Lies of omission and commission: Chris McGreal’s propaganda from Gaza

Chris McGreal doesn’t like Israel.

That’s his right.

However, as a journalist he and his editors have a duty to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.

Chris McGreal’s report, Palestinians count dead after one of the worst days of the war, Nov. 21, was filed from Gaza – a piece largely consisting of accounts of Palestinian deaths and injuries during ‘Pillar Of Defense’.  However, he also attempts to support a broader narrative of Israeli cruelty in the context of civilian casualties and alleged non-military targets.

McGreal writes the following,

“The Palestinian health ministry puts the total death toll at more than 150, although officials concede they may not know about all of those killed. The PCHR says at least 90 of those are civilians, including about 30 children.”

Not surprisingly, McGreal used stats from PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights], one of the most radical anti-Israel NGOs with no legitimate claim whatsoever to being a genuine human rights organization.  PCHR, founded in Gaza City in 1995, has defended Palestinian terrorism as justified “resistance” and, in 2000, compared Hezbollah’s “legitimate…resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon” to “French resistance during the Nazi occupation.”

Further, PCHR reported casualty figures on the Gaza war in 2008-09 which were so biased that it included a much higher number of civilians killed during the war than even what Hamas claimed.  

Not surprisingly the statistics by PCHR cited by McGreal have been contradicted by even the NGO B’Tselem – the biased, agenda-driven NGO whose own inflated casualty figures on Cast Lead were severely criticized  for containing “major errors of commission and omission”.

Not only is B’Tselem’s casualty count for ‘Pillar Of Defense’ significantly lower than those cited by McGreal, but the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths they report is much lower – better than a 1:1 ratio.

The second passage in McGreal’s report worth examining reads as follows:

“Then there were the targets. The Israeli army said: “The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months.” But many seemed to have little military value. A football stadium blown to bits…”

As we can presume McGreal had use of an internet search engine while he was writing this, it’s interesting that he didn’t mention widely published reports all over the media (including even the BBC) that this location was targeted because Hamas used it as a missile launching site (for the Iranian made Fajr5 rocket) on Friday Nov. 16.

IDF graphic

Even the Guardian’s ‘live blog’ on the war included, in an update that day, the following Tweet by the BBC’s Paul Danahar.

[tweet https://twitter.com/pdanahar/status/271213965307170816]

McGreal is clearly not interested in clear evidence showing that Hamas continues to use civilian centers to launch attacks against Israel – using their citizens as human shields – despite the fact that even Hamas TV has shown footage of such attacks from civilian areas.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qnvPk3opHo&feature=plcp]

Moreover, in both the casualty statistics and the IDF attack on the Gaza ‘stadium’, McGreal demonstrates classic Guardian “journalism” – the search for data and “reports” (no matter how lacking in credibility) to support a preconceived conclusion of Israeli villainy. Clearly, Chris McGreal was determined to advance a narrative suggesting that Israel recklessly attacked Palestinian civilian targets, regardless of evidence demonstrating precautions taken by the IDF to minimize civilian casualties in this and other wars. 

McGreal is allowed, of course, to provide false statistics and to avoid providing his readers with even a semblance of balance.  

However, such ideologically driven propaganda should not be published at a broadsheet which (however comically) fancies itself a serious newspaper. 

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