Nov
21
2012

What's Missing from CBS's Gaza History?

Giving viewers a quick sense of context and history is important in any story, but especially in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Doing a bad job of it is perhaps worse than not doing it at all.

Gaza after Operation Cast Lead (Photo: Physicians for Human Rights)

Gaza after Operation Cast Lead–a war that CBS believes is not worth mentioning. (Photo: Physicians for Human Rights)

CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley gave this summary on November 19:

We wanted to remind you tonight of what Gaza is and how it came to be. The Gaza Strip was laid out in 1949 after the war that created Israel. It's home to Palestinians displaced in that war and to the generations that followed. Only 25 miles long, roughly ten miles wide, Gaza's population is 1.7 million, most of them living in poverty. Israel captured Gaza in 1967 and occupied it until 2005. One year later, the Hamas political party won the election there. The U.S. says the Hamas military wing is a terrorist organization.

Rocket attacks from Gaza have been frequent for years. Israel says the goal of this military operation is to destroy those rockets, missiles, and their launchers.

To summarize: Gaza is a poor place run by terrorists who frequently fire rockets at Israel.

The following night, nearly the same story (11/20/12):

Now, we want to remind you what Gaza is and how it came to be. The Gaza Strip was laid out in 1949 after the war that created Israel. It's home to Palestinians displaced in that war. 25 miles long and roughly ten miles wide, Gaza's population is 1.7 million. Israel occupied it until 2005. A year later the Hamas political party won the election there. The U.S. says the Hamas military wing is a terrorist organization.

All of this started when Israel retaliated after weeks of rocket attacks from Gaza.

So basically the same again, only this time we're told Israel's attack is in retaliation for weeks of rockets. (This is, to put it mildly, misleading.)

What's missing from both these brief histories? The previous Israeli military attack on Gaza, 2008-09's Operation Cast Lead, which killed about 1,400 Palestinians, including  344 children, and did extensive damage to the Gaza's civilian infrastructure. The assault was the subject of widespread international condemnation.

Most people in Gaza living under the current Israeli bombardment are probably thinking about Cast Lead, wondering if this round of violence will be as bad. But to CBS Evening News, when they tell viewers they want to "remind you what Gaza is," this history is not worth mentioning.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.