Coverage of Gaza Clashes Falls Short

As Palestinians in Gaza, backed by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, continue to riot — setting Israeli fields aflame, throwing firebombs and stones, attacking Israel’s border fence — and to protest Israel’s existence, and as Israeli soldiers struggle to keep the demonstrators from the country’s borders, with tear gas giving way to live fire that has taken the lives of dozens of rioters, media coverage has often failed to accurately report on the clashes.

Below, we look at some of the recent coverage. (This piece will be continuously updated.)

New York Times

• A May 15 editorial in the New York Times strongly insinuates that Israel has not tried to deter rioters with tear gas and other nonlethal measures, but has used only live ammunition, saying Israel officials “are unconvincing when they argue that only live ammunition — rather than tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal measures — can protect Israel from being overrun.”

The insinuation is false, as even New York Times news coverage has made abundantly clear. An April 23 piece referred to “clouds of tear gas.” An April 27 story reported that “Thousands began streaming toward the barrier fence, setting off a tremendous barrage of tear gas from the Israeli side that did not deter many.” An April 30 piece referred to Israeli soldiers “occasionally launching tear-gas barrages, sometimes using live fire.” There have been “copious amounts of Israeli tear gas,” the paper noted on May 5. “Israeli soldiers and snipers used barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory,” reporters explained on May 14, the day before the misleading editorial appeared in print. “Inky clouds of smoke from burning tires piled high by the protesters to obscure the Israeli view were laced with spirals of tear gas fired from the Israeli side.”

• Since the beginning of May (and as of this writing on May 15), New York Times news coverage of the Gaza clashes has failed to mention that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and organizes the protests and riots, is designated internationally as a terrorist organization — information necessary for readers seeking to understand why Israelis fear the worst if rioters, which include members of Hamas and other terror groups, breach the fence.

• A front-page story by Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger on May 15 asserts that “Palestinians, who hope to see the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, see the embassy move as an abdication of any vestige of American impartiality in determining the region’s future.”

Although it casts the opening of the US embassy as interfering with Palestinian hopes for a capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem, the piece fails to explain that the embassy straddles western Jerusalem and a demilitarized zone that had been under continuous Israeli long before Israel’s takeover of the West Bank. The embassy compound was never part of the Jordanian-ruled West Bank.

• While New York Times coverage has acknowledged the violence, arson, and infiltration attempts by Palestinian rioters in Gaza, the newspaper persists in labeling Palestinians killed during such acts as mere protesters. For example, a May 15 news story by Declan Walsh reports that “At least 58 protesters had been killed.” 

• Borrowing a propaganda line right from the anti-Israel opinion pages, New York Times news reporters on May 15 cast Gaza as an “open-air prison.” It is an egregious example of editorializing, in violation of journalistic codes of ethics, from reporters who are loath to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization or Gaza as, say, a “terrorist-run enclave.”

NPR

On May 15, NPR Steve Inskeep misinformed listeners about the Palestinian Nakba Day mourning the creation of the Israeli state, Palestinians living in Gaza and the rioters who were shot.  

• During a Morning Edition segment, Inskeep suggested the Palestinian rioter were shot because “they were trying to leave” Gaza:

We’re in this territory at the western border of Israel where Israeli troops killed many people yesterday as they were trying to leave…. Gaza protesters were approaching fences that wall off this Palestinian zone. It was the deadliest day in six weeks of protests.

Of course, Palestinians marching on the border are not “trying to leave,” language that seems meant to evoke attempts to escape East Germany or defect from North Korea. As the leaders of the protest have repeatedly made clear, they are trying to erase the border separating Israeli towns from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. And at least some of those killed were trying to engage  in terror attacks.    

About Nakba Day, the NPR reporter said:

Big day for Palestinians – Nakba day – the annual date where they mark the loss of land at the independence of Israel in 1948. It underlines the issue that Palestinians are highlighting with six weeks of deadly protest.

Unmentioned is that it was the 1948 Arab war of aggression to eliminate the new state of Israel and the flight of Palestinians during this war that resulted in the loss of their land — not Israel’s independence.

About Gazans:

Many people here are refugees, classed as refugees. Their parents or grandparents were driven off the land at the creation of Israel. They now live in terrible economic conditions and can’t really get out of here very easily because it is walled off and fenced off.

Again Inskeep suggested that Palestinians were “driven off the land” to make way for an Israeli state.  And again, no mention was made of the Arab war of aggression that resulted in the flight of Palestinians, many taking cues from their leaders. Nor was there any mention of the terrorism perpetrated by Gazans that prompted the erection of a fence to protect the Israeli border. Rather than presenting it as what it is — a barrier to prevent Gazans from entering Israel — Inskeep is heard comparing the border crossing to a “prison” for Gazans.  

Reuters

Reuters is among the news outlets stating on May 15 that an 8-month old baby “died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled.” The Associated Press, however, has reported that Gaza medical sources dispute that claim:

Gaza health officials are casting doubt on initial claims that a 9-month-old baby died from Israeli tear gas fired during mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel.

A medical doctor said Tuesday that the baby, Layla Ghandour, had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of he was not allowed to disclose medical information to the media.

Reuters and other news sources have not updated their reports to reflect the information uncovered by the Associated Press.

Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times’ Alexandra Zavis incorrectly referred on May 14 to “the Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of [the Palestinians’] forebears were driven from their homes during the 1948 war over Israel’s founding.” But historians have made clear that a large proportion of Palestinian refugees fled of their own accord, as the Arab world initiated a war to eliminate the newly established state of Israel.

CNN

The headline and lede of an article posted on CNN’s website indicts Israel and portrays Gazan rioters as their innocent victims.

Palestinians bury their dead as Israel defends bloody Gaza crackdown,” the headline blares. Readers are then informed that

…Israeli troops fired on Palestinians gathered at the border to protest against the controversial relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

The term “crackdown” connotes punishment. The false suggestion is that Israel was punishing Palestinian demonstrators for gathering peacefully at the border to demonstrate against the embassy move rather than protecting Israeli citizens from a border incursion by a violent mob pushed by Hamas.

Washington Post

The Washington Post’s coverage of the latest phase of the “Great Return March” evidenced many of the problems that CAMERA has previously documented (see, for example “Hamas Uses Human Shields and The Washington Post, The Daily Caller, April 4, 2018). A May 15, 2018 report (“Gaza buries its dead as death toll from protests at fence with Israel rises to at least 60”) once again uncritically repeated casualty claims made by the Gaza “Health Ministry”—a Hamas controlled entity. Crucial context was missing elsewhere in the report, which noted that Israel had “blockaded Gaza after Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007,” but failed to specify that this was due to the terror group’s decision to launch terrorist attacks against the Jewish state. However, the report did quote Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, who noted the long history of Palestinian rejection of Israel’s existence.

Another Post dispatch (“Israelis kill more than 50 Palestinians in Gaza protests, health officials says,” May 14) repeated Hamas casualty counts. That report also claimed that “increasing economic hardship” and “wider despair” has “fueled frustrations in Gaza.” However, The Post failed to inform readers that Gazans had recently set fire to the Kerem Shalom crossing; which is the “only way to bring diesel fuel into Gaza for operating generators for hospitals and other key facilities (“Palestinians set fire to gas pipes at Kerem Shalom crossing,” Ynet).” The Post omitted this act of self-sabotage—as well as any semblance of Palestinian independent agency and culpability for electing and supporting Hamas, a genocidal, antisemitic terrorist group, to rule Gaza.

To its credit, however, The Post did note—and document—anti-Jewish incitement in this particular report. The paper quoted a Gazan named Mohammed Mansoura, who proclaimed: “We are excited to storm and get inside…to kill, throw stones.” The paper also noted that “two other young men carried large knives and said they wanted to kill Jews on the other side of the fence.”

Politico

Politico erred in trusting Hamas for casualty counts. A May 14, 2018 article, “Trump calls for peace as deadly protests flare up in Gaza,” claimed that Palestinians want “East Jerusalem” as a capital, but failed to mention that Palestinian leadership has rejected, on numerous occasions, offers for statehood that would have provided precisely that.

Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore Sun dispatch omitted essential information(“Trump, aides celebrate Jerusalem embassy, as border burns,” May 15, 2018). The paper wrote that “the Trump administration in recent months has slashed U.S. aid to the Palestinians and programs that support them.” Yet, the report failed to explain that cuts in U.S. aid are due to the Palestinians insistence on paying terrorists and refusing to negotiate, as CAMERA has documented (see, for example “U.S. media are covering up Palestinians ‘pay to slay’ policy,” The Washington Examiner, March 21, 2018). Additionally, the paper claimed that the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem is a “sharp departure from previous administrations,” but omitted key facts: The decision is merely the implementation of the bipartisan 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act which the last three Presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, promised to implement in accordance with the wishes of the American people.

USA Today

A May 15, 2018 report, “U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem; Palestinians killed in Gaza protests,” echoed Hamas casualty claims and, in 800-words, reduced Palestinian violence at the Israel-Gaza border to merely “protesters [who] threw stones at Israeli troops. Hamas is only mentioned twice and the group’s stated desire to murder Jews and destroy Israel—as well as its decision to intersperse armed operatives among civilians—is never mentioned. Quotes from Hamas leaders like Yahya Sinwar, who exhorted “We will take down the border and tear their hearts from their bodies,” are missing from Today’s coverage.

The report also uncritically quotes a “Palestinian citizen of Israel,” Safa Yasin, who claimed that the embassy move “cements Israeli control over Jerusalem.” In fact, as CAMERA noted in The Times of Israel (“’Days of Rage’ and Bad Reporting,” Dec. 7, 2017), the decision to belatedly implement the 1995 law does not do so, as President Trump noted in his December 2017 announcement.

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