[News] Media Silent On Evidence Of Israeli Targeting Of Youngsters
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 5 12:05:38 EST 2008
Children In The Crosshairs
Media Silent On Evidence Of Israeli Targeting Of Youngsters
November 05, 2008 By David Cromwell
On the afternoon of Thursday 28 February, 2008, a group of
Palestinian boys were playing football on some open ground near their
homes in the Gaza Strip. At around 3.20pm, an Israeli aircraft fired
a missile at the boys, killing four of them instantly and seriously
injuring another three. The four dead boys were Omar Hussein
Dardouna, aged 14, Dardouna Deib Dardouna, aged 12, Mohammed Na'im
Hammouda, aged 9, and Ali Munir Dardouna who was just 8.
Palestinian human rights fieldworkers investigated the circumstances
of this attack by Israeli forces. They concluded there was no
Palestinian resistance in the area at the time and that the boys
"must have been clearly visible to the [Israeli] aircraft that fired
Similar cases abound. A new study by the Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights reports that 68 children died in Gaza between June 2007 - June
2008 (PCHR press release, October 21, 2008;
Over the same period, 12 children were killed by Israeli forces in
the West Bank. The report highlights the "deliberate targeting of
civilians, including children". (Palestinian Council for Human
Rights, 'Blood on their hands. Child killings by the Israeli
Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip. June 2007 - June 2008',
October 22, 2008, p. 4;
Since the Second Intifada, which began in September 2000, Israeli
forces have killed 859 children in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The child death toll rose dramatically during the first six months of
2008, mostly as the result of a large-scale Israeli military
operation in the Gaza Strip. The massive assault, code-named
'Operation Winter Heat', was launched on February 27. The Israeli
military killed more children (47) in the Gaza Strip during the first
four months of 2008 than during the whole of 2007 (32 children). A
total of 110 civilians were killed during 'Operation Winter Heat' in
February-March 2008. (See our earlier Media Alerts: 'Israel's Illegal
Assault On The Gaza "Prison"', March 3, 2008,
and 'Israeli Deaths Matter More', March 11, 2008,
The website Remember These Children reports that 123 Israeli children
have been killed by Palestinians and 1,050 Palestinian children have
been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000.
Most children killed in recent years in the Gaza Strip have died as a
result of bombardment, surface-to-surface missiles, or missiles fired
from aircraft. The Palestinian human rights investigation notes that
Israel has "consistently bombed either inside or extremely close to
densely populated residential areas, including schools and areas in
close proximity to schools." It uses "disproportionate and excessive
force across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], without
regard for civilian life, including the lives of children."
But the report is even more damning than that. It concludes that
Israeli forces "deliberately target unarmed civilians, including
children, as part of their policy of collective punishment of the
entire Palestinian civilian population."
The human rights investigation also concludes that:
"There is also strong and consistent evidence to suggest that
[Israeli forces] deliberately kill Palestinian children in reprisal
for the deaths of Israeli civilians or members of the [Israeli
forces], which amounts to a war crime." (PCHR, op. cit., p. 46)
According to international humanitarian law, children are to be
afforded special protection during international armed conflicts.
This includes military occupation such as exists in the Palestinian
territories under Israel. Legal protection is provided by the 1949
Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as by the 1989 United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Israel signed the CRC in 1991.
Protection was strengthened by the (CRC) Optional Protocol on the
Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The Protocol reaffirms
"that the rights of children require special protection" and condemns
"the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict and direct
attacks on objects protected under international law, including
places that generally have a significant presence of children, such
as schools and hospitals." Israel signed the Optional Protocol on 14
November 2001 (PCHR, op. cit., p. 14), but it endlessly tramples the
legal agreements to which it is a signatory.
Finally, the PCHR report notes that Israel has consistently failed to
investigate Israeli killings of unarmed civilians, including
children. On the rare occasions that official investigations are
launched, these have been conducted by the Israeli forces themselves.
The persistent result is a whitewash, and a travesty of justice.
And while Israel continues to kill unarmed civilians with impunity,
the international community has failed to intervene effectively to
exert pressure on Israel to stop killing Palestinian civilians,
including children. These killings ought to be publicly condemned by
the international community who, as High Contracting Parties to the
Fourth Geneva Convention, are obliged to act immediately in order to
protect all unarmed civilians from Israeli attacks.
As the PCHR observes:
"The lives of Palestinian children are as sacred as the lives of
children from Israel, Europe or anywhere else in the world."
Minimal Response From A Protective Media
The report from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights was shocking.
Guy Gabriel, an adviser to the London-based Arab Media Watch, told us
that the group "is a credible organisation with a lot to commend it,
and is better placed than many - in terms of location, resources and
support - to inform the wider world about the situation in Gaza."
(Email, October 31, 2008). Journalist John Pilger commented: "The
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is, in my experience, a highly
credible statistics gathering body." (Email, October 27, 2008)
This credible human rights group, then, had produced compelling
evidence of a persistent pattern of deliberate targeting of
Palestinian civilians, +including children+, by the Israeli military.
Surely this would have been headline news everywhere.
Sadly no. In the entire British press there was a giant, gaping hole
The only exception we could find was a short, 400-word piece in the
Guardian on the day of the report's publication: Rory McCarthy,
'Palestinian group says Israel killed 68 children in Gaza in year',
The Guardian, October 21, 2008;
As McCarthy pointed out:
"A prominent Palestinian human rights group says it has found
evidence that 68 children were killed in the Gaza Strip in the 12
months to June this year as a result of 'disproportionate and
excessive lethal force' by the Israeli military."
This was welcome coverage. But, crucially, there was no mention of
the military policy of deliberately targeting civilians, including
children. In his report, McCarthy said he was unable to obtain any
response to the study from an Israeli official (it was a Jewish
religious holiday). He then inserted the standard Israeli disclaimer:
"[Israel] has in the past repeatedly defended its military actions in
Gaza, saying it does not intentionally target civilians, and noting
that Palestinian militants frequently fire from civilian areas."
On October 27, 2008, we emailed McCarthy and praised him for
reporting the publication of the study. We then pointed to the
study's central, repeated message - backed by multiple eye-witness
testimony - that Israel deliberately targets civilians, including
children. We asked why his Guardian article had omitted this core
conclusion. McCarthy did not respond to our email, nor to a second
sent on October 29.
As for the "balanced" and "impartial" BBC, the corporation appears to
have performed its usual role of protecting the powerful. Judging by
the PCHR report's apparent absence from headline BBC news coverage
and the BBC's website, the corporation has buried the report's
findings. As far as we could determine, the same shameful silence
characterised ITN and Channel 4 News.
By contrast, Al Jazeera aired a three-minute segment on the report
that included a moving interview with a bereaved mother. There was
also disturbing footage of injured and traumatised children, one of
whom had seen his father killed by an Israeli missile (Al-Jazeera,
October 22, 2008; http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=PTzQOsO32ro). In the
Al Jazeera news piece, Hamdi Shokri of the Palestinian Centre for
Human Rights emphasised:
"We have clear evidence to suggest and to say that there were
patterns of deliberate killing and deliberate targeting of children."
We emailed Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East editor, on October 26,
2008. We asked him why the BBC had done so little, if anything, to
bring this damning human rights report to the public's attention. Why
had the BBC failed to expose a deliberate Israeli practice of
targeting children? In short, why can't the BBC do better in its
coverage of the occupied territories? Bowen did not respond.
Greg Philo, of the world-renowned Glasgow Media Group, recently
commissioned YouGov to ask a sample of 2,086 UK adults whether they
thought that more news coverage should be given to the Israeli point
of view, or more to the Palestinians, or equal for both. Nearly twice
as many people thought that the Palestinians should have the most as
compared with the Israelis, but the bulk of the replies (72%) were
that both should have the same. A staggering 95% of the population
were unhappy with the main news output of the broadcasters. (Philo,
'More News, Less Views', September 30, 2008;
Routine silences and omissions in coverage of the Middle East are
symptoms of a deep-rooted bias that suppresses public awareness of
the true gravity of Israel's human rights abuses. Rarely, if ever, do
we hear of the "indiscriminate beating, tear-gassing, and shooting of
children", as documented in a thousand-page study from Save the
Children. The average age of the victims was ten years old; the
majority of those shot were not even participating in stone throwing.
In 80 per cent of cases where children were shot, the Israeli army
prevented the victims from receiving medical attention. The report
concluded that more than 50,000 children required medical attention
for injuries including gunshot wounds, tear gas inhalation and
In 1989, a bulletin from the Israeli League for Human and Civil
Rights, titled 'Deliberate Murder', reported the targeting of
Palestinian children in leadership roles. Israeli army and snipers
from "special units" had "carefully chosen" the children who were
shot in the head or heart and died instantaneously. Other evidence,
from Israeli human rights groups and the Israeli press, point to
extensive use of torture, such as severe beating and electric shocks,
against detainees including children. (Mike Berry and Greg Philo,
'Israel and Palestine - Competing Histories', Pluto Press, London,
2006, pp. 86-87)
Amnesty International has also reported that groups of Palestinian
civilians, including children, appear, "on many occasions, to have
been deliberately targeted". Israeli soldiers themselves have
admitted that they have deliberately shot and killed unarmed
civilians including children (Ibid., p. 116). Indeed, for many years,
Amnesty has documented and condemned Israeli violations of human
rights against Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Most
of these violations are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva
Convention and are therefore war crimes. (Ibid., pp. 60-61).
Israeli Terror: Not Terror, By Definition
In his 2002 documentary, 'Palestine Is Still The Issue', John Pilger
interviewed Dori Gold, then Senior Adviser to the Israeli Prime
Minister. Pilger asked why Israel fails to condemn its own leaders
for their terrorist acts in the same way that they condemn terrorist
acts against Israel:
John Pilger (JP): When those Israelis, who are now famous names
[Menachem Begin, Yitzak Shamir and Ariel Sharon], committed acts of
terrorism just before the birth of Israel, you could have said to
them, nothing justifies what you've done, ripping apart all those
lives. And they would say it did justify it. What's the difference?
Dori Gold (DG): I think we have now, as an international community,
come to a new understanding. I think after September 11th the world
got a wake-up call. Because terrorism today is no longer the mad
bomber, the anarchist who throws in an explosive device into a crowd
to make a point. Terrorism is going to move from the present
situation to non-conventional terrorism, to nuclear terrorism. And
before we reach that point, we have to remove this scourge from the
Earth. And therefore, whether you're talking about the struggle here
between Israelis and Palestinians, the struggle in Northern Ireland,
the struggle in Sri Lanka, or any of the places where terrorism has
been used, we must make a global commitment of all free democracies
to eliminate this threat from the world. Period.
JP: Does that include state terrorism?
DG: No country has the right to deliberately target civilians, as no
organisation has a right to deliberately target civilians.
JP: What about Israeli terrorism now?
DG: The language of terrorism, you have to be very careful with.
Terrorism means deliberately targeting civilians, in a kind of
warfare. That's what the terrorism against Israeli schools, coffee
shops, malls, has been all about. Israel specifically targets, to the
best of its ability, Palestinian terrorist organisations.
JP: All right, when an Israeli sniper shoots an old lady with a cane,
trying to get into a hospital for her chemotherapy treatment, in
front of a lot of the world's press for one, and frankly we'd be here
all day with other examples, isn't that terrorism?
DG: I don't know the case you're speaking about, but I can be
convinced of one thing. An Israeli who takes aim - even an Israeli
sniper - is taking aim at those engaged in terrorism. Unfortunately,
in every kind of warfare, there are cases of civilians who are
accidentally killed. Terrorism means putting the crosshairs of the
sniper's rifle on a civilian deliberately.
JP: Well that's - that's what I've just described.
DG: That is what - no. I can tell you that did not happen.
JP: It did happen. And - and I think that's where some people have a
problem with the argument that terrorism exists on - on one side.
Your definition is absolutely correct, about civilians. And those
suicide bombers are terrorists.
DG: If you mix terrorism and counter-terrorism, if you create some
kind of moral obfuscation, you will bring about not just a problem
for Israel, but you will bring ab - bring about a problem for the
entire western alliance. Because we are all facing this threat.
As John Pilger concluded:
"It's hard to see the difference between what the Israelis call
'counter-terrorism' and terrorism. Whatever the target, both involve
the killing of innocent people." (John Pilger, 'Israeli Terror',
http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=143; 'Palestine Is Still
The Issue' documentary can be viewed here:
Gold interview starts at around 34 mins:32 secs)
Today, Dori Gold "spends his time traveling around the world raising
awareness about the situation going [sic] in Israel and the fight
over Jerusalem [and] is available for speaking engagements,
fundraisers and corporate events."
We asked John Pilger for his response to the new study from the
Palestinian human rights group and the report's effective burial by
the corporate media. He told us:
"That this shocking report has been virtually ignored across the
mainstream media, with the exception of the Guardian, is a striking
example of the media's two classes of humanity in Palestine. There is
first class humanity, worthy of meticulous, often emotive coverage;
these are the Israelis, including those guilty of great crimes, such
as Ariel Sharon. And there is second class humanity, unworthy of even
acknowledgement of their brutalising let alone the epic injustice
done to them; these are the Palestinians. No, 'second class' is too
high. They are third and fourth class victims, for not even the
suffering and murder of their children is considered human enough to
warrant reporting." (Email, October 27, 2008)
We are reminded of British historian Mark Curtis's term, "Unpeople",
to describe those on the receiving end of the West's policies,
actions and massive firepower. For those unfortunate individuals in
the crosshairs of Western violence, their human aspirations, hopes,
dreams, loves and lives are simply of no value.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and
respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge
you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Rory McCarthy, Guardian reporter
Email: rory.mccarthy at guardian.co.uk
Siobhain Butterworth, readers' editor of the Guardian
Email: reader at guardian.co.uk
Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor
Email: jeremy.bowen at bbc.co.uk
Helen Boaden, director of BBC News
Email: helenboaden.complaints at bbc.co.uk
David Mannion, ITV News editor in chief
Email: david.mannion at itn.co.uk
Jim Gray, editor of Channel 4 News
Email: jim.gray at itn.co.uk
Please send a copy of your emails to us
Email: editor at medialens.org
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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