A piece in the New York Daily News on May 11 has regurgitated some of the most common misconceptions about the current Israel-Gaza conflict under the headline, “VIDEO: Largest residential building in Gaza collapses after Israeli airstrike.”
The author, David Matthews, is a digital staff writer for the paper, not a middle east correspondent, and his article seems to be primarily based on a report from Al Jazeera. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that there are a number of crucial omissions as well as mischaracterizations, making for an extremely misleading report.
Matthews writes, “According to Arabic news network [sic], at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, have been killed in the airstrikes and at least two Israelis in Tel Aviv were killed in the retaliatory rocket firings.” Of course, it is Israel’s airstrikes, not Hamas’s rockets, that are “retaliatory.” While Matthews refers to the destruction of a 13-story Gaza building, the building was hit on Tuesday evening. Hamas rocket attacks on Jerusalem and Ashkelon began first – with attacks on Jerusalem late on Monday, and on Ashkelon in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
And, even the anti-Israel NGO Defense for Children International – Palestine, which has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has said that at least two of the Gaza children were killed by misfired Hamas rockets, and not, as Matthews erroneously claims, by Israeli airstrikes. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that of 1,000 rockets Hamas fired at Israeli communities, 200 of them fell short and exploded inside Gaza neighborhoods.
Hamas fired 1,000 rockets at Israeli communities
200 of those rockets exploded inside Gaza neighborhoods
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) May 12, 2021
Matthews further relays that refugee camps and schools have been “targeted,” attributing the information to “Salameh Marouf, the head of the Gaza-based government information office.” Marouf has elsewhere been identified as “a Hamas government spokesman,” or as the “Hamas Information Minister,” or as the head of the “Hamas-run Government Media Office. Omitting this affiliation, as Matthews did, adds a layer of credibility to Marouf’s claims that may not be warranted. While it’s unclear at this point what all of the targets in Gaza were, Hamas has used school buildings to store missiles in the past.
Next Matthews tells readers, “The airstrikes followed days of Israeli forces storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the final days of Ramadan and tear-gassing and firing rubber bullets at people, including during evening prayers.” Here, he’s omitted more than he reported, creating an extremely misleading portrayal of events. The Times of Israel reported that “the Israel Police said rioters had been hurling rocks and other objects from the holy site and launching fireworks at officers, leading them to enter the compound, a relatively uncommon move by Israeli security forces.” Nor does Matthews tell readers that the Al-Aqsa Mosque sits atop the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount.
Finally, Matthews asserts that “Tensions have ratcheted up dramatically as Israel attempts to expel Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.” Of course, just as most reports have done, Matthews has omitted that in fact the property in question is owned by Jews, and that the Palestinians living there have refused to pay rent to the owners. Nor has he mentioned that a final decision on the case had just been delayed on Sunday, at the request of the tenants, to give Israel’s attorney general an opportunity to weigh in.
Matthews ends the article noting that, “both Jews and Muslims consider the section of East Jerusalem to be especially important.” Not of great religious significance, not of great historical or cultural significance, but “especially important.” While not technically incorrect, this language choice seems to betray his utter lack of familiarity with the situation.