By Ray Hanania
April 04, 2018
The US news media is stoking the violence in the Middle East by defending Israel and ignoring facts. This was obvious in the coverage of the 17 Palestinian civilians killed in the Gaza Strip during last Friday’s protests. Almost all of the US news media embraced the Israeli government’s claims.
Most journalists covering the events were either Israelis who write for Israeli newspapers or non-Jews who abide by Israel’s unreported censorship. Israel imposes restrictions on journalists who work there, punishing those who question Israel’s right to exist, use the term “Nakba” to describe its founding, or support BDS. Israel doesn’t have to flex its muscles and many journalists simply censor themselves to avoid any hassle. However, last year, Dutch journalist Derk Walters was expelled for being too critical of Israeli policy.
In the US news media, criticizing Israel too harshly can result in your being disciplined, so it is never blamed or held responsible for the violence.
If the fatalities were Israeli civilians, the US media would take a different approach. It would publish extensive details of the names, lives and loves of the Israeli victims. We would see their human side — the stories would have readers crying as if they were related to those killed. In the case of Palestinian fatalities, it’s just the opposite: Palestinian casualties are presented as cold, empty statistics.
In one case, the pro-Tel Aviv news media inside Israel attempted to debunk a video that showed a Palestinian running from the border as Israeli soldiers started firing. The civilian was unarmed and was shot dead. Israeli officials were extensively quoted denouncing the video, asserting the footage was posted by the “Hamas terror organization” and “only depicts parts of incidents while others are edited or completely fabricated.”
Since most of the media covering the clashes are controlled by Israel, none of them had video of the Palestinians being killed. Instead, most US media outlets were republishing or citing videos of Palestinians flinging rocks at Israeli soldiers — but throwing the rocks more than 200 yards (making them more talented than any American football quarterback).
None of the US media noted that, while the Palestinians initiated the protests, Israel initiated the firing. Scores of Palestinian witnesses said Israel began firing on protesters as they approached the border fence, which was more than 200 yards from where they stood.
Palestinians were blamed unfairly. According to Israel and the US news media, the Palestinians were “terrorists” who were “rioting” and threatening Israeli lives. Though 17 Palestinian civilians were killed and more than 750 others injured, no Israelis were hurt.
The US media also barely mentioned that many of the protesters were carrying olive tree saplings to replant. Israel has cleared large areas of the border inside the Gaza Strip, destroying farmland and homes that it deemed to be too close to the Israeli border. This conflict is all about land, something Israel takes pains to deny.
The protests marked two events: The Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, when Israel forcibly evicted 800,000 Palestinian civilians from their homes; and March 30, 1976, when Israel killed six Palestinians protesting land confiscations from non-Jews. No Israeli officials, soldiers or police were ever charged with the murder of those six Palestinians because Israel’s government propaganda machine manages the news media, controls the message, and bullies any journalist who thinks about being objective.
• Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American columnist and author of several books.