This critique was written by Cherryl Smith, PhD, professor emerita of rhetoric and composition at California State University, Sacramento. Her blog is Framing Israel
Where is the Hamas offensive?
We get constant news of the “Israeli offensive” and the “Gaza offensive” but both refer to action by Israel. What about the Hamas offensive?
This phrase does not exist in mainstream media. It doesn’t come up in a Google search. And without the concept of “Hamas offensive,” the fact that Israel is fighting a defensive war stays out of focus.
American and UK media report on IDF soldiers and Palestinian civilians. Hamas fighters are invisible.
We hear about Hamas rockets, though not often about the ones landing inside Gaza. Mostly the rockets are mentioned in terms of their uselessness against the rather mysterious Iron Dome.
Israelis who are not currently serving in the IDF are nearly as invisible as Hamas fighters. As the war reporting continues, Israelis seem to be receding into the background, as if each story is titled, “what did the IDF do to Gaza today?”
The gruesome casualty count continuously reported from Gaza — but not from other conflicts — does not distinguish Palestinian combatants from civilians.
The source for this count, so far, is Hamas itself or the Gaza Health Service that is run by Hamas. And the familiar words: “most of them civilian,” cannot be accurate given that a majority are men of fighting age.
Simultaneous strikes at a Gaza hospital and the Shati refugee camp provoked outrage. Israel showed photos to demonstrate that they were not targeting these areas and reiterated that they never target civilians. But media went with identifying Israeli strikes or equalizing Hamas and Israeli “claims.”
Yet, whenever a reporter is brave enough to say what’s really happening we hear the truth, as occurred last week in tweets from Italian reporter, Gabriele Barbati:
Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris
@IDFSpokesperson said truth in communique released yesterday about Shati camp massacre. It was not #Israel behind it
Journalists could help by acknowledging the limitations of their sources and the intimidation reporters and photographers face from Hamas. There could be blazing headlines with information of the kind Gabriele Barbati shared.
Luckily, there are some in the media who do get it. But right now, they’re the exceptions.