Media myths about Gaza – Op-Ed in iAfrica co-authored by Ben Friedman and Rolene Marks

This op-ed currently appears in iAfrica.com

http://mobi.iafrica.com/news/2014/09/03/reader-letter-media-myths-about-gaza/

A neutral observer reading recent media reports on the Gaza conflict could be forgiven for believing that Israel was deliberately targeting the Palestinian population. After all, the media reporting for the most part lacked context, truth and balance.

It was reported as fact that most of the Gaza casualties were civilians, as reported by Palestinian sources without any verification from Israel. According to Israeli sources, at least 1000 Hamas fighters were killed. After all, if after thousands of Israeli airstrikes, one would have expected many more civilian deaths if they had been deliberately targeted.

Hamas are an internationally recognized terror organisation and an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It rules Gaza by terror and brooks no political opposition and does not uphold basic human rights. By its own admission it supports an “industry of death”, seeing “martyrdom” and suicide bombings as a tactical weapon against Israel. It has also executed alleged collaborators with impunity and bears a striking resemblance to Islamic State.

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Journalists who have left Gaza have documented how Hamas has used the civilian population as human shields, firing from mosques, schools, hospitals, private homes and abusing United Nations facilities to store rockets. This claim has been made on many occasions by Israel, who have observed strict rules to avoid civilian casualties, including warning civilians of impending attacks by phone calls, text messages, dropping of pamphlets and releasing low-charge explosives on roofs as a warning of an impending attack. Just for comparison, Sri Lanka – in its war against the Tamil Tigers – killed 40 000 civilians in the last four months of the war alone. Even Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas now admits that Hamas is to blame for the death and destruction in Gaza.

Then there is the myth of the seige and blockade of Gaza. Both Egypt and Israel have borne the brunt of terror from Gaza. Egypt keeps its Rafah border crossing tightly controlled. Even during the war, Israel was supplying food and medicine in regular convoys to Gaza through its border crossings, except when they came under Hamas fire. Israel, unbelievably, supplies Gaza with much of its water and electricity. The only reason for the land and sea border controls is to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons and materials to be used for attacks against Israel.

That is why the key to future peace and redevelopment of Gaza is a Gaza free from Hamas rule or completely demilitarized. Even now after a crushing defeat, Hamas proclaims that the truce is merely a means to recoup their strength and continue their objective of “liberating” Jerusalem and all of “Palestine”.

All of the above begs the question: why does the media put such a negative spin against Israel’s legitimate defence against the onslaught of 4500 rockets and missiles against its civilian population in this operation alone?

Yehuda Avner, in his book The Prime Ministers, records the story of former Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, on his first official visit to Margeret Thatcher of Britain. On arrival he was surrounded by a hostile press and was asked: “Mr Begin, there are those in Britain who would describe you as a terrorist. What do you say to that?”

Begin replied: “I see here in Britain many leaders from your former colonies who fought Britain bitterly in order to gain their independence. Today they are received here with pomp, ceremony and respect. Do you ask your question because I am Jewish?”

Israel - Cartoons Israeli and Hamas soldier with baby

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