Can Photos From Gaza Help Blaze The Path To Peace?
Operation Pillar of Defense
In Israel's recent incursion into Gaza, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas and Israel faced off in an uneven battle. Hamas' long range missiles, most of which were intercepted by Israel's state of the art American-made defense system, flew into Israel as far as the areas around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, reportedly taking the lives of six Israelis and injuring many more.
For its part, Israel bombarded Gaza using American-made F-16 fighter-bombers and American-made Apache helicopter gun ships that repeatedly dropped American-made bombs into heavily populated areas. As of now, the eight long and brutal days of bombing, resulted in 170 Gazan deaths and reportedly over 1000 wounded.
Journalists Under Fire
As is often the case in the middle east, the incursion into Gaza caught the attention of the world. Journalists from across the globe made their way into Gaza to cover Operation Pillar of Defense. Unlike other battles, fought in remote regions spread across a vast mass of territory (think Afghanistan), Gaza's war zone was the impoverished, densely populated small strip of land that has long been controlled by Israel. In this condensed arena, journalists were in just as much danger as Gaza's civilian population, and they suffered greatly for being there. Israel attacked their hotels and dropped bombs on their cars, killing several Palestinian journalists and injuring many more. As a result, Israel is facing accusations from several fronts of purposely targeting journalists, but it rejects all such charges.
The most vocal challenger of Israel's aggression is Abby Martin, a TV anchor for Russia's RT station. After Israel accused Martin of being a terror sympathizer, Martin hit back at Israel on her show in a no-holds-barred lashing for Israel's bombing of RT's office in Gaza. She excoriated Israel for verbally attacking her after she characterized it as an apartheid state, and she pummeled Israel for deliberately targeting journalists. It's a performance worth watching for its fearlessness in confronting Israel directly - which American journalists and the American government lack the courage to do.
Despite the extreme dangers for journalists covering Operation Pillar of Defense, one positive (which is equally a negative) was the fact that it was fought in so confined an area that journalists didn't need travel great distances to get their stories. Reaching dead and injured victims or locating the charred and damaged remains of homes, businesses and mosques was often a matter of following explosions as they happened. Journalists were able to arrive on scene in a short enough time to photograph the dead and wounded and document the brutal events while they were still fresh. As a result, a large number of gruesome and disturbing photos made their way to newspapers and online news sites around the world. Many of the photos were of fallen children, which increased the already widespread and loud condemnation of Israel for being overly aggressive and reckless in bombarding areas populated by innocent civilians - including children.
Israel, which sees itself as the world's perpetual victim, an increasingly implausible portrayal, went on an all-out media offensive against journalists who photographed the casualties. Understanding how incriminating images of massive explosions, battered bodies, demolished buildings, dead babies and grieving families could be for Israel, Israel deployed every available surrogate to appear on as many international media platforms as possible to parrot the story that Israel had been forced to defend its people against the relentless assault by Hamas.
American born Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., became an everyday presence on American media. Speeches or interviews with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others, were broadcast regularly on American TV. And, as is commonly the case in American corporate media, few, if any, representatives for the Palestinians were given an equal platform.