Despite widespread global condemnation of Israel's decision to attack a flotilla of boats carrying unarmed civilians attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Srip, U.S. officials have refused to publicly criticize Israel and the American media has reported the conflict through what one media monitoring group called "Israel's Eyes."
For years, Palestinians have been unable to get their side fairly reported in the U.S. media and the latest international incident is yet another example.
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"Much of the U.S. media coverage has been remarkably unskeptical of Israel's account of events and their context, and has paid little regard to international law," Fairness and Accuracy in the Media [FAIR], a media monitoring group, concluded.
On May 31, the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of boats delivering aid to Gaza, killing as many as 11 activists aboard. Israel said its military came under attack when they boarded the vessels and were acting in self-defense. It also said such inspections were necessary to protect its sworn enemies from obtaining weapons that would endanger Israel.
The response from the international community has been strong.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said, "What has happened is completely unacceptable. We should be clear about that and we should also deplore the loss of life."
France's Foreign Secretary Bernard Koucher said instead of Israel inspecting Gaza-bound ships for weapons, the European Union would be willing to perform that function, thereby easing tension between the Israelis and Palestinians.
However, Israel rejects that suggestion as well as the idea of an international inquiry.
Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said on Fox News: "Israel is a democracy. Israel has the ability and the right to investigate itself, not to be investigated by any international board."
Major media outlets have sided with Israel.
For example, a Washington Post editorial declared, "We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla – a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists."
The New York Times claimed it provided a one-sided account because, "There were no immediate accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship."
FAIR observed, "The Times piece also showed little interest in international law, mentioning Israel's claim regarding the legality of their actions but providing no analysis from any international law expert to support or debunk the claim: 'Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade."
That position was disputed by former British ambassador Craig Murray.
"To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal," he said. "It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare."
As usual, conservatives seized on the opportunity to criticize Obama.
Sean Hannity of Fox said he was "concerned about the lack of support from the United States of America." Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt claimed that Obama displayed "hostility to Israel" and joined the "pounding of Israel."
The Obama administration has been taking a pounding from the left for not taking a stronger position on the incident.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires thoughtful responses from all concerned." She added, "We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of ensuring a credible investigation, including international participation."
According to ABC's Jake Tapper, the U.S. was successful in softening a UN resolution that had favored an international inquiry into the incident.
Most of the news reports lacked sufficient context.
The United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has earlier reported:
• As a consequence of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, 98 percent of industrial operations have been halted since 2007 and there are acute shortages of fuel, cash, cooking gas and other basic supplies;
• Israel has destroyed the water of sanitation infrastructure in Gaza, leading to major water-related problems;
• In Gaza, the Israeli blockade has wrecked the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and preventing serious medical cases from traveling outside the Strip for specialized treatment and
• Israel's military operations in 2008,2009 damaged 15 of the strip's 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary healthcare facilities. None of them have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.
The report accuses Israel of deliberately disrupting the international community's efforts to aid Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A year ago, the UN submitted a request for Israeli approval of an $80 million plan to provide housing, education and medical assistance to residents of Gaza. However, nine months later, approval was granted only for the construction of 151 residential units in Khan Yunis.
It was within that context that civilians challenged Israel's blockade as they attempted to deliver aid to embattled Palestinians.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.