NBC News Fumbled the Flotilla Story

NBC’s Nightly News “Inside Gaza” report, containing misinformation and omitting key facts, gave short shrift to Israel’s perspective regarding the raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza-bound six-ship cargo flotilla.

Host Brian Williams introduced the June 8, 2010 three-minute feature, subtitled “Growing up behind the blockade in Gaza“, as depicting a humanitarian mission:

It’s the Gaza strip, and it’s once again gotten the world’s attention after that raid on a ship trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza to deliver what many say was food and basic supplies. The Israelis say some of those supplies could have been used as weapons.

But Was the Real Purpose of the Ships to Deliver Food and Basic Supplies?

Even the mission’s organizers acknowledged that this was more about provoking and challenging Israel to allow the unfettered, uninspected passage of goods and people into and out of the strip. “This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies” said flotilla organizer and anti-Israel activist Greta Berlin. Instead, she said it was about breaking Israel’s blockade in order to allow uninspected shipments and people into and out of Gaza. Why might Israel not want to allow uninspected shipments into Gaza and people out of Gaza? Perhaps because the Hamas regime is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Hamas Exists Mainly to Kill Jews and Destroy Israel

The Hamas charter includes :

“…our fight with the Jews is very extensive and very grave, and it requires all the sincere efforts. It is a step that must be followed by further steps;..”. (From the Preamble)

“Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” (From Article 28)

“…the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (From Article 7)

“[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement…For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad….There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” (From Article 15)

The Proof is in the Pudding

Proof that the Hamas charter means what it says and says what it means – is in the history of Hamas terrorist attacks. But reporter Tom Aspell does not bother to discuss this. No mention is made of the thousands of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel since Israel gave all of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Nor does Aspell question the fact that the flotilla does not target Egypt which has also maintained a blockade of Gaza in opposition to the Hamas terrorist regime.

Israel’s Offer to Transfer the Flotilla’s Goods to Gaza was Refused

The flotilla leaders refused Israel’s offer to transfer the flotilla’s goods into Gaza after inspection via the regular crossing points. Likewise, Hamas refused to accept the goods.

The Availability of Goods

Israel transfers thousands of tons of humanitarian goods weekly to Gaza. In a typical week the IDF coordinates the transfer of hundreds of trucks containing about 15,000 tons of supplies. During the week of May 18, 2010 there were more than 100 truckloads of animal food, 65 trucks of fruit and vegetables; 22 truckloads of sugar, some 27 truckloads of meat, poultry and fish; and 40 trucks of dairy products. At holiday times, Israel increases transfers. During the Muslim holy days of Ramadhan and Eid al-Adha, Israel shipped some 11,000 heads of cattle into the Strip. In fact, goods are not in short supply in Gaza because Gazans have been smuggling them through tunnels from Egypt. According to a May 24 article by Tobias Buck in the Financial Times , “shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods. Branded products such as Coca-Cola, Nescafe, Snickers and Heinz ketchup – long absent as a result of the Israeli blockade – are both cheap and widely available.”

But NBC’s Focus was on Children Gathering Pebbles

Reporter Aspell presented a human-interest scene of children gathering pebbles:

This is what you see when you cross the border from Israel into Gaza. Children desperately scrambling for pebbles. Pebbles to be ground into cement. Israel won’t let cement into Gaza. It says the cement could be used for tunnels to smuggle weapons, so thousands of homes destroyed in the 2009 offensive can’t be rebuilt.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA),  “the import of cement and iron has been restricted into Gaza since these are used by the Hamas to cast rockets and bunkers…”

Nevertheless, NBC’s pebble-gathering scene certainly embellishes matters. The Gazan community does not seem to be dependent on  pebbles gathered by children for their cement needs. The New York Times included in its photographic feature on Gaza a picture of scavenged stone used for cement – hardly the “pebbles” NBC displayed and unlikely to have been gathered by children.

The S hips Did Not Contain Food, Basic Supplies or Equipment in Shortage

According to the Jerusalem Post, an Israeli official informed reporters that none of the equipment on the flotilla’s cargo ships was in shortage in the Gaza Strip. He noted that the shipment did contain concrete and metal rods used to construct fortifications for terrorists and for weapons manufacture. Obviously, the Israelis had to be sure that rockets and other armaments – to be used against Israeli citizens – were not contained in the cargo. This precaution was certainly warranted since the two main groups behind the flotilla voyage were the Turkish IHH, which has worked closely with terrorist organizations including Hamas, and the Free Gaza Movement, which is allied with the extremist International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Who Was Responsible For the Casualties Suffered Aboard the Turkish Ship?

The casualties on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, were a direct result of the violent assault on Israeli soldiers by the radicals on board, after the soldier’s attempt to board the ship (armed with paintguns) and accompany it to harbor for an inspection of its cargo. In attempting to defend themselves from the brutal attacks, the soldiers resorted to handguns which they had brought aboard only for emergency purposes. The Gaza Strip, ruled by a militant group  sworn to Israel’s destruction, is considered a belligerent nation/territory.  Israel’s blockade of this territory is therefore  justified according to legal experts. Under maritime law, Israel can legally intercept a vessel  in international waters if it is bound for the belligerent territory under blockade.

NBC Falsely Claimed That the Gazans are Imprisoned by Israel

Reporter Aspell wrongly states:

Israel’s blockade on Gaza isn’t just about preventing goods from getting in. It’s about preventing 1.5 million Palestinians from getting out. It sentences them to life inside a 140-square-mile prison.

The reporter glosses over the fact that the Gaza Strip borders Egypt as well as Israel but even more importantly, Israel, in fact, does not prevent the exit of ordinary residents of Gaza often allowing them into Israeli territory for  medical care. Israel maintains a corridor for the transfer of medical patients out of Gaza, and about 200 medical staff members enter through these crossings every month. Israel also helps coordinate the transfer of Jordanian doctors into Gaza. In 2009 alone, 10,544 patients and their companions left the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel. Moreover, there were 382 emergency evacuations from Gaza for medical purposes.

Baby Incubators and Formula

According to Mr. Aspell:

Life here is a struggle from birth. In Gaza’s Shifa hospital, the best around, there isn’t enough special formula for premature babies. Not even enough incubators.

In fact, Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip vital humanitarian goods on a daily basis including baby formula and over the last year and a half,  more than a million tons of goods were transferred. Israeli authorities do not impede the import of incubators into Gaza. In the first quarter of 2010 (January-March), 94,500 tons of supplies were transferred in 3,676 trucks to the Strip: 48,000 tons of food products; 40,000 tons of wheat; 2,760 tons of rice; 1,987 tons of clothes and footwear; 553 tons of milk powder and baby food.

Absence of an Israeli Voice

NBC provided no Israeli  voice to present an Israeli perspective.  Instead Aspell offered a completely one-sided presentation of facts.  For example, he interviewed a Palestinian mental health worker to discuss the trauma and stress of Gazan schoolchildren who exhibit violent, aggressive behavior supposedly because of the blockade. But there is no mention of the reason for the blockade, i.e. the thousands of rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza on Israeli civilians inside Israel.  There is no mention of the schools within Israel that have been hit by these rockets and no mention of the terror and stress experienced by Israeli children who have been under rocket siege from Gaza, who’ve spent many of their schooldays underground in shelters fearing for their lives. Nor is there mention of the children who have been struck down and killed by these rockets.

Had the NBC reporter made any attempt at even-handedness, he might  have interviewed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev who just days earlier was quoted as explaining:

These people [Gaza aid flotilla crew] call themselves human rights activists, but they are the opposite. They have nothing whatsoever to say about the human rights of Israeli civilians who have been on the receiving end of Hamas rockets for years. They have nothing whatsoever to say about the human rights of Palestinians who live in Gaza under the jackboots of the Hamas regime that oppresses women, Christians, and gays– a regime that has brutally suppressed all political opposition, destroyed independent media, closed down internet cafés, and has even made it illegal for a male hairdresser to cut the hair of a woman.

The Unasked Question

NBC News and the mainstream media fail to ask a key question: Why, under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule, and after many billions of dollars of aid (including billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars), do Palestinians still live in refugee camps like those in Gaza?

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