Accuracy in Media

Last week I received an email from Time magazine, asking if I “would be interested in contributing a piece for on the casualty numbers being reported in Gaza. These come mostly from Hamas, and we’re interested in a piece on how reliable/unreliable the numbers are,” the email said.  But the magazine apparently wasn’t interested in the product they requested.

I immediately responded that I would be willing to provide them with a piece, and, at their request, suggested what I would plan to say. They wrote back the following: “I think we need a piece that focuses on the reported casualties and how we can/should unpack those numbers as reliable or not. What source or sources should we be going to, and how should the casualty count be done? I don’t think we need to address Israel being treated as the aggressor since I think many will be familiar with that perspective and its counter.” When I submitted a full piece targeted more toward what they suggested, they decided to pass. It wasn’t “quite what we’re looking for so will have to pass.”

The media have been playing games with the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and most of it favors the residents of Gaza. After the UN school in Gaza was hit last week, and said to have killed 15 or 16 people, Time ran a story, which, as stated in the postscript at the end of the article, was a corrected version. By Time magazine’s admission, the earlier version of the story “drew a premature conclusion that the attack on the Gaza shelter was committed by Israel. The source of the attack has not yet been confirmed.”

NBC news also cited “Israeli shells” for the attack and spoke with “health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra.” Israel acknowledged that a single Israeli Defense Force (IDF) shell hit the school courtyard, but said it was at a time when there was no one there, and that it had nothing to do with the deaths of those 16 people.

It’s not surprising, then, that The New York Times on July 28 counted the “mounting outrage over the hundreds of civilian Palestinians dead” as among several levers in the leverage that Hamas has in cease-fire negotiations. This hints at something all too true: every dead or crying Palestinian woman and child serves as propaganda on behalf of the militant Hamas terrorist cause.

The New York Times also describes Hamas, which was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 1997, as a “militant Palestinian faction that dominates the Gaza Strip” in this piece. The article front-loads the pro-Hamas sources as it makes its analysis, but the “former Israeli chief of military intelligence” is given the last word. “This is their ideology, this is what they believe in; it’s the resistance,” says Amos Yadlin. “To ask Hamas to demilitarize Gaza is like asking a priest to convert to Judaism.”

How many people really read the Times’ articles to the last sentence, especially in a 1,300-word piece?

But the Times does hint at one important issue: for all the talk about aid to those in the Gaza Strip, would international aid produce the intended effect at this point? “Politically isolated after breaks with Syria, Iran and especially Egypt, and its effort at reconciling with the Palestinian factions that rule the West Bank having failed to bear fruit, Hamas has all but given up on governing Gaza to focus on the battlefield,” writes the Times. Resistance is now a make-or-break issue.

The mainstream media’s reporting on the whole has been despicable. Although Israel agreed to five cease-fires, every one of them was broken by Hamas—which, since the Palestinians are now supposedly a “unity government,” is the same as the Palestinian government. For those who think that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah in the West Bank represent the moderates, they should pay attention when he declares the current conflict a religious “War for Allah.” In fact, Abbas is no moderate at all, as former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger has detailed. Earlier this year Abbas  said there is “no way” that he will accept Israel as a Jewish state.

Unfortunately, Time magazine, like most of the media, is determined to blame Israel in this conflict. Thus, they weren’t interested in an article that even partially discussed Israel being unfairly treated as the aggressor.

With all of their images of hospitalized and injured children, and adults, how often do the reporters connect the dots and say, “This is happening because Hamas is using women and children as human shields, and doing what it can to create more such casualties, since that is what they understand works to bring pressure on Israel. Hamas clearly does not care about the lives of its own people.” That should be the obvious conclusion to these so-called journalists, but instead, the focus of most of the reporting is to characterize Israel as the aggressor, the real terrorists, responsible for all of these casualties. Besides, the numbers of civilian deaths coming from Hamas, or the Gaza Health Ministry, are largely propaganda. How many of the casualties are caused by missiles fired from Gaza that didn’t make it into Israel? How many are because they were used as human shields? How many were killed because they were viewed as collaborators with Israel? I discuss more about the issue in the article below that was apparently too hot for Time magazine to touch.


Counting Casualties in Gaza

By Roger Aronoff

July 23, 2014

The death toll continues to rise in the Gaza Strip, for both Palestinians and Israelis. But media outlets have been relying on figures from the Gaza Health Ministry, which has a vested interest in making sure the death toll reflects poorly on Israelis. Raphael Ahren wrote for The Times of Israel recently that “the number of casualties, and the percentage of civilians among the dead, comes exclusively from Palestinian sources.” Israeli sources will likely not publish their numbers until much later.

In addition, according to Ahren, the United Nations has been using this same Gaza Health Ministry figures within its own reports, lending them greater credibility. The liberal ThinkProgress, a project of the Center for American Progress, challenges Ahren by saying that the United Nations only partially relies on the Gaza Health Ministry, which was historically run by Hamas. But it still gets some of its numbers from there. How much?

News organizations such as The Washington Post and CNN have been reporting on the Palestinian death toll in a causal vacuum. What should be reported is that the deaths are the responsibility of Hamas, which is committing the double war crime of targeting civilians with their missiles, and using their women and children as human shields. In addition, there are credible reports of Hamas killing members of Fatah, the supposedly moderate partner in the recently formed “unity government” for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

A couple of Washington Post articles point to the complexity of the issue. The first of two July 21st articles covered the terrorist activities within the tunnels proceeding from Gaza into Israeli soil, and the second discussed the rising Palestinian death toll. It was a choose-your-own-adventure: pick whichever side of the Palestinian-Israeli debate you’re on and proceed.

One might think that the first Post story of the two could have at least informed the second, given their close proximity. According to Washington Post writer Terrence McCoy, “…a Palestinian militia document obtained by Al-Monitor said the objective of the underground network was ‘to surprise the enemy and strike it a deadly blow that doesn’t allow a chance for survival or escape or allow him a chance to confront and defend itself.’”

The latter article focuses on the death toll of average Palestinians, which now stands at more than 500. Little mention was made of terror tactics by the Palestinians. It is as if McCoy’s story doesn’t exist.

“The number of Palestinians seeking refuge with the United Nations also rose overnight, growing to at least 85,000 people now living in 67 shelters, mostly at schools, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said Monday,” reported the Post. “The United Nations also said a preliminary review in Gaza found that more than 72 percent of those killed were civilians, not militants, and include large numbers of women and children. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs said the high numbers of children and noncombatants raises ‘concern about respect for the principle of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law.’” Who is aiding the UN in compiling these figures—Palestinian officials, or objective observers? We now know the answer—it’s both, and since its “preliminary” and from the Gaza ministry source, these figures are suspect.

A citizen blogger went through Al Jazeera’s list of names of the deceased, and found that approximately 82 percent were male, and a plurality were in their 20s. And that is not atypical. Consider Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, who wrote that “at the height of the so-called [2002] al-Aqsa Intifada” 2.8% of those killed were female. “To be female is a fairly reliable indicator of being a noncombatant,” wrote Stephens in 2008. “… If Israel had been guilty of indiscriminate violence against Palestinians, the ratio of male-to-female fatalities would not have been 35-1.”

Steven Stotsky of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), who went to the same Al Jazeera website, captured the demographics of those killed between July 7 and July 14. “Media coverage often parrots the line fed by Gazan authorities that ‘most of the casualties are civilians’ despite the well-established propensity of Gazan authorities to exaggerate the proportion of civilian casualties,” he writes.

“Sami Abu Zohri, a Hamas spokesman, called the Israeli offensive in Shijaiyah ‘a massacre’ and ‘a war crime,’” reported the Post. This is reminiscent of the so-called Jenin massacre of 2002, which even the UN acknowledged was a fabrication, and a history of other exaggerated claims by Palestinians that serve their short term interest of gaining public sympathy while Israel is condemned.

Even Secretary of State John Kerry sees through this type of propaganda, while most of the media apparently can’t. Asked by Candy Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday whether the U.S. is “comfortable” with “Israeli actions thus far,” Secretary Kerry said, “The fact is that Hamas uses civilians as shields, and they fire from a home, and draw the fire into the home, precisely to elicit the kind of question you just asked.”

Facts like these should make it into the Post’s and other news outlets’ reporting.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at

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  • Steve

    Excellent analysis. Honest reporting.

  • wyatt81

    The left uses children in their defense of Hamas…they use children as emotional battering rams to bring down our borders…they use them to prop up any and all government intrusions. Beyond disgusting from the ones who see themselves as the “most caring.” They are in fact the most arrogant liars.

  • Richard Hellstrom

    Why is America providing terrorist weapons and supporting terrorism from the Muslim Brotherhood which Hamas is a member off ? With so many of the elite in Europe rushing to have tracking transmitters put in their children because of kidnapping , why are they supporting the Muslim Brotherhood / Hamas ? Quotes from the articles.
    Last week, Qatar closed the largest sale of American weaponry so far this year, purchasing $11 billion worth of Patriot missile batteries and Apache attack helicopters. Qatar is arguably a counter-productive actor in the context of the biggest Israeli-Palestinian crisis since the Second Intifada of a decade ago. And it’s a major purchaser of U.S. arms – In June, Qatar attempted to transfer money for civil service salaries for Gaza-based Hamas members through the Arab Bank, a transaction that the Bank disallowed under reported U.S. pressure. – Qatar is “believed to be the primary financier of Hamas,” which has estimated annual operating expenses of around $1 billion –
    While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.

  • Rebecca

    In one particular doctor’s office, I noticed some special, especially slanted issues of Time Mag in the office. Apparently, doctors get free Lefty magazines, maybe to make it look like the circulation of the mag is greater than it really is. Sad.

  • bbf


    by Chris Hedges (source: Truthdig)
    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    ALL GOVERNMENTS lie, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes.

    It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories — required under the rules of American journalism — although we know they are untrue.

    I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way.

    Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire.
    I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory.

    I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists.

    I have stood in the remains of schools — Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday — as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites.

    I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”
    There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie — the lie favored by tyrants from Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit — racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

    By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters.
    The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

    George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.”
    The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous.

    The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort — a comfort they are desperately seeking — in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

    The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government.

    But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,850 deaths since this assault began — most of the victims women and children — and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes.

    The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.