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Opinion: Israel’s Media Pressure Tactics - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Not long after NBC presenter Ayman Mohyeldin ended his emotive live report about the tragic killing of four Palestinian children as they were playing football on Gaza beach, the NBC hierarchy ordered him home. Mohyeldin himself had kicked the ball around with the four Palestinian children before they were killed by the Israeli air strike. The New York Times initially ran a story under the headline “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach,” but the headline was subsequently toned down to “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.”

No sooner had CNN reporter Diana Magnay criticized Israeli settlers in Sderot via Twitter for cheering the air strikes on Gaza, describing them as “scum” for threatening her broadcast, than the channel pulled her off the air. She and CNN have since apologized “for any offense that may have been taken.”

Of course, these incidents are nothing new. They do not reveal anything new regarding Western, and particularly American, coverage of Israel. Every Israeli military escalation is accompanied by a Right-wing media escalation that aims to incite a loud and senseless debate regarding who is the aggressor and who is the victim.

This favoritism enjoyed by Israel in the Western and American media is only one side of the coin, albeit one that has dominated the scene and which has been the status quo throughout more than one war or conflict. And now we see the current Gaza “war” returning this Western pro-Israeli discourse to the fore once again, ignoring the Arab–Palestinian narrative. The awkward situation many media outlets have found themselves in as a result does not represent an Israeli victory; it only serves to compound the criticism of Israel’s actions.

It is true that the New York Times removed the specifics regarding the four young Palestinian boys being killed from its amended headline, but the story remained, along with an accompanying report written by one of the newspaper’s photographers who witnessed the tragedy. This article by Tyler Hicks, who witnessed the killing of the four Palestinian boys, ended: “Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, running from an explosion, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters.”

But the New York Times was not been the only media outlet to be surprised by the scale of the discontent of Israel’s Right wing towards its reporting, amid Israeli claims of a bias towards the Palestinians.

Regardless of the strength of Israel’s Right wing, criticism of the country escalates the more missiles it fires and the more Palestinians are killed. However much the Israelis try to play up the “panic” and “fear” Israeli settlers feel about Hamas rockets, their fear cannot be compared with the pictures of 4 innocent children killed on Gaza beach.

The four Bakr boys killed in the attack, Mohammad, 11 or 12, Ismail, 9, Zakariya, 10, and Ahed, 7 or 9, were playing football on the beach when they were killed in an Israeli air strike. This tragedy took place in front of the Deira Hotel, where a number of international journalists are staying. All of the journalists reported this story as it happened, and they were clearly affected. Such tragic events are beyond Israel’s ability to play down, nor can Tel Aviv pressure media outlets to report this in a certain way. These events outpace media outlets, and not even Israel can put an end to social media or Twitter where not only are these incidents reported fairly; but so are Israel’s attempts to suppress such reporting.

The alternative media is beyond such pressure tactics.