The Hostage and the Picnic

The U.S. media coverage of the ongoing Israel incursion into Gaza "has been irresponsible in not covering much about the prologue to the present violence, the Israeli military's bombing of civilians on a Gaza beach earlier in the month," says blogger Juan Cole.

The Israeli military denies they were responsible for the explosion that killed seven members of a Palestinian family on June 9. But there is no denying Cole's assertion that the story of the death of the Ghalia family was much bigger news in the Arab world than in the United States, thanks to a searing video taken by a Palestinian cameraman of the lone survivor, 10-year-old Huda Ghalia, screaming over the remains of her family. The video is available online, though viewers should be warned of its graphic content.

Hamas says the deaths of the Ghalia family justify the abduction of 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
With an eye on Palestinian public opinion, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Al-Jazeera yesterday that the Shalit's capture represented "a fulfillment of the duty to the girl Huda Ghalia whose family was killed in front of her eyes," according to Israel's YNet News.

The Israeli Major General who conducted the government's investigation of the explosion stands by his conclusion that the Israeli military was not involved.

"The investigation focused on six artillery shells fired by the IDF," said the conservative Israel News Agency. "The army says it is certain five landed about 250 metres (820ft) from the beach where the Ghalia family were sitting. One shell apparently misfired, but the explosion which ripped through the Ghalia family's picnic was at least eight minutes afterwards, the army says."
"Another senior Israel officer had concluded that it was a Hamas work accident where an explosion of a stockpile of Kassam rockets had caused the civilian fatalities," said INA.
Their headline: "Israel Proves Gaza Deaths Caused by Palestinian Terrorism."

That conclusion was unanimously dismissed by Arab editorialists. Al-Ahram Weekly in Egypt called it the work of the "Israeli army's disinformation mill." The Ghalia family was "slaughtered," said the Arab News in Saudi Arabia.

"For many Arabs, it is still hard to digest how the world leaders can tolerate a heart shattering crime such as the one committed by the Israelis against a happy family in Gaza and refrain from calling it by its true name: a cold-blooded crime," said the Gulf News in Qatar.
Four European newspapers undertook their own examination of the incident. Three questioned the Israeli version and one questioned the Palestinian version.

The Guardian concluded that "evidence from hospital records, doctors' testimony and witness accounts challenges the military's central assertion that it had stopped shelling by the time seven members of the Ghalia family were killed"

The Independent (by subscription) headlines their story, "Hospital casts doubt on Israel's version of attack that killed seven Palestinians."

"The Israeli Army has admitted to The Times that its official account of the explosion that killed eight Palestinians picnicking on a Gaza beach last week was flawed," said the London daily. "The account is also contradicted by a UN radio transmission."

"The army has told The Times that its report was flawed because it failed to mention two gunboat shells fired at about the time of the deaths. It insists, however, that they landed too far away to have been responsible."
The Sueddeutshce Zeitung (in German) questioned the account of Palestinian cameraman Zakarija Abu Harbed, calling the story "an example of how Palestinians sometimes bend the truth." (The Zionism-Israel Information Center, an independent Web site in Israel, has posted an English translation of SZ article here.)

"Harbed explains that he had been informed afterwards about the explosion and driven to the scene by the rescue medics in the ambulance," SZ reported. "In his pictures however, Harbed films the hysteria of the ten-year Huda, as if he were a witness of the detonation. Also he films the arrival of the medics, as though he was at the beach beforehand. Additionally, some of the dead and wounded are covered with cloths -- who did that?"

Mark Gerlasco, a former U.S. military intelligence officer who works for Human Rights Watch, concluded that the Israeli investigation is " incomplete because it excludes important evidence."

Human Rights Watch is calling for an independent investigation, as is the Palestinian Authority. Israel has expressed no interest in the possibility.

Meanwhile, the Middle East Times reports that Gazans looking for a respite from the ongoing Israeli military action to free Gilad Shalit are staying away from "the beautiful sand beaches" where the Ghalias perished.

By Jefferson Morley |  June 29, 2006; 9:45 AM ET  | Category:  Mideast
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Gotta love completly biased stories

Posted by: Tait | June 29, 2006 10:45 AM

Personally, I'm sick and tired of US support for Israel. Israel has become a ball and chain around America's neck. I think it's time to cut the ball and chain loose.

Posted by: Thomas A Sazani | June 29, 2006 10:47 AM

I am not sure why the western world gets so outraged by a misfired shell that kills a few civilians. The terrorists routinely and deliberaly slaughter busloads of women and children without any press outrage atall. Wierd how we expect so much more from civilized people than we do from barbarians.

Posted by: Brock | June 29, 2006 10:48 AM

Juan Cole is irresponsible in not discussing much about the prologue to the Israeli military's bombing of civilians on a Gaza beach earlier in the month, which involves Hamas not acknowliging Israel's right to exist.

Juan Cole said:
The U.S. media coverage of the ongoing Israel incursion into Gaza "has been irresponsible in not covering much about the prologue to the present violence, the Israeli military's bombing of civilians on a Gaza beach earlier in the month."

Posted by: Robert in Boston | June 29, 2006 10:50 AM

Heard it best on the radio last night.

If there were no weapons in Palestine, there would be no war. If there were no weapons in Israel, there would be no Israel.

Posted by: Joe | June 29, 2006 10:52 AM

I agree with Cole. That's why we should be talking about the rocket attacks from Gaza that led to the shelling in the first place. Even if the Israeli military is shown to be reponsible for the Palestinian family's death on the beach, it was an accident. Palestinian rocket attacks are designed to kill civilians, pure and simple. Leave it to Cole to not understand the difference.

Posted by: John Laver | June 29, 2006 10:54 AM

"if there were no weapons in palestine there would be no war."

Joe - There is no war now. A war implies a more or less equal footing between two combatants. What is going on in Palestine is wholesale slaughter of an occupied people. Condoned by America, of course. And you wonder why the "terrorists" have issues with us.

Posted by: Thom | June 29, 2006 10:55 AM

To: Juan Cole

Your comments are correct. It appears that the media never antagonizes Israel.
This may reflect not only on Liberals in general but also of those that are Jewish. The two are synonymous. One could also conclude that liberals and Democrats are also one and the same.

Posted by: Spook | June 29, 2006 10:57 AM

The world know the Palestiniens terroristes and others in Afganistan, Timor etc... kill civiliens intentionally, kidnap them and somtime behead them. Israel does not target innocent civiliens, but in any war, innocent peoples are in the path of death. I remember word war 2.
My comment will not change anybody thinking, poeple just know.Please do not reply.

Posted by: Christian | June 29, 2006 10:59 AM

More apparent innocent victims of this Lunacy that seems to go on without end. Neither the Palestinians or the Israelies are without blame, and its time for this to stop.

Both need to recognize that this issue will not be solved by force, its time to accept the facts and recognize the futility of this whole exercise.

You don't have to love or even like each other, but for the sake of the innocents, learn some tolerance.

You both have the right to exist peacefully, all you need now is the intelligence to embrace this right, and find a way. Certainly, a great change in attitude is necessary. How can people live in peace when their avowed intent is to destroy each other.

Step back, use some common sense, ignore the radicals on both sides, and Give Peace a Chance.

Posted by: Max | June 29, 2006 11:00 AM

This is about the third time Jafferson Morley has hinted on how the U.S media ignores or downplays stories about palestinian deaths but is quick to highlight Israeli deaths. But once again, he does not explore that question. In his article he also seems to suggest that the European press was somewhat evenly divided: not at all. The European papers that examined the evidence felt it was highly likely that the shells were israeli. It seems Israel is untouchable in the media and in the political sphere.

Posted by: Chris w. | June 29, 2006 11:00 AM

As long as we're viewing news with a more comprhensive prologue..... my undertsanding is that Israel dragged it's citizens, kicking and screaming, out of Gaza. There is not ONE Israeli left in that "territory". Left on their own, the Gazans have done NOTHING to create a better life for themselves except elect a terrorist government and lob 500 missiles into Israel. Thought a little "prologue" might be helpful.

Posted by: Rick in Agoura Hills | June 29, 2006 11:03 AM

What a one sided view point !!! if you truely want to be fair about the arab views, just look at what is happening in Dafur. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, hundreds have been raped and tortured by arab muslims..This is still going on daily.. Yet, not a word from the arab league.. Why not report that???

Your one sided liberal reporting only gives shelter to this GENOCIDE !!!

Posted by: | June 29, 2006 11:03 AM

It is really sick. I doubt so called Americans remember that they also invaded and killed native Americans who can say USA is their promised land.

Posted by: Min | June 29, 2006 11:04 AM

Yes, and the Arab media is so honest and unbiased itself. Maybe if the Palestinians didn't delight in torturing and killing and then saying it was a glorious event done as the will of god people would think of them as more than the savages they act like. Every day these innocent, misunderstood savages fire rockets into Isreal. One guy was proud it was his rocket that hit a school. These are the people we are supposed to feel sorry for? Let them all rot in their "heaven" with their god Allah. They are animals and deserve to be treated as such.

Posted by: T | June 29, 2006 11:05 AM

exelent artickle,i hope that we shall see more of this kind of journalism .i saw the coverage in the middle east,and i felt the pain,i hope this kind of realization by the print meidea in america will free their press from ZIONISM

Posted by: MARIA TORON | June 29, 2006 11:06 AM

Your article is titles "World Opinion Roundup", but your content doesn't seem to include an equal sampling of worldwide opinion. Why is that?


Posted by: Skeptic | June 29, 2006 11:07 AM

Americans are being DRENCHED IN ISRAELI PROPAGANDA... Why is this story on PAGE A20 of today's WASPost???

Posted by: Patriot-for-Peace | June 29, 2006 11:09 AM

Funny how Cole's article doesn't mention the Hamas members who were seen digging up mines out of the beach after the Ghalia family was killed by an explosion, mines that were place there after Israeli commandos came ashore on that same beach to raid a Quasan Rocket factory. The unwillingness of the arab "street" to face their own complicity in the slaughter of their own people is a major factor in the dynamics of violence. Sensational journalism tailored to feed the Arab conspiracy-theory mindset is another.

Posted by: Erut | June 29, 2006 11:09 AM

Am truly annoyed with Western World's Palestine/Israel analysis about who killed who first. This has been going on since 1947 and will never stop. Rather than always arguing about this "Square 2" let's get back to "Square 1": why did the Western World force the Palestinians of their land and give it to European Jews - because Europe first killed many in Hitlers Concentration Camps and then didn't know how to make survivors feel welcome again in their own country? Do the Arabs then pay the price. Doen't make sense!

Posted by: Anagadir | June 29, 2006 11:11 AM

Perhaps if Palestinian Arabs:

1) accepted the the partition offer for their own state in 1948
2) not attacked Israel in '67, '73, blah blah bla
3) not been kept in UN refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, by their Arab brothers for 50 yrs
4) not had the corrupt Arafat pimping his wife in Paris
5) accepted the Barak/Clinton offer
6) not accepted support from Saddam Hussein, Iran, Syria
7) not elected Hamas
8) embraced the Gaza withdrawl with some reward for territorial conccessions
9) not fired countless Qassams into Israel
10) not kidnapped and killed Israelis

they would get better press

Posted by: Rick in Agoura Hills | June 29, 2006 11:16 AM

This is terrorism. It doesn't matter to the person who was killed if some American armchair Zionist calls it a "mistake." They're still dead.

Palestinian woman killed in Israeli air strike

Tiscali - Jun 25 5:02 PM
GAZA (Reuters) - One woman was killed and 13 other Palestinians were wounded on Wednesday in what appeared to be the latest in a series of botched Israeli missile strikes against Gaza militants, witnesses said.

Posted by: Patriot-for-Peace | June 29, 2006 11:19 AM


Israel has never captured and killed a single Palestinian in cold blood. Worst case they go to jail. This is whats called a democracy. The only innocent Palestinians that die are the ones that are stupid enough to stand next to the terrorists when they get killed.

On the other hand, Palestinians have captured and killed many Israelis and American's in cold blood. This is whats called a terrorist controlled state.

See the difference? Democracy. Terrorist state. Democracy. Terrorist state. Not very difficult people.

This is why the U.S. rightfully sees Hamas as a terrorist entity. Even Japan cut off money to Hamas cause they know the kind of animals these people are.


Posted by: Dan | June 29, 2006 11:21 AM

Thank you, Dan. Oh, here's a quarter... Go buy a clue.


Posted by: Patriot-for-Peace | June 29, 2006 11:24 AM

Hey Juan! Before you think you know everything about people you should get your facts straight about why Israel does what it does. After watching this video, you name me ONE country that would put up with this b*llsh*t!!

Posted by: Salvadore | June 29, 2006 11:25 AM

I grew up in Lebanon in the early eighties and I've experienced and heard about the atrocities that were perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Yasser Arafat against those who did not share similar religious and ethnic backgrounds or views.

To this day, I take everything the Palestinian Authority and it's posse with a grain of salt to say the least.

Nonetheless, I would expect the media to cover all sides in the conflict equally by allowing each side to provide their version of the story.

I am a huge news junkie and I read papers from across the globe. I must say the coverage of the Middle East conflict has been more balanced in Israel than in the United States.

I just wish the American media would put more effort into covering this conflict more objectively, if anything, this would give more credibility to the opinions of the many of us that believe the Palestinian Authority continues to lack the strategic skills, authority, and will to guide the creation of a peaceful and sustainable Palestine. Who knows, this could probably push Americans of Palestinian descents to lobby for a new leadership that could bring prosperity and peace to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Hopefully, I am not waiting for Godot!

Posted by: Marwan from Tallahassee | June 29, 2006 11:25 AM

The truly ironic thing about this is that it is all being done in an effort to sustain the ragged remains of the Israeli settler movement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The actions and beliefs of the leaders and proponents of the settlers have caused many in the Israeli army to balk and even disobey orders because they find the situation so offensive.

And while it is admirable and expected that any army would do whatever it could to retrieve one of it's soldiers, it must be sickening for many Israelis to realize that after all of the horrible things it might take to get him back have transpired, he will either be sent out again to stand in a circle of human targets around a group of people who have built homes on another countries soil and whose actions and beliefs make the KKK look like the NAACP in comparison, or be sent out to shell the most densely populated place on the planet and then claim that the "enemy" is using human shields when Israeli artillery hit numerous innocent men, women, and children.

Only America can put an end to this madness by cutting off the 3 to 6 billion dollars a year that it takes to cover the massive shortfall caused by the occupation and settlement movement. Cut off the funding and diplomatic/military support and the Isrealis will have little choice but to withdraw from the occupied territories. This will speed up the peace process, create truely defensible borders for Israel, Boost both the US and Israeli standing in the world at a time when we both really need it and bring the US back to the Moral Highground, where we belong.
It would also be in keeping with longstanding American policy regarding the settlers.


Posted by: J | June 29, 2006 11:26 AM

Now that all the Palestinian factions have agreed to Israel's right to exist, its about time for all the Israelis and their supporters all over the world to acknowledge the right of Palestine to exist -- which has been the root of the problem for the last 60 years.

Posted by: GregD | June 29, 2006 11:27 AM

Perhaps if Israel never tried to

1. Send Missile attacks in densely populated Urban areas

2. Indiscriminately shell Palestinians.

3. Indiscriminately destroy critical civilian infrastructures.

4. Create an Apartheid wall

5. Arbitrarily set conditions to which the Palestinian Authority has neither the means nor the incentives to accomplish

6. Arbitrarily decide whom within the PA they can compromise with

7. Regard the Palestinians with contempt

The Peace process would have been a lot easier to kick off. If memory served it was an ultranationalist Jew who killed Rabin, the only Israeli Prime Minister who actually took the Palestinian Peace Process seriously

Posted by: sinistra | June 29, 2006 11:32 AM

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