Ben Norton’s Selective and Shoddy Reporting in Salon

Starting with the headline of Salon‘s March 12 article by Ben Norton, “Israeli airstrikes kill 2 Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip” a recurring and major failing is manifestly evident. It is the selective use of context to vilify Israel. Determined readers learn only in the fifth paragraph that the Israeli strikes were in response to four Palestinian rocket attacks targeting Israel.

Norton’s selective use of context obscures Israel’s justification for its attacks targeting Hamas sites. Time and again, he casts the Gaza rockets as supposedly harmless. “Israel claims its airstrikes were in retaliation after four missiles were launched into open areas in southern Israel, resulting in no casualties,” he writes. “The Israeli military says there have been three more rockets fired into Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year, which neither injured nor killed anyone.” While thankfully no Israeli civilians have been killed or injured by rockets this year, Norton’s incomplete description ignores the fact that the decade-long stream of rocket fire targeting Israeli villages and cities has terrorized an entire generation of children.

As for physical injuries during caused by the supposedly “harmless rockets,” the United Nations’ “Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict – hardly a pro-Israel source – wrote:

Between 7 July and 26 August 2014, Palestinian armed groups fired several thousand projectiles towards Israel killing six civilians. According to Ministry of Health statistics, up to 1600 Israelis were injured, including over 270 children. Of these, Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical service, reported that it treated at least 836 people for different types of injuries, including 36 people wounded by shrapnel, 33 people hurt by shattered glass or building debris, and 159 people injured in the rush to reach shelters.


Norton again employs selective omission when he writes: “Approximately 190 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed since October 2015. Close to 30 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza.” His egregious omission of the fact that most of the Palestinian fatalities were attackers is a gross distortion of reality. As The New York Times rightly noted:

The bloodshed — mainly stabbings but also shootings and car-ramming attacks — has killed 28 Israelis. During the same time, at least 179 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Most of the Palestinians have been identified by Israel as attackers, while the rest were killed in clashes with security forces.

With the use of omission, Norton depicts Israel as the aggressor in the Gaza Strip, bombing the blameless Palestinians. He writes: “In October 2015, Israel also bombed a home in southern Gaza City, killing a pregnant Palestinian woman and her two-year-old child.” He ignores the fact that following yet another Gaza rocket attack on Israel’s southern villages, Israel responded with an attack on a Hamas weapon making facility in which the nearby mother and child were tragically killed.
Also, in a gross misrepresentation of the Israeli strike, both the strapline and the text state that the children were killed after Israel “bombed their home.” However, as was widely reported, including in this Reuters report, Israel bombed Hamas militant training camps, not the children’s home. Reuters states that the children were killed by “fragments from a missile” after Israel targeted “four militant training camps belonging to Hamas.” There is a substantive moral difference between targeting a family home and targeting terror training camps.
Norton also egregiously distorts by presenting outdated information as if it is current. Thus, referring to Hamas’ 2006 takeover in of the Gaza Strip, he writes:

Since this time, Israel has besieged Gaza. The Israeli government controls virtually everything that enters the densely populated [Gaza] strip, and has put Gazans ‘on a diet,’ restricting the food permitted for entry.

But in 2010 Israel lifted virtually all restrictions on imports to Gaza, aside from “dual use” items that could be used for terrorist infrastructure. Indeed, the hyperlinked Guardian article Norton relies upon makes clear that restrictions of food were lifted in June 2010The Guardian reported:

The Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010, according to files the defence ministry released on Wednesday under a court order.

Likewise, Norton quotes a diplomatic cable stating that Israeli sources told American diplomats that Israel wants to keep Gaza’s economy “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.” The Salon writer neglects to that this quote dates back to 2008, predating various major changes in Israeli policy.

While Norton is entitled to his personal negative opinion of Israel, his inability to write professionally and objectively about the country damages Salon’s credibility.

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