According to the United Nations, one child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past two days. Overall, the Israeli military has killed close to 700 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, since the assault on Gaza began more than two weeks ago. Details of the slaughter make their way into the world’s media, with horrific accounts of children killed on the beach, of hospital intensive-care units bombed, of first responders, searching for wounded amid the rubble, killed by Israeli sniper fire.
Armed resistance groups in Gaza, most notably that of the area’s elected government, Hamas, have fired thousands of crude rockets that have killed two in Israel. Since Israel began its land invasion of Gaza, more than 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed. One of the greatest challenges in understanding the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is getting reliable information. This latest assault on Gaza reaffirms the key role played by the U.S. media in maintaining the information blockade. It also highlights the increasing importance of pressure applied by social networks.
One headline said it all: “Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup.” That was The New York Times, referring to a missile strike in Gaza that killed at least eight people on the beach in the town of Khan Younis. Ali Abunimah, a prominent Palestinian-American journalist who co-founded the website The Electronic Intifada, mockingly tweeted: “Israeli missile stops by Gaza cafe for a drink and dialogue with its Palestinian friends.” The odd, passive phrasing of the original headline became the subject of a global social-media firestorm. The New York Times replaced the headline with “In Rubble of Gaza Seaside Cafe, Hunt for Victims Who Had Come for Soccer.”
This wasn’t the first time in this latest attack on Gaza that a major news organization got a black eye. On July 16, NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin witnessed an Israeli strike on a Gaza beach that killed four young boys who were playing soccer. After the deadly strike, Mohyeldin’s graphic tweets alerted the world to the breaking news: “4 Palestinian kids killed in a single Israeli airstrike.