Commentary: Reports on the Arab-Israel conflict ignore Hamas aggression
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 30, 2008 - I am an Israeli citizen living in America. For the past 10 years, I have watched countless reporters, on TV and online, butchering coverage of my country. This is not to say that Israel is perfect; I am a patriot, not a fool. But Israel's actions do not occur in a vacuum.
To understand the controversy that erupted over the weekend regarding Israel's latest incursion into the Gaza Strip, one must step back, take a deep breath and turn off the television.
CNN will show you blood and guts. So will ABC, FOX and every other visual source. It makes sense. We've all heard that sex and violence sell. In today's media market, journalists succinctly encapsulate this lesson with a simple idiom - "if it bleeds, it leads."
This is why we turn off our televisions. Not because our hearts don't go out to wounded, innocent civilians, but because pathos is the wrong approach for explaining the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Calling this an Arab-Israeli conflict may strike some as odd as Western media constantly report on a "Palestinian-Israeli" conflict. The scope of this article cannot attempt to explain the difference, but Palestinians have long been used as pawns by extremist Arab leaders.
Hamas, the democratically elected government of Gaza, is armed and trained by Iran. This brings us to the current hostilities.
While many reported the Israeli Defense Forces' incursion into Gaza as the beginning of a new round of hostilities prompted by the end of a six-month truce, they neglected to mention the constant barrage of rockets and mortars that has been raining down on a quarter-million Israelis since the IDF pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
These attacks did not cease with the cease-fire, nor were they discernibly reduced. More than 5,000 rockets and mortars have landed in Israel-proper over the past three years. Not including the December count, 1,200 rockets and an equal number of mortars have been launched from the Strip.
Imagine the psychological toll of living in such a constant state of terror. When President-elect Obama visited Sderot, the southern Israeli town hit hardest and most often by these attacks, his remarks were simple: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing." That was exactly what Israel did.
Hamas has been smuggling arms into Gaza for six months under the auspices of the cease-fire. During this time, the incessant rocket salvo pushed Israeli government officials into the proverbial corner. And when this baby's backed into a corner, well, it strikes back hard.
Israel's current goals, though unenunciated, seem clear: Wipe out Hamas' infrastructure and eliminate its stranglehold on Gaza. Hamas' sworn purpose, as expressed in its charter, is the destruction of Israel. It is not the betterment of the livelihoods of the everyman.
Hamas is a terrorist organization that took control over the Gaza Strip in a violent manner. Sure, it was elected, but it was no Glorious Revolution. Worse yet, Hamas has since abused its powers and privileges, many times to score points with media.
And so it is today. The mainstream media criticize Israel for civilian casualties the IDF tries its best to prevent, while leaving their readers without crucial pieces of information - like that Hamas strategically places its rocket launchers, rocket factories and armories in dense civilian neighborhoods. Nor do they inform their readers that a significant number of the civilian casualties of the IDF air strikes are caused by the secondary, uncontrolled explosions of said weapon caches.
Even fewer traditional news outlets seem to assign any responsibility for the situation on Hamas' shoulders. It seems that many of their reporters have recently suffered from amnesia.
The truce between Israel and Hamas was agreed upon with the condition that Hamas end the rocket fusillade.
For six-months, Israel maintained nearly non-existent levels of military activity over the Gaza Strip, yet rockets continued at a rate similar to previous periods. Hamas did not use the opportunity to reign in its many factions, instead choosing to spend the time re-arming and re-tooling for a probable, larger offensive.
The IDF, seeing that the lull in active hostilities was doing little to stop the terror inflicted on the Negev's residents, chose a similar path. This is where we find ourselves today.
Israel unleashed its air superiority on Hamas over the past few days. Now, we wait and see whether it will escalate the situation with a ground offensive that may spark a larger geo-political conflict.
Roei Eisenberg works for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America , a non-partisan media-monitoring organization committed to ensuring the correct and contextual reporting of events in the Middle East.