Media Bias- Coverage of Operation Cast Lead (Dec 2008- Jan 2009)

As I sat down today and watched  a news update on CNN about the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, I got so deeply concerned by the way some facts were being misrepresented by different media houses. This prodded me to something about the conflict for any person out there who does not have a clue what is happening in Gaza right now or generally about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be honest the conflict is very complicated and I can not possibly cover the whole of it comprehensively in this post but I will try.

It’s the 7th day of the fighting and Israel’s Air Force has continued to target Hamas’ strongholds and its key political figures in several identified locations by careful and strategic air missiles. I term it so because out of all the people that have been killed, majority of them are Hamas militants but most media houses have reported about the slaughter of innocent civilians.

The issue is that there had been a 6 month truce (cease-fire) between Israel and Hamas that had been negotiated by Egypt but the ceasefire ended officially on 19th Dec, 2008. It had been expected that both parties would renew the truce but Hamas declined to renew the truce.The terms for the cease-fire were that Hamas was supposed to stop the frequent rocketing of Israel’s towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod which are just near Gaza area (about 5 miles), and Israel on the other had was supposed to stop any military operations in Gaza.

As the situation has been, Hamas’ militants have continued to send the rockets over to the towns on Israel’s side, even with the truce being in place. It reached a point that the Israeli government said “enough is enough” hence they launched the onslaught on Hamas on 27th Dec, 2008 under the name Operation Cast Lead.

In this regard, I would want to put a few points in perspective because there is a lot of media bias that is going on right now as this self-defeating war is being fought by both sides. When you look at the news report on CNN or Aljazeera you will see that most of the time they are just showing how Israeli’s jets are firing powerful missiles into Gaza and they have constant and repetitive captions of fragmented and amputated body parts of Hamas militants lying all over the place.

When you see such pictures you would want to get angry at Israel and you would wonder how inhuman Israeli authorities can be to be carrying out such ‘massacre” on innocent Palestinians. You may probably want to join with the many that claim that Israel is using disproportionate force against innocent civilians in Gaza and that Israel is violating international humanitarian laws. This is especially so when you hear of the death toll in Gaza which as of today has been reported by CNN to have risen to about 400 dead and hundreds wounded. When you compare these statistics with those on the side of Israel where only 5 people have been killed and a dozen injured, then you have no reason but to be angry at Israel.

The truth is that there have been many dead in Gaza as opposed to those in Israel but my concern is that the media is not keen to report that the majority of those killed over in Gaza are mostly Hamas militants and key leaders of Hamas. I want to point out also that Israel’s objective in this onslaught has been to target Hamas strongholds.(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2008)

Hamas is a jihadist-Islamic fundamentalist group that has been listed by the US, Israel and EU as a terrorist group. Hamas’ main objective is geared towards the destruction of Israel and they launch their so-called “crude and home-made ” rockets over to Israel with a target of hitting Jewish populations. Hamas came into existence in Gaza since 2003 and its major objective is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East.

I have been following the conflict now on a daily basis and from what the Israeli government is saying is that their objective is to “change realities on the ground” (Minister of Foreign Affairs 2008). This statement can be interpreted to mean that Israel’s objective is to weaken Hamas and have a guarantee that its militants will stop sending rockets over to Israel. The realities on the ground for Israelis is that every time there is a rocket launch from Gaza, Israeli’s citizens are forced to take cover in bomb shelters since there are sirens that go off to alert the people. When the sirens go off the people have only 15 seconds to run into bomb shelters. To help you get a first hand experience of this watch this clip: Imagine having to live with such terror everyday not knowing when the next siren is going to sound.

Since 2005 when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, there have been over 6000 rockets that have been fired into the towns which are just 5km from Gaza and yet this is what many people are not being told by the media. It has therefore reached a point where Israel has said “enough is enough”. I know many people accuse Israel of using disproportionate force against Hamas but the reality is that Israel as any sovereign state under international law, has every right to defend its citizens against any security threat to its citizens.

The IDF (Israel Defence Force) during its aerial and ground operation has been keen to target buildings operated by Hamas and any of its administrative institutions. Have a look at what the IAF (Israel Air Force) is doing just to be more precise to show the world that it is only targeting the Hamas militants. This video shows an Israeli jet bombing militants that were just about to launch a Grad rocket into Israel. But when certain media houses report such incidents they are not keen to point out this fact. 

However another problem arises, Hamas militants have been hiding among civilians and they launch their rockets from houses where civilians are living. This is against the Geneva convention on International Humanitarian Law that outlaws the use of civilians as human shields during war-time. Hamas knows all too well that Israel will not fire where there are civilian population because the backlash from the media would be so great against Israel. This was a tactic well used by Hezbollah in the 2005 Israel-Lebanon War much to the detriment of Israel, where the world almost chewed Israel alive each time innocent civilians were killed and it was captured on live media coverage.

As much as Israel wants to avoid hitting civilians there is no way that innocent civilians can escape being caught in between the fire. As I write this post Israel is planning to launch a ground operation and the Israeli cabinet has approved a recalling of its reserve soldiers and directing them to camp near Gaza border. This is a suicide mission. The reason being that Gaza is a very densely populated area and Hamas has been building underground tunnels and secret by-passes all over the place which of course will have many booby traps and will be used for kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

Here’s something to chew on, just imagine if you were an IDF soldier and you were going to face an enemy on the battlefield, for whom if he kills you he wins, when he dies by detonating a bomb in your presence he wins. This surely is a no win-win situation for the poor Israeli soldiers.

So whats my point you may ask? My take is that though military action on the side of Israel will not solve the whole problem of Hamas militancy as was the case with Hezbolah in Lebanon, but I wish that people began to understand the dynamics behind the conflict and that people in the world get a proper perspective of the realities of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

For the records, Israel is not perfect in its dealings with the Palestinian people. There have been cases of violation of humanitarian laws and laws of war engagement but let me leave this debate for another day. As of now its my view that the world needs to understand and have a clear knowledge that this war is not just between Israel vs Hamas but one of fighting terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and one of preserving the respect of the globally shared value of Democracy within the Middle East.

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