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
                                    or
                                   b.     Something that warrants a reaction/condemnation

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

                                   a.     Newsworthy
                                    or
                                   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 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-16903487 - 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 (http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/times_square_car_smoke_scare_TyBE8K6vF3PzScpS9xG0XP) - 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.