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Aftermath of a Media Storm By: HonestReporting.com
HonestReporting.com | Friday, June 23, 2006

The media storm has subsided following the Gaza beach tragedy and the rush to accuse Israel of causing the Palestinian deaths. HonestReporting questioned those who sought to place responsibility on Israel before checking their facts - an approach later vindicated by the findings of an IDF inquiry, as outlined in an HonestReporting Special Report on the issue.

Despite the IDF's conclusions, a number of British newspapers, including the Times, Independent and Guardian continued to cast aspersions on the veracity of the IDF, with a zeal certainly lacking when it came to previous investigations of Palestinian claims such as the Mohammed Al-Dura case and that of the Jenin "massacre".

Swimming against this current, German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung suggested that the Gaza beach incident had actually been staged by the Palestinians. Examining Palestinian cameraman Zakarija Abu Harbed's pictures of 10-year-old Huda Ghalia, the newspaper reported:

Harbed claims that Huda escaped serious injury, since she was bathing in the sea. In his photos, however, Huda is running around in dry street clothes. Harbed runs several minutes of the crying Huda and afterwards turns his camera to the dead and injured.

Suddenly a man beside Huda's dead father can be discerned, until now covered and motionless, who appears with a machine gun in his hand. In the pictures of the cameraman one can recognize both medics in green clothes as well as dozens of men, most with typical Hamas full beards, apparently securing pieces of evidence.

However one must ask, why the medics do not worry about the injured people and policemen do not secure the place. Have the Hamas men, as Israeli media quote Palestinian eye witnesses, removed pieces of evidence?

Evasive answers of the cameraman

It is also strange why in Harbed's pictures we cannot discern a crater. The more cameraman Harbed is asked by Sueddeutche Zeitung in the telephone interview, the more he evades the issue. Was he at the scene of the incident before the outpatient clinic [personnel] arrived? Who are the civilians, who are cleaning the beach? Who is the armed man on the ground, who suddenly rises? If it was an Israeli army shell that killed the Ghalia family members, why don't the Palestinians show its fragments?

For a full translation of the article from German, click here.


Meanwhile, the IDF, on Wednesday 21 June, stated that tests on two pieces of shrapnel removed from victims being treated in Israel show "beyond all doubt" that they do not come from a 155mm artillery shell as claimed by Israel's accusers.

Further adding to the possibility of a Palestinian coverup, the Sourasky Medical Center released a statement saying that one of the victims of the beach incident, Ayham Ghalia, had been 'cleansed' of shrapnel before arriving at the Israeli hospital. According to the hospital statement:

...we would like to make it clear that no fragments were found in her body except for one fragment that is inaccessible to surgery; it is also clear - beyond all doubt - that part of her injuries were caused by fragments.

This combination is not routine and does not correspond to our accumulated medical experience as a result of having treated hundreds of patients who were wounded in terrorist attacks and by bombs and who usually arrive with fragments in various places throughout their bodies.

In such cases, standard medical practice is not to search for or extract the fragments unless they constitute an immediate danger to the patient. This is also the reason that, in most cases, fragments remain in the patients' bodies, frequently for the rest of their lives.

While the hospital statement stopped short of accusing Palestinian doctors directly of removing shrapnel for no medical reason, it does raise further questions as to what occurred prior to Ghalia's treament in Israel.


As detailed by HonestReporting, much was made in the media of statements by Human Rights Watch's military "expert" Marc Garlasco. However, according to the Jerusalem Post, Garlasco met on Monday with Maj.-Gen. Meir Klifi, head of the IDF inquiry and admitted that HRW was unable to contradict the IDF's findings:

Following the three-hour meeting, described by both sides as cordial and pleasant, Garlasco praised the IDF's professional investigation into the blast, which he said was most likely caused by unexploded Israeli ordnance left laying on the beach, a possibility also raised by Klifi and his team...

Garlasco told Klifi during the meeting that he was impressed with the IDF's system of checks and balances concerning its artillery fire in the Gaza Strip and unlike Hamas which specifically targeted civilians in its rocket attacks, the Israelis, he said, invested a great amount of resources and efforts not to harm innocent civilians.

Garlasco has since then continued to trumpet his original statements but his backpedaling would seem to indicate that he is no longer as confident in his theory. The IDF and the Israeli government has come in for some criticism over its handling of its public diplomacy in the immediate aftermath of the Gaza beach incident. While, undoubtedly, much damage to Israel's image may have been spared by a speedier response to Palestinian and media charges, the latest reaction of HRW to the IDF's methodical and careful investigation confirms the strength of Israel's credibility when confronted with spurious Palestinian claims.

While the media front is important, no less so is Israel's credibility within the diplomatic arena. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was also quick to release statements casting doubt on Israel's inquiry findings. Annan has now retracted his initial comments, telling reporters that he had responded to "media speculations". Annan's admittance offers further evidence of the media's role in shaping the views of important opinion formers and governmental officials on the Mideast.


In sharp contrast to much of the media, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer questioned the automatic response to blame Israel:

Okay. Let's concede for the sake of argument that the question of whether it was an errant Israeli shell remains unresolved. But the obvious question not being asked is this: Who is to blame if Palestinians are setting up rocket launchers to attack Israel -- and placing them 400 yards from a beach crowded with Palestinian families on the Muslim Sabbath?

Answer: This is another example of the Palestinians' classic and cowardly human-shield tactic -- attacking innocent Israeli civilians while hiding behind innocent Palestinian civilians. For Palestinian terrorists -- and the Palestinian governments (both Fatah and Hamas) that allow them to operate unmolested -- it's a win-win: If their rockets aimed into Israeli towns kill innocent Jews, no one abroad notices and it's another success in the terrorist war against Israel. And if Israel's preventive and deterrent attacks on those rocket bases inadvertently kill Palestinian civilians, the iconic "Israeli massacre" picture makes the front page of the New York Times, and the Palestinians win the propaganda war.

Thanks to the hundreds of HonestReporting subscribers who copied us in on correspondence to media outlets around the world - your prompt actions contributed to ensuring that Palestinian claims have not been left unchallenged and allowed to develop into the myths that still surround Mohammed Al-Dura and the Jenin libel. The importance of contesting the media battleground and holding the media accountable has, once more, been brought to the fore.

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