28May2018

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‘Skirmishes’ – Israel’s Syria Blitz

A key 'mainstream' media theme in covering the Israeli army's repeated massacres of unarmed, non-violent Palestinian civilians protesting Israel's military occupation in Gaza – killing journalists, a paramedic, the elderly and children – has been the description of these crimes as 'clashes'.

This has been a clear attempt to obfuscate the fact that while two groups of people are involved, only one group is being killed and wounded.

To the casual reader – and many readers do not venture beyond the headlines – a 'clash' suggests that both sides are armed, with both suffering casualties. One would not, for example, describe a firing squad as a 'clash'. There was no 'clash' in New York on September 11, 2001, and so on.

Following Israel's massive blitz on more than 100 targets in Syria on May 10, 'mainstream' coverage offered similarly questionable frameworks of understanding. A Guardian headline read:

'Israel retaliates after Iran "fires 20 rockets" at army in occupied Golan Heights' (Our emphasis)

For moral, legal and public relations reasons, the issue of which side started a conflict is obviously crucial. If the public recognises that the case for war is unjustified, immoral or illegal – that a country has chosen to launch a war of aggression - they will likely oppose it, sometimes in the millions, as happened in 2002 and 2003 in relation to the Iraq war. It is thus highly significant that the Guardian described Israel as retaliating.

The BBC reported of Israel's attacks:

'They came after 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights.' (Our emphasis)

Reuters took the same line as the Guardian and BBC:

'Iran targets Israeli bases across Syrian frontier, Israel pounds Syria

'Iranian forces in Syria launched a rocket attack on Israeli forces in the Golan Heights early on Thursday, Israel said, prompting one of the heaviest Israeli barrages in Syria since the conflict there began in 2011.' (Our emphasis)

The New York Times also reported:

'It was a furious response to what Israel called an Iranian rocket attack launched from Syrian territory just hours earlier.' (Our emphasis)

And yet, the report buried a challenge to its own claim that Israel had retaliated in the second half of the piece:

'Iran's rocket attack against Israel came after what appeared to have been an Israeli missile strike against a village in the Syrian Golan Heights late on Wednesday.' (Our emphasis)

According to the BBC (see below), the Israeli missile strike had targeted an Iranian drone facility killing several Iranians.

So, actually, it might be said that Iran was retaliating to Israeli attacks – a more reasonable interpretation, given recent history also described by the New York Times:

'Israel has conducted scores of strikes on Iran and its allies inside Syria, rarely acknowledging them publicly.'

Nevertheless, the corporate media theme has been that Israel retaliated, part of a long-term trend in media coverage. In a 2002 report, Bad News From Israel, The Glasgow University Media Group commented:

'On the news, Israeli actions tended to be explained and contextualised - they were often shown as merely "responding" to what had been done to them by Palestinians (in the 2001 samples they were six times as likely to be presented as "retaliating" or in some way responding than were the Palestinians).'

 

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