From Gaza to Europe – in 24 hours

Coverage of the escalation of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip caused a frenzy among news outlets on the continent.

Rocket damage in Sderot, March 12, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rocket damage in Sderot, March 12, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘The Channel 10 [news] drone is sending back images of men in Gaza putting cylinders in the ground and running away, seeking cover behind bushes or olive trees,” Amelia Heyer of Der Spiegel reported from Tel Aviv last week, as rockets were launched at the South from the Gaza Strip. Instead of relying on coverage from news agencies like Reuters and AFP, European press coverage of the escalation in violence from the Strip was surprisingly varied.
The news outlets – including the German Deutsche Welle, the French Libération and the Spanish El País – battled on many fronts, the first of which was who could report how many rockets were fired – but in the most confusing sequence as possible – 30, 50, 60 or 100? Reuters picked up the first Army Radio announcement with its report that more than 25 rockets had been fired. Yet reports began to conflict as El País reported a staggering 100 rockets, and nine minutes later, Libération had the number at 50.
The following day the news outlets made no attempt to remedy their times of publication in trying to correct how many rockets were actually fired, making matters even more confusing. The Portuguese Público began at 11:54 a.m., claiming 70 missiles; one minute later, at 11:55 a.m., Libération countered with “more than 60.” Reuters reported 60 by 1:37 p.m., while Finland’s leading newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, had “at least 50” by 2 p.m. Italian daily La Stampa raised the bar again, having reached “70 missiles” at an unspecified time that day. AFP reported that by late Wednesday night, the IDF had counted 60 rockets, which seemed to be the most accurate estimate.
The divergence from the original Reuters and AFP stories produced some surprising analyses. Two in-depth pieces spilled out of major newspapers last Thursday, one from Italy and one from Germany, both focusing on Hamas, but in different ways.
In La Stampa, Francesca Paci began her story with a quote from an 18-year-old Islamic Jihad supporter, who said the Egyptians’ destruction of the Rafah tunnel had led to a Hamas crackdown on the borders, in an attempt to stop Islamic Jihad from launching rockets into Israel: “Since the peace treaty, whenever we want to fire rockets we get stopped by Hamas patrols even quicker than the Israelis get to us.”
Paci presented the arguments from both sides, with one of her conclusions being that Hamas had no choice but to respect the peace treaty. She added that the “very young” terrorists were torn between having armed combat in their “DNA” and being forced to keep calm.
Der Spiegel’s Heyer took a decidedly more supportive stance on Hamas. The headline read, “Hamas in utmost need,” and the article focused on the struggles of the group as a weaker opponent: “As Israelis are in a stronger position, they have a different vantage point.
Either they will lose interest in re-watching newly bombed Gaza images for the thousandth time, due to the growing critique of their settlement policies, or their military and security forces will use the momentum and isolate the Islamists, who now even Egypt defines as terrorists.”
Heyer made a point to use the word “fighters” over “terrorists” in her efforts to humanize Hamas. She wrote that “the peace treaty between Israel and Hamas is history – Israeli hard-liners already demand an invasion.
But an open war would be catastrophic for the starving people in Gaza – and to Hamas itself.”
She also wrote that “the tunnel was, contrary to common belief, predominantly used for other goods than weapons,” and criticized the IDF by putting quotation marks around “marked killings” and “infrastructural targets,” calling their definitions into question.
La Stampa, Italy, March 14
In an attempt to stem the flow of illegal immigrants who continue to arrive through the Sinai Desert, the Israeli government has signed agreements with two African countries willing to receive them. Even though such an agreement is denied by Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the Italian daily nonetheless cites this country as one of the receivers of illegal migrants entering Israel through Sinai.
Between December and February, 2,989 illegal Africans left Israel, most of them of Sudanese and Eritrean origin.
VG, Norway, March 14
Norwegian Cruise Lines has decided to stop routes to Tunisia, after a group of Jewish passengers were refused permission to disembark from the cruise ship Norwegian Jade during one of its Mideast tours. “We wish to send out a strong message to Tunisia and harbors throughout the world. We do not tolerate discrimination of our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines, who later added, “We have received very positive feedback from all over the world and are pleased to see that people appreciate our decision.
We have not been contacted directly by the Tunisian authorities.”
Der Spiegel, Germany, March 15
A hat, fake beard and thick sunglasses – that’s how President Shimon Peres, then in his capacity as defense minister, traveled to Jordan for secret negotiations in the 1970s. The president put a picture on his Facebook profile last week for Purim. Peres is quoted as saying: “I wore this disguise on the way to my meeting with King Hussein when we prepared the peace negotiations.” The picture have received over 10,000 “Likes” on Facebook.