Monday, January 12, 2009

Media Silence on a Protest

The current flashpoint in Gaza has people galvanized on both sides of the debate, but there is disproportionate attention given to those who argue that Israel is perfectly justified in its continued military mission in Gaza.

Along with most rational observers, I agree that a nation has a right to defend itself. But this is more complex that a black-and-white case of defense. It is not just a question of rockets being launched into Israel. This whole crisis is deeply connected to the well-being of Palestinians (and thus their willingness to support Hamas). During the ceasefire period, Israel cut off most humantiarian aid to Gaza. Jimmy Carter recently wrote an op-ed that details some of this. And here is an interesting piece by an Israeli

But the subject of this post isn't so much about the less publicized argument as it is about the fact that there are many in America who do know that this is more complex. Although they are speaking out, many media outlets do not want to give them attention. 

A clear example of this is large protest -- up to 20,000 people -- that was held in DC this weekend. Even at the doorsteps of the Washington Post, the Post would not report the event. A co-worker, who was at the protest, has a brief story about it:

"I attended the march for Gaza on Saturday in D.C. and thought I'd share what I observed...
People gathered at Lafayette Square and heard from a whole range of speakers (some were rather politically incorrect, some were OK), these included Ralph Nader and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. 
After the speeches, the march went around D.C. - the march could not get near Obama's residence (and it later turned out he was at Ben's Chili Bowl - so were probably all reporters as that became the main event of the weekend -  I'm being cynical). The march blocked K street for a short bit as it made its way around D.C. and stopped at two places . One of the places was the Washington's Post headquarters , which ended up not reporting the march at all in its Sunday paper.  
This was a funny incident actually, I took pics of the protesters as they shouted "can you see us now?" and some of the staff  were waving from inside the building while the police made sure no one entered - actually, the protestors did not even go on the pavement, just on the street - yet the Post did not report anything in its Sunday paper. You'd think maybe 10k people showing up outside your door to protest your coverage of something would get mentioned even if negatively.  In any case, all reporting on the march is very minimal...

Number of people reported varied between 10K and 20k, I say about 15k is right, but have no way of telling. I  also heard there are many videos on you tube too, but I haven't seen any yet. 

Forget who you agree with on the conflict in Israel; this is terrible for our society. If there is a legitimate perspective that many people in the country hold, then it is the job of the press to report it. 

If someone in America were to watch evening news programs, then they may be conivinced that America is unified on its support of every action that Israel takes. But just as in the case of Gaza itself, the reality is more complex. 


  1. I agree that this issue is complex and I firmly believe that the press should cover demonstations on both sides. However, I am in conflict with the arguments that Israel is demonstrating disproportional response to Hamas. Wars are fought to win and one brings one's full strengh to the process, even though I detest the killing of civilians. I also an not convinced the all Palestinians follow Hamas out of conviction, but rather fear. Hamas is known to kill their own people, especially if the persons do not follow the strict clerical dictates. I beleive that Americans should demonstrate an outcry for both sides. We remain silent when Hamas shells Israel. Having visited Israel, I know the tensions felt by inhabitants, waiting for the next suicide bomber,who may be a child or yong woman. I am not sure what the solution is, but I fear public opinion favors those that appear weaker and I think many Arab countries know this, thus failing to help the Palestinians with building schools, roads etc. The question I have is what does Hamas want to do? Build Gaza or destroy Israel. Once this is determined, perhaps we all can give a more intelligent input to the solution. Great blog.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Cindy.

    "Wars are fought to win and one brings one's full strengh to the process..." True, wars are fought to win. But what is needed to win is not always (or rarely in the case of military conflict) "full strength". It is simply not true. America has led countless successful campaigns with a limited scope because a full strike would have been *disproportionate* to invoke the desired outcome. For example, Kosovo was a successful military campaign, but the US did not have to use even one ground troop. America did not use its full strength -- not even close.

    So the question becomes, what does Israel need to do in order to achieve the desired outcome (where the desired outcome is no more rockets into Israel and a peaceful, developing Palestine). The answer would be very long, but I can tell you what the answer is not: making Palestinians more desperate and angry by applying a broad military brush to Palestine. (Well over 300 children have been killed in the past 2 weeks.)

    "I believe that Americans should demonstrate an outcry for both sides. We remain silent when Hamas shells Israel." Just not true. There have been pro-Israel demonstrations. More importantly, our top officials (in the Bush Admin) are unquestionably pro-Israel. Two days ago, Bush told Rice to abstain from a UN vote that called for a cease fire because Ehud Olmert told him to: .

    Finally, as for the solution: all parties outside of Gaza must seek to confront the two roots of Hamas' support inside of Gaza: desperation and nationalism. But Israel, the US, and Arab countries have not been willing to do what is necessary to quell these problems.

  3. Awesome post, Kevin!

    I agree, the media coverage has been lacking in terms of balance. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Two weekends ago on CNN's D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, D.L. brought on both a Rabbi and a Muslim to discuss the conduct of both sides in a calm, cordial manner. Flaws are present on both sides.Hopes are present on both sides. I don't have time to look up the link, but i'm confidant you will be able to find it.

    As for the above comments, I couldn't disagree more. A blanket remark on how to win wars is inappropriate. Especially in unpredictable regions such as the Middle East. Military might has rarely equaled success in that part of the world. Even if it calms a situation for a moment, a resistance is likely to arise if the people don't feel they're being treated fair. You can't create desolation and call it peace.

    To counter the inflamatory remarks about shellings towards Israel. Shall we discuss the houses bulldozed with children in them? Israeli migration to homes of displaces palestinians? Or perhaps the wall surounding the territory? My point is: pointing ou egregious acts further inflames and divides. Making the point about America's nuetrality less meaningful. I understand we can't ignore the atrosities, but there should at least be a balanced recognition of the wrongs done by both sides.

    Back to your orginal post.

    The Isreali - palestinian conflict is convoluted. There is no easy asnwer. But media converage should be more bias. Still, it is a business - advertisers don't want ad space next to one who supports accused terrorist. Of course it's not that simple as aforementioned, but papers don't want to take a chance.

    Great post, Kevin!

  4. Kosovo was not a war against us. Now let's explore USA's response to Japan which is more similar to what Israel perceives. Let us explore Iraq and tell me we do not use our strength when we are threatened. I believe your comparison is oranges to apples. Peace Cindy

  5. Cindy, fair enough (on the example of Kosovo), but Iraq is actually a poor example for your argument for two reasons. 1) Iraq never attacked the US and posed no near-term or immediate threat to the US.

    But that issue aside, 2) Iraq was a *clear* example of not using the full strength of our military. One of the most contentious issues amongst planners of this war was whether or not to use "overwhelming" strength. Recall Colin Powell being ignored in the Bush Administration amidst his warnings that the US needed 500,000 troops rather than the 150,000-200,000 that were actually used.

    So in fact, Iraq is an example that supports my argument. Countries use proportionate amounts of military force in order to achieve a planned goal. The US achieved the goal of overthrowing the Iraqi army without full force (very short of full force, really). Any military expert will tell you that Iraq was a "limited war", not "total war" (which is the use of full force).

    Even Israel is not using their full force. So your original premise that this is Israel's "full strength" is incorrect. Israel, using full strength, would obliterate the Gaza Strip. Israeli military leaders are very familiar (as are all military leaders) with the concept of proportionality. And I -- along with many, many others -- would argue that this military strike is not proportionate to the desired ends.

    Over 1000 Gazans have now perished in this conflict -- at least half are innocents -- and this doesn't include 4700 injured. Israel has lost less than 20, with 3 civilians losing their life. I am not one to objectify human death, but you do the numbers. This is disproportionate. Period.