Gaza: The Media Blockade
June 1, 2010

Maria Tomchick

On Monday, Israeli troops boarded a boat in international waters that was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. During that raid, at least nine people were killed, all of them activists who are working to end the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Aside from the horror I felt at hearing this news, I was dumbstruck at the ineptitude of the news reports of the raid. The US media not only fell down on the job, it fell into a black hole.

The worst offender was the New York Times, which adhered entirely to the Israeli government line. They reported, as uncontested fact, that activists on board the boat fired pistols at the Israeli soldiers, who rappelled onto the ship from helicopters hovering above. They reported that nine people died, but not that the dead were activists, members of the flotilla, not Israeli soldiers. Instead, after mentioning the number of dead, The New York Times never mentions them again at all; it lingers instead on the wounds suffered by Israeli soldiers and makes much of the fact that two soldiers were treated for bullet wounds. Apparently, The New York Times reporter never thought to ask if the wounds were from friendly fire.

Oh, and by the way, pipes and knives were found on the boat. I can think of many uses for spare lengths of pipe on a ship. And knives—for heaven’s sake. What else are you going to use to cut rope, or—for that matter—cut your vegetables to make soup?

The Associated Press wire service articles were little better. They relied on quotes from soldiers and the Israeli government and when they did quote an activist, it wasn’t a person who’d been on the boat during the raid. The articles never mentioned the names of the organizations that sponsored the flotilla, and only one article mentioned that a group formed by Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and former President Jimmy Carter (the group remained unnamed, of course) condemned the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip as “one of the greatest humanitarian rights violations”—but that quote was in the second to last paragraph of a 20-paragraph article. [“Israel boat raid sparks condemnations, protests,” by Selcan Hacaoglu and Lee Keath, AP, 5/31/09.]

Both the New York Times and AP articles barely mention the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and when they do, they quote Israeli government assurances that residents of Gaza are well provided for. No other viewpoint is sought, no effort is made to find out what is really happening inside the Gaza Strip, as if fact-based reporting might reveal inconvenient truths about one of America’s biggest allies in the Middle East.

As I told a friend today, the US press corps’ silence over the effects of the Gaza blockade remind me of a similar resounding silence over the brutal effects of sanctions the US government imposed on Iraq throughout the 1990’s, after US bombs destroyed most of Iraq’s vital civilian infrastructure in the first Gulf War. Israel is replaying our war crimes and provoking a major outcry from nearly every other nation of the world except the US.

And the US people remain insulated from the truth.