Indy backgrounder on ‘Gaza-Israel conflict’ riddled with distortions

The "both sides blame each other" phrasing used by the Indy Middle East correspondent is one in a long list of tropes and cliches employed by journalists to avoid reaching the morally intuitive conclusion that the violent extremist group that controls Gaza is more interested in stoking conflict than the Jewish democracy they’re trying to destroy.

The Independent’s new Mid-East correspondent Bel Trew penned a backgrounder on the ‘Gaza-Israel conflict’ that’s full of distortions.

Here are some of the highlights from the July 27th article.

Trew asks: “Why has there been an upsurge in violence”, to which she explains:

“At the heart of the latest escalation is 16 weeks of Palestinian protests that have taken place at the border fence between Gaza and Israel”.

However, what’s been occurring at the border each week since March 31st can not accurately be characterised as merely “protests”.  Rather, the Great Return March has, since the beginning, included violent riots and terror attacks by Palestinians (including Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists) who brought guns, pipe bombs, machetes and various incendiary devices.  Their goal was to breach the security fence, sneak into Israeli communities and murder civilians. 

On April 6, Hamas leader Yihya Sinwar appeared in one of the tents near the border and proclaimed that rioters would tear down the border fence and tear the hearts out of Israelis.

Trew then asks “Why has there been an upsurge in violence?”, and explains thusly:

“Palestinians, who have suffered for over a decade under a crippling blockade, have said they are peacefully demonstrating during the Great March of Return marches, which is their right. But Israel has accused Hamas, the proscribed militant group that runs the enclave, of encouraging protesters to be violent towards their soldiers, to cut the border fence and to launch raids inside Israel.”

Trew fails to mention the thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli towns since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, which resulted in Israel instituting a partial blockade to stem the flow of weaponry to the territory.  Moreover, since the Great Return March began, hundreds of such rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel by Gaza terrorists – the highest number of rocket attacks since 2014.

Tellingly, the word “rocket” doesn’t appear once in the nearly 1,500 word article.

Graph from the site of The Meir Amit Terrorism and Information Center

Further, Hamas didn’t simply “encourage protesters” to be violent.  They embedded their own fighters within the riots and gave instructions to attack civilians if they successfully crossed the border.

Trew then adds that “protesters…have taken to launching burning kites and balloons laden with incendiary devices across the border, setting alight to over 2,600 hectares of Israeli farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage.”

Actually, the damage caused to Israeli agriculture is closer to two million pounds, not merely “hundreds of thousands”.  Here’s footage from July 18th, when a Palestinian kite bomb landed in Kibbutz Erez (close to the border) and set dozens of beehives on fire, killing thousands of bees.

Trew continues:

“The Israeli army, that said its citizens near to Gaza are in danger, subsequently tightened an 11-year-old blockade on the strip, closing Kerem Shalom, the sole goods crossing between Israel and Gaza, and strangling Gaza’s fishing zones to just three nautical miles, a third of what it was before the protests. Israel said earlier this week that it would allow fuel and gas to be transferred via Kerem Shalom…”

First, the Kerem Shalom crossing was never fully closed. Though temporarily closed to commercial goods, it remained open for humanitarian related supplies.  Further, by the time the article was published, Kerem Shalom was already partially re-opened for some commercial supplies.

Trew also fails to note that Palestinians set the Kerem Shalom crossing on fire three times in recent months, causing tens of millions of pounds of damage.

Trew continues:

On Friday, 20 July, Israeli Staff Sergeant Aviv Levi, 21, was killed by what the Israeli army called a “violent raid” during the protests.”

The raid was clearly violent, as the Israeli soldier was killed.  It isn’t merely an Israeli ‘claim’.

Trew continues:

“It marked the first time an Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian gunfire near Gaza since the last war in 2014 and so crossed a definitive red line. Israel said that gunmen had shot at and lobbed grenades at its soldiers. It responded by bombarding Gaza with tank and air fire, and said its forces struck 60 “military sites” run by Hamas.”

But, Trew doesn’t inform readers that, on the day in question, Hamas fired up to 200 rockets into Israel, causing several civilian injuries

Trew continues:

“Earlier in the month, there was the most intense exchange of fire between Gaza militants and Israel since the 2014 war – largely due to the border protests.”

Again, the cause of this exchange of fire was not ‘protests’, but Hamas terror attacks, including rockets and mortars, infiltration attempts and the launching of thousands of incendiary devices.

Trew continues:

“Palestinians in Gaza, including the armed factions, say the Israeli security forces have used live ammunition against peaceful protesters, and launched devastating airstrikes on the strip, killing dozens of people.”

Israel fired on terrorists, and not simply ‘peaceful protesters.’ Hamas acknowledged that 50 of 63 killed on one day were Hamas members.

Trew then asks “Who is responsible?”, to which she explains that “both sides blame each other” before adding that “Israel maintains Hamas, that it regards as a terrorist group, has incited violence and endangered the lives of Israelis near the border”.

Of course, it isn’t only Israel that regards Hamas as a terror group.  The US, European Union and other democratic states do as well.  Finally, the “both sides blame each other” phrasing used by the Indy correspondent is one in a long list of clichés employed by journalists to avoid reaching the morally intuitive conclusion that the violent extremist group that controls Gaza is more interested in stoking conflict than the Jewish democracy they’re trying to destroy.

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