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Bailey writes: "As Israel continues to pound the Gaza Strip, and factions within the beleaguered territory retaliate as best they can, there are many myths and stereotypes dominating mainstream media coverage."

A young Boy Crying in Gaza with his family. (photo: Prisma UK)
A young Boy Crying in Gaza with his family. (photo: Prisma UK)

4 Common Myths About Israel and Gaza

By Pam Bailey, Mondoweiss

21 November 12


hat you need to know about the Israeli offensive.

As Israel continues to pound the Gaza Strip, and factions within the beleaguered territory retaliate as best they can, there are many myths and stereotypes dominating mainstream media coverage, and many conversations.

Here are a few of the most common misunderstandings:

Myth: Hamas started the round of fighting that led to Israel's "Operation Pillar of Defense."

Fact: This myth represents a common error in mainstream – and even much progressive – media coverage. The "truth" all depends on when you start the timeline. What is clear is that while both Israel and resistance groups in Gaza bear responsibility for keeping the warfare going, Israel is more often the precipitator.

In an analysis that has received very little attention by Western audiences, Nancy Kanwisher (the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) asks, "As Israel and Palestine suffer a hideous new spasm of terror, misery and mayhem, it is important to ask how this situation came about…How did the (last) ceasefire unravel?"

President Barak Obama and the mainstream media in the United States and Israel place the blame squarely on Hamas. It is true that a barrage of Palestinian rockets have been fired into Israel, and that ending this rocket fire is the stated goal of the current Israeli invasion of Gaza. However, this simplistic summary leaves out crucial facts. Consider this chain of events, which followed a "lull" of sorts over the previous couple of weeks: (The details of what took place during these days vary somewhat from one media outlet to another. However, the broad strokes are the same.)

· Nov. 4: Israel killed a mentally ill Palestinian walking near the Israeli-imposed "no-go zone" inside the Gaza Strip - an event that triggered a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel, which did not cause any deaths or injuries.

  • Nov. 8: Four Israeli military tanks and a bulldozer entered Gaza, fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy who had been playing soccer by his family's house.

  • Nov. 10: In retaliation, two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, and an anti-tank missile injured four soldiers, when it hit an Israeli army jeep that had crossed over into the territory. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported the killing of five more Palestinians, four of whom were civilians – including two soccer players age 16 and 17 and two young men (18 and 19) who ran to the scene. Forty-nine others were wounded, including 10 children.

  • Nov. 11: Amid talks of a truce, six more Palestinians (all but one were civilians) were wounded and another was killed by both air strikes and troops on the ground.

  • Nov. 12: With Israeli air strikes continuing, two rockets from Gaza hit Israel.

  • Nov. 13: After two mid-afternoon air strikes, news services announced a truce had been agreed-upon.

  • Nov. 14: Israel ignored the nascent truce and assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jabari. (It is questionable whether Israeli officials ever really wanted a truce. As Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies wrote in The Nation: "Earlier this year, on the third anniversary of the Gaza assault of 2008/9, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Army Radio that Israel will need to attack Gaza again soon, to restore what he called its power of ‘deterrence.' He said the assault must be ‘swift and painful,' concluding, ‘we will act when the conditions are right.' Perhaps this was his chosen moment.")

A fact not known by most Americans, who see Jabari as merely a leader of "terrorists," is that Israeli activist Gershon Baskin confirmed that Jabari was engaged in peace settlement negotiations with Israel. In fact, he was due to send Hamas' version of a draft agreement to Baskin on the Wednesday evening before he was killed. It's worth asking: Did Israel intend to torpedo those efforts?

The rest of the story is tragic history. Jabari's killing triggered Operation Pillar of Defense, and it continues to unfold.

"It is overwhelmingly Israel that kills first after a pause in the conflict," writes Kanwisher, who analyzed the entire timeline of killings between Palestinians and Israelis from September 2000 to October 2008, to determine if there was a historical pattern. "Seventy-nine percent of all conflict pauses (during the study period) were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8% were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same day). In addition, we found that this pattern - in which Israel is more likely than Palestine to kill first after a conflict pause - becomes more pronounced for longer (ceasefires). Indeed, of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24, or 96%, and it unilaterally interrupted 100% of the 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than nine days."

One of the lessons from these data, she writes, is, "If Israel wants to reduce rocket fire from Gaza, it should cherish and preserve the peace when it starts to break out, not be the first to kill."

Myth: Israel is killing militant "targets."

Fact: The victims are humans, not "targets." They have names, families, stories worth telling.

At the close of Nov. 19, Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights reported that 110 Palestinians had been killed, including 25 children, 14 senior citizens and 12 women. Seventy-two percent were civilians, with no active involvement in the resistance. Another 891 Palestinians (including 277 children, 164 women and 62 seniors) had been wounded.

[In contrast, various Israeli sources report a total of 664 rockets from Gaza have hit southern Israel. Three Israeli civilians have been killed and a reported 10 civilians and four soldiers have been injured.]

In an iconic photograph circulated widely on the Internet, Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic journalist who lives in Gaza, carries the body of his 11-month old son, Omar, through al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. A round of Israeli missile fire hit Misharawi's four-room home in Gaza, killing his son. Misharawi's sister-in-law was also killed, and his brother wounded. He told his manager at BBC that when the missiles hit, there was no fighting in his residential neighborhood.

The killing of Misharawi's son received so much attention because he works for a major Western news outlet, and his agony was captured so graphically on film. However, there are many other stories that are not being told. With one of the youngest populations in the world, over half of Gaza's 1.7 million residents are aged under 18.

In May, 2012 Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald observed: "Virtually every time the U.S. [or Israel] fires a missile and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were ‘militants' – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed ‘officials' claiming that the dead were ‘militants.' It's the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it's true."

In the words of one Gazan Palestinian, on Facebook: We are not numbers, we are humans! We have names, we have families, we have kids, we have emotions, we have feelings .... Every life has a story ... Just like you and just like any human being! We are not fucking news and death reports!! We are not Fucking Numbers!! We are HUMAN SOULS.

Myth: Israel protects civilians by airdropping leaflets warning residents of Gaza to avoid locations and individuals affiliated with Hamas.

Fact: In the last five days, Israel has bombed an estimated 1,643 sites in an area that is just 140 square miles – about twice the size of Washington DC. Hamas is the party that runs the local government. The question must be asked: Just where are the people supposed to hide?

Myth: Retaliation by Palestinians is either terrorism or just plain stupidity. The former is the common belief of advocates of Zionism, and the latter is a frequent concern (albeit not often expressed openly) among liberal supporters of Palestinian rights.

Fact: The right to self-defense (most often through "retaliation") is enshrined in international law and was America's own first response after it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Why was it ethical for the U.S., but not for Palestinians?

As one young Gazan wrote on Facebook: "When you see your family killed by Israeli soldiers in front of your eyes and you see your house demolished in front of you, you feel so angry that you want to fight back. But once you fight back, you are called a terrorist and the aggressor becomes the victim who has the right of defense."

Catherine Charratt, a PhD candidate in international politics at the UK's Aberystwyth University, recently wrote:

According to the Geneva Conventions, a people under occupation have the legal right to resist their occupation; Article 1 (4) of Protocol 1 stresses that force may be used to pursue the right of self-determination.

(However,) according to Western news media, all resistance fighters in Palestine are illegitimate militants, while Israel - as a Western-favored state - is allowed to target and assassinate Hamas government and military officials... So, Palestinian military and political leaders can be legitimately targeted but they are not allowed to legitimately retaliate. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-26 # elbajoeste 2012-11-22 00:07
THIS is the most anti-Israeli propaganda i've ever read represented as fair. It isn't. Go to historical sources and away from so called progressive journalists. Many are not fair. Most are not progressive.
+8 # Sacrebleu! 2012-11-22 09:42
The problem with facts is that they are stubborn.
If they don't match your world view, change your world view.
-7 # randyjet 2012-11-22 10:51
I have gotten some posts from so called leftwing folks that look like NAZI slanders and propoganda. So I am afraid that articles such as this need to be balanced by more article debunking most of the lies and rationalization s for blatant anti-Semitism.
+7 # Rascalndear 2012-11-22 14:17
Quoting elbajoeste:
THIS is the most anti-Israeli propaganda i've ever read represented as fair. It isn't. Go to historical sources and away from so called progressive journalists. Many are not fair. Most are not progressive.

Alas, Israel was established on the basis of taking land away from the Palestinians and was founded by terrorists and governed by them for many decades. And it continues to function on that basis. It's not anti-Semitic to be anti-Israeli actions. Even many Jews consider Israel a fascist state, including Jews who live there. And it's definitely anti-Semitic to kill Arabs just because they're Arabs (who are also Semites, in case you didn't know...).
-17 # elbajoeste 2012-11-22 00:09
Dead or dying Israeli children aparently aren't considered photogenic. Never see them either crying or dying. Strange.
-17 # randyjet 2012-11-22 00:11
You have to be kidding me. This is so slanted and biased as to be a joke. It is impossible to believe that any sane person could write this. The article mentions the current INVASION of Gaza. I guess the author lives in an alternate universe where facts matter not.

It also forgets the little FACT that Hamas has declared WAR on Israel and the PLO. They staged a coup against the PLO and murdered many if not most of the Fatah people there. When you engage in warfare, you suffer the consequences which unfortunately fall on civilians when one of the forces uses civilians as shields. My Uncle Bob was a grunt in WWII in Germany and he told me of some of his experiences. When they got to Germany, the German tried to use urban warfare fighting in some towns. Since the war was ending no GI wanted to be the last GI to die. So they would pull back from the town where they got hostile fire and call in TNT fire. This involed about 200 artillery tubes firing at different times so that ALL the rounds would hit at the same time. One minute the town would be there, then the next, it would vanish is a huge explosion as hundreds of rounds hit at the same time. The Germans took a few times of this before they realized that it was NOT a good tactic to use. After a few times, they decided to do the fighting outside of the towns.
+12 # dick 2012-11-22 06:37
We must de-couple from Greater Israel's LAND (&water) Grab & corrupt colonialism or suffer the same dire consequences that Israel will surely suffer. Their current government is fanatical, corrupt, & STUPID. They are going to strike out.
+11 # RMDC 2012-11-22 08:16
Thanks. This is good. There is no end to the lies that have been created to support Israel. There has never been a nation more built on myths, lies, fabricated history, denial of the indigenous population, etc.

But Israel is a colony. This is what colonies look like. It is a colony of the US and the UK. Israel is engaged in the same sort of genocide of indigenous peoples that the US did with native americans. It has pushed Palestinians onto "reservations" and now it actively tries to make life there intolerable.

All peoples have a right to resist occupation and they have a right to resist genocide. The fact that the US and Europe deeply support the genocide is not any surprise at all. That what these nations specialize in. They've been doing it for centuries.

Israel = Genocidal State

Too bad Obama is a gutless and balless lackey. Hillary is just Bill Clinton with unwashed hair and a dress.
+2 # Glen 2012-11-22 09:42
Hear hear RMDC.
Excellent observations and comments. The lack of education in the U.S., rather than that mythology, contributes to the perpetuation of brutal dominating societies, including our own. Obama, et al., are gutless due to the power of Israel in the Middle East: our standing military base, if you will. The U.S. has been complicit in the land takeovers and deaths, as we all know. Obama is continuing the tradition.
+14 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-11-22 08:28
Thank you Pam Bailey for this. Israel's relentless bombardment must be stopped and NOT supported by the US or any other government. It is absolutely baffling to the rational mind how this genocide has been allowed to continue.
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-11-22 09:55
I note that 'elbajoeste' has no answers, only recriminations.
+5 # 4yourinformation 2012-11-22 11:21
I've noticed that at several progressive/lib eral sites...trollin g newbies are popping up on this Gaza massacre event. The protestations vs covering the deaths and destruction on the Palestinian side (aka getting the truth out) is hysterical. There is this mindset that is so fanatic in its support of Israel, no matter what they do or who or how many they kill. There is a rigid anti-Muslim core to it too. Lots of foaming-mouth stuff about how ALL Muslims are bent on destroying us all in the West. It's just crazy. They expect us to just accept their BS and lap it up.

I think what's really going on here is that now that the Arab Spring has unlocked the door and freed the mainstream of Arab opinion in the region into the world, Israel can no longer count on US/Israeli approved dictators to stomp out the mass voices anymore. I'm seeing new attitudes even in the hired henchmen of US foreign policy now. Charlie Rose had 3 guests on the other night- Dennis Ross, Elliot Abrams and Rashid Khalidi. Rashid presented a splendid case of the facts re this entire event and past histories. Ross and Abrams had NOTHING to say. Abrams jumped up on only ONE item about how Israel "doesn't stop supplies getting through on the Egyptian side" and Rashid promptly corrected him, describing how Israel still controls enough at the border to influence outcomes in Gaza. We all know the starvation issues etc.

The tide is turning and the fanatics are worried.
+2 # trevorlasvegas 2012-11-22 13:07
Go back to 1947 and look at who was doing what to whom. The events that brought about the first Jewish settlements were violent and through any objective lens would be seen as terrorism.
Just as the events that brought their behavior about in 1947 were informed by genocide.
"An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind."
There is no solution here given the state of evolution shown by both the parties. The truly troubling aspect is our support.
+1 # Activista 2012-11-23 13:11
"Gaza’s economic decline is seen in the near collapse of its agricultural sector. One factor is the destruction of around 7,800 acres of agricultural land during Cast Lead. Consequently, approximately one-third of Gaza’s total arable land is out of production. Furthermore, Israeli-imposed buffer zones — areas of restricted access — now absorb nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land.

Similarly, the sea buffer zone covers 85 percent of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords, reducing 20 nautical miles to three, where waters are fouled by sewage flows in excess of 23 million gallons daily.
Another critical constraint is water. Gaza’s aquifer has been ruined by prolonged over-pumping and sewage and contaminant infiltration. ..

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