Facebook Fights Fake News With Biased Gaza Video

A video commissioned by British Channel 4 for Facebook Watch called “Gaza: life in the deadly blockade” shows a horrendously context-free and one-sided portrayal of the Gaza border protests.

Gaza: life in the deadly blockade

Amputees have become a common sight in Gaza as Palestinians are shot during protests at Israel’s border.

Children as young as 12 have lost limbs – with Israel saying it’s acting in self-defence.

Posted by Channel 4 on Thursday, 25 April 2019

The video, uploaded to UK television Channel 4’s Facebook page and promoted through Facebook Watch, fails to mention the deep involvement of Hamas in instigating the violence, even though the vast majority of those killed in the border riots were associated with the organization. The majority of the remainder were associated with a rival terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Instead, viewers are simply told that “these families went to the front lines together,  and came back severely wounded,” and that over “260 people have been killed, 50 of them children.” That some of those minors killed were members of Hamas’s armed wing is not deemed relevant enough for inclusion in the video, naturally.

Beyond the omission of Hamas’s role in conducting the violence, there is also no coverage in the video of the thousands of explosive filled-balloons, condoms and kites that were launched on a daily basis for months. Nor do viewers see the result of the blazes sparked by these crude firebombs – many thousands of acres of scorched forest, crops and fields.

While covering the human toll is fair and important journalism, totally neglecting to mention the petrol bombs, grenades, and knives with which the more violent protesters equipped themselves lets Hamas off the hook. The video fails to inform viewers of the wider context of Hamas sporadically firing hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities and towns, hiding lethal improvised explosive devices IEDs on the border, shooting directly at Israeli soldiers, and constructing numerous tunnels into Israeli territory with the aim of kidnapping and killing Israelis, leaving Israel with a very real need to clamp down on the Gaza border.

Instead, all viewers are told is that, “traumatized and trapped, life in Gaza is suffocating.”

Hamas wants gullible audiences around the world to believe that its protests are mild and met with unreasonable force by the IDF. It wants to be viewed as the plucky underdog instead of seen for what it is; an aggressive, dangerous terrorist organization seeking to disturb the peace for the sake of political gain. In humanizing the protesters without subjecting Hamas officials or the protesters themselves to probing questions, the piece helps give Hamas what it’s looking for: legitimacy.

It all starts when Israel fires back

In one telling sentence, the presenter, clad in helmet and flak jacket, speaks directly to the camera:

These Friday protests follow a familiar pattern: first, the tear gas comes in, then the live ammunition starts, and then they bring back the injured.

Incredibly, the presenter’s summary simply avoids all mention of the Gazan rock-throwing, tire-burning, and attempts to rush the border en masse that would entail an Israeli response. As per usual, it is Israel that is the aggressor and the initiator of violence.

Romanticizing violence

Asking viewers to “meet Gaza’s young protesters” who are “risking their lives,” the video romanticizes the violence. A young boy tells the camera, “I didn’t have any weapons or gas bombs. I just had a slingshot and a stone, nothing else.” Portraying thuggish behavior as heroic, the video ignores the fact that hundreds of teens and children were allowed or even encouraged to be anywhere near a conflict zone. The video accepts wholesale the claim that protesters wanted to cross into Israel, but doesn’t question what their plans were after breaking through the border fence.

Here’s one video which might suggest the protesters’ true plans and the very real threat to Israeli lives:

Gaza under ‘siege’ claim repeated

Throughout the video, both the presenter and the Palestinians themselves refer to a ‘siege’ on numerous occasions. There is no such siege. Approximately two thousand people travel through the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza each day, and the Kerem Shalom crossing sees approximately 150,000 trucks making deliveries to Gaza yearly per COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a unit within the Defense Ministry responsible for implementing liaising with the Palestinian Authority and relevant international aid organizations). While there is a blockade on Gaza, it’s maintained by Israel and Egypt in order to negate the very real threat of Hamas weapons smuggling.

Bizarre ‘explosive bullet’ claim

During the interview, a Gazan resident called Malina Al Hindi claims that a remote Israeli sniper fired an explosive bullet at her leg. If the credulous reporter had bothered to do his job and check claims made by interviewees, the quote would never have been given air-time: there is quite simply no such thing as an explosive bullet. They simply do not exist. There is nothing wrong with Gazans sharing their own perspective, much of which may be hostile to Israel, but journalists should not provide a platform for Gazans to make false claims unchallenged.

Explosive Bullet smear

In telling her story, Al Hindi discloses a crucial piece of context that only locals and those with real knowledge of the situation on the ground would notice: there are multiple fences between Israel and Gaza. Al Hindi admits that “we opened a gap in the third barbed wire fence.” In other words, a group of protesters had broken through not one, not two, but three fences. It was only at this point that she was hit.

It would have been reasonable to ask at this point how many more warnings the IDF should have given Al Hindi and her fellow rioters. Should the IDF have waited till they entered Israel? Should the IDF have allowed her to start actively attacking Israeli civilians? Instead, the video moves on without questioning Al Hindi’s actions in any way.

Combating Fake News?

The irony of it all is that the Uncovered show was commissioned by Facebook as a means to tackle fake news. In June 2018, Facebook announced that it was looking to promote “high-quality and timely news content on the platform” to honor an earlier commitment to show news that is trustworthy, informative and local on Facebook.

Uncovered was launched in early 2019, but instead of meeting Facebook’s laudable criteria, Channel 4 has failed miserably with this video. Through missing context, failing to ask even simple questions, and selectively omitting uncomfortable details, the Gaza video fails to show nuanced, accurate picture of what’s really happening.

 

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