Media allows hiding of human rights abuses puts U.S. troops in danger

Real Story: Media allows hiding of human rights abuses puts U.S. troops in danger

By Saffiya Shillo

Where is the outcry from the American media on being denied access into Gaza?  Israel’s claim of safety for press is not warranted.  Safety from whom?  The real truth is that Israel has a record of targeting and killing reporters, peace activists and other independents that have been on-the-ground witnesses to human rights abuses.  Reporters leveraging themselves on the borders offer Israel a skewed pursuit of ending rocket fire by Hamas. 

As the American media complies with this Israeli decree, the death toll rises.  This will negatively reflect on America’s already dismal image placing troops serving in the Middle East in even more danger of being killed by extremists.

It is a guarantee that once the media is able to turn a lens on the actions of the Israeli military in Gaza, human rights abuses will stop on both sides.  This is the real story.

Surprisingly, the Israeli media is more balanced than the U.S. media in the coverage of this and other Israeli military abuses.  Israeli’s are offered more Palestinian perspective from Israeli reporters. Demonstrations in Israel against actions in Gaza are ongoing and not widely covered by the American press. 

Although the American media is making an attempt to offer the Palestinian perspective with reports from Palestinians inside Gaza via telephone, it’s simply not enough.  Steadily repeated is the disclaimer that reports on the Palestinian side cannot be verified.

Already we are getting information and explanations regarding the phosphorus laced bombs Israel continues to drop.  Israel says it lights up the area and that’s why they use them.  There is no need to light up an area you plan to bomb knowing full well that it is densely populated.  On the other hand, knowing full well that using such a bomb which is banned because it causes deep burning to human flesh is criminal.  The absence of American reporting on the use of this chemical weaponry against civilians in Gaza is unsettling.

A constant theme we hear in American media is Israel’s justification for deaths of innocents because Hamas uses people as human shields and hides among women and children.  This is not valid.  All are well aware of how densely the area is populated. Sending out leaflets to a defenseless people that bombs are on the way knowing people have nowhere safe to go while you control their borders and threaten others if they open theirs is appalling. Israeli intelligence could certainly root out Hamas militants through other means.  What Hamas is doing is wrong but two wrongs do not make a right. 

American media outlets disallow their journalistic credentials by accepting Israel’s hollow explanations and excuses for deaths of innocents without firsthand proof. 

How does one explain bombing the United Nations school where innocent people and UN personnel took refuge?

How about a report showing the glaring similarities of Israeli policymakers and Hamas strategists?

Hiding human rights abuses will only result in Israel’s ability to continue in such illegal behavior as an occupying force.  Israel is, in essence, controlling the life and death of the Palestinian people. What they will never control, no matter how hard they hit, is the will of the Palestinian people to resist occupation, survive, overcome and exist despite Israel’s lack of humanity toward them. 

The actions of the Israeli military and the policymakers behind them will continue to keep Israel further from security and reconciliation with the Palestinian people and Arab world.  Both sides need each other but peace will never come to be so long as the Israeli occupation is given a green light by the American government and a blind eye by the American media. 

An opportunity to create a possibility for the end to loss of innocent lives on both sides in this crisis and the future is being missed by the American media. The safety of American troops also weighs in the balance.  The power to make a difference is realized and visible in the eyes of the American reporters—you can see it.  Yet they are shirking in their responsibility.  That’s the real story.

(Saffiya Shillo is a community activist and social service professional based in Chicago.)