All too often reporters charged with the sacred mission of educating and informing a democratic republic seem rather subjective in the selections of facts they will share in their news reports. Cherished narratives are fostered and information that doesn’t support them — that won’t sell advertising, or creates discomfort by straying from accepted wisdom – is left in the dust bin. As a result, our perspectives are formed by reportage lacking in depth and context and omitting or misconstruing important details.
During the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, we saw a classic case of asymmetrical reporting at work. Recognizing Hamas’s relentless unprovoked aggression against Israeli cities, the press was initially more sympathetic than usual toward Israel. Mainstream news channels featured endless interviews with dignitaries certain to intone Israel’s right to defend itself. This marked a surprising change from the usual David and Goliath story whereby the press portrays Israel as a powerful bully, the oppressive occupier of dark-skinned, third world innocents. For a brief period, Hamas was seen for what it is: a terrorist purveyor of violence against Israel, whom it has sworn to exterminate, as well as brutal oppressor of its own victimized people.
But as Hamas violated ceasefire after ceasefire, leading Israel to strike back with force, and as Israel’s Iron Dome protected her citizenry while the Gazan people, offered up as human shields, suffered terrible losses, the story reverted back to the usual narrative. The war was now “asymmetrical” and Israel was Goliath using “disproportionate force.” Having exhausted “Israel has a right to defend its civilians,” newsmakers repeatedly asked, “Why isn’t Israel doing more?” to protect the Gazan people as if it were not enough that Israel warned them of impending attack. Reporters also tsk-tsked with interviewees about the “disproportionality” of Israel’s response.
“Where should the Gazans go?,” they asked, without ever asking “Where should the Israelis go?” (To Syria, perhaps?) But this asymmetry is unrecognized. Israelis living under siege from Hamas’s missiles and threatened with invasion via its tunnels are surrounded by hostile countries dominated by terrorists who hate them. Israelis also have nowhere to go. As thousands of rockets rained down upon Israeli cities, not one reporter thought to ask “But where should the Israelis go?”
As far back as the ancient Art of War by Sun Tzu, war colleges teach surprise as a critical element of battle.In the history of the human race, no army has ever forfeited such an advantage in order to warn its enemy in advance of attack. Yet, the press never seemed to grasp the absolute absurdity of expecting a country that is routinely, ceaselessly and savagely terrorized by Hamas to protect the very citizens of Gaza that Hamas itself willingly sacrifices.And, even more absurdly, Israel was expected to do so while jeopardizing its own security. Yet, it did.
But, the world cried, “Israel isn’t doing enough to protect the people of Gaza,” forgetting that Hamas was democratically elected by those people, the same people Israel is supposed to protect, the same people assaulting Israeli citizens. Not a single reporter asked, “What is Hamas doing to better protect the innocent civilians in Israel?” Isn’t it inherently racist to expect Israelis to behave with humanity while exempting Gazans from doing the same? Isn’t there an implicit assumption that humane behavior simply cannot be expected from them, but can be from Israelis? Well, maybe that assumption reflects reality.
Compare the unprecedented level of restraint shown by the IDF and the primitive cruelty exhibited by Israel’s (and the world’s) enemies — the hostage takers, beheaders, stoners of homosexuals and supposed adulterers: Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, ISIL, Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, et al. Israeli Ambassador Dermer says that “no military force in history has taken greater care to protect innocents on the other side…One day, when the enemies of Israel are defeated and the cynics are silenced, people will look back and marvel at how the most threatened nation on earth never lost its nerve and always upheld its values.”