Amid con­flict, me­dia out­lets tell dif­fer­ent sto­ries

Each side de­cries sins of the other

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY KEL­LAN HOW­ELL

“Morgues Over­flow­ing,” “Dis­placed Pales­tini­ans Speak of Or­deal,” “Deaths as Is­raeli Tanks Shell Gaza Hos­pi­tal.”

The head­lines in the Arab and Mus­lim world all shout a mes­sage of sym­pa­thy for the Pales­tini­ans and name Is­rael as the ag­gres­sor de­spite the range of opin­ions through­out the Arab world about Amer­ica, Is­rael’s prin­ci­pal ally, and about the Pales­tinian mil­i­tant group Ha­mas.

“The Egyptians don’t like Ha­mas, the Saudis and UAE don’t like Ha­mas, but every­one in Egypt and the Mid­dle East sym­pa­thizes with Pales­tine,” said Shi­b­ley Tel­hami, an ex­pert on Mid­dle Eastern Me­dia with the Brook­ings In­sti­tute.

Sev­eral me­dia sources re­ferred to Pales­tinian ca­su­al­ties as “mar­tyrs.”

In a top story on Arab news source Al-Mon­i­tor ti­tled “No es­cape for civil­ians in Gaza,” re­porters re­ferred to ca­su­al­ties, say­ing, “The num­ber of chil­dren killed stands, at the time of writ­ing, at 53 from a to­tal num­ber of 237 mar­tyrs and more than 1,700 in­jured since Is­rael launched its war on July 8.”

Mr. Tel­hami ex­plained that de­spite in­ter-Arab po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, the stag­ger­ing death toll has led to a pub­lic out­cry in the Arab me­dia.

“When there are ca­su­al­ties of this sort, it’s very hard for them to go against the pub­lic sen­ti­ment, which is pro-Pales­tinian. Al­most every­one treats Pales­tinian ca­su­al­ties as mar­tyrs and calls Is­rael the ag­gres­sor, even though they don’t like Ha­mas at all,” he said.

Egypt’s role in the lat­est round of con­flict be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans is largely in ques­tion as the coun­try was the first Arab state to rec­og­nize and make peace with Is­rael. Egypt his­tor­i­cally has sup­pressed Ha­mas and helped me­di­ate cease-fires be­tween Ha­mas and Is­rael.

Head­lines sug­gest that while Egypt de­bates whether to push ne­go­ti­a­tions with Ha­mas, Iran could step for­ward to help the ter­ror­ist group.

Ahram re­ports that Egypt might be more flex­i­ble in cease-fire ne­go­ti­a­tions, while Iran’s top news out­let, Fars News, touted as its top story that an Ira­nian par­lia­men­tary del­e­ga­tion would be vis­it­ing Gaza to study re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the re­gion and the “Zion­ist crimes com­mit­ted against the Pales­tinian peo­ple.”

The Ira­nian news source con­tin­ued to de­nounce Is­raeli ag­gres­sion, re­fer­ring to sup­port for the “de­fense­less” peo­ple in Gaza.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Tel­hami, un­til Is­rael be­gan ground op­er­a­tions in Gaza four days ago, the lat­est con­flict has been un­der­re­ported com­pared to the cov­er­age of Is­rael-Gaza wars in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

“That’s true of all sta­tions, in­clud­ing Al-Jazeera. In large part, be­cause Arabs have a lot of things go­ing on, Iraq, Syria [and] even Egypt had a lot of at­tacks on soldiers. All of that seemed to dis­tract from the Gaza war, but then, once the Gaza ground war started, it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how it sud­denly gal­va­nized the me­dia,” he said.

The fo­cus in Is­raeli me­dia is on the in­crease in ca­su­al­ties since the ground op­er­a­tions be­gan. On Mon­day the top sto­ries on the web­sites of both Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post re­ported the deaths of seven Is­rael De­fense Forces killed in the con­flict. Both me­dia out­lets fo­cused on iden­ti­fy­ing and pro­fil­ing the IDF ca­su­al­ties and seemed to bury Gaza’s death toll in lower-billed sto­ries.

Many peo­ple in Is­rael are turn­ing to Al-Jazeera for the lat­est news, but Is­raeli For­eign Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man called for the govern­ment to ban the Qatar-based news source, say­ing, “Qatar has turned into a global prob­lem. Al-Jazeera is a cen­tral pil­lar of the pro­pa­ganda ap­pa­ra­tus of Ha­mas,” In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness Times re­ported.

But ac­cord­ing to Mr. Tel­hami, the Is­raeli govern­ment has been cen­sor­ing ca­su­al­ties, de­lay­ing Is­raeli me­dia from iden­ti­fy­ing the soldiers for sev­eral hours while Al-Jazeera man­ages to re­port such in­for­ma­tion sooner.

“If I re­ally want to get a sense of how the war is go­ing, the first place for me to go is to see what Al-Jazeera is say­ing,” Mr. Tel­hami said.

A spokes­woman for Al-Jazeera was un­avail­able for an in­ter­view but told The Wash­ing­ton Times, “We’re telling all sides of the sit­u­a­tion from both Is­rael and Gaza, and viewer re­sponse has been strong.”

Many Arab news sources re­ported on Pres­i­dent Obama’s state­ments on the sit­u­a­tion last week, when he said he had “se­ri­ous con­cerns about the ris­ing num­ber of Pales­tinian civil­ian ca­su­al­ties” and called for the United Na­tions to step in.

But Mr. Obama’s “se­ri­ous con­cerns” will not be enough to help the sit­u­a­tion as many me­dia re­ports con­demned Amer­ica’s in­ac­tion.

“Al­most all the me­dia, in­clud­ing the ones that tend to be friendly to the U.S., have been crit­i­cal of the Amer­i­can role — in large part crit­i­cal of the U.S. not tak­ing ac­tion to stop it,” Mr. Tel­hami said. “Par­tic­u­larly af­ter yes­ter­day, when the scale of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Gaza be­came clear.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Po­lice se­cure a de­stroyed house that was hit by a rocket fired by Ha­mas mil­i­tants from Gaza, in Yahud, a Tel Aviv sub­urb near the air­port, cen­tral Is­rael.

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