On August 2, 2014, in the middle of the Gaza conflict, we ran the A.F. Branco cartoon that is the featured image to this post.

It’s a fitting occasion to revisit the media bias that frames the international view of the 2014 Gaza conflict, as the fourth in our series looking back at our coverage. Our first three posts were:

As before, we are focusing on revisiting our contemporaneous coverage.

The international media is extremely sensitive to discussions of its bias, so much so that when, in June of 2015, the Israeli Foreign Ministry produced a comical short cartoon video poking fun at international media bias, the international media blew a gasket. The Foreign Ministry took down the video, though it was captured by others:

Was this unfair to the international media?

No, it was very fair, though overly simplified (just like the media’s coverage of Gaza). Our posts from the summer of 2014 reflected the media bias.

In that conflict, the media played a key role in covering up Hamas use of civilians as shields:

For example, this tweet exposing Hamas’ use of Gaza’s main hospital, Al-Shifa, was deleted:

nick casey deleted tweet

As was this article by a Palestinian journalist about his interrogation down the hall from the operating room in the same hospital:

Liberation Magazine You must leave Gaza Shifa Hospital removed

Liberation Magazine You must leave Gaza Shifa Hospital

Hamas bragged about its intimidation of reporters:

Hamas Spokeswoman Intimidate Reporters Gaza

This Finnish reporter accurately reported rocket fire from near Al-Shifa, but then complained when people reported about her report.

http://youtu.be/Nu-e5qWXx-k

It is noteworthy that although there is a mountain of evidence of Hamas using hospitals as cover, this Finnish reporter was the only, or one of the only, to do a broadcast from the location.

Another reporter disclosed how Hamas staged a blast scene it caused to make it appear Israel was at fault — but he only made the disclosure, in his words, when he was out of Gaza and far away from Hamas:

CAMERA discovered a Wall Street Journal reporter coming to the same conclusion as the Italian reporter, but then deleting the tweet:

wsj tamer el-ghobashy deleted tweet

The reporter later claimed he deleted it because it was speculative.

And that’s how it went. Key disclosures were not made, or deleted. An those that were made, were made only after reporters left Gaza. But by that time the narrative set by Hamas through the media had been set.

For example, this report by NDTV was released only after its reporters left Gaza:

And that was the problem.

It’s not that there was zero reporting, it’s that Hamas intimidation of reporters made such reporting the exception, rather than the rule, and pushed that reporting to an after-thought.

In an after-assessment, the Foreign Press Association in Israel (and not an organization that shrinks from criticizing Israel) decried Hamas’ “blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods” to intimidate journalists.

The result was an almost total lack of on-the-ground media coverage of Hamas’ war crimes, with the coverage of casualties caused by Israeli responses to Hamas rocket fire.

Without the first part of the equation — the use of civilians and civilian structures — the second part of the equation was out of context. It allowed anti-Israel propagandists to make ridiculous claims that Israel deliberately tried to kill civilians.

Reporting from Gaza thus served a critical role in the Hamas propaganda machine.  An al-Jazeera reporter was so valued by Hamas that when the final ceasefire was announced, he was lifted on shoulders in thanks:

The role of reporters on the ground was amplified by more traditional media bias against Israel in the form of selective framing of the conflict, including unquestioning acceptance of Hamas casualty reports claiming few military combatant deaths.

So yes, the international media did serve a critical role in the Hamas war machine.  International pressure resulting from civilian casualties is a critical part of the Hamas war plan, but reporting how Hamas was responsible for the casualties by hiding behind and among civilians would harm the narrative. And reporters, and the media generally, thereby became complicit.