CBS can’t get its numbers straight. An online report yesterday about the Israel-Hamas violence contradicts itself about the extent of civilian fatalities in the Gaza Strip (“Israel launches scores of airstrikes into Gaza“). The seventh paragraph of the story, appearing on the first stage, states that “at least half” of the Palestinians killed in “Pillar of Defense” are civilians. Here is a screen capture of that excerpt:
The minority of readers who bother to continue on to the second page of the story are then told a totally different figure:
We are accustomed to hearing about conflicting numbers on Palestinian civilian casualties, but not within a single article. CBS can’t be right in both places, so which one is it? Exact numbers of casualties will vary depending on the time of day that reports were filed yesterday, but there is a broad concensus that the majority of Gazans killed as of yesterday morning, when the internally contradictory CBS report was filed, were combatants. Thus, AP reported yesterday:
In all, 35 Palestinians, including 13 civilians, and three Israeli civilians have been killed since the Israeli operation began.
According to Ha’aretz‘s Amira Hass, hardly known to err in Israel’s favor, as of yesterday morning, Palestinian officials had said that of 39 Gaza fatalities, 13 were civilians (print edition, Nov. 18).
Likewise, Al Jazeera, another source hardly soft on Israel, reported yesterday:
The death toll from the conflict climbed on Saturday to 45: 40 Palestinians, at least 13 of them civilians, including women and children, and three Israeli civilians.
The Washington Post reports today:
The Israeli air assaults yesterday killed 15 Palestinians, lifting the toll since Nov. 14 to 50, including 13 civilians and two infants, according to Ashraf al-Qedra of the Gaza ministry of health said.
So where does CBS come up with the “at least half” civilians falsehood? Unfortunately, the falsehood is not limited to this one online article. CBS correspondent Allen Pizzey reported on the Nov. 16 CBS Evening News broadcast:
At least 28 Palestinians have been killed so far, half of them civilians, including several women and as many as six children.
Why ‘Inevitable Victims’?
In the same broadcast, correspondent Allen Pizzey misrepresents the reason for Palestinian civilian casualties, stating:
The Israelis insist they are only targeting Hamas military positions, but Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth so civilians are inevitable victims.
Pizzey further misleads, mischaracterizing the nature of the rocket threat. He reports in the Nov. 15 CBS This Morning broadcast:
A salvo of rockets sent Israeli civilians sprinting for cover this morning. The mainly homemade rockets are poorly aimed but deadly nonetheless.
In fact, since “Operation Cast Lead” in the winter of 2008-09, Hamas has significantly upgraded its rocket arsenal with the intensive smuggling of sophisticated Iranian and Russian made rockets. As reported by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the current crisis. First, Hamas, with massive aid from Iran, doubled its rocket arsenal since “Operation Cast Lead” and acquired the Iranian Fajr-5 rocket with a range of 46.6 miles, putting Tel Aviv, Rishon LeZion, and Rehovot in striking distance.2 The Iranian weapons flowed through the tunnels into Gaza beneath the Egyptian border. Some of this weaponry originated in Sudan, where Iran has had a naval presence for many years. . .In general, Hamas like the other Palestinian groups, sought to rehabilitate its military capabilities that were badly degraded during Operation Cast Lead, and even upgrade them to
new levels. Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas commander whom Israel eliminated at the start of its campaign, was the mastermind of this buildup. He developed Hamas’s rocket capabilities, organized its ground units into battalion and brigade formations and coordinated the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit with the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jaish al Islam. Among the new weapons that went into Hamas’s growing inventory was the Russian-made Kornet, a laser-guided anti-tank missile, which is used by Hizbullah. Its range can reach up to 3.4 miles. On Nov. 10, a Kornet anti-tank missile was launched at an Israeli jeep near the security fence. Four IDF soldiers were wounded. On April 7, 2011, Hamas used a Kornet anti-tank missile against an Israeli school bus filled with children.4
Besides overstating Palestinian civilian casualties, misreporting the reason why civilians inevitably die in Gaza, and downplaying the sophistication of Hamas’ weaponry, CBS also gives a highly distorted picture of Hamas. Nowhere, in its many reports, does