Friday, September 12, 2014

12-Sep-14: Do open spaces in journalists' heads help explain the media's ongoing acceptance of Gaza myth-making?

Really? No open spaces in Gaza? [Image Source: Peace Now]
An Associated Press article published this morning ["Evidence growing that Hamas used residential areas"] makes a startling observation:
Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas militants used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel, at least at times. Even Hamas now admits "mistakes" were made. But Hamas says it had little choice in Gaza's crowded urban landscape, took safeguards to keep people away from the fighting, and that a heavy-handed Israeli response is to blame for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. "Gaza, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south, is one uninterrupted urban chain that Israel has turned into a war zone," said Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza... [AP, today]
Beyond the "no, duh" reaction of those of who actually pay attention to issues like the firing of rockets from locations deliberately close to people, journalists, schools, and UN facilities, the AP writers - Hamza Hendawi and Josef Federman, both of them senior reporters - seem to treat the Hamas terrorist spokesperson as a credible authority about the absence of Gazan open spaces without justification and against all the evidence, while failing to use their own powers of observation.

Do they believe what they wrote? Should their readers? Do they know how much of the Gaza Strip is made up of sparsely populated open, sandy spaces? They should. And they should say so.

In a punchy August 5, 2014 article on the Gatehouse Institute website, prominent Harvard professor and litigation lawyer Alan Dershowitz writes ["The empty spaces in Gaza"] asks the questions that AP's men should have raised. And he suggests answers:
Why don't the media show the relatively open areas of the Gaza Strip? Why do they only show the densely populated cities? 
There are several possible reasons. There is no fighting going on in the sparsely populated areas, so showing them would be boring. But that's precisely the point—to show areas from which Hamas could be firing rockets and building tunnels but has chosen not to. Or perhaps the reason the media doesn't show these areas is that Hamas won't let them. That too would be a story worth reporting. 
Second, why doesn't Hamas use sparsely populated areas from which to launch its rockets and build its tunnels? Were it to do so, Palestinian civilian casualties would decrease dramatically, but the casualty rate among Hamas terrorists would increase dramatically. That is precisely why Hamas selects the most densely populated areas from which to fire and dig. The difference between Israel and Hamas is that Israel uses its soldiers to protect its civilians, whereas Hamas uses its civilians to protect its terrorists. That is why most of Israeli casualties have been soldiers and most of Hamas' casualties have been civilians. The other reason is that Israel builds shelters for its civilians, whereas Hamas builds shelters only for its terrorists, intending that most of the casualties be among its civilian shields. [Dershowitz, August 5, 2014]
Those sparsely populated areas located right around the towns of Gaza are hardly a state secret in the age of Google Maps. Here [click] is an aerial view of the spaces around Khan Younis, just to take one randomly selected example. We captured this image today: sand dunes, undeveloped acres, something pretty close to vast open spaces:

Google Maps image captured today [Link]
Here's how the land south and south-west of crowded Gaza City looks from the air: open spaces aplenty for anyone wanting to minimize the dangers to the civilian population.

Google Maps image captured today [Link]
For the purposes of pushing ahead with its war, the Hamas leadership of Gaza have formulated a winning approach to demonstrating how unavoidable their human-shield strategy is. Just assert your claims to the world's major news agencies and... they're most likely going to believe you and carry your narrative forward until it gets accepted as fact. It's breathtakingly easy once you have laid the groundwork. (Intimidation of reporters, both explicit and more subtle, is key to understanding how this is done.)

Check out Gaza's terrain for yourself. Google Maps makes it easy.

As for the persistence of the Hamas denials that they used their own civilian population to shield their rocket men, here's one of many video files that ought to have put this issue to bed. Still the myth-making goes on. And keep in mind that, according to a Palestinian poll, the firing of rockets from close to where Gazan people live didn't happen: a poll of Palestinian Arabs last month [source] found that "60% say that Hamas does not launch rockets from populated areas, but 30% say it does." And anyway "49% think it is justified for Hamas to launch rockets from populated areas." Now watch:

If we can find evidence of this kind about open spaces and what they might mean using open source images and reports only, and Associated Press's best people cannot, what is actually going on here?

Here's a clue: "5-Aug-14: In Gaza, slowly and reluctantly, reporters - even the French - are agreeing with what the Israelis said all along".

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