Last night ABC news ran a piece on the trauma experienced by children on both sides of the Gaza border. It’s an important topic and good for ABC for covering it. But a completely inaccurate and misleading assumption was inherent in the report, which is available on ABC’s website (seen above).
The video package about the children is introduced by anchor Charles Gibson as such: “Youngsters on both sides of the border are being killed, injured and traumatized”. Then the following graphic went up on screen:
ABC listed the United Nations as the source of these statistics , but the network’s news team left one critical word out of their graphic representation: Palestinian. In fact, the UN’s reporting of the figures was actually based on Palestinian medical sources in Gaza. The story about the child deaths was actually first published by the Associated Press, which is clear in its headline that those killed are Palestinian:
But why did ABC decide to drop the word Palestinian from its reporting of the death toll?
At the very least, one would have expected anchor Gibson or the reporter, Jim Sciutto, to have clarified that the dead and injured children were actually Palestinians. But this never happened. Instead, Sciutto introduced his report as such: “Israeli and Palestinian children live such separate lives, but they share the same fear: fear of rockets, fear of air strikes, fear of losing loved ones.”
In his moving report, Sciutto captured the voices of two Palestinians children and two Israeli children.
But in the Associated Press report, around a dozen Palestinian children are profiled and no Israeli children are ever mentioned, let alone reported dead.
In the AP story, there are eight photos of dead, wounded or crying Palestinian children. ABC chose to run a few of the AP photos but also added images of Israeli children. ABC then broadcast the series of photos as a slide show, without identifying the victims as Israeli or Palestinian.
AP’s approach to the story reflected that of many international broadcasters such as Al Jazeera and BBC World. These broadcasters have made a clear distinction between Palestinian injuries and deaths, and have repeatedly established that the hundreds of Palestinian casualties far exceed the dozen or so fatalities–mainly military ones— on the Israeli side. For international broadcasters, the power dynamic on the battlefield is clear.
But ABC and other American broadcasters have taken a different approach. They have often juxtaposed Israeli and Palestinian realities as somehow being similarly difficult. The determination to create such a distinction involves creating a false parallel in the reporting, and this has often been bolstered by a trend of omitting information. For example, reports that have aired on NBC and ABC over the past two days have routinely dropped the Palestinian death toll, as if not newsworthy enough to report.
But now, by using Palestinian figures without identifying them, the desire to frame the story has become so powerful that the news networks have apparently been driven to outright manipulation of the facts. In this case, viewers are mislead into believing that there is no distinction between the casualty numbers of Palestinian and Israeli children.