Over the past few days, Israel has been conducting a massive attack on Gaza. The attack–launched in retaliation for rocket strikes by Hamas according to the media narrative–has received relatively little attention in the local newspaper, The Grand Rapids Press. On the day after an attack that killed over 200 people (12/28/08), this is all The Grand Rapids Press contained:
“Israel faces Hamas attacks
JERUSALEM — Gaza ‘s deeply entrenched Hamas rulers won’t be easily toppled, even by Israel’s unprecedented bombings Saturday that killed more than 200 people, most of them men in Hamas uniform. For now, Israel’s defense minister is looking to deliver a blow to Hamas that will halt Islamic rocket attacks on Israel.”
Clearly, this brief mention is heavily biased towards the Israeli version of events. While words and phrases like “unprecedented,” “toppled,” and “deliver a blow” suggest that the assault is more aggressive than usual, there is relatively little to be learned from the piece about the scale of the attack.
A similarly short piece published two days before on December 26 also offered little information about the planned assault:
“Israel considers Gaza invasion
JERUSALEM — Israel moved closer to invading Gaza, saying Thursday it had wrapped up preparations for a broad offensive after Palestinian militants fired about 100 rockets and mortar shells across the border in two days. Israel’s foreign minister brushed off a call for restraint from Egypt’s president, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appealed to Gaza’s people to pressure their leaders to stop the barrages.”
Unfortunately, this one-sided reporting on Israel-Palestine is all too common in The Grand Rapids Press and the US media as a whole. In 2004, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) released a study titled “A Roadmap to Nowhere” that found that The Grand Rapids Press’ reporting tended to focus primarily on short “briefs” that focused on violence and described that violence largely in terms used by the Israeli government. For example, attacks on Palestinians were referred to as “targeted killings,” “regular demolitions,” “retaliation,” and “air strike.” Similarly, there was no coverage of the humanitarian plight faced by Palestinians.
In the wake of the most recent attacks, the US media has once again accepted the Israeli version of events. The US media has not delved into important questions about whether or not Israel overreacted in its attack, nor has their been much discussion of the historical context. Instead, US journalists such as David Gregory resign themselves to conducting deferential interviews with Israeli officials or simply repeating what Israel says. Outside of the US–and even in Israel itself–there is much more variety in reporting, with opinion pieces and news reports that are highly critical of Israel and the motivations for the attack.
Sadly, the reaction of the political class in the United States mirrors that of the media with politicians eagerly stepping up to express their support for Israel. While one should expect this from the Bush administration, Democrats have also been declaring their support. Obama, who has a record of speaking negatively towards Hamas, said through David Axlerod:
“Well, certainly, the president-elect recognizes the special relationship between United States and Israel. It’s an important bond, an important relationship. He’s going to honor it … And obviously, this situation has become even more complicated in the last couple of days and weeks. As Hamas began its shelling, Israel responded. But it’s something that he’s committed to.”
Just a few days earlier, Obama was quoted in Time Magazine praising the “progress” being made in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued a statement expressing similar pro-Israel sentiments:
“Peace between Israelis and Palestinians cannot result from daily barrages of rocket and mortar fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas and its supporters must understand that Gaza cannot and will not be allowed to be a sanctuary for attacks on Israel.”
“The United States must continue to do all it can to promote peace in the region and a negotiated settlement to differences between Israelis and Palestinians. Humanitarian needs of all innocent civilians must also be addressed. But when Israel is attacked, the United States must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally.”
If one wants to keep up on what is happening in Gaza, they are going to need to turn to media outside of the US. Some important sources are to keep an eye on are: