“If you’ve been noticing the headlines about Israeli forces killing Palestinian protesters that seem carefully designed to avoid mentioning who’s doing the killing, you may be wondering: Is that how media always do it? The answer is no: Journalists know very well how to include the identity of the killers in the headline—when they think that’s information that’s important for the reader to know.” – Jim Naureckas, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
We are currently witnessing a remarkable case study in the manner in which U.S. corporate, mainstream media outlets treat international humanitarian crimes when perpetrated by U.S. strategic allies considered beyond reproach, outside the reach of humanitarian critique. As Media Lens shows down at the bottom of this post, the UK press is equally challenged to present the unfiltered facts.
Read on for the latest news about those professionals who determine what news is worth sharing and in what manner, starting with Jim Naureckas writing for the exceptional news watchdog, FAIR. – RR
by Jim Naureckas, May 15 2018. FAIR
If you’ve been noticing the headlines about Israeli forces killing Palestinian protesters that seem carefully designed to avoid mentioning who’s doing the killing, you may be wondering: Is that how media always do it? The answer is no: Journalists know very well how to include the identity of the killers in the headline—when they think that’s information that’s important for the reader to know.
As in Syria (New York Times, 3/25/11):
Or Myanmar (New York Times, 1/17/18):
In Senegal (AP, 1/30/12):
And in India (AP, 5/6/18):
I can’t say there aren’t some signs of improvement in Gaza coverage, though—uneven though they may be. On Twitter (5/14/18), BuzzFeed‘s Elamin Abdelmahmoud juxtaposed two of the more obfuscatory headlines:
Abdelmahmoud contrasted this with the same two stories in two different newspapers—bearing headlines that straightforwardly explained who was killing whom:
And the Toronto Star, perhaps as a result of the social media discussion, changed its headline to the far more forthright “Israeli Soldiers Shoot and Kill at Least 55 Palestinians During Mass Protests in Gaza.” So journalists do know how to convey to readers who’s responsible for mass slaughter—sometimes even when it’s Israel doing the slaughtering.
Thanks to @fudgeposner for spotting many of these headlines.
Then we move on to Joe Lauria, the new Editor-in-Chief of Consortiumnews.com – RR
Joe Lauria, May 14 2018. ConsortiumNews.com
Typical of the mindset of corporate media reporting on what happened in Gaza on Monday as Israeli soldiers killed more than 50 protesting Palestinians, is this tweet from CNN. It says: “Death toll rises to at least 52 people during clashes along the border fence between Israel and Gaza, Palestinian officials say. More than 2,400 people have been injured.” CNN’s new slogan is “#FactsFirst.”
Adam Johnson, who writes for the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, responded to CNN with a tweet of his own:
“This one’s got it all:
- ‘death toll rises’ — no one was killed and no one specific party did the killing, the death toll just mysteriously ‘rises’
- ‘clashes’ — launders all power asymmetry
- ‘2,400 people have been injured’ — all 2,400 are Palestinian but lets go with ‘people’.”
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said on his blog that he did a Google News search for the word “massacre” and found not one reference to Gaza.
A New York Times headline on Monday said: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the U.S. prepares to open its Jerusalem Embassy.” Journalist Glenn Greenwald responded: “Most western media outlets have become quite skilled – through years of practice – at writing headlines and describing Israeli massacres using the passive tense so as to hide the culprit. But the all-time champion has long been, and remains, the New York Times.#HaveDied.”[Perhaps because of pressure from Greenwald and others, the Times on Monday night changed its headline to “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem.”]
Yet another CNN headline simply read: “Dozens die in Gaza.” Journalist Max Blumenthal responded: “Maybe they were old. Perhaps they were very sick. They just up and died! Who will solve the mystery behind these deaths?”
Blumenthal later offered a possible solution to the mystery: “According to the White House, Khhamas launched 41 protesters into unsuspecting Israeli bullets.”
Deflecting blame from Israel is one thing. But projecting it onto the victim is quite another. Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called for the U.N. Security Council to, “Condemn Hamas for their war crimes,” because “every casualty on the border is a direct victim of Hamas.”
He said in a statement released by Israel’s U.N. mission:
“Condemn Hamas for the war crimes they commit. Not only does Hamas incite tens of thousands of Palestinians to breach the border and hurt Israeli civilians, but Hamas also deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians. The murder of Israeli civilians or deaths of the people of Gaza – each one of them is a desirable outcome for Hamas. Every casualty on the border is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes, every death is a result of Hamas’ terror activity, and these casualties are solely Hamas’ responsibility.”
That’s one way to wash the Israeli government’s (blood-soaked) hands of the matter. Especially if you fear Israel will be accused of war crimes itself for its actions on Monday. Danon mentioned “breaching the border.” But it is virtually impossible to get in or out of Gaza without Israeli permission. Burning kites lofted over the barrier that pens in nearly two million Gazans subject to an internationally unrecognized economic blockade, supposedly constitutes “breaching,” in Danon’s mind.
He would do well to consider the words of Moshe Dayan, one of the Israel’s Founding Fathers, who said in 1956:
“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.” He went on: “We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.”
So on the day, 61 years later, when the United States declared Jerusalem/Al Quds as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy there, rather than leaving its status to negotiation, people still trapped in Gaza protested at the gate fencing them in while Israeli military snipers picked off more than 50 of them and wounded thousands more for protesting their entrapment.
U.S. Parrots Israel, Media Parrots U.S.
Danon’s position was callously promoted by the White House on Monday. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah was asked several times to condemn Israel’s military response. “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he said. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.” He later blamed Hamas for a “gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.”
Unsurprisingly, Congress also lined up behind the Jewish State, mostly ignoring what went on in Gaza.
At the ceremony opening the embassy, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called Monday “a monumental day in United States-Israel relations.” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who was among four senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives present, incredulously said moving the embassy “furthers the chances of peace in the Middle East by demonstrating that America’s support for Israel is unconditional and will not be bullied by global media opinion.”
Back in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed: “Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”
Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016, tweeted: “Where are the democrats condemning the slaughter in Gaza? If this was Assad they would be joining the republicans calling for military action pretending like they cared for Arab life.”
Handful of Democrats Speak Out
Bernie Sanders of Vermont mildly criticized Israel’s murderous response. “Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters,” he said. “The United States must play an aggressive role in bringing Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the international community together to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and stop this escalating violence.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, was more critical: “It’s just heartbreaking. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is desperate. Instead of cutting aid, the Trump administration must restore our leadership role and do what it can to alleviate the Palestinians’ suffering. The location of the embassy is a final-status issue that should have been resolved as part of peace negotiations where both sides benefit, not just one side. Israel will only know true security when it is at peace with its neighbors.”
Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, tweeted: “Today’s @USEmbassyIsrael opening in Jerusalem & killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances @netanyahu agenda of occupation & oppression of Palestinians. @realDonaldTrump policies are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.”
Pressure to support Israel on The Hill is infamously intense. But what is the media’s excuse for being afraid to simply report facts, such as that Israeli soldiers “killed” Palestinians on Monday. They didn’t just simply die.
Just because U.S. government figures are apologists for Israel, does not mean the media must be too. But that would require the U.S. having an independent mainstream media.
When control of powerful mainstream communications breeds self-aggrandizement and adherence to a line pushed for so long because it got you where you are in the pecking order of media culture, it seems virtually impossible to shift gears and take another look at what you are reporting.
Back to today’s report from Adam Johnson of FAIR:
Adam Johnson, May 16 2018. FAIR
The fact that the United States favors Israel in its decades-long “conflict” with the Palestinians is not a subjective or abstract question; it’s a well-established empirical fact. The US gives over $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel (more than the US spends on aid for the last seven countries it’s bombed combined), and defends it from sanction almost uniformly at the UN Security Council. Israel’s support from the US Congress borders on sycophantic. The US, on the other hand, gives no military aid to Palestine, and opposes resolutions that even acknowledge Palestine exists—much less support its resistance to Israeli occupation. The US gives some aid to the Israeli-approved and corrupt Palestinian Authority, but this largely serves to buy off the docile and unpopularPA.
None of these simple, clear-as-day facts however, seem to be known—or at least acknowledged—by those who make up the New York Times editorial board. In an otherwise decent scolding of President Donald Trump for moving the US embassy, the Times(5/14/18) fired off this cartoonishly naive and ahistorical gem:
Mr. Trump’s announcement that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, swept aside 70 years of American neutrality.
It’s difficult to imagine any of the seemingly knowledgeable and healthy adults at the Times editorial board actually thinking the US has been “neutral” in its dealings with Israel and Palestine. Perhaps not 100 percent lockstep. Perhaps sometimes pushing back against the most right-wing elements in Israel. But “neutral”? It flies in the face of decades of evidence to the contrary.
This isn’t the first time the New York Times has played the part of a kindergartener finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. As FAIR noted last December (12/30/17), Times reporter Mark Landler used the specter of Trump to totally whitewash America’s aggressive and violent past, in a manner that crosses from jingoistic to outright goofy:
Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.
How they know this wasn’t made clear. Perhaps Landler and his editors at the Times did a secret poll and found out the United States has been viewed by “the world” as a “reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order,” rather than a superpower bully that defends rogue apartheid states and launches wars of aggression without UN sanction. But in the article, this “view” was simply asserted, all the ideological lifting being done by the reporter’s back-of-the-napkin editorializing.
In a similar bout of amnesia (FAIR.org, 2/9/17), the Times editorial board argued earlier that year that America’s wars over the past decades were started for purely noble intentions:
At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy, sometimes with extraordinary results, as when Germany and Japan evolved after World War II from vanquished enemies into trusted, prosperous allies.
Again, one is compelled to ask, how do Times editors know what’s in the hearts of our beloved leaders? What’s the evidence that their motives were benevolent, their empire an earnest, aw shucks effort to help out the little guy?
It’s understandable wanting to impress upon readers how dangerous and flagrant President Trump’s actions are and have been. But in doing so, there’s no reason to rewrite history and whitewash America’s crimes, or its prior bad-faith actions with regard to Palestine—if not for the sake of history, at least for the sake of their paper’s credibility.
Meanwhile, from across the pond, David Edwards and David Cromwell of Media Lens have another perspective worth considering, as usual. – RR
David Cromwell and David Edwards, May 16 2018. Media Lens
A recent media alert highlighted the mass killing and wounding of Palestinians in Gaza, including children, by Israeli armed forces in what the media often describe as ‘clashes’. Before the latest major massacre on May 14 (see below), Israeli forces had already killed over 50 Palestinian protesters and injured over 5000, including 1700 by live fire, during Great March of Return protests that began on March 30. UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk condemned Israel’s actions as violations of international law.
On April 21, an Israeli general confirmed in a radio interview that even children have been shot deliberately under clear and specific orders. United Nations peace process envoy Nickolay Mladenov declared the targeting of children ‘outrageous.’
In a sane world, such an appalling Israeli policy would be major headline news. Our searches revealed not a single ‘mainstream’ report about it in the days following the Israeli general’s comments. We asked senior BBC News editors and journalists to point us to the BBC News headlines and follow-up coverage on this revelation. BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was the only one to respond. And that was after we observed that she had previously reported in 2013 that Syrian children had been ‘targeted by snipers’. What about Palestinian children targeted by Israeli forces? She replied:
‘Thank you for message. Am involved in another story now but will forward to colleagues working in the region now.’
Predictably, there was no follow-up on BBC News, as far as we could see. We need only imagine the global outrage if Palestinian snipers were found to be deliberately targeting Israeli children to gauge the current level of media silence.
Even more mass killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers have occurred since. On May 14, on the day that the US controversially opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers killed and wounded huge numbers of Palestinians. By the evening, the UN noted that 55 had been killed, including six children. 2,771 people were reported injured, including 1,359 by live ammunition, with 130 people in a critical condition. By the following day, the death toll had risen to 61, including an eight-month-old baby who died from tear gas inhalation.
All day long, BBC News disgraced itself with headline after headline on the top page of its website masking the truth. Despite weeks of public outrage at previous biased reporting of Gaza protests, BBC News was still using the Israeli-approved word ‘clashes’ to describe the deliberate mass killing of Palestinians.
Compare with the Guardian website which, for once, did not mince its words about Israel’s crimes: ‘Israeli troops kill dozens of Palestinians’. Would that really have been too difficult for someone at BBC News to type out? Clearly so, and no surprise given that the BBC routinely trembles in fear before the pro-Israel lobby. Why else would BBC News choose ‘Dozens die as US opens Jerusalem embassy’ as a headline, masking the fact that Israeli troops had massacred civilians? To be fair to the BBC, the Guardian print edition of May 15 was equally as bad, featuring the headline, ‘Israel: Trump’s new embassy opens – and dozens are killed’.
By the end of the day, the top headline on the BBC News website was: ‘Israel defends Gaza action as 55 killed’. As ever, the Israeli perspective is given prominence, even as it commits abhorrent crimes against civilians. The massacre of unarmed civilians was merely an ‘action’, and the identity of the people murdered by the Israeli army was obscured – perhaps a mix of Israelis and Palestinians had been killed? In fact, there were no Israeli casualties.
On the flagship BBC News at Ten, graphics and headlines proclaimed, ‘Gaza Clashes’, an abomination used by the BBC instead of ‘Gaza Massacre’. The heart-breaking reality behind the lie of ‘clashes’ could be seen in the anguish of a Palestinian father crying in farewell to his little boy:
‘Oh people, my son’
The following day (May 15), the BBC’s truth-mangling headline read:
‘Gaza braced for further violent protests’
A more honest headline would have been:
‘Gaza civilians braced for a further Israeli massacre’
A glimmer of hope for sanity was seen when, following public outrage, The New York Times changed its headline on an article from ‘Palestinians died in protest’ to ‘Israeli soldiers killed dozens of Palestinians’. As Twitter user @FalafelDad observed:
‘media accountability is NECESSARY and can be achieved.’