Wednesday, May 6, 2015
60 Minutes Airs Incomplete and Biased Story on Gaza Conflict
“Can peace be taught to children who have learned only the lesson of war?” is the question posed in the introduction of the May 3 “60 Minutes” broadcast, an in-depth report about the after effects on Israeli and Gazan children of the summer's war. Unfortunately, though, while CBS correspondent Scott Pelley focuses on the few select Gazan children undergoing art therapy with an American psychiatrist, he ignores the fact that tens of thousands of children in Gaza are enrolled in Hamas terrorist training camps every year. By ignoring this key factor responsible for inculcating Gazan youth with hatred of Jews and Israelis, as well as the means to carry out attacks, CBS cannot begin to adequately address the issue it purports to investigate.
The broadcast was further marred by grossly mischaracterizing Israel's "blockade" of Gaza, ignoring the role the Iron Dome plays in protecting Israeli civilians, and failing to cite the role Hamas rocket fire played in igniting last summer's conflict.
For more information, please read In Detail below.
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Firmly but courteously make the following points:
• Pelley's "60 Minutes" segment is a highly incomplete and misleading depiction of an important issue -- the plight of children in conflict.
• The report blatantly ignores the role Hamas plays in inciting ongoing hatred and war among Palestinian children, 17,000 of whom graduated from military training camps in January. A follow-up segment on "60 Minutes" needs to be aired focused on the indoctrination of Gazan children.
• Pelley stresses the "unguided" nature of the rockets fired at Israel minimizing the important role the Iron Dome - Israel's missile defense system - plays in protecting Israeli civilians.
• Pelley promotes a distorted narrative that does not account for the vastly disparate ways in which Israel and Hamas care for their civilians. Israel mandates specific policies to shelter its people as well as using Iron Dome missiles to protect them, while Hamas uses civilian shields to protect its rockets and mortars.
• Pelley accuses Israel of using a blockade against Gaza. However Israel allows nearly all goods into Gaza, whereas Egypt prevents the passage of anything and anyone. A speaker blames the "blockade" for Gaza's economic difficulties with no mention of Hamas' mass diversion of concrete and other materials to war purposes instead of home construction.
• Pelley ignores the role Hamas' incessant rocket fire played in prompting last summer's Operation Protective Edge.
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IN DETAIL to / Top / In Brief / Action Item
A lengthy program which purports to address “whether peace can be taught to children who have learned only the lesson of war,” but which ignores the fact that Hamas, the governing body, in the Gaza Strip, indoctrinates war, grossly deceives unsuspecting viewers. Agence France-Presse reported on the graduation of 17,000 youth from Hamas training camps in January (“Gaza youngsters flock to Hamas training camps,” Feb. 9, 2015):
Hatem is only 14 but has already lived through three wars with Israel. Now the young Gazan says he is making sure he’ll be ready to fight in the next one. . .
“The Israelis killed my niece last summer. Now I want to kill them,” he told AFP after completing a week-long youth training camps with militants from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement . . .
Hamas has been running summer camps for youngsters for years, but this week-long session [in January] was a much more serious affair.
Run for the first time by militants from the Qassam Brigades, there were no “fun” sessions – and no mid-week visits to Gaza’s zoo.
“They were trained intensively in using light and heavy weaponry and were taught how to ambush, so they can lead the next battle for liberation,” the Brigades said on its website. . .
But local human rights groups are accusing Hamas of exploiting children for political purposes.
“We are not disputing the right of an occupied people to resist, but it must be done by adults, not children,” one human rights activist told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The camps are making young people aggressive instead of educating them and teaching them to abide by the law,” the activist said.
Issam Yunis, head of Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan, said the camps were a dangerous development in a territory where more than half of the population is under 15.
“Gazan children are traumatized by violence, so some are attracted by the military training,” he said.
“But the priority today should be to take care of their social and physical well-being.”
CBS makes no attempt to ascertain whether or how the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip is making any effort to address the children’s social well-being. With all due respect to the valiant efforts of psychiatrist Dr. Jim Gordon of Georgetown University, CBS’s singular, in-depth focus on his modest success working with a handful of Gaza children is a complete distortion of reality in which the norm is represented by the tens of thousands undergoing Hamas training. The network’s failure to even mention the Hamas camps is journalistically indefensible.
Rocket Threat Minimized
“The Lesson of War” completely distorts the nature of the conflict and minimizes the rocket threat by ignoring the fact that the Iron Dome largely kept the Israeli population safe. Without it, the indiscriminate rocket fire would have killed an untold number of Israelis and the property destruction would have been many times greater than it was. But the broadcast does not note the existence of the critical defensive system even once. Instead, by ignoring the Iron Dome’s success, CBS depicts the Palestinian rockets as inherently ineffectual, even harmless. “Palestinian rockets, plentiful but unguided, punched wildly into Israel, inflicting fear, but limited damage.” Likewise, later in the broadcast, Pelley remarks about Israeli children drawing their fears in art therapy: “Only a few Hamas rockets were lethal, but 3,000 were launched and in Israel today their arc, on paper, hits targets of the imagination – a home destroyed, the wounded in an ambulance.”
In reality, the sophisticated Iron Dome system identified which of the more than 4,500 (not 3,000, as stated by CBS) rockets fired by Palestinians last summer were headed towards Israeli homes, kindergartens, malls and other populated areas, and took them down, totaling 735 interceptions. Without the defensive system, several hundred rockets would have hit population centers, leading to hundreds or thousands of deaths as well as massive destruction. (Israeli authorities identified 3,852 rocket hits in Israel.)
And, contrary to Pelley’s suggestion, homes were not the targets merely in the imagination of Israeli children. Hamas and other terror groups sought to strike homes throughout Israel, a war crime of which Hamas was very proud. As Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum warned July 8, Hamas was targeting every Israeli home: "This is not the time for quiet. We have a bank of various targets. An Iron Dome [missile battery] will be needed in every Israeli home."
Selective Lens on Asymmetry
By ignoring the Iron Dome’s key role in the conflict, Pelley fails to provide viewers with an understanding regarding the extent of casualties and destruction on both sides. He reports:
Palestinian rockets, plentiful but unguided, punched wildly into Israel, inflicting fear, but limited damage.
Israel struck Gaza with digital domination, blasting neighborhoods into seismic collapse. We flew a drone over part of Gaza to comprehend the scale.
The Palestinian Health Ministry says civilian deaths in Gaza came to 1,492. Six civilians were killed in Israel during the battle. Israel lost one child, Gaza lost more than 500.
By concealing the Iron Dome from viewers, Pelley shines a very selective light on the asymmetry of the conflict, focusing only on effects and ignoring causes. The asymmetries that Pelley ignores include the fact that Israel protects its children by building bomb shelters and investing in the Iron Dome; Hamas endangers its children by positioning weapons depots and tunnels for fighters under their homes. Israel instructs its children how to safely reach shelters; Hamas instructs families to congregate in buildings after Israeli warning of impending bombing have been received (VIDEO). While Israel fortifies its schools against incoming rocket attacks, and also cancels classes and camps during periods of intensive rocket fire, Hamas launches rocket attacks from next to its schools, thereby twice endangering its youngsters. First, there is the risk of misfiring, or prematurely exploding rocketry, and secondly, there is the fact that Israel hits back at rocket launchers. Israeli efforts to safeguard its civilian population, along with Hamas actions which endanger its population, account for the disparity in casualties and devastation on both sides. But Pelley never says so.
Also, concerning the disputed casualty figures, Pelley cites only the figures provided by Hamas, stating: “The Palestinian Health Ministry says civilian deaths in Gaza came to 1,492.” He does not inform viewers that the Health Ministry in Gaza is run by Hamas, a designated terror organization which has a clear interest in inflating the figure of civilian casualties.
Pelley also misinforms about the blockade, stating:
This history begins in 1947, when refugees from Israel’s creation compressed into a strip 32 miles by seven. In 2006, Gazans elected a government led by Hamas which the U.S. says is a terrorist group. Israel responded by sealing the borders and bankrupting Gaza’s economy. Hamas burrowed tunnels under the blockade for trade and terror. This summer, Hamas attacked Israel to lift the blockade and Israel invaded Gaza to destroy the tunnels. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers were killed. But in the end, as usual, nothing really changed.
Pelley’s account of the blockade is incomplete and anachronistic. In fact, when Hamas attacked Israel this summer with hundreds of rockets, the import of every item from Israel to Gaza was permitted aside from weapons and building materials for the private sector. (The import of concrete, steel and cement for the private sector and international aid groups were suspended following the October 2013 discovery of a vast concrete Hamas-built tunnel which emerged into Israeli territory, and was intended for carrying out terror attacks. Shipments for aid groups resumed in May 2014.)
Scott Anderson, deputy director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, amplifies the blockade fallacy, alleging: "The number one need is to find a way to lift the blockade and restore economic opportunity here in Gaza.” UNRWA’s own Web site says what Pelley and Anderson won’t:
Israel allows most goods into the Gaza Strip except for items it defines as “dual-use” materials which could have a military purpose. Construction materials defined as dual-use are only permitted to enter for approved projects by international organizations and, since mid-October 2014, under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), an agreement between the governments of Israel and Palestine, for private sector use. The GRM, to which UNRWA is not a party, allows for private sector imports, and hence for shelter self-help for large scale reconstruction which was not possible prior to the establishment of the GRM due to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
And, of course, Pelley never notes that while Gazans can bring in virtually any item they want via Israel, Egypt imposes a strict blockade on its border with the Gaza Strip, barring the passage of anything (and anybody) for most of the last few months.
Also ignored by Pelley and Anderson is the fact that despite the purported “blockade,” Hamas manages to continue rebuilding its tunnel network as well as its rocket arsenal.
Rocket Chronology Reversal
“The war began with the murders of three teenage boys,” says Scott Pelley in the opening of “The Lesson of War.” Further along in the introduction of his segment, the CBS reporter discusses the kidnapping and murder of the three Jewish Israeli teenagers, followed by the kidnapping and murder of the Arab Jerusalemite teen. He reports: “The next day, Israeli terrorists kidnapped a Palestinian boy. Same age. Mohammad Abu Khdeir was burned alive. Within days, it was war. And not in 50 years were so many children about to die in the Holy Land. Palestinian rockets, plentiful but unguided, punching wildly into Israel, inflicting fear, but limited damage.” Obscured in the passage and in the entire broadcast is the fact that Palestinians launched dozens of rockets at Israel in the weeks prior to the killing of Mohammad Abu Khdeir.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center detailed the ongoing rocket barrage which preceded the launch of the Israeli military operation. The center stated in its June 25 to July 1 report:
This past week 40 rocket hits were identified in the western Negev. Since the beginning of the operation [on June 12], 52 rocket hits have been identified in Israeli territory (the number does not include rockets and mortar shells that fell inside the Gaza Strip).
Pelley claims that “Israel invaded Gaza to destroy the tunnels.” He forgets that Israel also invaded to stop the incessant rocket attacks on its citizens, a real (not imaged) threat mostly neutralized thanks only to the effectiveness of the Iron Dome.
Lessons Not Learned
By failing to expose Hamas’ military training of youngsters, by downplaying the rocket threat and by deflecting with the “blockade” red herring, Pelley helps perpetuate the conflict, which, he says, “is inherited as a debt, one generation to the next.”