All the news that. . . .

…fits CNN International’s bias and pre-determined narrative. CNN International, and much of the rest of the media, is as reliable as the sun rising in the west and setting in the east.

For the last seven months or so, Israelis living along the border with Gaza have been subjected to daily torture: putrid air and unhealthy pollution from burning tires; thousands of dunams of crops set ablze by flaming kites; incendiary devices thrown or flown on balloons and kites, their exclusive targets being innocent civilians.

Explosives have landed in school yards, public areas, and a variety of buildings. A combination of sheer luck and effective defenses has prevented many deaths. Still, injuries, trauma, and forever-scarred children are prevalent. This is no way to live.

CNN International and the rest of the media have had little to nothing to report on any of this. Moreover, the silence has been deafening from human rights groups, environmental groups, animal rights groups, and the multitudes that are quick to point out Israel’s shortcomings. The righteous have been quiet.

But, alas, the news blackout appears to be over. Today CNN International ran a story by Senior International Correspondent Arwa Damon. I caught it twice, and it probably ran a few more times. Ms. Damon’s usual assignment seems to be reporting under the worst circumstances, amidst the ruins of war, featuring suffering, helpless, very sympathetic victims. Ms. Damon seems to love these assignments, and she is very good at them.

So, reliably and predictably, there was Ms. Damon reporting in some battle-scarred, falling-down building in Gaza, with the requisite traumatized, dirty, and sympathetic Gazan child. Of course, anyone with a heart felt awful for this boy’s terrible circumstances. There was even a shot of some baby bottles that just happened to be intact and in sight.

One would think that Ms. Damon and her producers would be cautious about the bottles. In the past it has turned out that dolls and other evocative items that pulled at the heart were well-placed props. Indeed, back in April, Palestinian Authority TV used a photo of the dead at the Nordhausen concentration camp to illustrate Israeli brutality. One assumes it was just convenient.

What brought this on after months of silence? What brought Ms. Damon from her usual place in the ruins of Syria, or on a leaky boat teeming with refugees, or among the terrible ruins and starving people of Yemen? Well, the best guess is that she and CNN expected war and lots of shots of destruction and of Palestinian victims.

A clandestine nighttime Israeli maneuver in Gaza turned out to be ambushed by Hamas. An Israeli Lieutenant Colonel, one of the many brave soldiers who serve in the army, was killed, and another soldier was injured. Several Hamas fighters, including a top commander, were killed.

One might ask why the Israelis were sneaking around the streets and buildings of Gaza in the middle of the night. The answer: this is what they do to prevent terrorist attacks and the building of tunnels and other infrastructure used to support the attacks. Israelis don’t wake up in the middle of the night and say “Hey, let’s go risk our lives snooping around and causing trouble in Gaza.” These operations save lives.

None of this would have been necessary if, when Israel unilaterally and completely pulled out of Gaza in 2006, the Gazans had not elected Hamas, a terrorist organization whose repeatedly stated objective is the destruction of Israel, as their leaders. Well, truth be known, they only partially elected them. Hamas completed the takeover in a bloody, vicious battle against their Fatah “brothers,” tossing a fair number of them out of windows.

This bullet-saving, window drop practice seems to be something they picked up from Iran and other Middle East countries, who use the “technique” on gays and others whose lifestyle or beliefs they don’t approve of. It seems that paragliding is popular in this part of the world but, except in Israel, they don’t bother with the required paraphernalia.

Hamas’ response to the clandestine Israeli operation and the death of its commander was about 400 missiles aimed at civilians in southern Israel. It was a horrendous night, with hours in shelters, screaming kids, and havoc and terror throughout the region. Thanks to the Iron Dome, the shelters, and luck, casualties were held to a minimum.

Ironically, and tragically, the only fatality was a Palestinian man from Hebron who spends most of the week working in Israel proper and who reportedly has many Israeli Jewish friends. His family said that he wanted everyone to live in peace and they called for an end to violence. Interestingly, in contrast to the usual practice, no official from the Palestinian Authority attended his funeral and the usual flag waving and chants of “Death to Israel” and the like were minimal.

Israel’s response to the 400 missiles aimed at civilians was about 100 missiles aimed at military targets. And, in a practice that, to my knowledge, is employed by no other country at war, the military “knocked on the roof”—i.e. gave warning shots– of buildings where people were known to be or otherwise gave warnings to clear out.

Coincidentally, my wife and I were in the Negev for a quiet night away on Sunday and Monday. We were staying near Sde Boker, about 45 minutes or an hour from the Gaza border. We heard the sounds of fighter jets throughout the night. And on the drive back to Jerusalem on Monday we saw tanks on trailers heading south.

Obviously, the situation was tense. War was in the air. Most pundits thought it was unavoidable. So, despite months of virtually no coverage while Hamas burned tires, destroyed dunams of fields with crops, targeted kindergartens and other buildings hoping to kill innocent civilians, CNN International and its star war and destruction correspondent came and set up shop.

Not to report on what Israelis have endured for months. Rather, to report on what they expected to be—dare one say “hoped” to be?– the awful scenes of destruction and despair in Gaza. After all, it would fit the narrative of the dominant, cruel Israel and the poor, helpless Palestinian victim.

Alas, even the best laid plans, and the most predictable reporting, can go awry. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is often branded as a warmongering brute, accepted a ceasefire announced by Hamas. Critics have said that the Prime Minister has allowed Hamas to decide when and how we fight. The residents in the line of fire accuse the government of abandoning them and assert that the government’s reaction would be different if Tel Aviv was under fire. The defense minister has resigned and Netanyahu faces some treacherous political territory as a result. 

At least for the moment, there is quiet. But, where did that leave CNN International and its star reporter, Ms. Damon? Without the usual noise, destruction, and desperation of a full-scale attack by Israel. Ever resourceful, they went right ahead as planned. Somehow they managed to skip the months of terror the residents of Southern Israel endured. And they managed to skip the 400 missiles fired at Israeli civilians in one night but that, miraculously, only caused one death.

They managed to go ahead with the usual report, despite the disappointing lack of a war. They found a partially destroyed building, and they found a sympathetic Palestinian boy, and then even, miracle of miracles, found some baby bottles conveniently in camera range, and they did Ms. Damon’s usual heart rendering report.

The show must go on. And, for CNN, it did, just as predictably as the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

About the Author
Alan Edelstein was a lawyer and lobbyist in California for 30 years. He currently lives in Jerusalem and Sacramento, California and consults on governmental affairs, communications, politics, and business development. He blogs at www.edelsteinrandomthoughts.com. Inquiries regarding speaking engagements: ae@edelsteinstrategies.com
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