|Gaza: one of the flocked children [Image Source]|
Consumers of the news? Not so much.
Agence France Presse, one of the world's major packagers and syndicators of news reporting and imagery, and the oldest (founded in 1835), provides news outlets throughout the world with many of the stories they publish. From conversations, we sense that the role of the large packagers - including Reuters, Associated Press and Xinhua - is barely comprehended by end-users. But their influence, as newspapers lack the profitability and cash to employ their own reporters in the many (often troubled) locations where news is made, is vast.
So a person might think that with a heavy and growing responsibility for getting those stories right, AFP (which is still entirely owned by the French government) and the others would make efforts to present things in a balanced, objective way, free of editorializing and bias.
Which brings us to a story that AFP syndicated out to its news customers in the last 24 hours.
It's datelined Gaza, and describes systematic child abuse carried out yet again, on a colossal scale, by the thugs of certain outlawed terrorist organizations operating in dark Islamist/Moslem Brotherhood-controlled corners of the world, and the outrage from the many organizations, those with the huge budgets and the heart-rending websites and a mandate to speak for the urgent need to protect innocent children, loudly condemning the facts presented in the article.
Actually we're being sarcastic. Today's AFP report, headlined "Gaza youngsters flock to Hamas training camps", does no such thing, though the facts describe a humanitarian disaster of global significance.
(The syndicated story's title appears in different forms, and with changes to the text, in several different versions published around the world today. In Malaysian for instance it carries this headline: "Gaza conundrum with the youth: Hamas training for war or social well-being?" And as an aside: how appropriate is it, given what we know about the violent, authoritarian hand of Hamas, that this describes children flocking? How much freedom of action do the parents have under Hamas rule, let alone the school-children? The reporter surely knows the truth: she lives in Gaza from where she has worked for AFP since 2008.)
Here's how it opens:
Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Hatem is only 14 but has already lived through three wars with Israel. Now the young Gazan says he is making sure he'll be ready to fight in the next one. "The Israelis killed my niece last summer. Now I want to kill them," he told AFP after completing a week-long youth training camp with militants from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement. "I will become a resistance fighter," the boy said proudly during a graduation ceremony in Gaza.If you read it through, you might notice that words like jihad, Moslem, terror, terrorist, terrorism, child-abuse, are missing. They don't appear once. The word Islamist, which is central to the facts recounted in the article, gets a single mention. But that's only because it is part of the name of the regime under whose auspices the whole disgraceful affair is being carried out.
AFP's report describes how
"17,000 youngsters... graduated late last month from two military training camps where Hamas - the de facto power in Gaza - said it was preparing the next generation to fight against Israel... With the humanitarian situation in post-war Gaza growing steadily worse, a fresh flare-up with Israel seems likely. And with many schools being used to shelter the displaced and unemployment standing at 41 percent, it was not difficult to convince youngsters to join the camps.Alert readers might be wondering why "the humanitarian situation in post-war Gaza" is "growing steadily worse", and whether the local authorities are acting to prevent that or to exacerbate it. When the reporter says "a fresh flare-up with Israel seems likely", is this because Israel is encouraging it? Or does the Gaza regime seek to bring it on? A careful reading convey the joys of an approaching war and the passions that two camps for 17,000 children can arouse. But the logical next step - do they want war? or do they fear it? - is not taken by AFP or its reporter. Why is this? And how manipulated is the voice of a 14 year-old ("I want to kill them") like "Hatem" in a society where everything is watched and controlled?
To their (small) credit, AFP's news gatherers concede that
Hamas has been running summer camps for youngsters for years, but this week-long session was a much more serious affair. Run for the first time by militants from the Qassam Brigades, there were no "fun" sessions - and no mid-week visits to Gaza's zoo... Hamas has rushed to defend the military training... "What have we gained from 20 years of futile negotiations?"(Hamas negotiated? When? Where? With whom? It's propaganda and nonsense. AFP knows that. Most of its readers don't.)
And right at the very bottom of the piece, it quotes a solitary voice invoking human rights from inside Gaza:
Issam Yunis, head of Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan, said the camps were a dangerous development in a territory where more than half of the population is under 15. "Gazan children are traumatised by the violence, so some are attracted by the military training," he said. "But the priority today should be to take care of their social and physical well-being."The social and physical well-being of children? Now there's a subject worth exploring. But not for AFP. Those are the very last words of the news report; an opportunity to ask the worthy groups who seek the well-being of children everywhere else is lost. We're thinking of groups like UNICEF, Defence for Children International, UNESCO, Child Rights International Network, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Washington-based Jerusalem Fund, Save the Children, Arab Council for Childhood Development and others.
A year ago ["15-Jan-14: When a society praises itself for turning its children into human bombs, whose problem is that?"] we asked here whether there is some sort of explanation for why those NGOs are silent:
If there is a reason, let them say it. It's inconceivable that they are unaware of this horror. The real story is not the military-style training and the pledges by children to die for the values of those hideous, terror-addicted Hamas insiders. It's this: where is the outrage of the civilized world? We especially want to know what UNRWA plans to do about the Hamas death-cultism. With an enormous footprint in the Gaza Strip, this has to become UNRWA's issue. Its website, the front end of the perpetual global UNRWA fund-raising, asserts this lofty set of aspirations: "We are committed to fostering the human development of Palestine refugees by helping them to: Acquire knowledge and skills; Lead long and healthy lives; Achieve decent standards of living; Enjoy human rights to the fullest possible extent." [UNRWA | Our priorities] ...[H]ow acceptable [is] it to them that six year old Gazan children (or for that matter 16 year olds) are given training in the lethal use of AK47s that are bigger than some of the children holding them [see Daily Mail UK]. Let them drop the charade and admit they have no problem with it, if that's the reality. We know the Palestinian Arab Islamists have no problem with this at all... Who is going to save these children? It certainly is not going to be Hamas and their co-conspirators.
- 5-Jul-12: Needed: Bridge over troubled Gazan waters
- 24-Jan-13: Sacrificing the lives of an entire generation of adolescents on their altar of hatred, the thugs of Hamas boast of plans to create a children's army
- 17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns
- 29-Apr-13: Hamas demonstrates importance of solid education. Stand by for vigorous response from Amnesty, UNICEF et al
- 18-Jun-13: They want their children to become killers and they say why. The rest of us are left with questions
- 3-Jul-13: Educating the next generation: an early-summer reflection on asymmetry
- 8-Oct-13: Children and their indispensable role in the conflict
- 15-Jan-14: When a society praises itself for turning its children into human bombs, whose problem is that?
- 27-Jan-14: In Gaza, a death cult celebrates its graduating class
- 14-Feb-14: As its children face major new threat, Hamas leadership in Gaza gears up for another crisis
- 24-Nov-14: Destroying their own children's lives is not the worst option for the terrorists. In their eyes, it may even be the best
|LIFE, June 1970 [Image Source]|
What chance is there that Reuters, Associated Press and Xinhua will pick up that aspect of the story and take it where it should go by demanding meaningful responses - condemnation? fury? - from the child-rights industry? Meanwhile who are the real losers?
Perhaps the children in the famous LIFE magazine cover on the right. Reminding us that this tragic abuse of human potential is not new, it comes from June 1970, two generations ago. If they are still alive, the boys in the photograph would be in at least their mid-fifties today. What kind of life did that vaunted "new pride and unity" bestow on them? How do its contours and achievements compare with those of boys and men in other parts of the world? In Israel? Now that might be a news story worth writing and reading.