THE BLOG
07/15/2014 10:11 am ET Updated Sep 14, 2014

Misreporting Gaza: It's Not Just ABC's Error

Recently ABC, and specifically Diane Sawyer, was criticized for using a photograph of devastation wreaked by Israeli missiles on Gaza as evidence of the damage done to Israel by Hamas rockets.

This egregious mistake, turning victims into perpetrators, was called out. Sawyer apologized, but the harm was done. That image now sticks in people's minds. Why? For the same reason that the mistake was made in the first place: We, in the United States, have hard-wired into our national consciousness the one-sided image of aggression only coming from the Palestinian side and victimhood being the exclusive purview of Israelis. The story is of course more complicated than that.

Such one-sidedness is not limited to the U.S. press. In a recent piece in The Guardian, Owen Jones points out how the BBC has covered the carnage: "The media coverage hardly reflects the reality: a military superpower armed with F-15 fighter jets, AH-64 Apache helicopters, Delilah missiles, IAI Heron-1 drones and Jericho II missiles (and nuclear bombs, for that matter), versus what David Cameron describes as a 'prison camp' firing almost entirely ineffective missiles."

The disproportion here is indeed something that the media constantly ignores, and this has both moral and legal problems. For in this conflict, Israel has engaged in violation after violation of the core principles of international humanitarian rights:

1. Distinction: Parties to the conflict must distinguish at all times between legitimate military objectives and civilians or civilian objects.

2. Proportionality: Launching an attack that may be expected to cause loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited.

3. Precaution: All feasible precautions must be taken to limit the harm caused to civilians. If any information comes to light changing the assessment under the first two principles and that might suggest unlawfulness, then the strike must be suspended.

As of this writing a ground invasion has begun and Israel has authorized 40,000 reservists to be called up for duty. As of today, 168 Gazans have been killed, half of them women and children. According to a UN report, nearly 80 percent are civilians. There is every reason to believe that this is just the beginning of a period of escalating violence in which civilians will bear a disproportionate cost.

And it's not only a matter of proportionality, it's also a matter of getting the chain of events right. Hamas launched rockets at Israel in self-defense, long after Israel's massive, prolonged punitive attack on the West Bank had begun.

World-wide protests have been mounted, in major global cities such as New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Tokyo, Barcelona. But also in smaller, even tiny places like Tempe, Arizona. Yet one would not know that from looking at major media outlets.

To get at the truth of things one needs to consult other sources. One of the very best is the Tumblr site "The World Stands with Palestine."

If one is skeptical (as one should be) of how events are depicted in words, this site provides ample visual evidence of the scope and depth of the protests against the attack on Gaza. The site invites those at these rallies to upload photos and videos onto the site. It has created a virtual archive of the global community's outrage, and its call for the end to the bloodshed. I would trust this site, created daily by ordinary people from around the world, more than ABC or the BBC to cover this aspect of the current outrage.