On Tuesday, people gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Grand Rapids to denounce the recent Israeli bombing and occupation of Gaza strip. About 150 people were in attendance–including many from the Arab Community–and carried signs denouncing Israeli military repression against Palestinians living in the Gaza. Others focused on the US role in the current Israeli attacks in the Gaza and denounced the US military support for such actions.
In response to the rally, members of the local Jewish community held a prayer service at Temple Emanuel. Those interviewed in the news media argued that Israel has a right to bomb the Gaza and believes that Israel is the victim in the current conflict. If one relied on the local news media for information, it would be hard to figure out which perspective was more accurate.
Most of the local news agencies ran stories prior to the public rallies that were held. The Grand Rapids Press ran a story on January 6 that interviewed Basel Shatara from the Arab community and Rabbi Michael Shadick from Temple Emanuel. The pre-rally story that WZZM 13 aired also featured Basel Shatara and a professor from Flint, Michigan, Michael Harris. In both stories, each source is quoted with a differing opinion on what is happening in Gaza, with reporters never verifying claims made those sources.
The coverage after the rallies continued on this same trend. The media got comments from both sides but didn’t investigate what other sources, particularly international sources, are saying about what is going on.
The WOOD TV 8 story that aired Tuesday evening showed footage of the rally in front of the federal building and the prayer service at the Jewish Temple. This story ended with the Rabbi saying, “Israel is not targeting civilians, it is targeting Hamas which is hiding behind civilians.” The WZZM 13 story from Tuesday night had a similar response from another local Rabbi who said, “This is not an issue of attacking Palestinians. It’s an issue of targeting Hamas terrorists.”
The WXMI 17 story from Tuesday night did include some context to the issue by stating:
“It followed attacks on UN schools and a med center filled with civilians who were looking for shelter from the Israeli offensive. Witnesses confirm Hamas was using the schools to launch attacks and despite international pressure to stop the violence Israel says, they still haven’t stopped the terrorist rockets.”
Unfortunately, FOX 17 doesn’t source where they obtained this information.
To bring some perspective to the issue we looked at numerous international agencies to see how they viewed what was happening in the Gaza to see if that could shed any light on how this issue is being reported on in the US.
Amnesty International released a statement on January 5 that said:
“Civilian casualties and destruction in Gaza are on an unprecedented scale. The UN Security Council must not remain silent. The Council can and must act and it should do so without further delay.”
Human Rights Watch also released statements concerning the welfare of civilians in the Gaza and also denounced the Israel government for preventing media and medical teams from entering the Gaza to help the wounded.
The Red Cross also is concerned about civilian casualties and expressed “grave concern over the growing number of civilian deaths and injuries and the increasing amount of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, that have been affected by the Israeli military operations.” The Red Cross also acknowledged in their January 6th statement, “that the conditions in Gaza were extremely harsh even prior to the recent escalation. Just a few months ago ICRC colleagues described the region as being ‘on the edge’ because of the closure and import restriction imposed by Israel since mid-2007.”
The UN Security Council has yet to make a decision on the violence in the Gaza, which according to a report from Democracy Now, is due to the US government blocking any decision by the Security Council. However, the United Nations Secretary General did condemn Israeli attacks in Gaza where “civilians were seeking sanctuary.” The UN also released a statement on January 6th imploring the Israeli military to allow relief and medical workers into the Gaza strip. Thus it would appear from a look at these international organizations, organizations that are generally viewed as politically neutral, that the bulk of the blame is being levied against Israel.
We will continue to follow this issue and report on both what local actions are taken and how the mainstream media continues to report on it.