Ira Straus

The media’s huge daily lie about Gazans killed

Every day, the mass media of the West are lying when they say Israel has killed 25,000 civilians in Gaza. It is their lie that the Biden administration and the ICJ have repeated.

The lie rests hidden inside the Hamas estimate of 25,000 people dead. The really big lie is not the number itself, but the fact that it is presented as civilians killed by Israel.

In reality it includes civilians and military dead alike. It also includes those killed by Hamas-PIJ alongside those killed by Israel.

Our media never honestly report this simple fact. They never tell us that the number is not about civilians dead, and it is also not a number about people killed by Israel. Instead they falsely state most of the time that it is about these things. They falsely imply it the rest of the time.

The huge unmentioned facts

Israel has estimated it has killed 9000 Hamas-PIJ fighters. Our media have almost never even reported this figure, which has been updated and given out many times by Israel. Our media have never even tried to see what can be verified about it. They have never mentioned that it alone would cut the alleged civilian toll by nearly 40%.

Israel has also estimated that more than 2000 Hamas-PIJ rockets have fallen inside Gaza, killing an unknown number of civilians. Our media have never clearly reported this.

But our media did, inadvertently, report one small part of this. That was when Hamas claimed that 500 civilians were killed by one of these fallen PIJ rockets alone. It is probably the only relevant thing people will remember from the misreporting on this, and only because the media suffered a major public embarrassment about it. They had uncritically repeated Hama’s lie that Israel had killed these people. A few days later they all had to admit that the evidence was overwhelming that it was Hamas-PIJ that had killed them.

Or rather, nearly all admitted it. Some of the biggest media, like BBC, refused to clearly admit it even then, and shifted only to saying it was uncertain.

The media haven’t asked whether Hamas still keeps the 500 number (also unverified) in its count of those killed by Israel.

Our media themselves won’t remember the rest of this – the estimates of numbers of military people killed, the estimates of people killed by fallen Hamas-PIJ rockets. They won’t remember, because they never had the honesty to report these things.

Every day, the media lack the elementary reportorial integrity to recall these facts. A professional media would recall them to the public every time they cite Hamas’ death count.

The actual logical conclusion about deaths

Willfully silent on these relevant facts, the media have never drawn the logical conclusion from them: that Israel is actually probably killing almost unbelievably few civilians compared to military killings — apparently below a 2:1 ratio. This is a far lower ratio than in similar wars. Globally, the average ratio is 10:1 – ten civilians killed for every killed military or terrorist combatant. And it was not an Israeli source but a UN report, collecting the data from conflicts worldwide, that gave this 10:1 figure.

The same conclusion would flow from simply reporting the number of airstrikes: surprisingly few civilians killed by them.

If the media were to report these simple facts, they would have to admit that Israel is being uniquely scrupulous about avoiding civilian deaths — just the opposite of the “indiscriminate bombing” that they accuse it of. And that everything they have been saying about this has been dishonest.

It has been a false accusation made with reckless disregard for the truth.

The milieu of mass slander

The motivation for this repeated smear has been obvious: it fits in with the social group and the ideological commitment of our media to be on the Left side of things.

In other words: it has been a motivated campaign of slander.

The motivation is demonstrable from many cases, not just ones involving Israel. The media and their ideological cohort display an aggressive pleasure in making accusations against Israel, against America, and against select other countries. The harsher the accusation, the more proud they feel of making it. They praise one another for making these accusations, even when they are plainly false. They think of it as a part of their job description: a higher duty, over and above their formal duties.

Making one feel better about oneself: that is always a large part of the motivation for slander. This was explained decades ago by a leading libel lawyer, Morris Ernst.

How can they feel good about lying? By covering for one another.

Are we living in a slanderocracy?

It is a veritable hive habit of most journalists and academics, and of many politicians: to repeat one another’s lie without checking into its veracity. By dint of repetition, they give their lies the feel of an official a public truth.

They proceed to slander others as “liars” for factually refuting their own lies. They demand that others — usually political figures who don’t share their ideological prejudices — join them in “denouncing so-and-so” for disputing their own lies. They proceed to threaten and denounce people who won’t agree to join in this campaign of denunciation.

This denunciation of non-denouncers: it completes the circle of the slanderocracy. Everyone must join in the campaign of denunciation, or else get denounced themselves.

For those who are familiar with totalitarian systems, this will be troublingly familiar. There too, everyone must join in campaigns of denunciation, or else get denounced themselves — and penalized in their jobs and social standing.

The hive lying may make it hard to isolate the individuals who are responsible for the slanders. but a few can already be identified. BBC is certainly responsible. So are many individual journalists and academics. So is, alas, the U.S. President. And the ICJ.

Getting accountability

Those who have participated in the slander campaign have done harm to countless people with it. They should be held to account for it, whether through investigations, firings, institutional reforms, or legal remedies.

There needs to be more awareness of this slander campaign; yet there is already more awareness than in most such campaigns. This provides a rare opening: to push back against just this slander campaign but the entire structure of the slanderocracy.

The opening should to be used by all who are in a position to do anything about it. That includes media institutions, their corporate boards, individual journalists, and academic institutions and trustees. They need to show an honest conscience before society — not just the pseudo-conscience they so often reveal, when they speak of members of their ideological tribe as “the conscience of our society”.

It is not the first mass campaign of slander that they have conducted. It will not be the last.

Such campaigns are far too frequent. They have covered a vast range of subjects. They are growing at a dangerous pace. They have turned factual falsehoods into seeming public truths, with all the consequences that follow for misdirecting policy and for harming individuals.

The only way to prevent still more of these campaigns of slander is: by holding the guilty to account and reforming the institutions that have conducted them.

About the Author
Chair, Center for War/Peace Studies; Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council of the U.S.; formerly a Fulbright professor of international relations; studied at Princeton, UVA, Oxford. Institutions named above for identification purposes only; views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author.
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