Sketchy Chronology Haunts Washington Post and BBC on Gaza War

The Washington Post’s “Life term in killing of Palestinian teenager; Settler was ringleader of group that kidnapped and burned the youth” (May 4, 2016 print edition, also online) included a paragraph that read: “The killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014 was part of a summer of violence that contributed to the war between Israel and the Islamist militant movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”

As CAMERA pointed out to the writer, Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth, the murder of Abu Khdeir certainly “was part of a summer of violence.” But it’s unlikely it “contributed to the war” between Israel and Hamas.
Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and murdered on July 2. But the Hamas-Israeli ceasefire following the November, 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defense” warfare had been unraveling before then.

In mid-June, 2014 three Israeli students were kidnapped. Hamas and other terrorist organizations increased mortar and rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the West Bank to obstruct the search for the trio and hinder an Israeli crackdown on Hamas members in the latter territory. Hamas (an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement and an Arabic word for zeal) also apparently intended the launches to slow the Israel Defense Forces’ discovery of its infiltration tunnels.

“In the weeks which preceded Operation Protective Edge attacks from the Gaza Strip escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July,” according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (“News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” July 2-8, 2014).

Israel gave Hamas the opportunity to ends its attacks (“IDF Mobilizes Troops to Gaza Front, but Calls for Quiet with Hamas; In rare message to Hamas, Israel says doesn’t seek escalation but ready to respond if necessary,” Ha’aretz, July 3, 2014). Hamas, a U.S. government-designated terrorist organization, spurned the overture. It and other terrorist groups including Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 80 mortars and rockets at Israel on July 7 alone (“What Led to Operation Protective Edge?”, June 28, 2014, updated July 7.)

Not as bad as BBC, but not good
The Washington Post’s wording confusingly conflated Palestinian aggression and Israel retaliation. It was not, perhaps, as potentially misleading as that invoked by the British Broadcasting Co. (See, for example, CAMERA affiliate BBC Watch’s “BBC News still promoting ‘cycle of violence’ myth,” Feb. 7, 2016).

Since the summer of 2014 the BBC has touted an apparently irresistible “cycle of violence” as an explanation for why the war, called by Israel “Operation Protective Edge,” erupted. The Post’s “summer of violence” that included Abu Khdeir’s murder as a “contributor” to the war interrupted actual causation.

An Associated Press dispatch (“Military forces rushed to Israel’s southern border with Gaza,” Washington Times, Friday, July 4, 2014) supported the Meir Amit Center’s interpretation. AP said “tensions have been high since three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a massive manhunt that ended with the discovery of their bodies early this week. Israel has blamed Hamas for the abductions and launched a crackdown on the Islamic militant group in the West Bank, drawing rocket attacks out of Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in a near-daily cycle of retaliation.

“The situation deteriorated further on Wednesday after the burned body of a Palestinian youth, whose identity was confirmed Thursday as Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was found in a forest after he was seized near his home in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing the teen in a revenge attack over the deaths of the Israeli youths.”

AP added that “in all, Palestinian militants have fired roughly 130 rockets toward Israel in recent weeks, according to the Israeli military. The air force has responded with airstrikes on some 70 targets in Hamas-controlled Gaza.” So “Palestinian accusations” regarding Abu Khdeir’s murder may well have indicated a “further deterioration” in inter-group relations but they did not relate to Operation Protective Edge’s origins.

The November, 2012 cease-fire ending “Operation Pillar of Defense” warfare never had been solid and showed signs of unraveling before Hamas members kidnapped the three Israelis in June. For example, The Jerusalem Post headlined an April 4, 2013 article, “Truce hangs in the balance as terrorists target Sderot. IAF strikes Gaza Strip early Wednesday. ‘If the quiet is violated, we will respond strongly,’ Says Netanyahu.”

2014 war’s origin went back to end of 2012’s fighting
The report noted, among other things, that “the U.N.’s envoy Robert Serry issued a statement saying he was ‘worried about the volatile situation on the ground’ manifested by ‘renewed firing of rockets from Gaza’ and ‘continued tensions over unresolved prisoner issues.’

“He said the ‘renewed violations of the cease-fire risk undermining the “understanding” reached between Israel and Gaza on November 21, and unraveling the gradual but tangible improvements achieved since then in the easing of the closure and the security situation in Gaza and southern Israel.”

Inter-Palestinian rivalry also may have contributed to the summer, 2014 war. The Times of Israel reported (“Prime Minister considers tougher response as Gaza rockets target Beersheva,” July 5, 2014): “A Hamas official, who did not give his name to Palestinian news agency Sawa, said overnight Friday-Saturday that ‘those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire [on Israel] should turn to [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah.’ The official was alluding to the fact that the salaries of 40,000 Hamas clerks in Gaza were still unpaid, which was reportedly a key Hamas demand since agreeing to a unity government deal in late April with the Palestinian Authority.”
Chronology can help determine causation. Causation can indicate responsibility. In the case of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, a “summer of violence” or a “cycle of violence” did not cause the fighting. Palestinian aggression did.

That aggression began with truce violations, including renewed mortar and rocket from the Hamas-controlled Strip by it and smaller terrorist groups. This happened before the kidnapping of the three Israelis in June. It increased with additional Hamas attacks after the kidna
pping but before discovery of their murders and prior to the revenge killing of Abu Khdeir.

Journalism relies on who, what, when, where, why and how. Without precision regarding when, who and why become sketchy. Then Washington Post readers and BBC listeners and viewers lose.

Comments are closed.