An October 17 Los Angeles Times article by Laura King and Fayed Abu Shammalah, “Palestinians Return to Scenes of Ruin,” follows the pattern typical for slanted reports on Israeli military operations against Palestinian terrorists and their infrastructure:
- Open with emotional scenes of suffering Palestinians, use figures and quotations from “human rights” organizations, the UN and/or Palestinian sources, all of which are routinely anti-Israel and prone to propaganda rather than facts.
- Don't include the very different figures cited by Israeli officials.
- Then, bury deep inside the article a dry, unemotional, cursory mention of the terror attack against Israeli civilians that provoked the Israeli military operation.
- Include a token comment from an Israeli source, try to make it about Israeli political posturing rather than the need for – or the accomplishments of – the military mission.
- Make no mention of the efforts Israel took to shield civilians from harm.
- Omit context regarding situations where civilians were killed.
- Leave out information about Israeli property damaged by the Kassam rockets and don't bother to get any quotations from Israeli families in nearby communities who have been terrorized by the frequent rocket attacks.
- Don't follow up on the families of those Israelis killed by the Palestinian rocket attacks.
- Include sympathetic photos of Palestinian civilians suffering, and if a photo of Israelis must be included, try to make it one of Israeli soldiers with weapons, the heavier the better.
Israel Claims Majority of Palestinians Killed Were Terrorists
Since King and Shammalah followed this formula for slanted reporting, they failed to inform readers that Israeli sources have quite a different figure for the number of terrorists killed. The article notes:
More than 110 Palestinians were killed in the incursion...The Islamic militant group Hamas said Saturday that about 40 of the dead were members of its military wing.
Since there are more terror groups in Gaza than just Hamas, to cite only the figure of 40 is quite deceptive. No other terror group is mentioned as having lost members, even though daily IDF reports, surely available to the reporters, sometimes mention Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorists being killed. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz estimates that of the 120 Palestinians killed during Operation Days of Penitence, 70 of them were terrorists.
Laura King's failure to note Israel’s estimate is odd, considering that just three days earlier, she was more careful to present both side’s claims and was fully aware that Israel believes that most of the Palestinians killed were combatants. King wrote:
The two sides dispute the breakdown of combatant and civilian casualties, with Israel saying that nearly all the dead were fighters. Palestinians and human rights groups say nearly 20 children were among those slain." ("Israeli Officer Suspended in Girl's Shooting", Oct 14, LA Times)
What other key context was missing from King and Shammalah's Oct 17 article? The substantial challenges and accomplishments of Israel's military operation.
Information from the IDF (available on the IDF website on October 15) relates that:
IDF forces are operating already 2 weeks in the Northern Gaza Strip in an operation, 'Days of Atonement' in order to reduce the launching of Kassam rockets... So far...IDF forces thwarted eight Kassam rocket launches, eight attempts to launch anti-tank rockets, and 12 attempts to lay explosive charges. Meanwhile,terrorists launched 14 Kassam rockets at the western Negev, over 20 anti-tank rockets were employed and about 7 charges were set off at IDF forces ." ( http://tinyurl.com/56nuz )
And take a look at what else is left out of the October 17 article, info readily available from the Foreign Ministry:
From October 14, 2004 Israeline:
Gaza raid will proceed in order to prevent Israeli casualties... IDF officers...noted that Operation Days of Penitence is achieving its goals and that dozens of members of terrorist organizations, belonging to nine rocket-launching cells, have been killed. Moreover, they noted that due to the operation, terrorists launching Qassam rockets have been forced to retreat. They also said that the number of rockets launched has decreased significantly, and that the level of accuracy has been greatly diminished.
In other news, five Palestinians were killed today, two of them members of Hamas, in Israel Air Force missile strikes in the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, troops targeted terrorists who had been planting explosives.
From October 15, 2004 Israeline:
Meanwhile, five terrorists, including three Hamas and two Al-Aksa Brigades operatives, were killed overnight in IAF air strikes in Gaza, Ma'ariv reported.
In the LA Times’October 17 version of the military operation, there was no danger to the Israeli soldiers, no one trying to blow up their tanks, and Israel's overriding mission was not to stop rocket attacks against its civilian population, but to wantonly destroy Palestinian homes and kill Palestinians to appear strong to help Prime Minister Sharon's political agenda.
King or Shammalah fail to explain why it is so difficult for Israeli soldiers to completely avoid harming civilians, especially children. Even in Laura King'sOctober 14th article specifically about the death of a teenage girl, she provides no overall context regarding Palestinian children and teenagers increasingly getting involved in combat and terrorism. A recent report by Palestinian Media Watch gives a fuller picture:
PMW's report on children in combat support roles
Through classroom lessons, mosque sermons, and music videos shown repeatedly on Palestinian TV, Palestinian children are taught that it is their duty to help “the resistance,” the terrorists, and to be on the frontlines.
As noted in a October 17, 2004, PMW report, “Palestinian children in combat support roles ; Behavior mirrors teachings in PA schoolbooks and popular culture” by Itamar Marcus & Barbara Crook:
In spite of family members' warnings, groups of children are spreading around the [Gaza] camp, both to pass on information to the resistance and to bring them water .(from Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 11, 2004)
The PMW report explains that:
According to tradition, while Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr hid in a cave, Abu Bakr's young daughter aided them by passing them information about the enemy and giving them water. The [Palestinian] schoolbook teaches children to see themselves in similar roles with such language as: “Asma, Abu Bakr's daughter, was my age when she played a role…” and immediately asks the question: “What role can I play in order to support the national resistance movement against the occupier and colonialist?” (History of the Arabs and Muslims, 6th grade, p. 34, translated by CMIP)
The children take these lessons to heart and follow them. According to an October 15th IDF report, Palestinian children were seen surrounding a rocket launcher and even moving it (knowing that Israeli soldiers are loathe to shoot children, thereby possibly allowing the rocket launcher to be used instead of destroyed):
During IDF activity today (Friday) in the southern Gaza Strip to reduce launching of Qassam rockets, several Palestinians surrounded by children were identified by the forces with a Qassam launcher. The forces fired warning shots and the group fled leaving the launcher behind. Shortly after, the children were seen carrying the launcher to a different launching spot and the group which earlier fled tried once again to launch a Qassam. The forces fired again warning shots and the launching attempt was thwarted.
LA Times’ reporters and others should report more fairly and fully about Israeli military operations and include context about Palestinian children being callously encouraged by their teachers and leaders to place themselves in the line of fire.