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Irresponsible Journalism: Media Bias and the Gaza Riots

July 11, 2018

by: Abigail Gilbert, BFP Staff Writer

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In the surge of media attention surrounding the Gaza riots earlier this year, one theme was prevalent: a virulent attack on the State of Israel and her right to defend her sovereign borders. The attack came with one of the most incisive weapons in the war for public opinion—the media.

Misleading Headlines

The results of incendiary kites in southern Israel

Shortly after the riots began, the headlines started pouring in: “Israeli Forces Kill Dozens of Palestinians in Gaza ‘Massacre,’” “Israeli Soldiers Have Shot Dead Dozens of Palestinians Protesting as the US Opens its Embassy in Jerusalem,” and “Massacre in Gaza.” A disturbing slant began to appear in the coverage: the implication—directly or with twisted facts—that a horde of Israeli soldiers were standing on the border gunning down peaceful protesters in cold blood.

Buzzfeed, one of the top-read online news sources in the Western world, led their story about Israelis “Shooting Dead Dozens of Palestinians” with this sentence: “The shootings took place about 100 kilometers [62 mi.] from a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance,” referencing the US embassy opening in Jerusalem and implying the dignitaries, applauding the embassy move, had a “let them eat cake” mentality about the deaths in Gaza.

The article then went on to quote United Nations leaders, a Palestinian representative and the Palestinian Authority, all condemning Israel. In contrast, the only pro-Israel quote in the article came from the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Twitter page, where the IDF explained in official language that it was “responding with riot dispersal means and fire”—a quote that made the IDF sound cold, calculating and removed from the pain of the people in Gaza.

An Incomplete Picture

There was no attempt to match the stories of wounded rioters with pictures of what would have happened if the Hamas-led riots breached the border and descended on Israeli villages, towns and agricultural communities surrounding Gaza. Neither was there any recognition that if the Israeli soldiers were to step aside and let 40,000 rioters over the border, a massacre of innocents would have taken place in Israel.

Violent protests at the Israel-Gaza border

These articles also did not mention the trucks of aid Israel tried to send into Gaza (they were turned away at the border crossing), the Hamas incitement that encouraged women and children to act as human shields on the front line (knowing soldiers will avoid shooting them at all costs) or the flyers Israel dropped into Gaza, warning rioters and pleading with them not to try to breach the fence.

Instead, the anti-Israel media coverage showed pictures of black smoke billowing around an “innocent” grassroots movement of unarmed protesters, when in reality, the smoke was created by the rioters themselves burning tires to mask their decidedly non-peaceful movements. It didn’t show the attempts to destroy the fence, lob Molotov cocktails and fly burning kites into the nearby agricultural community, burning over 1,200 hectares (3,000 ac.) of farmland.

Unabashed Exploitation

A particularly misleading act in the media circus surrounding the Gaza riots was the tragic story of eight-month-old Layla al-Ghandour, who headlines said was “killed” by Israeli tear gas. Newspapers worldwide ran with headlines decrying Israel for the “killing of an innocent child.” The Daily Star piously titled their article “Gaza Tear-Gas Baby Left Off Official Death Count,” a headline that assumed the baby’s death was caused by tear gas (which it wasn’t), and additionally implied that Israel was trying to cover the whole thing up.

The Los Angeles Times led with a more subtle headline but an equally destructive message, writing “A Baby Girl Dies in the Haze of Gaza” above a photo of Layla’s mother weeping over the body of her child. It then went on to paint a moving picture of Layla’s brother, who they described as “12 but looks much younger,” carrying the baby with him to the border to “meet with his relatives.” The meeting happened near the security fence, where deadly riots were taking place. By the family’s account, and the account the Los Angeles Times dished forth unchecked, the little boy and his baby sister were immediately surrounded by clouds of vicious tear gas and the baby was killed.

Never mind the evidence that quickly surfaced that the baby had not been killed by tear gas at all, but by a pre-existing medical condition. The only brief nod to this truth was buried in the article’s 15th paragraph, where an Israeli spokesman and a nameless doctor were said to “cast doubt” on the truthfulness of the reports. Then the article went right back to telling Layla’s family story and touting the worthiness of the Gazan cause.

Any reader with half a heart would be moved by this family’s suffering, but the facts surrounding Layla’s death were wrong. Continuing to exploit and lie about the death of a baby to further blacken the name of Israel was another low blow in a series of below-the-belt media coverage.

The Power of the Press

In the deadliest border clash, on the day the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, headlines everywhere connected the two events and used the admittedly sorrowful body count—62 killed—as an example of why US President Donald Trump should have “let sleeping dogs lie” in Israel. Only a few papers caught the interview in Gaza where the Hamas-run health ministry claimed on live television that at least 50 of those killed in the clashes were members of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization that incited the “peaceful protests” as a smokescreen for illicit activity on the border. How could facts like that simply fade from stories?

The sad truth is that regardless of how Israel responded to the riots, Hamas had what they wanted: a photo opportunity where anyone unfamiliar with the facts would rage over the body count and the supposed aggression of Israel. The loss of life is a true tragedy in which Israel cannot and will not rejoice. But refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty of Israel’s border and a terrorist regime that continues to use innocent civilians as shields for violent infiltration of Israel will only encourage more people to respond to Hamas’s incitement. There will only be more bloodshed, a rise in both anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and more blockades to peace.

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces

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