Western media: The clean-up crew for Israeli crimes

The New York Times (NYT) July 16th, 2014 coverage of Israeli military murder of 4 Palestinian kids playing on the Gaza beach leaves much to be desired and was a sophisticated media-speak piece whereby the actual event is reported but in the process the newspaper obfuscated and shifted responsibility away from Israel. From the title of the lead article to the stitched details one is treated to a narrative focusing more on what Hamas did in the past and at present and very limited handling of Israeli actions and its immediate responsibility for the murder or the on-going campaign that to date killed 100 children.

Moreover, the title of the NYT piece was changed from “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on the Gaza Beach” and into “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife” with the opening line also subject to alteration.

Initially, the article’s important opening caption had “Gaza officials and witnesses said they were killed in an Israeli attack” but subsequently this lead was removed and the longer version started with “The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous.” In this context, the NYT killed the critical and accurate headline and replaced it with a poor attempt at humanizing the subjects but failing in reality since the kids are essentially blamed for not listening to their mother’s instruction to stay home. The reader is directed to say to him/herself it is the kids’ fault for not listening.

New York Times actions are not isolated and represent the corporate media acting as gatekeepers to maintain the Israeli edifice of “self-defense” and “existential security threats” narratives peddled to western audiences intended to keep the unqualified support intact. In NBC’s case it went as far as removing from the area Ayman Mohyeldin, the award-winning news correspondent who personally witnessed the killing by Israel of the four boys on the Gaza beach and sent a photo of the grieving mother to twitter (after massive response on social media NBC changed its decision).

On the other hand, CNN reassigned Diana Magnay, an international correspondent from Israel to Moscow after sending a tweet “Israelis on hill above Sdrot cheer as bombs land on #Gaza threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong’. Scum.” While in the case of CNN security and safety maybe of concern but why take the reporter out from the region completely and essentially reward the bullies or was the pressure too much to stand by and support the correspondent.

The US media continues to act as gatekeepers and spokespersons for Israeli foreign ministry and push into public discourse a narrative intended to blame the Palestinians and Hamas in particular for all the violence taking place. In this way, Israel can have a free hand in meting punishment on the Palestinians while the western press acts as the clean up crew brought to the collective murder seen.

Indeed, the Israeli military murdered the 4 children in cold blood but the editors at the news desks and the professional press establishment across the US and Europe managed to murder the kids once again by absolving and defending the murderer in the eyes of the public. Palestinians are subject to an eraser from public consciousness and in press coverage they end up being the aggressors even when they are the aggrieved party. The claims of objectivity and impartially wanting to cover all angles of the story gives way to covering all the issues that implicate directly or indirectly the Palestinians in their own murder or using the passive voice to report as if they killed themselves.

Netanyahu in speech states that Israel uses “Iron Dome to protect civilians while they’re [Palestinians] using civilians to protect their missiles.” This statement gets translated into media speak by how Palestinian deaths by the Israeli military are reported or completely omitted in more than one occasion since violence becomes an issue when Israelis are effected.

It would have been much better if the New York Times came out in the open and said that Hamas and the Palestinians asked Israel to kill the 4 children on the beach to score public relations points and Israel was duped into it.

The narrative fits the pattern claiming that Palestinians don’t value life and are ready to sacrifice their own children to score public relation points against a “civilized”, “democratic” and “western” oriented state like “us”. New York Times piece makes sure Israel is not to blame for the murder even though they pulled the trigger and bombed the children on the beach; rather in reality it is Hamas and the Palestinians resistance in Gaza that are responsible for offering the “humanitarian” soldiers no other choice but to shoot. Israel for sure will investigate the case, as any “civilized” country surely will do, but don’t hold your breath since the responsibility was already assigned to Hamas for not accepting the ceasefire offer.

Few of the quotes included from family members are intended to express their own opposition and dissatisfaction with Hamas or wanting to continue the resistance. Once again their voice is not included to provide context to the murder but to shift responsibility in the mind of the reader away from Israel and a cold-blooded military attack on kids playing soccer on the beach. If it was an Israeli murdered by Hamas and the Palestinians the coverage would focus on the children, their age, what they liked, how long they played on the beach, their favorite team in the world cup, do they play at a local team, interview with their friends, photos of their happy days and the relatives included in the story would speak concerning their loss and pain rather than making them part of a PR machine for Israel and media pre-occupation with blaming Hamas.

Some have argued that the 4 children will be “humanized” because western journalist witnessed their murder and it might be the case; however, from the NYT piece it looks like the “humanization” process was highly distorted. On the one hand, the kids were included as “human” subjects in the story while on the other, the Palestinians and Hamas were once again problematized and assigned responsibility for what is taking place. Thus, “humanizing” the few while continuing to demonize the whole, thus ,making it possible for Israel to kill and murder even more Palestinians in the near and distant future.

The media is very important for it creates the mental frames through which we develop “knowledge and experiences” about the world without being there. When it comes to Palestine and the Palestinians, the media has constructed an Israeli mental framing for everything that is reported about the conflict. It is these mental frames developed over a long period of time that continue to shape the response to events taking place on the ground as well as inform the policies directed at the Palestinians. In my view, only an ethically and morally sick person stands to defend and shift the blame away from the murderer when it comes to the murder of 4 children playing soccer on the beach. I can understand and rationalizing attacks on Hamas by the Israeli military as well as how it is covered as part of a military confrontation involving two sides, unequal and asymmetrical but one can engage in such a debate on either side. Yet, the Israeli military murder of the 4 children is paradigmatic of long standing approach to conducting operations directed at Palestinians.

One can go back as early 1930s with Zionist terrorist groups targeting Palestinians civilians in an effort to establish a settler colonial foothold in the country. The same approach is well documented in 1948, 1956, 1967 and in the multiple invasions of Lebanon as well as the responses to the 1st and 2nd Intifadas. Targeting civilians is a military norm for Israel for it views the Palestinian population as a base of support for the resistance and as such attacking the soft layer in the hope that it can exert more favorable terms from the occupied population.

Not only this is the case in military terms but also punishing the population for their political choices in 2006 elections and placing all of Gaza on a “diet” program. The more insidious strategy claims that the resistance hides behind the civilians thus causing Israel’s attacks to harm civilians that the Palestinian use to appeal to world public opinion. A question must be asked, even if we take this to be the case that the Palestinian use the civilians as human shields, then it still remains an Israeli military decision to fire with complete knowledge that they are killing civilians. The military targets civilians as policy and strategy; rather than a mere incidental harm in the process of conducting war. War is ugly but it is more so when it attempts to kill the victims many times over including in distorting his/her image and memory in public consciousness.