to leave Gaza soil “for fears of new kidnappings”. Hamas is known to take part in negotiation and release of hostages in many cases. Subsequently the Foreign Press Association issued a statement saying Gaza had become a “no-go zone”. International organisations instead relied on their local staff to gather information.
Foreign press in Gaza
Israel and Egypt, the only two countries sharing borders with Gaza, have refused access to Gaza by foreign journalists since November 2008. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on 29 December that journalists must be allowed access to Gaza at times when the main border crossing is open, but the military has not complied. A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in the United Kingdom said that Israel was restricting entry into Gaza because Gaza is a war zone, and that other countries would do the same.
Various press associations and organizations have called this ban as “unprecedented”, and the Foreign Press Association (FPA) of Israel called the ban a “violation of press freedom” as practiced by other regimes. The International Federation of Journalists said that the ban on foreign media entering Gaza, combined with the Military Censor’s now following strict guidelines issued by the head censorship office in Israel, meant that the world was not being allowed to see what is happening in Gaza. As of January 2009, Al Jazeera, whose reporters Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros were already inside Gaza when the conflict began, is the only international broadcaster with a journalist reporting from inside Gaza. The BBC has a local producer Rushdi Abu Alouf within Gaza.
The New York Times reported on 10 January that “Israel has also managed to block cellphone bandwidth, so very few amateur cellphone photographs are getting out of Gaza.”
On 18 January, journalists entered Gaza via the Erez crossing after a ceasefire was declared.
Hamas officials stopped the BBC from filming at one site, possibly because there was a military target nearby.
Hits by IDF
Media facilities in Gaza, both foreign and domestic, have come under Israeli fire since the military campaign began. On 29 December, the IDF destroyed the facilities and headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV (though broadcasts continue from elsewhere), and on 5 January, the IDF bombed the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala newsweekly. On 9 January, the IDF hit the Johara tower of Gaza City, which houses more than 20 international news organizations, including Turkish, French, and Iranian outlets. Haaretz publish video tape of Gaza reporter confirming Hamas fired rockets near TV offices. Gaza reporter Hanan Al-Masri from Johara tower on Al-Arabiya: “A Grad rocket from here? It’s here. Listen, it’s here, below the building…”. Al-Jazeera reported that at least one journalist was injured in the attack and Press TV reported that satellite transmission equipment was damaged. An IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the building had not been targeted, though it may have sustained collateral damage.
Two Arab journalists from East Jerusalem working for an Iranian TV station were arrested by Israeli authorities on 12 January, and charged with violating IDF censorship protocols for allegedly reporting on the IDF ground offensive into Gaza hours before they were given permission. The journalists denied the charges, maintaining that they merely reported what was being said in the international media. One Italian journalist, after obtaining clearance from the IDF to travel to Netzarim, was fired on at an Israeli checkpoint even after renewed telephonic contact with the military authorities about the incident led to assurances he could proceed safely.
Government Press Office chief Daniel Seaman on 25 January denied that Israeli government policy banned foreign reporters from Gaza from 8 November 2008 through 21 January 2009, and denigrated the media as “crybabies…unwilling to make effort” to get to Gaza, and asserted that all but 3 percent act as “a figleaf for Hamas”. The Foreign Press Association had petitioned Israel’s High Court to get unfettered access to the Gaza strip. Press restriction appears to have been part of the propaganda campaign of Operation Cast Lead
Nachman Shai, a former Israeli army spokesman, claimed that Israel’s tight regulation of the media was a reaction to “confusing” repoting during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The Foreign Press Association of Israel released a statement saying, “The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.”
Haaretz reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni “instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign in order to gain support for Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip.” Israeli officials at embassies and consulates worldwide have mounted campaigns in local media, and to that end have recruited people who speak the native language. Israel has also opened an international media centre in Sderot. Deputy Israel’s consulate in New York began holding online press conferences on Twitter, a microblogging website.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee has criticised some of the international media for not showing the Israeli perspective, saying that some outlets “have often failed to report on the pervasive Kassam attacks that preceded the [current] violence”, according to the Jerusalem Post.
There has been a YouTube channel opened by IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, with many combat videos and a narrative video log. The videos are intended to bolster Israel’s positions on contentious issues. The accuracy of one of the videos has been disputed B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch who claimed that a purported Israeli strike on militants, in fact, killed several civilians. Hamas has also launched a YouTube-like video site broadcasting criticism of Fatah and videos of Hamas attacks and Israeli casualty numbers.
Media bias accusations
Israel’s media has been criticized for practicing alleged self-censorship and muzzling dissent with coverage on the conflict that has been described as overtly patriotic and biased against Hamas. Eight Israeli human rights groups wrote a letter to newspaper editors, broadcasters and websites claiming, “opinions criticising the decision to launch the offensive or the army’s conduct during the war are hardly heard.” Critics pointed to newspaper headlines describing the surprise airstrikes against Gaza, including the Yedioth Ahronoth headline “Better Late Than Never” and the Maariv headline “Fighting Back.” Keshev, an Israeli media watchdog group, said Israeli television channels dispatched their anchors to towns hit by Hamas rockets, but provided little attention to reports of the devastation inside Gaza. As an example, Yizhar Be’er, head of Keshev, cited the relatively little Israeli coverage afforded to the deaths of almost 50 people on 6 January airstrikes on three United Nations schools, which Israeli forces mistakenly believed were used as militant hide-outs. Regarding the overall coverage, Be’er said:
“The media’s coverage of the first days of the fighting was characterised by feelings of self-righteousness and a sense of catharsis following what was felt to be undue restraint in the face of attacks by the enemy, along with support for the military action and few expressions of criticism.”
A Channel 10 senior editor acknowledged a large amount of patriotism in coverage of the conflict, but attributed it largely to Israel’s refusal to allow journalists into Hamas and the army’s restrictions over information coming from the battlefield. He told the Agence France-Presse, “There are no means to develop criticism because we receive very few details from the army on the fighting inside Gaza… When there is no criticism there is more room for patriotism.”
The BBC received accusations of bias, both for and against Israel, during the conflict, but received particularly intense criticism for its decision not to broadcast a television appeal by aid agencies for victims of the airstrikes against Gaza. BBC officials said the decision stemmed from a policy of maintaining impartiality in the dispute. But many parties criticized the decision, including both Church of England archbishops, British government ministers and even some BBC employees. BBC officials described the criticism as unprecedented, including more than 11,000 complaints in a three-day span. Some protests have accused the company of giving in to pressure from Israel or Jewish groups, while others attribute it to a fear of controversy in light of prior embarrassments over Middle East coverage; the BBC has strongly denied both claims.
A study by Arab Media Watch, an London-based watchdog striving for objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media, states the BBC decision was only one example of a pro-Israel bias in the British press. According to the study, when the British press represents one party as retaliating, the party is Israel more than three-quarters of the time; in the tabloid press, Israel is portrayed as the relatiating party 100 percent of the time. Violent actions by Israel were portrayed as “retaliations” three times more often than they were portrayed as “provocations.” An Arab Media Watch advisor said “inevitably, these trends in reporting leave Palestinian violence largely unexplained, causing it to appear as unwarranted ‘aggression.’”
New York Times
Taghreed El-Khodary, a correspondent for New York Times, was among the few correspondents reporting from Gaza during the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict after Israel prevented correspondents from crossing the Gaza-Israel border. El-Khodary describes herself as among the “very few objective reporters” covering the conflict. She was praised for the “in-depth, balanced coverage” of the conflict.
El-Khodary, who covered the conflict from a position near the Al-Shifa Hospital, was criticized for failing to cover Hamas’ use of homes, mosques, hospitals and schools for weapons storage, not reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields, not reporting on Hamas’ use of children as to assist soldiers, not reporting on Hamas’ wartime execution of accused “collaborators,” and not reporting on the location of the Hamas leadership in a bunker beneath the Shifa Hospital. The Times was accused of failing to balance reports by a journalist whose “personal perspective” placed blame for the conflict on Israel alone. As El-Khodary put it in a CNN interview, “The real issue” in the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict is “The Israeli military occupation.” And of publishing a distorted picture of, as El-Khodary expressed it, a situation in which “ordinary people are squeezed between suicidal fighters and a military behemoth,” and of covering civilian casualties in Gaza “to the virtual exclusion of any other issues.”
The conflict also engendered considerable propaganda, hacktivism and cyber warfare (both on the part of the combatants and polities directly involved and of independent, private parties) which resulted in numerous website defacements, denial-of-service attacks and domain name and account hijackings. An opt-in anti-Hamas botnet created by Israeli students appeared, and new media diplomacy appeared on social networking sites such as Facebook and Second Life, and on new media such as Twitter.
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