New York Times and The Guardian Starving Readers of Context

October 18, 2012 13:37 by

The Associated Press reports on a newly declassified IDF document allegedly calculating how many calories would be needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli authorities were accused of using such guidelines to use food as a pressure tactic against Hamas, a charge rejected by Israel, which stated that it had never acted on the document.

AP, to its credit, included some relevant context that would go some way to explaining why Israel would have instigated a blockade of Gaza in the first place (emphasis added):

The Israeli government imposed the blockade on Gaza after identifying it as a “hostile territory” in September 2007, three months after the takeover by Hamas, an armed, Iranian-backed group committed to Israel’s destruction. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks and both Israel and the U.S. consider it a terrorist group.

In a government resolution on the blockade, Israel called for restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods in and out of the territory and to reduce the supply of fuel and electricity. The resolution, which noted repeated rocket attacks launched from Gaza, said Israel would strive “to avoid a humanitarian crisis.”

The New York Times and The Guardian both used AP copy for their own stories. Both of them edited the original however. Neither included the latter two paragraphs but look what happened to the first two paragraphs above.

The New York Times:

The blockade was imposed shortly after Hamas took over Gaza. Israel declared it a hostile territory in September 2007. Seeking to weaken the militants, it called for “severe restrictions” on civilians that included limitations on food.

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The Guardian:

Israel imposed the blockade after identifying Gaza as a “hostile territory” in September 2007, following the takeover by Hamas. The Israeli resolution said it intended severe restrictions on civilians.

See how in both cases the original AP paragraph has been edited down to omit reference to the background of Hamas, terrorism and rockets from Gaza. Also missing is the reference to Israel’s declared intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

In addition, both the New York Times and The Guardian omitted the AP’s original closing paragraphs that also add more context as to why Israel would be maintaining a blockade:

Construction materials are still largely barred from entering, on the ground that Gaza militants could use items such as pipes and concrete to attack Israel. A naval blockade also remains in effect, which Israel says is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling at sea. Exports remain heavily restricted.

“Israel never saw the people of Gaza as our enemy,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. “On the contrary, we saw them as victims of the extremist Hamas regime, a regime that places its very radical agenda above and beyond the interest of the people of Gaza.”

While the AP has produced a reasonably balanced report, the New York Times and The Guardian have both cut the context that may create a more sympathetic or understanding view of Israel’s actions.

Now why would they do that?

Send your considered comments to the New York Times – [email protected] – and The Guardian’s readers’ editor – [email protected]

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