Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Study: International law seldom newsworthy in war on Gaza

US corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks that have reportedly killed more than 900 — many of them civilians — since 27 December has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law. Israel’s recent aerial attacks on Gazan infrastructure, including a TV station, police stations, a mosque, a university and even a United Nations school, have been widely reported. Yet despite the fact that attacks on civilian infrastructure, including police stations, are illegal (Human Rights Watch, 31 December 2008), questions of legality are almost entirely off the table in the US media. 

Down the Memory Hole

In the wake of the most serious outbreak of Israeli/Arab violence in years, three leading U.S. papers—the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times—have each strongly editorialized that Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon were solely responsible for sparking violence, and that the Israeli military response was predictable and unavoidable. These editorials ignored recent events that indicate a much more complicated situation. As we recently noted, the portrayal of Israel as the innocent victim in the Gaza conflict is hard to square with the death toll in the months leading up to the current crisis. 

"Because This Is the Middle East"

The media assumption is that in withdrawing from Gaza in September 2005, Israel ended its conflict with at least that portion of Palestine and gave up, as Schieffer put it, “what the Palestinians supposedly wanted.” In reality, however, since the pullout and before the recent escalation of violence, at least 144 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli forces, often by helicopter gunships, according to a list compiled by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Only 31 percent of the people killed were engaged in hostile actions at the time of their deaths, and 25 percent of all those killed were minors. 

Journalists find "calm" when only Palestinians die

The deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem on August 19 was foreshadowed by a pair of suicide attacks a week earlier which killed two Israeli civilians. While U.S. media tended to portray these attacks as a return to violence after a relatively peaceful period, there were numerous killings in the weeks leading up to the suicide bombings that underscore the lack of evenhanded attention given to loss of life in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. FAIR reports.