Death of innocents

Too many news outlets have allowed their coverage of Gaza to be agenda-driven.

dead baby 88 generic (photo credit: )
dead baby 88 generic
(photo credit: )
How do Israelis feel when our artillery strikes a UN-run school building, killing dozens of people? The answer is: deeply shaken, profoundly distressed, sorrowful at the catastrophic loss of life. But we do not feel guilt. We are angry at Hamas for forcing this war on us; for habitually using Gaza's civilians as human shields; and - in this latest outrage - for transforming a center where people had sought refuge into a shooting gallery and weapons depot. To paraphrase Golda Meir, there may come a time when we will forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, "but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons." Images of carnage take on a momentum of their own, and it requires a certain amount of savvy to realize that, sometimes, a picture is not worth 1,000 words. Images that jumble people's thinking and distort reality are less than worthless - they're propagandistic. News consumers rely on journalists to keep them from being duped. But what if the media becomes part of the problem? Take, for instance, a report by Gaza-based BBC producer Rushdi Abu Alouf from Shifa Hospital. The segment opened as frenzied crowds crying Allahu akbar encircled ambulances bringing war-wounded to Shifa's emergency room. The camera took us inside. This "you-are-there" treatment, patented by Al Jazeera, provides a voyeuristic, nearly pornographic, view from inside emergency rooms, operating theaters and morgues. The BBC producer interviewed a Norwegian physician, Mads Gilbert, presumably to get the view of an impartial foreigner, a Good Samaritan who had arrived in Gaza days earlier to volunteer his medical skills. Gilbert, clad in green scrubs, stethoscope slung around his neck, expressed outrage that international aid agencies were absent from the hospital. He called what is now happening in Gaza the worst man-made medical disaster he'd ever seen. The Israelis, prompted the producer, were claiming that most of the killed were gunmen - Gilbert's cue to assert that of the hundreds of patients flooding Shifa, maybe two were "militants." He elucidated: 2,450 had been injured, 45 percent of them women and children - and that didn't even include innocent men. Twenty-five percent of the dead were innocents; 801 children were "killed or injured." Faced with heartrending images of blood-drenched hospital floors, and funeral processions bearing white-shrouded toddlers, who could be bothered to recall that Gaza's Palestinians empowered Hamas knowing full well that its raison d'etre is relentless struggle against the existence of a Jewish state? Or that some of Hamas's leadership is operating out of that very Shifa hospital? Or that Hamas hijacks international medical aid intended for the Gazan masses, diverting it to special locations where its gunmen are being treated? When readers of Britain's Guardian are confronted by a front-page photo of a father collapsed in front of his three dead children, they can be forgiven for losing sight of the bigger picture: that between 2001-2008, over 8,000 flying bombs were launched at Israel, traumatizing an entire generation of Israeli children; and that unless the IDF manages to stop Hamas, the months ahead could see life in metropolitan Tel Aviv become as perilous as it is in Sderot. And when readers of London's Times see the headline: "We're wading in death, blood and amputees. Pass it on - shout it out" they, too, may be forgiven for overlooking the fact that Hamas purposely situates its launchers in densely populated areas. When the Arizona Republic reports: "Israel ignores calls for peace," a photo isn't even necessary. A WORD about Dr. Mads Gilbert: It turns out he's no neutral medical man, but active in "solidarity work with Palestinians" for 30 years. Responding to 9/11, Gilbert didn't rush to New York's Bellevue Hospital to offer his services. Instead, he defended the moral right of the "oppressed" to have launched that attack. Too many news outlets have allowed their coverage of Gaza to be agenda-driven, to willfully disregard the duty of presenting news and images in context. Cynically thrusting pictures of dead toddlers at readers and viewers obfuscates truth, bedevils news consumers, and robotically demonizes those "who could do such a thing." What a devious way of giving succor to the uncompromising fanatics who are really to blame for the horror of it all.