[News] Media Silent On Evidence Of Israeli Targeting Of Youngsters

Anti-Imperialist News 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 
the missile."

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 
in coverage.

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 
multiple fractures.

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: 
http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=1259454859593416473; Dori 
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

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