The tragic deaths of some 18 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun has once again moved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back on to the front pages following the US mid-term elections.
Criticism of Israel in the press is perfectly legitimate, and, in this case, expected in light of the terrible accident that has occurred in the Gaza Strip. Nonetheless, the accident in Beit Hanoun is exactly that - an accident - and the media needs to report this incident within the proper context.
As Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has stated:
Israel left Gaza in order to give the Palestinians an opportunity to control terrorism and develop their own lives. Unfortunately, this has not happened. Israel is faced with constant attack by the Palestinian terror organizations, in the form of relentless firing of Qassam rockets at Israeli population centers. Israel has no desire to harm innocent people, but only to defend its citizens. Unfortunately, in the course of battle, regrettable incidents such as that which occurred this morning do happen.
Such regret was echoed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who ordered an investigation into the matter and a halt to artillery fire into the Gaza Strip until the completion of the inquiry.
It appears at this stage that an equipment malfunction may have been responsible for an IDF shell inadvertantly missing its target. The Jerusalem Post notes the fine line between success and failure when targeting Qassam launch sites: "In this case, the distance between the two was a mere 600 meters, not a near-miss perhaps, but the kind of miss that is going to happen, due to human error, on an average of at least one in every few hundred artillery shells."
There is a major difference in values between Israeli forces and the Palestinian terrorists who are operating from within Beit Hanoun. While Israel does not intentionally set out to harm innocent civilians, those who continue to launch Qassams fully intend to cause the maximum amount of death and destruction irrespective of the effectiveness or otherwise of these missiles.
The media is unlikely to acknowledge this difference in values, as demonstrated by the evacuation of Palestinians injured in Beit Hanoun to an Israeli hospital for treatment.
Qassams continued to fall even after the withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza on Tuesday, including a strike on a school in Ashkelon, which was thankfully empty at the time but could easily have led to massive loss of life.
While the media downplays the effects of Qassam missiles, it is these actions by terror organizations in Gaza that have prompted an IDF response. Following Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005, if the Palestinians would cease attacks from that area, there would be no reason for the IDF to play any role in the lives of ordinary Gazans.
According to the Boston Globe: "Zakaria al-Kafarna, whose sister lost a 10-year-old son, said he blamed the bombing in part on militants who fired rockets nearby. Anyone can come to the area and fire a rocket, he said. "What about us? We are sleeping.""
Indeed, much of the media, in its desire to concentrate solely on mass-casualty incidents, has failed to report on or deliberately downplayed Qassam attacks on Israel as well as Beit Hanoun's role as a hub of terror activity.
The media outcry over this latest incident is in stark contrast to other regions of conflict, including a remarkably similar incident involving the alleged deaths of a large number of civilians as a result of Sri Lankan army actions on Wednesday.
HonestReporting hopes that, despite the tragic events in Gaza, the media will recognize the full context behind this incident and the circumstances surrounding it.
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