Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maybe Balanced, But Fair

There seems a pervasive suspicion in the blogging left that the American media is pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. Meant presumably, is that the mainstream media is unjustifiably anti-Hamas, given that it is consistently sympathetic treatment of Palestinians per se (generally portrayed as innocent victims of Israel and otherwise, simply as innocent victims) and that the presenting issue is not the Israeli conflict with Palestinians but with the Hamas government.

To the ridicule of Daily Kos, Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist- not beat reporter or editor- notes today in the pages of The Washington Post:

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis, deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.

This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.

Still, news articles typically are headlined "Israel destroys Hamas homes, flattens Gaza mosque" (Associated Press); "Gaza mosque hit in Israeli air strikes" (Reuters); "Casualties rise as Israel strikes on Gaza persist" (International Herald Tribune, global edition of The New York Times); and most tellingly, coming from the Voice of America: "Israeli Airstrikes Kill More Than 200 in Gaza."

The article from the AP explains "Israel bombed a mosque it said was used to store weapons and destroyed the homes of more than a dozen Hamas operatives Friday.... but, coupled with print photographs and video, the message driven home to consumers of news is: Israeli bombs civilians indiscriminately. But as the AP acknowledges, even "Hamas has said about half of the dead were members of its security forces" and the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinians Territories (not likely a flak for the Israelis) "estimated that more than 100 of the dead were civilians." Given that at that time the estimated death toll was 400, that would suggest nearly 75% were not civilians. A tragic loss of life, but which Israeli itself tried to minimize:

Before the airstrikes, Israel's military called some of the houses to warn of an impending attack. In some cases, it also fired a sound bomb to warn civilians before flattening the homes with missiles, Palestinians and Israeli officials said. Israeli planes also dropped leaflets east of Gaza giving a confidential phone number and e-mail address to report locations of rocket squads. Residents stepped over the leaflets.

Par for the course for the Israeli military, but tactics unbecoming a brutal imperialist.

1 comment:

Dan said...

While I don't agree with a good deal of what Israel does (treatment of Arab citizens, isolation of Gaza, etc) I find that I am at least able to look at this situation without conflating it to these other issues. It seems like people on both sides connect every action to other actions and draw so many connections that the other side is going to always be wrong no matter what. Ironically, I suppose that doing just that is what is most likely to gain support from the world and lead to a change in policies.

Certainly. Israel has worked extensively to have a minimum level of civilian casaulties while also working to achieve their goal of crippling Hamas and their military capabilities. It is legitimate to protect citizens. Still, it remains to be seen if this strategy will be successful, or if it will lead to a renewed push of support for Hamas. Overall, I think Israel is probably making another short sighted move that will lead to no real change in long-term security or peace.

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