Background information necessary in articles about Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Brett Hausler

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

A little while ago, I picked up a copy of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. It was a typical day, where I would make my way through the Campus Center and into the Student Union to stay warm on my walk toward class in Bartlett. On the second page of the Collegian, the editor had chosen to provide several stories with issues “Around the World.” In this particular issue of the Collegian, I noticed there were two articles about Israel. One of them caught my eye, because I recognized it was written in a way that mislead and distorted the actions of Israel.

The article began with, “An Israeli airstrike killed two people in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, including a man identified by Israeli security forces as a militant who fired rockets across the border last week during former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral.” In order for proper recognition of why there was and continues to be rocket fire between Israel and Hamas, there must be some background information provided, which the original piece of writing did not include.

Israel has strived to create peace with the Palestinian government since 1948 – other instances include 1973, 2000 and 2008. Initially, in 1947, the Arab countries rejected the UN Resolution 181 (two-state solution) because they refused to recognize Israel as a legitimate country. In 1993, Israel transferred ownership of much of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. The exchange was intended for peace, but none materialized. After the evacuation of all Israelis from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinian government still refused to have peace talks with Israel. In fact, since the withdrawal – one that has caused much dispute within the Israeli and Jewish communities – Hamas, an Islamist group, has increased rocket fire into Israel from Gaza.

The article lacked context to the air strike. By naming the casualties as just people, the severity of the militant’s actions is decreased. Initial descriptions of one of the casualties as a militant is necessary in order to better illustrate a very serious situation that happened and continues to happen in Israel. In addition to this destruction, context of Hamas’ operations within Gaza borders show the struggle that Israel faces when countering continuous rocket attacks originating from Hamas militants.

Hamas uses civilian buildings in Gaza for military purposes, which is why many rockets sent into the Gaza Strip by Israel result in civilian casualties. According to the Israel Defense Forces blog, “Hamas uses homes, schools, mosques and hospitals as weapons caches and hiding spots for its fighters.” Israel has the right to attack these private properties, and they must do so with the knowledge that killing militants may come with the unpleasant loss of civilian life.

According to the Geneva Convention (Protocol 1), Article 52, “military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose, or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture, or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.” This specific rocket attack was Israel’s legal obligation with regards to Article 52.

Israel struggles to generate peace with Hamas because Hamas completely rejects a Jewish State. It has the ultimate mission to “fight the Jews and kill them” and to replace the Jewish state with an Islamic caliphate, among many other destructive actions even against its own Palestinian population. The article I am responding to did not provide context to Israel’s actions that killed a Palestinian militant. These aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict need to be offered in all articles explaining the conflict, and when they are not, the words serve no purpose.

Brett Hausler is a Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America at UMass Amherst and can be reached at [email protected]