Whenever the millennia-old fighting in the Middle East rises above a simmer and the carnage begins showing up in the pages of the newspaper, the phone calls start.
“You must be anti-Semitic because the only photos you publish are of injured Palestinians,” the caller says. “You never show the Israeli side.”
No matter how many editorials we run supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, no matter how fair the stories might be in noting that the Palestinian civilian casualties are due to Hamas or Hezbollah using them as human shields, it’s those darn pictures.
I’ve tried explaining that Hamas invites the press in while Israelis are less inclined to parade their dead and wounded, additionally the Israelis are more accurate and devastating with their weapons, while Hamas just shoots errant missiles almost at random.
Now Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has come up with a name for it: the CNN strategy. In fact, he says that is not his term but what Hamas calls it.
Here is what Dershowitz says:
“The CNN strategy is working because decent people all over the world are naturally sickened by images of dead and injured children. When they see such images repeatedly flashed across TV screens, they tend to react emotionally. Rather than asking why these children are dying and who is to blame for putting them in harm’s way, average viewers, regardless of their political or ideological perspective, want to see the killing stopped. They blame those whose weapons directly caused the deaths, rather than those who provoked the violence by deliberately targeting civilians.
“They forget the usual rules of morality and law. For example, when a murderer takes a hostage and fires from behind his human shield, and a policeman, in an effort to stop the shooting accidentally kills the hostage, the law of every country holds the hostage taker guilty of murder even though the policeman fired the fatal shot.
“The same is true of the law of war. The use of human shields, in the way Hamas uses the civilian population of Gaza, is a war crime — as is its firing of rockets at Israeli civilians. Every human shield that is killed by Israeli self-defence measures is the responsibility of Hamas, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the media coverage.”
That’s what we’ve been saying in the news stories and editorials. Don’t just look at the pictures. Read!
Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a street near a U.N. school in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)