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Coverage of Senseless Israeli Attack on Gaza Typical of Western Unsympathetic Reporting on Palestinians

posted on: Aug 10, 2022

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

Israelis have had a tough time explaining its August 5th attack on Gaza. In that attack, several dozen Palestinians were killed, including six children, and 265 wounded.. Palestinians did not start this attack. Speculation is that it was launched to buffer Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s political standing in the election campaign against Netanyahu. While media reporting shows Israeli bias against Palestinians—Western media shows the same bias.

The logic, if any, behind Israel’s Gaza attack questioned

Even the Israelis are having a tough time explaining its August 5th attack on Gaza. And it cannot seem to get its own story straight. Was it part of election campaign maneuvering for the prime minister position? Was it an attempt to preemptively undermine Hamas leadership? Or perhaps neither of these. In any case, the wanton bombing attack on Gaza seemed senseless.

The week before the attack the Israelis were up to several odd actions. Israel perpetrated one such action in the occupied West Bank refugee camp of Jenin. According to Middle East Eye (MEE), their Israeli soldiers arrested an important figure in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Bassam al-Saadi. This was not unusual, since al-Saadi was often under Israeli arrest. The PIJ warned Israel not to compromise al-Saadi’s health. (MEE is an important exception to the rule of unsympathetic reporting on Palestinians.)

Israeli unprovoked attack on Gaza on August 5thPhoto AP

In addition, the PIJ made its standard announcement, “We are prepared to respond to this aggression with force if it does not stop.” The PIJ made no actual threat of a rocket launch from Gaza against Israel if it did not release al-Saadi. Despite that, Israel decided to limit traffic around Israeli communities near Gaza. Israel would usually protect its citizens after the Gazans launched rockets on Israel or Israel attacked Gaza targets.

While there was no military action from Gaza, MEE reported that on Friday, August 6, Israel nonetheless launched an air attack on Gaza. It attacked “various points in the besieged Palestinian Strip. The main focus was a residential building in Gaza City. Several missiles landed with precision on three apartments in that building.”

A victim of this barrage was Taiseer al-Jabari, commander of the military branch of the northern division of al-Quds Brigades. As is usual in these barrages, there was collateral damage. Israeli missiles killed a five-year-old girl, a 23-year-old woman, and seven other Palestinian. Israel’s government offered no apologies. The military extended the weak excuse that Jabari “was believed to have recently been promoting plans for anti-tank attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers”.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported the killing of 32 Palestinians, including six children, and the wounding of 265. More than half of this number are elders, women, and children.

Misleading Israeli reporting on its military attack on Gaza

“The word in Israel is that the ‘campaign’ would last a week, like an end-of-season sale in a dress shop.” That MEE quote aptly characterized the ho-hum attitude towards the unprovoked Israeli attack. Perhaps realizing the stupidity of the attack, Israel on Sunday announced a cease-fire with the PIJ. This at least temporarily ended the three-day conflict that killed 44 Palestinians and highlighted the exactness of Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ antimissile defense. There were zero casualties in Israel.

Israeli air raids on Gaza killed at least 10 people, including a 5-year-old girl,
and wounded dozens of others [Fatima Shbair/AP

There is speculation about Israel’s military operation that goes beyond its standard practice. First, the Palestinians did not attack first. There was no violent action from their side. Second, Israel did not have its usual excuse that “it was responding to attacks on its civilians and soldiers.” So, the question is, “Why did Israel willingly choose to put its own citizens under lockdown in the Gaza-area communities, even though PIJ had threatened no bombardment nor launched one?”

Third, Israel did not really state why it chose to attack Gaza. It knew its own attack would incite Gaza to respond with its own rocket fire. So, why would it go to the trouble of causing death and destruction on the Gaza side? And potential injury and death on its own side?

One explanation, reported by Palestinians and left-wing Israelis defies the usual logic when it comes to Israel. It is that “brand-new Prime Minister Yair Lapid, less than two months in office as caretaker premier, intentionally put Israel on alert for a military confrontation to buttress his political standing ahead of Israel’s upcoming general elections, scheduled for 1 November.”

Lapid is a civilian leader and never served in the military, working as a journalist in the army’s newspaper. Thus, per MEE, “by cultivating a strong aura of security, despite his lack of military experience, he can enhance his standing with the public in a military-loving, right-wing country like Israel.” Word on the street is that if Palestinian citizens of Israel do not show up prominently at the polls, Netanyahu’s chances of winning are greater than Lapid’s.

As MEE reported, “The logic of Israel’s recent actions is difficult to parse. Given the context, even an irrational act like provoking a completely superfluous military conflict in Gaza seems somehow logical.” There we have it.

It’s not only Israel–Western media also has a systemic bias against Palestinians

Middle East analysts would mostly agree that Israel-Palestine media coverage is biased toward Israel and against Palestine. Sometimes the bias is not self-evident—and if one does not know what to look for, she/he may never find it. —and if you do not know what to look for, you might never see it. In the case of Israel-Palestine, the bias runs deep. As a journalist and an advocate for Palestinian rights, you might just be fired.

A major source of research on such bias is Portland State University (PSU). It reports on a Canadian research firm’s findings. The New York Times and The Washington Post were cited as reporting “four times as many Israel-centric headlines as Palestine-centric ones between June 1967–2017. Additionally, Israeli sources were nearly 250% more likely to be quoted than Palestinian sources.”

It is striking how much intolerance major media organizations show towards reporters who express the least bit of empathy towards Palestinians. Rather, they are not gently reminded of company policy—they are simply fired. One example of a no-no is using the term ‘Palestine,’ “because it is not a fully independent, unified state.”

We end on a further note from Said, in his article, ‘Zionism from the Standpoint of its Victims’: “the dissemination by the media of malicious simplifications (e.g. Jews vs. Arabs) …contributes to the dulling, regulated enforcement of almost unanimous support for Israel.” So, be careful how you read your news sources when it comes to Palestinians. You must carefully read between the lines.

“The logic behind Israel’s Gaza attack, if any, is anyone’s guess,” Middle East Eye,
“‘Restraint and common sense: Reaction to Israel’s Gaza attack,” Al-Jazeera, 8/5/2022
“Israeli jets pound Gaza in the second day of attacks,” Al-Jazeera, 8/6/2022
“Western media has a systemic bias against Palestinians,” Portland State University, 5/25/2021

John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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