Why are journalists surprised that Israel kills children?

Relatives mourn after Israel killed four children playing football last summer. 

Ali Jadallah APA images

There was nothing surprising about Israel finding itself not culpable for the killing of four boys on a Gaza beach in July last year, as it did in a military judgment released a few days ago.

Israel’s investigations into its own crimes aren’t known for delivering guilty verdicts.

What was interesting, however, was the reaction of some mainstream journalists — journalists who felt they had a vested interest in this case because they had witnessed the strikes which killed the four boys from the Baker family as they played football one afternoon during Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza.

Articles by Peter Beaumont in The Guardian and Robert Tait in The Daily Telegraph give off a sense of disbelief and indignation that the investigation by the Israeli army into the attack cleared all personnel involved and declared the incident “a tragic accident.”

Both these journalists, and Paul Mason in his blog for Channel 4 News, describe how their own observations, both during and after the attack, refute Israel’s allegations that it was targeting Palestinian fighters.

But the sense that there has been a miscarriage of justice by a reputable organization, rather than an outright cover-up by a rogue army, remains.

Struck in error? 

This journalistic respect for Israel’s army is highlighted in Tait’s article, as he writes that the slaughter of the boys was “surely an indication that something had gone badly wrong in Israel’s military procedures for such a deadly strike to have been aimed at what were clearly children.”

By which he indicates his belief, shared by many mainstream journalists, that, unlike the killing of the Baker boys, the rest of Israel’s military procedures in Gaza last summer were not acts of indiscriminate slaughter.

Bombardments which leveled homes, mosques and entire neighborhoods, massacring whoever was in the vicinity, babies and children included, weren’t, according to Tait’s reasoning, deliberate acts of terror, but acceptable military activity.

The BBC, true to form, goes one step further in the esteem in which it holds the Israeli army. Its online article into Thursday’s findings does nothing but quote chunks from the Israeli army report and is headlined “Gaza beach attack: Israel ‘struck boys in error.’”

There is no attempt to critically analyze the report’s conclusions, as Tait, Beaumont and Mason all did for their respective news organizations, and no Palestinian comment.

Instead, the BBC simply provides a platform for Israel’s self-exonerating report to be aired, free from the inconvenience of journalistic scrutiny.

And it ends, of course, in typical BBC fashion, by giving Israel’s excuse for attacking Gaza last July and August — “to put an end to rocket-fire and remove the threat of attacks by militants tunneling under the border” — with no mention of the Palestinian reality of occupation, siege and resistance.

Damage limitation

It is this high regard in which many mainstream journalists hold the Israeli army which explains, perhaps, their shock that its soldiers could deliberately target children and then their disbelief that its commanders could dub that deliberate targeting an accident.

The question then is, why are mainstream journalists so easily taken in by Israeli propaganda, appearing to believe Israel’s refrain that it has “the most moral army in the world?”

The truth they ignore, and consequently fail to convey to their audiences, is that Israel kills Palestinians at will and with impunity.

Its army only announces investigations into a killing or killings on the rare occasion that Western journalists or politicians become agitated about Palestinian life being taken — usually because the killing has been caught on camera and can’t be hidden.

Those same journalists seem unware of the reality that an Israeli announcement of an “independent investigation” is nothing more than a damage limitation exercise, an exercise in “public relations” to quieten the critics, and that the word “independent” is meaningless in these cases.

It is meaningless because the outcome of an Israeli investigation into Israeli crimes will almost exclusively be a finding of Israeli innocence. There is nothing independent about the process, and it shouldn’t be reported as such.

Wake up to reality

The military’s absolution of blame for the slaughter of the Baker boys wasn’t a one-off, as the resultant mainstream reporting seemed to suggest. It was part of a pattern which will be repeated over and over until the occupation ends.

Israel is a colonial power. It will kill whoever it has to (Palestinians, US activists, British media workers, Turkish humanitarians, UN staff) to make its colonial goals a reality. And it will lie, cover up and propagandize in exactly the same way that all colonial powers did in centuries past to get away with its crimes.

Mainstream media journalists need to wake up to these facts. They need to be sharper, more intelligent and more astute in the way they cover Israel and the occupation. They need to read and understand history, especially European colonial history, and they need to embrace, rather than dismiss, context in their reporting.

Israel didn’t just kill those four young boys last summer. Its warplanes, warships and tanks wiped out 89 entire Palestinian families, wiped out 504 Palestinian children at an average rate of 10 a day, wiped out a total of more than 2,200 Palestinians.

Its politicians and military should be tried for all these crimes. And they should be tried in a properly independent manner — or as independently as the world allows — at the International Criminal Court. This is what the mainstream media should be clamoring for. Not expressing polite surprise that an “independent” Israeli inquiry acquitted Israel of deliberately slaying four little Palestinian boys who dared to play football in Gaza.




Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and will never accept a non apartheid democracy with a Jewish minority. Continuing illegal annexations, settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing have also precluded any negotiated two state solution. The Jewish State must be forced, by whatever means necessary, to recognize an armed Palestine with externally enforced autonomy, eviction of all settlers, true contiguity encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem together, neither pinched nor parceled, and pay crippling punitive reparations. American foreign policy may then again serve American interests, not the Jewish state's relentless pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and worldwide racist empire.


i don't think there's anything I can add to that JohnWV. As far as misreporting all things Israel, censorship apparently comes down from the media ownership directing editorial departments and journalists the limits of their "reporting". Those limits determine your tenure at said media source.


Israel makes a great number of those "mistakes", don't they? Why does no one in the West seem to notice how many of those "mistakes" Israel makes?


When Israeli Occupation Forces say they don't target children they mean children are not their ONLY target. In Gaza soldiers were instructed to shoot at every moving form that appeared at their visor. Officials also said before, during, and after operations that no building could be regarded as sanctuary, be it church, mosque, school, UN premisses or whatever. Now if "co-lateral" damages i.e. Hitting children, civilians, homes, mosques and churches, hospitals, ambulances , outnumber by far the death toll among armed and unarmed Hamas militants, this is Palestinians' fault. So Isreal's Friends could not ascribe it to IDF, one of the most powerful army in the world. So powerful that nothing could hit it anymore, including international law, conventions or whatever.


Killing is the main agenda of the Israelis, it does not matter if it is chidren or grown up men, or women. Children represent the future of Palestine and therefore killing them is high priority for the zionazis.


Here's a recent comment by Israel's Defense Minister, in the Washington Post (6/12/15): "There is no danger of invasion by Arab armies — none,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said at a security conference here this week. “We have found a response to weapons of terror and to the rockets, even if it is not a total one,” Yaalon continued, referring to air defense systems, supplied by the United States, as well as military and intelligence operations against militant groups." Important to remember this as investigations at the UN into Israel's large-scale and prolonged bombing of Gaza wrap up. Important to remember it, too, when the drums beat for the next attack.


Just LOVED what/ the way you wrote. Keep it up. And thanks to the other commenters.


Imagine media reaction if a Hamas investigation acquitted its fighters after some similar incident. I doubt that anyone in the West would write to express surprise or disappointment; in fact, a journalist who did write along those lines would probably be denounced for showing too much respect to Hamas. Yet Israel's record is demonstrably worse. In such a case, even to "criticize" is to ignore the true evil, as Ms. Saleem wisely reminds us.


So called, journalists, are surprised that Israel MURDERS children BECAUSE those who allege themselves to be journalists are doing nothing more than FOLLOWING ORDERS TO IGNORE ANYTHING THAT ISN'T PRE-APPROVED PROPAGANDA!


The reason mainstream journalists hold the Israeli military in high esteem is that they will be fired if they don't. It's one of the job requirements.


Sam Kiley was forced to resign from the Times when he tried to write about the Israeli army’s murder of 12 year old Mohammed al-Durrah and writers within the Telegraph Group admitted that “serious, critical reporting of Israel is no longer tolerated” within their papers: the same writers were then labelled “anti-Semites” in an article by their own proprietor (subsequently jailed for fraud).

The BBC – under pressure from Israel – instructed its journalists to refer to Israel’s death squad murders as “targeted killings” and CNN ordered its reporters to call illegal Israeli settlements “Jewish neighbourhoods”, after Israel complained about the use of the word ‘settlement’.

Amena Saleem

Amena Saleem's picture

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza and spent seven years working for Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK.