Washington Post ‘Infographic’ about Gaza Fighting Errs by Omission

“The crisis in Gaza,” a Washington Post Online “infographic” featuring illustrations, pictures, and text purported to summarize the first three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas, largely failed to inform readers why there was a crisis in the first place. It focused overwhelmingly on conditions in the Gaza Strip and barely mentioned Palestinian aggression Israelis faced from several thousand mortar and rocket attacks (August 1, 2014). A similarly flawed but slightly more balance full-page graphic, “Life in Gaza” appeared in the August 3 print edition of The Post.

Compiled by Lazaro Gamio, Richard Johnson, and Adam Taylor, the graphic—a combination of text, charts, pictures and maps—began by stating, “[a]lmost a month after Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, life in the Palestinian territory is becoming increasingly difficult.” But it never made clear that the operation was conducted in response to weeks of intensified mortar and rocket fire from the Strip and the discovery of a large network of tunnels reaching into Israel.

The Post said that the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiyya and the city of Beit Hanoun had been bombarded heavily. No mention was made of the fact that Hamas used Shejaiyya as a base with numerous underground fortifications, including tunnels into Israel, positioned its terrorists among the noncombatant population and attacked Israeli civilians from these positions.

The infographic included a picture of a U.N.-run school at which at least 20 people were killed. No mention of Israeli estimates that at least several hundred Palestinian mortar and rockets fell short, landing in the Strip rather than Israel, or that one such errant launch was suspected of hitting a U.N. installation being used as a shelter. Nor did the graphic note that the United Nations itself confirmed “someone”—Hamas or its partners including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Palestinian Resistance Committees—was storing rockets in at least three of its facilities and launching them from near others.

An illustration and photograph referred to tunnels under Gaza and into Israel that were discovered by the Israel Defense Forces but omitted the possibility that Hamas meant to use them for large-scale attacks against Israeli civilians.

Additionally, The Post graphic said that the majority of fatalities were Palestinian civilians. This claim at that point in the fighting required a non-journalistic lack of skepticism. On July 17, HamasInterior Ministry issued instructions to social media users telling them that they should “always call the dead ‘innocent civilians ” (“Hamas Interior Minister to Social Media Activists: Always Call The Dead ‘Innocent Civilians; Don’t Post Photos of Rockets Being Fired From Civilian Population Centers”, MEMRI, July 17, 2014). Intimidation, including killing those they define as “collaborators” with Israel, has been a tactic used by Hamas to, among other things, control information. Hamas killed a number of Gazans during Operation Protective Edge that it suspected of disloyalty, according to some reports.
Gaza: How bad, how long?

CAMERA’s analysis published at TIME magazine’s Web site cast doubt on the Palestinian and U.N. claims that fatalities in the Gaza Strip as a result of the fighting were mostly or heavily non-combatants. For example, it indicated that a low number of the fatalities were adult females relative to their proportion in the overall population, while a high number were males of combat age, between 17-39 (“How Hamas Wields Gaza’s Casualties as Propaganda”, TIME Magazine, July 29, 2014).

The Post graphic stated that “[t]he people of Gaza remain worse off than they were in the 1990s.” It failed to tell readers that Palestinian Arabs are the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world or that their leaders, in this case Hamas, have chosen to invest in warfare—including the costly underground fortifications and tunnels and on assembling a pre-war arsenal of as many as 10,000 rockets—instead of development.

The graphic also omitted the fact that there was a short-lived economic boom after the Israel-Palestinian Liberation Organization agreement was signed in 1993. However, the suicide bombers of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the mid-and late-1990s collapsed the boom even before the Palestinian leadership launched a second intifada in 2000. Nevertheless, Palestinian Arabs had a higher living standard, even during the second Intifada than those in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen according to a 2003 U.N. study.

The timeline omitted far too much basic information. While it accurately noted that on June 13 Israel began a search in much of the West Bank to find three missing Israeli teenagers who were later discovered to have been murdered, it omitted the fact that during the weeks Israeli forces searched for the missing teens, Hamas intensified its rocket attacks on Israel. This was done at least in part, apparently, to disrupt rescue efforts. Lacking references to Israeli-Hamas fighting in December 2008 to January 2009 (Operation Cast Lead) and in November, 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense), the infographic deprives readers of be able to see chronic Hamas aggression in context.

Nearly all of the photographs shown in “The Crisis in Gaza” were scenes of destruction in the Strip. No picture appeared of Israelis hiding in shelters, of Israeli towns near Gaza left nearly deserted or families and friends grieving at funerals of fallen soldiers.

This Post “infographic” was effective—at implying the only newsworthy victims of this war were Palestinian Arabs.

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