It is no secret that the media is one of the most important tools shaping public opinion. Most people tend to believe the printed word, the TV talk show host, or the various internet videos and blogs. In fact, the majority of people prefer reading or watching those with whom they agree. People prefer having their beliefs and opinions reinforced; they like to know that they are “right”, that “truth” is on their side.
This is why journalists should be scrutinized by fact-checkers, even more so than politicians, who are disposed to dispensing with their righteousness in return for money and votes.
CNN has done an excellent job covering the week-long war of attrition between Israel and Hamas. Most of the coverage seemed fair and objective except for one prime-time daily talk show, hosted by British journalist, Piers Morgan.
Piers Morgan, the host of the popular 9 PM talk-show hour at CNN, has generally done a fair job at trying to project objectivity. I lay emphasis on the word “trying” because when it comes to Israel, his attempts have failed. Mr. Morgan is not alone in his uneducated bias; I have decided to focus on him since he enjoys top ratings, and his opinions shape the thinking of a large segment of the population.
Mr. Morgan is not an anti-Semite; he is not an anti-Netanyahu; he is simply a left-leaning journalist who cares for the underdog. And in his opinion, the underdog in the fight between Israel and Hamas is the terrorist entity ruling the Gaza strip.
In his latest interviews on the subject of Israel’s “Pillar of Defense” campaign, Mr. Morgan offered his point of view by avoiding criticism of Israel’s right to self-defense; still, he kept arguing that the Palestinian Gazans were a desperate people under (“an Israeli-imposed”) siege. “No wonder,” he concluded (I rephrase here), “Hamas’s natural reaction had been expressed through violent outbursts.” These rocket attacks, according to Piers Morgan, were well understood (by him). He did not go as far as saying that he approved of or empathized with them, but the implication was unambiguous—he certainly did.
Instead of drawing conclusions by analyzing cause and effect, Mr. Morgan resorted to casualty statistics, using it as proof as to who the aggressor was. Since the number of casualties on the Palestinian side amounted to one hundred sixty seven fatalities vis-à-vis six on the Israeli side, Piers’s conclusion was inevitable. This one-dimensional, inept analysis failed to take into account several key elements that he should have considered before drawing his conclusions.
1. Hamas has always had a choice between war and peace, whereas Israel has never had that choice. Had Hamas chosen peace, its economy would have prospered with Israel’s cooperation and support. Gaza’s residents would neither be desperate, nor under siege as Mr. Morgan depicted them. Gaza’s leadership had chosen their own fate. It’s been no one else’s fault or responsibility; it’s been no one else’s choice. Hamas’s agenda entailing the elimination of the Jewish state and its Jewish citizens has been the only objective that mattered to these terrorists. Cost has never been an issue. The resulted misery has been inspiring the sacred agenda; it has even garnered support by left-leaning, easy-to-fool people like Piers Morgan— predominantly since it could have been blamed on the Jews.
2. Had Hamas chosen peace, there would have been no restrictions on people’s and goods’ movement; there would have been no restrictions on the fishing limit for Gazan fishermen. The sea blockade that Israel had been putting in place had served only to prevent weapons smuggling. Had there been no weapons smuggling for the sole purpose of Jew-killing there would have been no sea blockade.
3. Had Hamas chosen peace, there would have been no no-man’s land of about three hundred yards along the testy frontier. Had the frontier not been testy (testiness is a Hamas’s choice), there would have been no buffer zone; Palestinians would have been able to tend to that land without a question.
4. The so-called “siege” of Gaza is a myth. Israel has continued to provide electricity and water to the strip even during “Pillar of Defense”. Israel had been admitting sick Palestinians (from Gaza and from the West Bank) to Israeli hospitals throughout Israel, providing them with advanced health care not available in Gaza or in the West Bank. Israel had been shipping goods to and from the strip through official border crossings even when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were shooting rockets into Israeli towns. And to all intents and purposes, Gaza has a border with Egypt. Hamastan is not surrounded by the Israelis on all sides. There is no siege if there is an open door allowing Gazans in and out of their unoccupied land sans Israeli control. Most importantly, Hamas had chosen their own isolation—a homemade cordon sanitaire—which they (and Piers Morgan) have been referring to as “siege”. Once again it has been their specific choice.
5. Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in August 2005 when Israel withdrew its military and settlements from that territory. But instead of “land for peace” Israel took delivery of “land for terror.” The same scenario had transpired following the Oslo Peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority after Israel withdrew from the West Bank cities, and again in May, 2000 following Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Hamas refers to Israel as “the Occupation.” But Israel does not occupy Gaza and Hamas has not been talking about Gaza. “The Occupation,” according to Hamas, is the Zionist entity, which occupies Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. Had Hamas accepted Israel’s existence, a two-state solution living peacefully side by side could have become a reality.
Reversing cause and effect has always been an art practiced by the Palestinians. Unfortunately Piers Morgan and his leftist comrades have fallen into the same logical trap.
During the week-long “Pillar of Defense” campaign Mr. Morgan was talking and interviewing prominent guests representing the two sides to the conflict. Unfortunately he was not listening to his pro-Israel guests, some of whom (Shimon Peres and Mark Regev in particular) made some strong, enlightening arguments, explaining and rationalizing the Israeli action. Mr. Morgan kept singing the same song without changing its tune, even though he should have learned something during a previous interview. He had his mind fixed on false “fairness”. Anytime a guest was talking about the endless rocket attacks and suffering endured by Israeli citizens throughout the years since Israel withdrew its military and settlements from Gaza, Mr. Morgan countered with: “And what about the Palestinian sufferings?”
Piers Morgan ignored the simple fact that Hamas had chosen the suffering path, that Israel would have been more than happy to have a friendly, peaceful and prosperous neighbor, that Hamas had been raining rockets on the Israeli civilian population devoid of any Israeli provocation, and that Hamas doubled down on that war crime by shooting their rockets from behind human shields. Had the Israeli military employed similar rules of engagement, Palestinian women, children and innocent men would not have been providing protection for terrorists, and the civilian casualties among Gazans would have mounted to a four digit number.
I only hope that Piers Morgan reads this article; I hope he begins to ask the right questions and come to the right conclusions. He should understand the difference between bellicosity and self-defense, between those who have choices and those who do not.
He should realize that it’s not the fatality statistics that counts; it is only about the definition of aggression and about the ones choosing to use it to bring about their own grief and misery.
Avi Perry is the author of "72 Virgins"—a popular thriller about a countdown to a terror attack on US soil. He is currently a talk show host at Paltalk News Network (PNN). He served as an intelligence expert for the Israeli government and was a professor at Northwestern University. He was a VP at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories distinguished staff member and manager, and a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to UN International Standards body. He is also the author of "Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks." For more information, visit www.aviperry.org.