Only some of the truth – the trouble with selective news reporting

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Why is it that the deaths of Palestinian children seldom rate reporting but the killing of a Hamas military figure does?

Today, after days of silence regarding the toll on Palestinian life and limb being taken by Israel in Gaza, Radio New Zealand's Morning Report carried the news of Israel's killing of a Hamas military leader. Up until then, in one 72-hour period alone, seven Palestinians, including three children, were killed and 52 others, including six women and 12 children, were wounded. Four of these deaths and 38 of the injuries resulted from Israeli Army shelling, in which two children playing football in a playground were killed. Why is it that the deaths of Palestinian children seldom rate reporting but the killing of a Hamas military figure does?

The nearest thing to balance in this morning's report came when it was acknowledged that civilians were also killed in the Israeli air strike and that a seven-year-old child was among those “reportedly” killed. We did not hear from the people of Gaza but did hear a lot from the Israeli side and from foreign reporters that formulated their commentaries with the usual assumptions.

For instance, we were told that Hamas (the elected representatives of the Palestinian people) rules in Gaza and the “moderate Palestinian Authority (PA) rules in the West Bank.” In fact the PA has condemned the Israeli atrocities with the following statement by Dr Saeb Erekat on 14 November, speaking while on an official visit to Switzerland: “We hold Israel fully responsible for the consequences of this new act of aggression”, going on to say, “We condemn in the strongest terms this new Israeli assassination which aims to initiate a bloody escalation. We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the consequences that this new act of aggression would bring to the region” and “This exposes that Israel has an agenda for war but not for peace.”

To get things further into perspective Radio New Zealand could visit the Israeli Foreign Ministry's website and see for itself the statistics of death, injury and damage caused by those missiles launched from Gaza that actually hit southern Israel and compare them with the results of the violence meted out daily by Israel in the Gaza Strip. Relentless shelling from Israeli tanks recently forced the closure of an UNWRA school in the Gaza Strip, Gaza homes and farms are under constant attack and the Israeli Army bulldozes crops on Palestinian farms during frequent incursions. The Israeli Navy enforces an over-fished three-nautical-mile fishing zone upon the Gaza fishing industry with sometimes deadly violence. The children of Gaza are regularly terrorised by sonic booms from over-flying Israeli F-16 fighter jets.

The news is easy to come by and people on the ground in the Gaza Strip; residents, journalists (including New Zealand's own journalist, Scoop's Julie Webb-Pullman jwebbp@gmail.com) and foreign aid workers, are happy to give interviews. The years go by and the daily suffering is routinely ignored by the Western news media. Until, that is, when Israel takes action that the West considers newsworthy and which at the same time provides a platform for Israeli propaganda. This morning, Morning Report uncritically reported the view that Israel had generously “given” Gaza to the Palestinians! Truth and justice are inseparable and news reporting should serve both.

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