Monday, February 25, 2008

It’s all in a day’s work

Many of us get up in the morning and get ready to go to work; another day just like many others, just a routine to be followed day after day. It’s not only Americans that follow this practice; workers around the world do this also.

So you can imagine Palestinians in the Gaza strip doing the same thing. Mohammad wakes up in the morning, gets ready to go to work, kisses his wife (wives?), pats his 18 children on the head, jumps on his bicycle and off he goes. The only difference from the rest of us is that his ‘job’ is to go to a mortar or rocket launcher and begin the days shelling into Israel.

Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in mid-June 2007 until the end of December 2007, 475 missiles and 631 mortars were fired at Sderot and the surrounding region. Since January 16, 2008, (just over a month ago) well over 200 Qassam rockets and mortars have been fired by Palestinian ‘workers’ (their job titles are ‘terrorists’) from Gaza.

Suppose you and I were living someplace where everyday as we go off to work, we leave our families knowing Mohammad will arrive at his ‘job’ that day to begin using your family and home as target practice. Since your government will do nothing to stop it, all you can do is pray Mohammad’s aim will be as bad as it usually is and your family and home will be spared, at least one more day.

You also know that people in small towns or cities like yours around the globe will never know the tragedy of leaving your family to the whims of fate every morning because no one will tell them; so effective has been the Palestinian brain wash of the news media. All that is reported is how Palestinians are ‘starved’ by Israel and that Israel is causing a humanitarian crisis. Picking up the New York Times you will also read that Israel shuts off electricity and prevents food shipments to the unfortunate Palestinians living under ‘Israeli occupation’. You may be also told that hospitals are ‘dangerously low’ on fuel, putting patients’ lives at risk. What you won’t read about is that Hamas members steal most of the fuel coming into Gaza to fill their vehicles or that from time-to-time bakeries are told not to make bread to create the impression there is little or no food on Mohammad’s table to feed his brood.

Even the Palestinian health ministry of the Ramallah-based caretaker government has said (unreporterd in the western press) "Hamas militias" have looted the fuel stores destined for hospital vehicles in the Gaza Strip. A statement released by the health ministry said that fuel from the European hospital in the Gaza Strip had been stolen by the director of the hospital drivers to supply the Hamas-affiliated Executive Force. The official also said that contrary to Hamas's claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. "Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles," he said. But you won’t see that in your local papers either; so good are the Palestinian propaganda efforts.

Take the recent Hamas ‘invasion’ of the Egyptian border for an example of media bias; not to give the impression that Palestinians were in the wrong, here is what the Associated Press said about the incident:

“It started last week with what Israel says was the inadvertent killing of a son of Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar in an Israeli arrest raid. Hamas retaliated with rocket barrages on Israel, and Israel struck back by sealing Gaza hermetically and cutting off fuel shipments. Several days later, Gaza militants blew down the border wall with Egypt, effectively ending the Israeli blockade, which had been tacitly backed by Egypt.”

Even though Israelis live every day on the receiving end of mortars and rockets, most of the media chose to attribute Israeli security measures as the cause of the Gaza situation rather than the continuous Palestinian terror that necessitated an Israeli response. The AP story is written as a Palestinian reaction to an act by Israel but does not mention Israel was reacting to unprovoked assaults on its people. Why did the media fail to add the vital context?

The western press may have been off guard on this story but the Arab press was not. Al-Jazeera was ready with live coverage of candle-bearing Palestinian children and an immediate reaction from across the Arab world indicating the Arab news network had coordinated its coverage in advance with the Hamas leadership.

"They were so prepared, it's hard to believe they didn't know this was going to happen," said one official. "Although it's already dark in Gaza by 6 p.m., they waited two hours to shut their generator down so that the lights going out in Gaza could be carried live on Al-Jazeeera during prime-time viewing."

Amir Mizroch wrote in the Jerusalem Post:

“The footage was powerful and unforgettable: thousands of people gathered to light candles in a Gaza City plunged into darkness. The possibility that Hamas itself had switched off the lights in the densely populated city to create the impression of an urgent humanitarian crisis was likely not considered by many watching the broadcast. Naturally many viewers associated the darkness with Israel's decision to reduce fuel shipments. But the media downplayed the fact that Israel's Ruttenberg power station in Ashkelon was still streaming electricity into Gaza and that there had been no Israeli action that shut the city's lights off.”

Hamas continued to manipulate a cooperative media for its own ends. Also as the Jerusalem Post reported:

“On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday. In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.In the second case journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles. But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.”

If some journalists saw that they were being manipulated, why was it only the Jerusalem Post that reported this? Were these journalists really so lacking in integrity that they preferred to play along with the deception?

Typical of many media's explanation of events was The Daily Telegraph:

“The wall fell after a nearly week-long Israeli blockade of fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza … “

In fact however, as written in the McClatchy News:

“They had apparently been planning the attack for weeks. With the knowledge of locals, militants had spent weeks methodically using blow torches to cut along the bottom of the 30-foot-tall corrugated iron wall along the Egyptian border.”

McClatchy News Jerusalem bureau chief Dion Nissenbaum wrote:

“Israel is pumping in some fuel for Gaza's only power plant and offering some diesel, but Palestinians are actually refusing to accept the small shipments of diesel to protest Israel's policies.”

The Christian Science Monitor did correctly report on Gazan 'hunger': “While starvation has not been a problem there – most of the strip's residents receive food aid from the UN – it's proved a powerful idea in the propaganda war over Gaza's fate.”

A Palestinian guard also told The Times of London that he saw people surreptitiously working to undermine the wall "for months."

But except for brief mentions as in the Christian Monitor’s piece, none of this could be read in the New York Times or other major papers in the United States. Some media will not admit that they have been manipulated by Hamas. Others prefer to stick to their rigid analysis where Israel bears sole responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians and any related crises.

Meanwhile, Mohammad continues to go to ‘the office’ every day secure with the knowledge that as far as the world is concerned – ‘shelling Israel is all in a day’s work’.

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