Linguists including Noam Chomsky condemn “reprehensible” Gaza coverage

A Palestinian man carries his wounded son into the treatment room of al-Shifa hospital following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 14 November.

Majdi Fathi APA images

The Electronic Intifada received today the following statement from international academics who recently particpated in a conference on linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza which decries major media outlets’ failure to report on recent killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza. I wrote about this pattern of omission and bias on my blog earlier today, focusing on The New York Times’ omission of Palestinian civilian casualties and its privileging of Israeli military and government officials in its report on today’s attacks.

Media reporting on Gaza: Nous accusons.

While countries across Europe and North America commemorated military casualties of past and present wars on November 11, Israel was targeting civilians. On November 12, waking up to a new week, readers at breakfast were flooded with heart rending accounts of past and current military casualties. There was, however, no or little mention of the fact that the majority of casualties of modern day wars are civilians. There was also hardly any mention on the morning of November 12 of military attacks on Gaza that continued throughout the weekend. A cursory scan confirms this for Canada’s CBC, the Globe and Mail, Montreal’s Gazette, and the Toronto Star. Equally, for the New York Times and for the BBC.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) report on Sunday November 11, five Palestinian civilians including three children had been killed in the Gaza strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel. Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer. Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six were women and 12 were children. (Since we began composing this text, the Palestinian death toll has risen, and continues to rise.)

Articles that do report on the killings overwhelmingly focus on the killing of Palestinian security personnel. For example, an Associated Press article published in the CBC world news on November 13, entitled Israel mulls resuming targeted killings of Gaza militantsmentions absolutely nothing of civilian deaths and injuries. It portrays the killings as ‘targeted assassinations’. The fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in “targeted” killings, as in “collective” killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment. Another AP item on CBC news from November 12 reads Gaza rocket fire raises pressure on Israel government. It features a photo of an Israeli woman gazing on a hole in her living room ceiling. Again, no images, nor mention of the numerous bleeding casualties or corpses in Gaza. Along the same lines, a BBC headline on November 12 reads Israel hit by fresh volley of rockets from Gaza. Similar trend can be illustrated for European mainstream papers.

News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties. What is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties. It doesn’t take an expert in media science to understand that what we are facing is at best shoddy and skewed reporting, and at worst willfully dishonest manipulation of the readership.

Furthermore, articles that do mention the Palestinian casualties in Gaza consistently report that Israeli operations are in response to rockets from Gaza and to the injuring of Israeli soldiers. However, the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began onNovember 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay. Then, on November 8, a 13-year old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event.

We, the signatories, have recently returned from a visit to the Gaza Strip. Some among us are now connected to Palestinians living in Gaza through social media. For two nights in a row Palestinians in Gaza were prevented from sleeping through continued engagement of drones, F16s, and indiscriminate bombings of various targets inside the densely populated Gaza strip. The intent of this is clearly to terrorise the population, successfully so, as we can ascertain from our friends’ reports. If it was not for Facebook postings, we would not be aware of the degree of terror felt by ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza. This stands in stark contrast to the world’s awareness of terrorised and shock-treated Israeli citizens.

An extract of a report sent by a Canadian medic who happened to be in Gaza and helped out in Shifa hospital ER over the weekend says: “the wounded were all civilians with multiple puncture wounds from shrapnel: brain injuries, neck injuries, hemo-pneumo thorax, pericardial tamponade, splenic rupture, intestinal perforations, slatted limbs, traumatic amputations. All of this with no monitors, few stethoscopes, one ultrasound machine.  ….  Many people with serious but non life threatening injuries were sent home to be re-assessed in the morning due to the sheer volume of casualties.  The penetrating shrapnel injuries were spooky. Tiny wounds with massive internal injuries.  … There was very little morphine for analgesia.”

Apparently such scenes are not newsworthy for the New York Times, the CBC, or the BBC.

Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military, and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU. Netanyahu is currently garnering Western diplomatic support for additional operations in Gaza, which makes us worry that another Cast Lead may be on the horizon. In fact, the very recent events are confirming such an escalation has already begun, as today’s death-count climbs. The lack of widespread public outrage at these crimes is a direct consequence of the systematic way in which the facts are withheld and/or of the skewed way these crimes are portrayed.

We wish to express our outrage at the reprehensible media coverage of these acts in the mainstream (corporate) media. We call on journalists around the world working for corporate media outlets to refuse to be instruments of this systematic policy of disguise. We call on citizens to inform themselves through independent media, and to voice their conscience by whichever means is accessible to them. 

Hagit Borer, linguist, Queen Mary University of London (UK)

Antoine Bustros, composer and writer, Montreal (Canada)

Noam Chomsky, linguist, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, US

David Heap, linguist, University of Western Ontario (Canada)

Stephanie Kelly, linguist, University of Western Ontario (Canada)

Máire Noonan, linguist, McGill University (Canada)

Philippe Prévost, linguist, University of Tours (France)

Verena Stresing, biochemist, University of Nantes (France)

Laurie Tuller, linguist, University of Tours (France)




Its true. The media coverage is terrible. What we do get is almost always the Israeli side of the story.Their version, their facts, without question. Israel says, so it is, the end.It breaks my heart to watch the one sided reports and interviews knowing that the truth is being withheld,covered up,omitted.The horrible truth of what is happening in Palestine is unknown to so many and that is,to me, is part of the tragedy.I was living in ignorant bliss most of my life. Only in recent years have i begun finding out the whole story. The facts! Sadly mainstream media had nothing to do with my eyes being opened to what is really going on.In my opinion they aid in the israeli goverments continuing cover up of human right violations, as do our goverments.Forgive us our tresspasses..


There seems a severe mis-interpretation of the Old Testament and its derivatives which allows killing at all. No Human can surpass the logic of the God yet one Human chooses to KILL another Human, a doyen of God himself, in the name of some Text and so invoking God. Time has come for this review and amendment because this cannot be a right in any dogma, holy script or the actual report of God's sayings. Such is the influence the Communist, who propose all men are equal blatantly say 'Power flows through the barrel of a Gun'. What Blasphemy ............


Thank you for the link. It is good to see a non-zionist view.


Good photos/info. However, some may question her credibility due to her grammar/spelling. It may seem trivial in light of the circumstances but some people are like that and I only seek to help. It may be because he/she is not a native English speaker, in which case I understand.


Anne Paq is French. Her written English is typical of such. This damages her credibility?

Look at the bloody photos!


This is all because, our Muslim leaders are just bunch of donkeys.. who have no minds to think and secure the future of the Muslim Umma. . . .

God Help our brothers . . .


Since rockets fired from Gaza admittedly do little damage in Israel, why shoot them at all? They do more damage to Gaza by giving the Israeli's license to claim "defense" and then, of course, license to rain destruction down on Gaza. If the Israelis can't legitimately claim they were fired on, they will appear as the brutes they are.


I think the idea is that Hamas are trying to hit Israeli weapon depos and other threats that sit on the border, or at least mess things up enough to distract them, before the IDF take a notion and blow them to smithereens: as shows by the recent killings which sparked this recent wave, the Israeli forces have no qualms about random unprovoked assaults, and the Western media cares nothing for these events, so allowing them to continue murdering innocent civilians in Gaza without any attempt to diffuse their strength does nothing. In effect, they are powerless, because no one with any strength will help them, and what little they can do to defend themselves condemns them thanks to the twisted propaganda so prolific over here.


No matter what Israel does - whether they git hit by rockets, don't get hit by rockets, or murder children throwing pebbles at 20 ton war machines - the media will suck it up, portray Israel as the innocent "oh woe is me, WHY don't the Arabs love us" victim, and will report anything Israel tells them to, or will believe will help them with the lobby. If Israel can attack Gaza freely anytime they want why let rockets hit if they can kill Palestinians regardless of whether they get hit or not?


What if your children had to stay in a shelter for two years because someone was throwing explosive pebbles at them? Would you still be so Tibetan?


At least your children have shelters. They forgot to make those in the open air concentration camp, Gaza. 75.000 military ground troops sent to Gaza.
Killings of children, butchered... Tortured,... Families wiped out. How many have died in Israel past five years contra in Gaza past week? This is genocide and the world is not blind. All thanks to social media and networks.



Simple solution: Hamas stops shelling Israel and there will not be no retaliation from Israel. Long-time solution: Nearly impossible as long as Hamas in inbedded in Palestine.


First of all, I must say that the media coverage, being biased or missing altogether, is, of course, governed by corporate interest. As such, it is inherently corrupt. Anyone looking to the media for answers knows nothing. As for this issue of their invocation of God as the primary source of authority, it is ridiculous. First of all, anyone claiming to be in contact with God is delusional or lying, because there is no God. God is simply a means to power, invoked by those who seek to control. Nine out of ten priests would be absolutely horrified if they discovered hard evidence of God's existence.
The murder of these men, women, and children, cannot be forgiven as the acts of soldiers doing their duty. These murders cannot be forgiven at all. They will not be forgiven. They will not be forgotten. Not by all. To truly understand murder, you have to imagine, imagine so hard that you are on the verge of belief, that the one who was murdered was your closest friend, relative, or a lover. Imagine that the children killed on the soccer field without warning, without understanding, imagine your own children in their place. You don't dare, do you? There is no measure of human suffering more horrible. That is what is happening. More suffering than you have likely ever felt. If you have known tragedy, you can understand that I speak the truth.


Though I try to avoid the mainstream TV like the plague, my TV set is sometimes on. Unfortunately for my blood pressure, the TV was on a few days ago when CBC aired a "report" on the latest developments in Gaza. They aired a shot of the Palestinians firing rockets, then a shot of Israeli tanks firing shells, then a comment insinuating which side started and which "retaliated", then a comment from an Israeli spokesman (White and English-speaking), followed by ... a cut to another story. The Palestinian side did not get to comment.

What kills me about the media is how self-righteous these people are (which is evident in their facial expressions to the tone of their voice), how they try to delude us and themselves with their self-serving views of being "adversarial", yet all they do is disseminate propaganda. Which I would just laugh off, except that people are getting killed out there. And for failing to report it accurately, justly, fairly, the media is indirectly responsible for the deaths. I hold them accountable. They have blood on their hands.

Adam (Montreal)


I can relate, Adam, best not to watch or listen to the willfully ignorant, biased 'reporting'. And is it coincidence that this is happening shortly AFTER the US elections? I think not...Oh it tires me so, it saddens me so, it angers me so...


Thank you Mark. You are unfortunately very correct in your analysis of the CBC where the zionist propaganda is pouring out of our TV screens and at our expense. I have lodged a complaint to at least let them know how unjust their reporting is and how complicit they are in these horrors against the peoples of Gaza.


Arabic media is also guilty of the opposite, Israeli casualties are only mentioned in the context of celebrating a 'victory' against the Zionists. Both sides have de-humanised the other. While attacking Israelis is a victory, attacking Palestinians 'proves' how evil Jews are and vice versa. This feeds the mentality of hatred in the same way as coverage that is mentioned here belittles the suffering of Palestinians. Fears have their source in fact though. At a public meeting in June for Egypt's Mohammed Morsi's election campaign, the Muslim Brotherhood said Morsi would oversee an Arab army to march on Jerusalem and make it the capital for all Arabs and Muslims ( . The level of hatred of the 'other', on both sides, is frightening and it is fed by media and by political and religious leaders. Israeli media clearly has a biased perspective, as does the Arab media but unfortunately I think foreign media (I don't think lumping all together under the umbrella 'western media' is helpful or accurate) tends to rely on Israeli media more than Arab media, and this is in part sloppy journalism and perhaps the greater difficulty of accessing Arabic media? It is unfortunate that most media has an agenda or a certain perspective on events. No one is ever truly objective but most of us do not have the time or the resources to assess the context and 'baggage' attached to everything we see, read or hear. Who on either side is brave or influential enough to reject the demonisation of the other? Until such people are found this conflict will go on and on. P.S. It was on the BBC website that I read about the Palestinian victims whereas I hadn't seen anything about the rockets fired on Israel...maybe I was lucky in the coverage I noticed then.


This is not about 'two sides'. Israel illegally occupies Palestinian land. It has hi-tech weaponry backed by American dollars & is the source of the conflict NOT the victim ! The Gazan situation is essentially no different from the Warsaw ghetto created by the Nazi occupation in WW2.


If you remove your ideological bias for just a moment, and consider the actual situation in totality, you realize just how far you have to bend the truth to find the alleged bias in the reporting of this latest surge. Hamas has been firing hundreds of rockets on Israel for days. The fact that the rockets themselves are not the most advanced, and the damage is not very severe, is beside the point. Thousands of people’s lives are being affected. It would appear that the only way that you would feel better is for more Israelis to be wounded or dead, so that the scales were more evenly balanced. So for Hamas or its supporters to complain about the retaliatory defense strikes is the height of absurdity. What do they expect the result to be? They know that Israel has far more advanced capabilities. Never mind that they don't just strafe the entire region, they actually attempt targeted strikes to avoid civilian casualty. But you will just say I am naive and believing the propaganda. I could say the same of you. The collective you referring to Hamas apologists. Hamas are hard line radicals who believe in an ideology that is counter to the supposedly progressive worldview that you purport to believe in. Yet, when it comes to the Jewish state, you are willing to forgive their despicable crimes against their own people. Just to decry Israel. While the Israeli government's policies may at times leave a lot to be desired, the reality is that if you are going to rain rockets down on women and children, be prepared for the gates of hell to open and light you aflame.


No, actually, if you look at it truly objectively, you'll see, that Israel has squeezed 1.6 million people into a tiny area. Israel is blocking for food, medicin, building materials, etc. Israel is holding an illegal naval blockade on Gaza, and isolating Gaza from the rest of the world. Israel is demolishing houses, schools and hospitals under the pretense of securing it's citizens from further dangers (as Susan Abulhawa eloquently put it on a another article on this site: that every Jewish man and woman can have dual citizenship, one in their own country and one in mine.)

You're looking at the different events and escalations as separate conflicts, when in reality they have root over 7 decades ago (the majority of it).


If the British government and the united nations somehow gave Palestine to Zionist settlers
then it was not theirs to give.
If this land was given by God then where is his plan for the Palestinians?
The Palestinians, who I continue to regard as the aboriginal population, have been colonised, forced into territorial prisons and there tormented for generations.
There is neither good reason nor justification for any of this.
If you had been treated as the Palestinians have would you behave any less belligerently.


Anyone who protests Israeli agression after the 2012 election who voted for
Barack Obama must be considered complicit. Obama made clear for years his
position on Israel over and over again in speeches and statements. To give any
protest meaning must originate in the failure to cast a vote for Obama.Otherwise
one has been complicit as there never were any secrets at all. Chris Floyd makes
these points clear in his article "Is This Child Dear Enough for You?" at his blog His focus is the assasinations in Pakistan. His case gains
force with reference to Palestine and Gaza. Due to Obama's support of Israel,
did cast no vote for President in 2012.


Obama is very clearly the lesser of two evils on this. Whilst Obama's position is not laudable, Romney's is worse so the sensible thing to do is vote Obama in order to ensure that the worst does not happen. You cannot accuse people of being complicit for making a rational choice between two bad alternatives.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.