Inhumanity in Gaza is happening right before our eyes – and the whole world is watching.
Watching but maybe not really seeing – and certainly not fully grasping. Those unhappy news truths became clear as we chronicled the week’s events from our frequent perch here at the intersection of the media, policy and politics.
And chiefly among those who were not really seeing nor fully grasping were those who were running the media end of the news. All week and especially during television’s Sunday news-talk fest, we saw news made in the form of visuals and words – yet also some disturbingly flagrant news gaps.
Pictures: In our living rooms, we saw horrors of war that happened just moments ago, half a world away. Heart-wrenching tragedies of children, wounded or worse, being carried to hospitals or morgues, and their parents wailing in helpless grief that hit us all where we live. Those instant pictures of war’s horrors will be forever in our mind’s eye.
Words: In our living rooms, we also heard words describing why those horrors were happening. We heard Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on every channel explaining Hamas has fired barrages of rockets from Palestinian Gaza into Israel’s cities. And that Hamas deliberately placed its rocket launchers, arsenals and entrances to terrorism tunnels into Israel among Palestinian civilians so Israeli retaliation strikes would cause horrible civilian casualties. And we saw how Hamas made sure TV cameras could show the world Palestinian civilian tragedies Israel caused.
Gaps: Virtually unmentioned in these reports was that Hamas, which the U.S. government classified as a terrorist organization, has had two backers and enablers: Qatar and Turkey, both considered U.S. allies. Their aid became vital after Hamas lost its biggest aid backers, Iran and Syria, after Hamas backed the rebels in Syria’s uncivil war.
U.S. TV interviewers gave pathetically short shrift to the key question: How could Hamas and its enablers justify the inhumanity of locating launchers, arsenals and tunnels amid Palestinian civilians – forcing Israel to kill and maim women and children just to halt rockets Hamas was raining upon Israel’s cities and people.
Sunday, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his side tried to get Hamas to stop locating its launchers and weapons amid Palestinians – but there were no follow up questions on why these Palestinian leaders didn’t mount a worldwide campaign to save their brothers and sisters from Hamas’s warfare criminality. Other networks either made a mere passing stab at it, or ignored the question.
No network anchor or interviewer seemed to have thought through the full importance and implication of the venality of what Hamas was doing to willfully endanger its own civilian population for a victory in a political PR war. No one questioned United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was flying to Qatar, on why U.N. schools in Gaza have been used as Hamas arsenals – or the morality of the civilian tragedy Hamas’ financial enablers have made possible. And of course, no one questioned the leaders of Qatar or Turkey about any of the above.
But one U.S. luminary was questioned about it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose Democratic San Francisco district has a large Palestinian population, who also has staunch support among American Jews, and who apparently is close to prominent potentates in Qatar. Questioned by CNN’s Candy Crowley, Pelosi struggled to support everyone at once, say nothing newsworthy, and finally seemed in danger of drowning in her own stream of consciousness sentence fragments. As in:
“…war is a deadly thing … any missile that comes from someplace has a return address. And if Israel is responding to that address, then that’s a shame that the Palestinians are use, are rumored to be using children and families as shields for their missiles… We have to support the Palestinians and what they need…”
Then, finally and bizarrely: “And we have to confer with the Qataris, who have told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization. Maybe they could use their influence to –”
Here CNN’s anchor threw her guest a life preserver. She interjected that of course the U.S. government labels Hamas a terrorist organization and helpfully asked if Pelosi agrees. To which Pelosi elaborated, in a carefully non-quotable response presented here its entirety:
This was the week when the first and only woman to hold America’s high office of House Speaker helped us appreciate the sentiments of baseball’s Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel, who upon observing his brand new but hapless 1962 New York Mets, asked:
“Can’t anybody here play this game?”
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.