While the broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC have all failed to remind viewers that Israel allows regular aid shipments into Gaza over land from its side of the border, on Tuesday’s CBS Evening News correspondent Richard Roth highlighted complaints about the effect of the blockade on Gaza residents, used a soundbite of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to argue that "even [Israel’s] friends question the effect," and even noted that Egypt was opening its border with Gaza for humanitarian aid – all while still not informing viewers that the Israelis regularly screen aid shipments and allow them into Gaza.
RICHARD ROTH: The U.N. says 70 percent of its million and a half people live on less than a dollar a day. Smuggling through tunnels to Egypt provides much of what Gazans need but at prices not many can afford. Israel says the aim of the blockade is to control terrorism, but even its friends question the effect.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable.
ROTH: Wary of sharing blame, Egypt's now opened its own border with Gaza – for humanitarian reasons, said Cairo – but probably not for long.
On the same day’s The Early Show, CBS anchor Betty Nguyen also noted Egypt’s actions: "This morning, Egypt has temporarily opened its border with Gaza to let in aid shipments after Israel's raid that killed nine people on a humanitarian flotilla."
Similarly, during the war in Gaza from late December 2008 to January 2009, CBS was the network most likely to air complaints about the blockade’s effect on the people of Gaza, and the least likely to report that humanitarian aid was being transported into the Gaza Strip.
It was a year ago this weekend that the Israeli military halted its three-week campaign, Operation Cast Lead, against Hamas militants in Gaza, during which Israel had responded to thousands of rockets and mortars launched from Gaza over several years. During Israel’s military campaign, on a number of major stories, many American television newscasts were more inclined to report accusations made by U.N. or Palestinian officials that the Israeli military had acted improperly than they were to update viewers after the military held investigations and released reports disputing the accusations made against it. At one point, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric went so far as to claim that the Israelis "may have used a banned weapon."
Below is a compilation of NewsBusters postings which document how the morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS reported a number of major stories from the Gaza War, highlighting examples of the media either engaging in distortion or omitting relevant information that would have cast Israel in a more favorable light, including several times when the broadcast and news networks even ignored reports issued by the Israeli military after it had taken time to investigate and dispute accusations made against its troops which had previously been reported by the media.
On January 6, 2009, there was an infamous explosion near the U.N.-run Fakhura school at the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, as the Israeli military did battle with Hamas fighters. The Israeli military’s official account of the incident, released in February 2009, contended that 12 people died outside the school, nine of whom were identified as Hamas members. But, as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS reported the incident early on, all cited a substantially higher account of the death toll which was claimed by Palestinian officials and the U.N. as being "more than forty" or "dozens,"claiming that many civilians – who were sheltering inside the school to escape the danger of Israeli airstrikes – were among the dead. While most news shows did relay the Israeli account that the explosion occurred because their troops were battling Hamas members, these news shows never reported to viewers the official Israeli account that nearly all who died were Hamas members. In fact, some earlier reports had cited the number of Hamas members in the group as being as low as two.
A year ago today, when U.N. officials accused the Israeli military of killing the driver of a vehicle delivering relief aid to Gaza during the Israeli campaign against Hamas, all the broadcast and news networks reported the accusation on January 8, 2009, noting the U.N.'s resulting cessation of relief aid deliveries. But, after the Israeli military conducted an investigation and charged that Hamas was responsible for the killing, very few of the shows that reported the initial charges by the U.N. updated viewers on this important development. An examination of the morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS – including American Morning and The Situation Room on CNN; as well as Fox and Friends, the Fox Report, and Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC; and PBS's NewsHour – between January 8 and January 12, 2009, found that all these shows – with the exception of ABC’s Good Morning America – reported on the truck driver’s death at least once, with nearly all shows also directly relaying the U.N.’s charge of Israeli military culpability.
But only CNN's The Situation Room, on the January 9 show, took the time to briefly inform viewers that the Israeli military had denied responsibility for the incident as correspondent Nic Robertson related: "[The U.N.] said that two of their workers were killed by Israeli tank and machine gun fire. Israeli Defense Forces say they have investigated it. Now, they say it wasn't them, which implies that it must have been Hamas."
Uniquely among Wednesday’s broadcast network evening newscasts, ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson informed viewers that the Israeli navy earlier in the day intercepted a record quantity of weapons supplied by Iran and destined for Hezbollah, in violation of a United Nations resolution forbidding the arming of the Lebanon-based terrorist group. Host Gibson set up the report: "Israeli navy commandos today seized a ship off the coast of Cyprus. Israel's defense ministry says it was loaded with tons of weapons bound for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. It is the largest cache of weapons ever interdicted by the Israelis, who say the arms came from one source: Iran."
Correspondent Simon McGregor-Wood opened his report by relaying that the quantity of weapons seized was enough to "keep the Islamic radicals of Hezbollah fighting for a month." And as he concluded the report, he also gave credibility to the conservative view that Iran should not be trusted in negotiations over its nuclear program: "Today's interception won't substantially reduce Hezbollah's military power, but it strengthens Israel's warning to those trying to negotiate with Iran – including the U.S. – it can't be trusted."
After months of investigation, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released a report addressing accusations from some humanitarian groups that its use of white phosphorus (WP) munitions in the Gaza War was a violation of international law, as the report distinguishes between the use of WP as a weapon and the more common non-weapon purposes such as providing smoke screens to conceal troop movements. The pro-Israel group CAMERA recently quoted from the report in the article, "Did Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus Constitute a War Crime?" by Steven Stotsky, on its Web site. The report not only argued that the military's decision to explode the munition in the air was safer for civilians than it would have been to explode it on the ground, but it also suggested that the use of WP to facilitate troops movements also meant civilian casualties were lower than they otherwise would have been by making attacks on Hamas more accurate.
Last January, evening newscasts and some morning newscasts on the broadcast networks and on CNN and FNC reported on accusations from humanitarian groups – with varying degrees of accuracy – with CBS even referring to WP as a "banned weapon," and a "horrific new weapon, " and contending that the IDF may have committed "war crimes." At one point, CNN similarly incorrectly identified WP as a "banned substance." ABC showed a clip of a wounded Palestinian boy charging that Israelis have "no mercy" even for children. (MSNBC does not have a morning or evening newscast equivalent to NBC’s Today show or the NBC Nightly News, so MSNBC coverage was not examined.) But, according to a Nexis search, none of these news programs showed any interest in updating viewers once the Israeli military had made public its say on the matter.
As previously documented by NewsBusters, the January 22 CBS Evening News ran a report (video here), introduced by anchor Katie Couric, which left the impression that the Israeli military had used a "banned weapon," without informing viewers that there are non-weapon uses for WP, and passed on accusations of "war crimes." Couric: "Hamas just ended a bloody war with Israel in Gaza, and tonight there is growing evidence the Israelis may have used a banned weapon. Some even accuse them of war crimes."
On the January 25 World News Sunday on ABC, as he introduced a report by correspondent Simon McGregor-Wood, anchor Dan Harris played up complaints against "both sides" in the war, and even suggested that the Israeli side may have been worse in its conduct of the war as he highlighted that there was "especially tough criticism" leveled at Israel. Harris: "Both sides are being dogged now by complaints that they violated the rules of war. Israel has come under especially tough criticism for its use of a chemical agent."
In recent weeks, both the NBC Nightly News and ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson repeated charges that Israeli troops had witnessed the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians by fellow troops during the Gaza War. In recent days, the New York Times has informed its readers that, after investigation, the Israeli military concluded that the incendiary claims were untrue and that the soldiers in question had actually been repeating rumors rather than describing events they had witnessed. But so far, neither NBC nor ABC has updated their viewers on the story. And in the case of ABC, even though some of the allegations had already been debunked, as reported in the conservative Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, March 24, the original inaccurate accounts were still repeated two days later on the Thursday, March 26, World News.
Anchor Charles Gibson introduced the March 26 story: "There is a debate under way right now throughout Israel about soldiers, war and morality. Two months after the war in Gaza, Israeli soldiers are providing the accounts of what they saw and did on the battlefield. And some of those accounts are deeply disturbing."
After recounting that Palestinians had previously made accusations of war crimes against the Israeli military, ABC’s Simon McGregor-Wood continued: "The army denied it. And the public accepted the denial. But now, for the first time, disturbing evidence from Israeli soldiers themselves. Personal accounts from the front line, published word for word in the newspapers. From Aviv, a squad leader. "One of our officers saw someone walking on a road, an old woman. He sent people up onto the roof, and, using machine guns, they took her down."
On the March 19 NBC Nightly News, correspondent Martin Fletcher had similarly charged: "The Israeli army insisted during the war they were extra careful to avoid unnecessary damage and to protect Palestinian civilians. But today Israelis were shocked by reports of soldiers speaking out, saying they intentionally destroyed Palestinian property and killed civilians." (Complete transcripts follow)
Within the first few days of Israel’s campaign in Gaza, the Israeli military struck the Islamic University of Gaza, charging that the school served as a weapons research facility for Hamas. But while CNN, FNC and MSNBC all at some point reported on the school’s links to Hamas, CBS and NBC ignored the terrorist group’s connection in all its reports, while ABC vaguely noted that it was popular with Hamas students while still calling it a "non-military target." CBS, which had initially ignored the strike when it happened in late December, ran a report on the Friday, January 30, CBS Evening News in which correspondent Alan Pizzey, instead of informing viewers of the school’s reported role in terrorism, seemed more concerned that the damage would delay students from graduating, and relayed that "even the Islamic University" was bombed, suggesting it was an unreasonable target. After beginning the story focusing on a college-aged Palestinian man who was collecting explosive material to build bombs for revenge against Israel, Pizzey continued: "It will go in Qassam rockets – payback, the bomb maker says, for the destruction that has been part of his life since birth. Even the Islamic University was pounded by airstrikes, putting students' chances of graduating in jeopardy."
Then came an anti-Israel soundbite from one female student, named Nasser Barakat: "It's clear for us they want to attack everything, single thing in our life and every place in Gaza in order to destroy the whole community – not only the fighters, but the whole community."
By contrast, on December 29, during the 9:00 hour of MSNBC News Live, correspondent Tom Aspell reported: "Starting in the early hours of this morning, [the Israelis] attacked a building belonging to the Islamic University inside the Gaza Strip. The Israelis saying that the Hamas activists had been using it as a laboratory to develop weapons."
Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has long been a pro-Palestinian activist and critic of Israel, and who, according to an article released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), once expressed agreement with the 9/11 attacks which he considered to be a justified attack on civilians, has been seen numerous times in the last couple of weeks on broadcast network news shows – primarily on CBS and NBC. Without mentioning his extreme views, anchors and correspondents have treated him as a trustworthy source, as if he were a neutral foreign observer, regarding civilian casualties arriving at Shifa Hospital in Gaza amid the Israeli campaign against Hamas. But, according to CAMERA: "When asked by Dagbladet (a Norwegian publication) if he supported the terrorist attack on the U.S., he replied: 'Terror is a bad weapon, but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned.' (Sept. 30, 2001)"
The article "Norwegian Doctors in Gaza: Objective Observers or Partisan Propagandists?" by Ricki Hollander, can be found here.
On the January 5 The Early Show, correspondent Mark Phillips cited Gilbert’s charges that Israel was conducting an "all-out war against civilians" as "compelling evidence" contradicting "repeated claims by Israelis that civilians are not being targeted." Phillips: "Despite repeated claims by the Israelis that civilians are not being targeted and that they are even being warned by leaflets and phone calls to stay away from target sites, the dead and injured continue to be brought into Gaza's overrun hospitals. And the evidence provided by foreign doctors in Gaza is compelling." Then came a clip of Gilbert: "So anybody who tries to portray this as sort of a clean war against another army are lying. This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with the numbers."
On Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume, during the show's "From the Political Grapevine" segment, FNC host Hume gave viewers another glimpse at the admiration offered terrorists in the Middle East as he reported that the Al-Jazeera network threw a birthday party for Samir Kuntar, a notorious terrorist recently released by Israel, who had previously been greeted by thousands of adoring fans when he returned to Beirut. Hume: "The Arab news network Al-Jazeera celebrated the birthday of released Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar with a cake and fireworks. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that Kuntar, who shot an Israeli child's father in front of her, and then beat her to death with his rifle back in 1979, was given a hero's welcome on the network. One interviewer said, quote, 'You deserve even more than this. I think that 11,000 prisoners, if they can see this program now, are celebrating your birthday with you. Happy birthday.'" (Transcript follows)
When the Israeli government and the terrorist group Hezbollah carried out a prisoner release agreement in which Israel released five Lebanese prisoners while Hezbollah released the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who had been killed, there was a substantial contrast in the way the broadcast network evening newscasts reported the story. While ABC’s Charles Gibson and Simon McGregor-Wood reported on World News that one of the prisoners, Samir Kuntar, had been convicted of the "vicious murder" of an Israeli man and his four-year-old daughter, and that upon release he was "greeted in Beirut as a returning hero," NBC and CBS both skipped over any details of Kuntar’s crime, and CBS’s Katie Couric even listed the prisoner exchange as one of several "glimmers of hope" in the conflict between Israelis and Arabs. Couric: "For the first time in years, there are some glimmers of hope in the Arab-Israeli stalemate -- a virtual cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, and the beginning of low-level talks between Israel and Syria."
CNN and FNC further detailed the brutality of Kuntar’s crime, and FNC noted his popularity among many in Lebanon. FNC’s Morton Kondracke: "What’s most disgusting is that the Lebanese performance, tens of thousands of people turning out to welcome home a terrorist who had killed a policeman, a civilian, and then bashed in the head of the civilian's four-year-old daughter. And he's being welcomed home as though he’s a national hero, with the president there, the prime minister there, the speaker of the parliament. This is supposed to be an ally of the United States, Lebanon. What it indicates is that Lebanon, that Lebanese politics is now owned by Hezbollah ... they have veto power over whatever the Lebanese government does, you know. Lebanon is close to being lost." (Transcripts follow)