The Media Coverage of Israel Fighting Hamas in Gaza Is a Lopsided War in Itself

Israel pulling off its Gaza incursion is debatable, but its chances against the media are dismal.

By + More

By Sam Dealey, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Israel's odds for pulling off its Gaza incursion are debatable, but its chances against the world press are decidedly dismal.

The Associated Press gave a taste of that lopsided fight this morning, framing its report with this lead (emphases added): "Israeli shells slammed into Gaza and ground forces edged closer to major population centers Tuesday, taking more civilian lives after Israel ignored mounting international calls for an immediate cease-fire." Israel at least has tried to limit the inevitable civilian casualties that war brings—something Hamas never bothered to do with its attacks, and which the international community did its best to ignore.

In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, Natan Sharansky picks up on this disproportionate coverage:

Last week, before the tanks had begun rolling into Gaza, the journalist Tom Segev put it bluntly in a column he wrote in Ha'aretz. "A child in Sderot is the same as a child in Gaza," he wrote, "and anyone who harms either is evil."

Mr. Segev is correct when he says that the suffering of children on either side is intolerable—this is why the pictures from Gaza make us shudder. But he is wrong to draw a moral equivalence between the two sides. In this, he lends a hand to the Palestinians' most shameful military tactic: pimping the suffering of their civilians as a weapon of war.

Palestinian children are dying today not because of Israeli brutality, but because their own leaders have chosen to use their children as human shields, and their pain as a battering ram against Western sensibilities.

The emotional pimping of Palestinian children continues. Today's New York Times, for example, quotes Maxwell Gaylard, the U.N.'s humanitarian affairs coordinator in Jerusalem: "Children are hungry, cold, without electricity and running water," he said, "and above all, they're terrified. That by any measure is a humanitarian crisis."

But it's not "by any measure"; it's by the measure of the international community's greater sympathy for Palestine than Israel. After all, no one at the United Nations seemed overly concerned about the welfare of Israeli children terrorized by indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas in the last weeks, months, and years. And when Israeli fire struck two schools in Gaza yesterday, the press was all over it. But there was hardly any mention of the Hamas rocket that blasted an Israeli school. Perhaps that's because no one was killed in the latter attack—unlike Hamas, Israel doesn't use schools as a depot for weapons, a sanctuary for fighters, or a shield for nearby command houses.

Still, perhaps Israel should be flattered by such coverage. To borrow a phrase from President Bush, when it comes to Palestine, many outsiders practice the soft bigotry of low expectations: Few demand or expect Palestine to behave responsibly.