The increased media focus on the conflict between Israel and Hamas gives more visibility to a media-driven theme that blames Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for exacerbations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the New York Times it has long been fashionable to accuse Netanyahu of being "intractable," "war-mongering" and a political schemer whose popularity in America has been "bought and paid for" by the Israel lobby. With the rising violence between Israel and Gaza, media personalities who share a contempt for Netanyahu have woven this theme into their commentary. In recent televised appearances, Christianne Amanpour, Global affairs editor at ABC, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and part-owner of The Nation, manipulated the timeline of events to conceal Hamas's responsibility for initiating the violence in order to shift the blame on to Netanyahu and his government.
Appearing on NBC news magazine program Now on November 19, vanden Heuvel bemoans, "For the sake of the children on both sides, stop this abomination."
Who is responsible for this abomination? Not Hamas, the terrorist group that has launched thousands rockets at Israeli cities and towns after Israel abandoned the Gaza Strip and turned it over to the Palestinians. No, the blame is fixed firmly on the head of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Vanden Heuvel declares
It's worth remembering in terms of the timeline that there were negotiations for a longterm ceasefire, when the Israeli air force at the behest of Benjamin Netanyuhu (sp), the Israeli Prime Minister, who clearly wants to reset Israeli politics after his involvement with U.S. elections to shore up his base, when he decided to attack the militant Hamas leader and assassinate him... The Israelis can tweet all they like, but until there is an unconditional ceasefire and the beginnings of real negotiations through political solutions and not military solutions, I feel the Israeli people and the Palestinian people will see no peace...
Vanden Heuvel's timeline is very selective. It does not include increased Hamas terrorist activity or the increased volume of rocket fire directed toward Israeli civilians in the days leading up to the surgical strike that killed the Hamas military-wing commander. The Nov. 10 missile attack on an Israeli jeep patrolling on Israel's side of the border that seriously injured four Israeli soldiers and the detonations of bombs targeting Israeli troops on Nov. 6 and 8 don't seem to count. Nor do the 100 rockets launched on Nov. 11. Vanden Heuvel's "timeline" starts with Netanyahu deciding on November 13 to "assassinate
" a Hamas leader as a domestic political ploy to shore up his base.
Vanden Heuvel's publication, The Nation, is a fever swamp of anti-Israel invective, so her distorted version of events is not surprising. But neither the show's host, Alex Wagner, nor any of the other participants bothered to challenge her version.
The unambiguous statements by U.S. President Barack Obama, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper squarely placing the blame on Hamas and voicing "unequivocal" support for Israel's right to self-defense failed to resonate with the show's participants.
At ABC, the narrative was much the same. On Nightline, the late-night news magazine program, Global affairs editor Christianne Amanpour also ignores Hamas's escalation. During the November 15 segment Amanpour reduces the flagrant violence instigated by Hamas violence to "days of tit for tat attacks between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza..." She then established that
the Israeli military stepped up, launching what they call operation Pillar of Defense. Its first target was Ahmed El Jabari, a military chief of Hamas, the Islamic political party that governs the Gaza Strip which Israel and the West call a terrorist organization.
Amanpour does not inform her viewers of El Jabari's involvement in terrorism. An accompanying article on ABC's Web site that day pushed the point that Israel was the aggressor and Hamas was retaliating. This was evidenced in the article's headline, "Israel extends air strikes on Gaza, Hamas retaliates." In fact, a review of video reports available on the ABC Web site on November 15 failed to uncover a clear statement establishing Hamas's responsibility for starting the recent violence.
Skipping crucial context of what lead up to the escalation of violence, Amanpour then reported that "a Hamas leader vowed revenge, telling reporters, 'Israel started this war, but they will never know its end. They will regret what they did.'" Since Amanpour has not clarified that Hamas initiated the round of violence, how is the viewer to judge such accusations by Hamas?
Like vanden Heuval, Amanpour points the finger at Netanyahu by surmising, "This battle plays out in the background of pending elections in Israel," she states. Although Amanpour is not as direct as vanden Heuval, the implication to the viewer is clear: Palestinians are dying as a result of Israel's Prime Minister, Netanyahu, playing politics.
Amanpour's colleague in Gaza, Alexander Marquardt, provides more of the same, emphasizing that the Israeli attacks take a heavy civilian toll, despite strong evidence that Israel is taking great care in not hitting civilians. Marquardt reports that the Israeli attacks "left some 30 Palestinians dead and scores wounded, most of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials." Accompanying film footage of an emergency care unit in a hospital, Marquardt reports, "some here are militants most are not." In fact, even Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra
as well as others
reported that the majority of those killed up to that point were Hamas militants. But the deception here is insidious.
Marquardt employs the same method that was used in 2009 during Israel's Cast Lead operation, during which the Israeli operation was portrayed as indiscriminate. The accusation of indiscriminate Israeli attacks was reinforced by repeating the casualty claims provided by Hamas-aligned sources. While the Israelis provided figures indicating most of the casualties were militants associated with Hamas or other terrorist groups, Palestinian sources categorized the casualties as overwhelmingly civilians and dramatised that claim by escorting compliant journalists on tours of hospitals filled with badly hurt and dead children and infants. The fact that even lists of fatalities compiled by Palestinian sources disclosed that 3/4 of the fatalities were young men between the ages of 16-40 did not raise suspicions among many correspondents about the composition of the fatalities.
More than a year after the Cast Lead operation was concluded, long after the journalists had moved on and reports condemning Israel for indiscriminately bombarding civilian areas had been published and disseminated by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, comments by Fathi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, corroborated the Israeli figures (AFP, Nov. 1, 2010).
Is more accurate and agenda-free coverage and commentary possible? Contrast vanden Heuvel's and Amanpour's accounts with that of Raheem Kassam
on BBC. At 1:50 of the linked video, Kassam established that although many many are trying to claim Israel started this round of violence, it was Hamas that started it. At 2:53 of the video the BBC host repeats this point. Kassam also states a crucial fact that vanden Hueval and Amanpour avoid: In the last decade some 13,000 rockets have been fired by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza into Israel. Rather than portraying Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a warmonger and schemer using the attack on Gaza as a ploy to boost his political standing prior to an election, Kassam's information might raise the question why it took so long to act?