Monday 12 November 2012

Find me a dead Israeli: There maybe a story here.

Violence in the Middle East is not a new thing. Rockets being fired into Israel and Israeli responses are events that, for the citizens of Gaza and Israel, have become quite commonplace. The media response is, too, nothing new. Nor is the justification for the media response (or lack of it). The most common is, "But the rockets don't kill anyone". This is then either extended to suggest it is 'not newsworthy' or, even more extreme, "Israel shouldn't make a fuss about it". How anyone can be so irreverent to rocket fire, I do not know, but I shall attempt to debunk both of these views here. 

The argument can be formulated as follows:

1                    1. The rockets, in the main, do not kill anyone

2                    2. That which is aimed to kill but doesn’t kill is not:

                                   a.     Newsworthy
                                   b.     Something that warrants a reaction/condemnation

3                    3. Therefore rockets (which aim to kill), in the main, are not:

                                   a.     Newsworthy
                                   b.     Something that warrants any reaction/condemnation

If 1 and 2 are true it follows that 3 is also true. Ignoring the obvious complication that rockets can and do kill people for now, premise 2 is clearly false. In other words it is not the case that things which aim to kill but fail are neither newsworthy nor something that warrants a reaction for 6 reasons:

1. The rockets still have a profound effect. In England, students look forward to "snow days" as a day off school. In the southern parts of Israel, students have rocket days where it is deemed school cannot be opened, not because they may slip and fall or because the coach service cannot run as per snow days, but because it is deemed that the threat of a rocket attack means students are in the position where they may go to school but not return. Thus, a day in rocket shelters is the solution. Whatever way you look at the situation - whether you argue Israel is an occupying power and the rockets are only in retaliation to IAF strikes on the Gaza strip or not, the fact rocket fire targets schools and prevents children from attending school is not only newsworthy, something that warrants a reaction from Israel but also just plain wrong. To note an example, when schools are shut in England due to snow, that is deemed newsworthy ( - just one example of this being reported). When schools are shut due to rocket fire, because the rocket fire hasn't resulted in dead Israelis, it is not newsworthy. If anything, it should be the other way round. 

2. The rockets may not (always) kill, but they inflict damage and do cause injuries. Simply put, since when did 'deaths' become the criteria for what warrants a reaction or is newsworthy. Multiple Israelis are injured in rocket fire - the attitude that no deaths=not newsworthy/not worthy of a reaction can be crudely put as, "If there are no dead Israelis, I do not care enough to report it and/or Israel has no right to react". It makes me worry for some people that I genuinely have to explain why 'deaths' as the criteria upon which something becomes newsworthy or deserving of a reaction, is simply absurd. The unsuccessful nature of the rockets doesn't render them not bad nor does it mean that indiscriminate rocket fire is neither newsworthy nor deserving of a reaction. 

3. Linking both of the above points, the rockets aim and have the potential to kill. They are fired at children forcing them to miss school and spend the day in a rocket shelter. Hamas are not on some mission to disrupt the schooling of Israeli children. They wish to kill Israeli school children. They are fired into villages and cause damage to buildings and injuries to civilians. Hamas is not on some mission to keep Israeli builders and doctors in work. They wish to destroy villages and kill civilians. Again, when something is aimed to kill and has the potential to kill, only in the case of Israel is the failure to kill deemed a reason not to report about the rockets and/or to condemn any reaction by Israel to the rockets. Firstly, foiled terror plots haven't killed anyone yet they are still deemed newsworthy ( - as they, of course, are. The fact the terror plot failed doesn't then render it irrelevant to news organisations. (Unless, Israel is on the receiving end). Indeed, in the case of the Times Square scare, it was deemed newsworthy even though nothing even exploded, unlike rocket fire which, in itself is successful, even if it fails to kill (many). Secondly, the fact that the rockets don't kill (many) doesn't mean Israel has no right to attempt to prevent the rocket fire. What government's defence of her citizens is only justifiable if a citizen has died? That the rockets can (and does) kill civilians is enough to warrant a reaction from Israel to prevent the rocket fire. 

4. The rockets are a barrier to peace. If we work from the assumption that a Palestinian state will compromise of the Gaza Strip and, as of yet, an undetermined amount of the land known commonly as the West Bank, then a future Palestinian state will include the land where the rocket fire emanates from and the people that fire the rockets. In other words, the actions of the ruling party from an area of land that is generally assumed to form part of any future Palestinian State is indiscriminately firing (albeit useless) rockets into Israel, actions which by definition are not peaceful. Not only should this make the situation newsworthy - whether peace is attainable in the Middle East is surely newsworthy and thus actions which, without doubt a a barrier to peace must also be newsworthy, but it means that a response from Israel is more than justified. Again, whether or not you also deem the Israeli response as a barrier to peace and not justifiable in the face of Hamas' regime of terror is besides the point - the rockets into Israel are a barrier to peace, regardless of whether or not there exist other barriers to peace.

5. Israel has spent millions on mechanisms to prevent the rockets from being deadly - iron dome defence system, bomb shelters etc etc. It is not the rockets themselves that mean Israeli deaths are few and far between but Israeli efforts to ensure this is the case. Why, therefore, should Hamas essentially get the credit for the Israeli efforts? By getting the credit, I mean not having the rocket attacks condemned or covered as extensively as, especially 100+ rocket bursts, should be. 

6. The rockets do kill people. The amount is irrelevant. (OK, granted, this is more to disprove premise one, rather than two, but the point is valid nonetheless) 

If premise 2 is false, then not only should the world's media report the rocket fire more extensively than it does, rather than taking the view that Israelis are not dying therefore it is not important but more crucially, Israel absolutely has a right to respond to rocket fire. You can argue to the ends of the Earth about the force it should use, the force it does use but the fundamental point remains that Israel, no matter how useless Hamas are, has a right to defend her citizens and put an end to rocket fire. That Hamas care not for the citizens of Gaza not only putting there lives in danger through attacking Israel but also using them as active human shields to further endanger them, is not Israel's problem. 

It is perhaps ironic that the one thing preventing Hamas from obtaining weapons which would, according to the proponents of the above argument, mean that attacks against Israel were newsworthy/deserving of a reaction is the blockade of Gaza which they all oppose. Surely preventing weapons of a more deadly nature entering Gaza is in the interests of the proponents of the above argument. They need a reason not to report on Hamas' attacks. If Hamas starting killing more Israelis, that already absurd reason would float away. 


  1. I think, as violence is extremely common in the Middle East, no one determines it to be newsworthy unless of course you have a connection to one of the countries involved.

    1. Whilst there is truth in that point, I don't think it directly answers the post I have made trying to explain why the "BUT NO ISRAELS DIED" excuse for it not being newsworthy is ludicrous.

  2. Not newsworthy because they're so frequent, that's all... Murders in England, which are closer too home and more deadly than Palestinian rockets, aren't often reported, because there's just too many of them for them to be an interesting part of the evening news.

    And as for point 4, rocket attacks ARE cited and mentioned in newspapers for precisely this reason - they're mentioned in pieces about the peace process, an issue which people would like to read about, as obstacles to it. Simples.

    On another note, have you EVER seen or heard mention of this in the news?

    1. Of course, the point that they are not newsworthy because of how frequent they are (although, bursts of over 100 rockets are, actually, rare) is distinct to the point that they are not newsworthy because Israelis don't die. I do agree that 1/2 rockets is not newsworthy (for the reason you mention, namely this is quite frequent) but bursts of over 100 are certainly infrequent and definitely not not newsworthy because Israelis don't die - which is the point I am making. (Having said that, Israeli Air Strikes on the Gaza strip are hardly rare yet this is always deemed newsworthy).

      Again, point 4 is just another counter to the "BUT ISRAELIS DO NOT DIE" excuse for it being not newsworthy.

      Besides the point Luke. My argument is not necessarily that people hold the above reasoning are doing so because of anti-Semiticism (although I would argue they do) but merely that the reasoning outlined above is plain wrong. In other words, I am not claiming (as I agree, I have previously done) that only attacks against Israel which are not reported, just that the "BUT ISRAELIS DON'T DIE" excuse is ludicrous. Furthermore, the Israel-Palestine conflict is one that generates a lot of interest, both pro and anti Israel and there is significantly more reporting of Israeli strikes than Hamas rocket fire which, I would argue, are not massively different in frequency (for obvious reasons). Thus, given the already high level of reporting, it would make sense for large bursts of rocket fire to get more coverage than they do (and certainly not to be ignored because Israelis have gotten pretty good at neutralising their threat). So I am not sure what point you are trying to make there...

    2. just trying to make the point that newsworthiness has nothing to do with morality, number deaths, etc.

      And people generally are harder on Israel than on Arab states (or non-states), but that's precisely because, for better or for worse, we hold Israel to higher standards. If you claim to be the foremost democracy in the Middle East, you'll be held up to that standard. If you're funded and supported by the US and UK as allies, your loose conduct is more disappointing than that of Syria or Iran, because we haven't got anything invested in those places. It's not (or almost not) anti-Semitism, it's anti-double-standards

    3. Haha Pukey :D

      Isn't that the point I am making? That, for example the point various people on twitter (both pro-Palestinian activists and journalists and MPs) have been making is complete rubbish because whether or not Israelis die is nothing to do with newsworthiness? Whilst I would maintain that, especially 100 rocket bursts, are newsworthy, the only point I am making explicitly in this post is that the "Israelis do not die" argument is rubbish.

      I don't disagree in the main. It is right that Israel is held to a higher standard and you can see that Israel lives up to the higher standard much more than is made out. For example with genuine attempts to evacuate areas around military targets with leaflets. Richard Kemp when he spoke to school discussed how the IDF makes the biggest effort to protect civilians in war. Israel's leaders aren't stupid, they are aware of the need to live up to the "Democracy" label that we are so proud of - granted it doesn't always, but then what government does? Indeed, Israeli use of white phosphorus is well documented - is Nato's use of white phosphorus as documented? That's double standards too. I accept it is easy to forget that Israel should be held to higher standards when you are emotionally involved, but there are certainly instances where reporting is lazy or false or misleading or just plain anti-Semitic just because of anti-Israel sentiment (CIF and BBC Watch document this very well). We of course diverge from my main point - when people, whoever they are, basically say "No dead Israelis = I do not care", I think we are beyond higher standards and into probably anti-Zionism and Semiticism.

      BTW! How are you? I genuinely miss our philosophy class and, to an extent, even you. I trust you're having a wonderful time.

  3. Palestine, albeit not at the same status, is too part of the UN. Indeed, for a state seeking recognition internationally, do you not feel that (perhaps) rocket fire is one of the things it should stop in order to persuade the international community that it does not harbour a desire to destroy Israel?

    Dealing with your point, Israel absolutely does hold itself to a higher standard. You're forgetting (or choosing to ignore) crucial facts. Firstly, how many leaflets prior to a rocket attack warning of an impending attack do Hamas drop? The IAF make a point of ensuring civilians are fully aware of impending strikes and gives them ample time to evacuate the area. Secondly, whereas Hamas actively target civilian areas (for example, rocket fire coincides with the beginning of the school day), Israel only targets military installations and areas that rocket fire have emanated from. It is not Israel's fault, nor can she do anything about the fact, that Hamas use their civilians as human shields not only firing rockets from civilian areas but also basing military installations in schools, hospitals etc. Israel demonstrates far more concern for the civilians of Gaza than Hamas (the ruling party in Gaza) demonstrate and all this when the civilians of Gaza are not Israeli citizens. Israel has no duty of care over Gazans, only over Israelis, and the fact that Hamas choose to put their civilians in the line of fire to score cheap propaganda victories cannot be blamed on Israel. Israel, in the face of extraordinary pressures, demonstrates remarkable constraint - living up to its higher standards. What other country has to accept that school children will not be able to go to school because they may not return alive due to rocket fire? No other country would put up with this and neither should Israel.

  4. Israel signed up for that when they founded a state built on violence a terrorist tactics. Remember most of the concessions made by Britain towards the zionists were a result of the repeated attacks on British soldiers and officials.

  5. If your best argument is "Israel signed up for it," then I see no reason to continue this discussion.

  6. I just don't see how you can think that Israel's retaliations are acceptable morally or legally.

    what is your justification for the use of WP?


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