Tuesday, May 12, 2015

News quiz: what’s happening in Gaza? Can you tell?

Do an internet search for ‘IDF-Gaza May 10-12, 2015’ (I use google). As of noon ET May 12, 2015, you won’t find anything on the first 5 pages of ‘results’ (there’s one possible headline on alray; but the story connected to the headline is about the ‘West Bank’, not Gaza). That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no news from Gaza about the IDF. It just suggests that, at the very least, no one who’s mainstream has reported it.

But there is a news item from the Palestinian Authority (PA) that the Israeli military carried out several ‘activities’ inside  Gaza on May 10-11, 2015 (“Israeli army carries out operations around Gaza”, Ma’an News Agency, May 11, 2015). The IDF is said to have flown fighter jets in Gaza’s north. The story also reported that IDF military bulldozers crossed into Gaza at al-Shujaiyeh (ibid).  

Many of you might not take such a report seriously. After all, you might not expect the journalistic professionalism of the PA to match, for example, that of the New York Times. But then, some of you might question exactly how ‘professional’ the New York Times really is.

I’d suggest that on a line-chart for journalistic professionalism, the lines for the Times and the PA intersect. I believe the professionalism and trustworthiness of the Times deteriorates. That means, with the Times, it’s getting tougher to tell where the truth is. I also believe that, if you abide by some obvious caveats, you’ll find the professionalism of the PA news improving. I further believe that the downward line of the Times crosses the upward line of the PA news.

That means that for many stories, PA news stories often score high—in my opinion--for basic accuracy and professionalism. The caveat has to do with how one should read PA news.

PA news doesn’t treat all news equally. It treats certain details of an Arab-Israel conflict story in its own unique way.  For example, Israel’s news outlets might report that a PA resident had been arrested by Israel security forces after that PA resident attacked a Jew. The PA news version will report the story exactly as the Israelis. The PA news may, however, reveal some additional details not found in most Israeli versions. That’s helpful to the reader.

The caveat is, the PA version alters an arrest story in one or two ways which, if you aren’t aware of this caveat, could give you a completely different understanding of what actually happened.

For example, PA news might report that a PA resident died because fireworks he was working on exploded. Israel news might report that the man died while working in a small hidden bomb ‘factory’. PA news tends to forget such a detail—or, perhaps, they know that the deceased really was working on fireworks powerful enough to kill a man (or two).

In a story about our case--a PA resident attacking a Jew--the fact that the man was arrested for attacking a Jew is usually omitted. In fact, for PA stories, PA residents are never ‘arrested’. They are ‘kidnapped’.  

A PA news story rarely reveals why a PA resident was ‘kidnapped’.  All you can learn is that the ‘Israeli occupation forces’ did the kidnapping.

In addition, most stories involving Israel add two or three short paragraphs at the end. These represent the obligatory propaganda ‘review’ of the Arab-Israel conflict—from the Arab point of view.

Those two caveats aside, an astute reader of Arab news can often learn a lot about a particular story. One might learn details not available in an Israeli version of that story. Or, as in the case of the IDF-Gaza report, one might learn about a news event not reported at all by Israel news.

Of course, given the propaganda tendencies of PA news, there’s always the chance that a story not reported on the Israeli side didn’t actually happen. But, in my opinion, stories such as this, referring to IDF actions that are reported in a factual tone—as opposed to an inflammatory tone—tend to have a ring of truth about them. That might be the case here.

What this current PA news item suggests is that the IDF (Israel Defense Force) is keeping a very tight control of the area around Gaza, for security reasons. There’s a ‘border’ around Gaza. As a sovereign state, lsrael has the right to mark its border in some obvious way, especially if those outside Israel seek entry illegally because of, shall we say, ill intent. If this new news report suggests that IDF troops fire at Gazans near that ‘border’, with no one killed, it tells me that the IDF is firing warning shots. Given the hostile intent of Gazans who approach that ‘border’, warning shots are, in my opinion, appropriate. Of course, PA news does report Gazans who approach that ‘border’ as ‘farmers’, not ‘fighters’.

But that’s okay. It’s probably just a typographical error.

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