In yet another instance warning us to be wary of the news media, without waiting for Israel's side of the story, the TV network news -- with the sole exception of Fox News Channel -- accused Israel.
CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS were ensnared by the Palestinian propaganda machine. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, at 5 p.m. June 9, said, "Happening now, it's midnight in Gaza. A girl hopelessly appeals for the life of a loved one after the Israeli military strikes Palestinians having picnics. Dead bodies dot the beach and Hamas vows revenge." CNN had earlier reported, "[T]he Israeli response has been such that a number of fatalities, including perhaps the most serious incident, 12 people we understand, who were picnicking on a beach in northern Gaza, hit when Israeli navy gunship artillery shells fired into the area."
The headlines screamed and the dramatic, heart-rending video footage of an hysterically crying child TV camera following her searching for members of her family, outraged the world. That footage, supplied to the world's media by a Palestinian television production company, Ramattan News Agency, has now been seared into the consciousness and memory of hundreds of millions. The possibility of a re-enactment for the camera was raised by various indications including the fact the child supposedly spared because she was swimming during the explosion wandered, fully clothed, appearing dry, presumably having exited the sea with the camera close behind.
On June 9, ABC World News Tonight said, "After Israeli artillery shells hit a crowded beach in Gaza, seven people were killed, including six members of one family." CBS Evening News said, "Israel today attacked what were thought to be artillery launching sites in Gaza. It turned out the artillery fire instead hit a crowded Gaza beach. At least seven Palestinians were killed, including three children." NBC Nightly News said, "Hamas is vowing to resume attacks after Israeli artillery fire killed 10 Palestinians, including three children who were having a picnic on a Gaza Strip beach."
PBS Newshour said, "Israeli forces attacked a beach in the northern Gaza Strip today. At least seven people, including three children, were killed when their family picnic was hit by air strikes and artillery fire."
However, the exact cause of the blast was and still is a matter of speculation. Palestinians had alleged Israel was responsible; but, as the world learned after false Palestinian claims of a "massacre" in Jenin, and several other such incidents, an allegation does not make a fact.
On June 13, Israel cast serious doubt on the veracity of the media reports blaming Israel for the deaths of the Gaza beachgoers. The Israeli military said its investigation, based on an analysis of its artillery fire and shrapnel found in one victim, proved the explosion did not come from Israeli shells.
In subsequent coverage, CNN compounded the problem by repeatedly referring to the views of a fringe organization antagonistic toward Israel. On June 13, CNN said, "A Human Rights Watch Gaza military analyst refuted almost every finding [of the Israeli investigation]." But Fox's Brit Hume report on June 20, said: "Critics at the group, Human Rights Watch were quick to blame Israel for the horrific deaths of seven Palestinians on a Gaza Beach last week despite Israeli denials. And the group's investigator, Mark Garlasco, said all evidence from the incident pointed to an Israeli artillery shell. But the Jerusalem Post now reports that Garlasco actually now agrees with Israeli investigators that unexploded ordnance under the beach likely caused the blast."
Yet again, the lesson here is don't believe everything you see on the TV news.
(This Op-Ed appeared July 8, 2006 in the Washington Times online and in the print edition under the headline "A Wolf that cried boy")