Games Without Frontiers

Let's play this game together. It's free, and even your kids can join in, because even a child can report things with less media bias than this.
February 14, 2024
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Do you remember those games we would play when we were young, “see if you can count all the errors in this picture”? You’d circle the person with two left hands. A mistake might be that someone’s feet weren’t touching the ground. Well, it’s time to make lemonade out of lemons, and take advantage of the endless supply of errors in news articles about Israel. Here’s a short piece by ABC News recently:

Let’s play this game together. It’s free, and even your kids can join in, because even a child can report things with less media bias than this. For those of you who study the Torah or Talmud, I’ll break this down like Rashi:

Paragraph 1:
“The latest outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, has reached the four-month mark.”

-“Militant group” is a popular choice of term by news agencies. The BBC was doing so, until they came under enough fire, and changed it to “proscribed terror organization”. Apparently ABC missed the memo. Hamas is a legally designated “terrorist group”. Militancy is not only far less harsh of a term, but it implies potential legitimacy that terrorism does not.

-“Four-month mark”. Interesting. When I first read this article, it was January 29th. At that point it said “three-month mark”. They have since updated it to”four-month mark”.

Hmm, let’s analyze this. It was January 29th. The horrific declaration of war was on October 7th, when Israel had its Pearl Harbor, (if Pearl Harbor had included rapes, kidnappings and beheadings). And there wasn’t a day without Israel being mercilessly shelled with rockets ever since. So they really “reached the three-month mark” on January 7th. Must just be a typo. Oh wait, Israel finally entered Gaza to start fighting back on the evening of October 27, a long and patient 20 days into the war. So ABC News must only count the start of the war as from when Israel started fighting BACK. Got it. And changing it to “four-month mark” on February 14th is better, but they do not have a trace of a CORRECTION anywhere. Sneaky.

Paragraph 2:
“In the Gaza Strip, at least 26,637 people have been killed and more than 65,000 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.”

-“By Israeli forces” is interesting, since we already have ample proof that human shields are used constantly in Gaza. Let’s do a thought experiment. In a movie like “Saw”, if the person opens a door to their home, and by doing so the trap created by the villain kills their family, would you say that the innocent killed them, or would you still say the villain killed them? In the case of human shields, the IDF may be the gun and bullet, but Hamas is most certainly the one aiming where and whom it hits.

-“26,637 people….65,000 others” again assigns the numbers to the IDF. But we also have ample proof that at minimum 10% of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets misfire and blow up their own people. With over 10,000 rockets already confirmed being fired by the end of last year, that’s at LEAST 1,000 misfires. How many of the 26,637 deaths and 65,000 injured in Gaza were from the thousand plus misfires? There’s no way to know, but we can safely reason it’s plentiful; and yet all of those numbers are automatically assigned to Israel.

-“Gaza’s Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.” They almost get a pass for this one, because it’s often reported far worse, without naming Hamas in that phrase. So good on ABC for acknowledging Hamas in charge of the numbers. However, the gold standard to remove media bias is when it qualifies that the Hamas Ministry of Health has been caught lying about the numbers, not differentiating between Hamas and civilians, and including their own aforementioned misfires. So their reported numbers should ALWAYS be given with the massive caveat of how unreliable those numbers truly are.

Paragraph 3 appears ok.

Paragraph 4:

“There has also been a surge in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli forces have killed at least 297 people in the territory since Oct. 7, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.”

-“Palestinian Ministry of Health” brings up an interesting point here. Not an error but a good distinction to clarify. Did you forget to include Hamas in that phrase this time? No, because the West Bank is NOT controlled by Hamas. It is under partial civil control of The Palestinian Authority (The PA), aka Fatah. Do you see how important it is to clarify information, so people don’t just assume who’s responsible or at fault?

-“Surge in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank”. This one admittedly will be harder for your kids to spot, but if you’ve taken any critical thinking coursework you should be able to see the subtle problems in the wording. While it’s true there has been a surge of violence, by mentioning it in the same breath as “Israeli-occupied”, they have linked Israel haters to the hot button issue of “occupation”. Suddenly this “surge of violence” seems like it was likely justified, doesn’t it? Another problem is that although there HAVE BEEN some reprehensible individuals in the Settler community who have attacked illegally and immorally, the majority of the surge of violence has been attacks on Israelis, and then fighting back.

Paragraph 5 (Last one):
“The ongoing war began after Hamas-led militants launched an unprecedented incursion into southern Israel from neighboring Gaza via land, sea and air. Scores of people were killed while more than 200 others were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities. The Israeli military subsequently launched retaliatory airstrikes followed by a ground invasion of Gaza, a 140-square-mile territory where more than 2 million Palestinians have lived under a blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt since Hamas came to power in 2007. Gaza, unlike Israel, has no air raid sirens or bomb shelters.”

-“The ongoing war began after…” Fascinating that NOW they say the war began October 7, even though the story starts with it clearly referring to October 27. That’s just lazy.

-“Militants” again instead of terrorists.

-“Scores of people”. How many are in a “score”? According to literally all the sources, a score is 20. It comes from counting your herds of cattle. Scores are measured as multiples of 20, so it’s slightly higher than dozens, and far fewer than hundreds. How would you feel if the vernacular was that “dozens of people were killed”? You would know that was horribly incorrect.

A justifiable argument would be that “scores” is an accepted term referring to “many”, and that would be fair. So if Abraham Lincoln had said “scores of years ago” instead of “4 score and 7 years ago” in his Gettysburg Address, where it referred to exactly 87 years ago, that would have been fine, if less memorable. But let’s say Lincoln had been referring to a millennia prior as scores ago, who wouldn’t be confused? Hundreds would have been fine. Over a thousand would have been better.

Regarding those slaughtered on October 7th, approximately 1,200 would have been the best, because that’s what scores was supposedly describing. But make up your mind. Either tens, dozens and scores are all acceptable when describing 1,200, or none of them are. Please try to be intellectually honest with your choice. And if you say they are all acceptable descriptors, I can justify that “scores of Palestinians” have been killed so far, or heck, I’ll even give you “hundreds have been killed so far”, because apparently we can play with English now to manipulate our needs.

-“Unprecedented incursion” almost sounds like it deserves a round of applause. Our army makes incursions, and there’s no negative association with the word. It’s neutral if anything. Terrorist attack, murderous attack, horrific attack would each be more accurate, and convey what happened the same way the US government describes it. Or even just the word “attack” would be less of an understatement.

-“More than 200 others taken hostage”. The actual number was 250. Why soften the blow by making it sound 20% smaller? Time to remind you of something significant. When listing the Palestinian deaths, every number mattered. “At least 26,637” was the language. When Israel was counted it was so imprecise that it was “scores”, instead of 1,200. And apparently even with kidnap victims they can’t simply say 250, it’s “at least 200”. Are you seeing a pattern? Because even your kids can figure out the errors in this brain teaser.

-“_________” that’s not a typo. That’s where they clearly forgot to mention the mass rapes and mutilations to both women and men. Not worth a mention, hmm?

-” Have lived under a blockade imposed by Israel” might be the most nitpicky one I point out, but is this how we refer to borders now? Do Mexico and Canada live under a blockade imposed by America? It may or may not be a bad comparison, but my point is not to say Israel/Gaza are the same as every other border in the world. Rather, the fact that you can feel the menacing undertones that the description conveyed, when naming any other bordering countries, proves the bias being created by using that same choice of words. Why couldn’t it just say that the Palestinians have been living under Hamas controlled government, bordering both Israel and Egypt? And feel free to point out that in addition to over a hundred thousand Palestinians given work permits to enter from the West Bank, prior to October 7th, Israel opened its border daily to fifteen to twenty thousand Gazans, which is fifteen to twenty thousand more than Egypt allows at its border.

-“Gaza, unlike Israel, has no air raid sirens or bomb shelters.” And here we finish the 5 paragraph so-called news report, with one last egregious slice of media bias, the pièce de résistance possibly. “Unlike Israel”, those rich, white colonial oppressors, who have the luxury of bomb shelters. Wait a minute, why DON’T the Palestinians in Gaza also have bomb shelters? Could it be because, gasp, Hamas literally took the cement and money given to them by most of the world including ISRAEL for the shelters, and instead built hundreds of miles of tunnels with them? Yes, this is well proven, and not speculation. So why does it finish off with making them the haves and have nots? If you want to end this “article” accurately with the same information, then how about you say, “While Israel has air raid sirens and bomb shelters and water pipes, Hamas stole the money appropriated for such crucial items, and used the money and materials to instead build tunnels, and bombs”.

Wasn’t that a fun game for the whole family? Don’t worry, the expansion pack is coming soon, at just about any news source that reports on the Middle East, so you’ll never run out of times to play!

Boaz Hepner works as a Registered Nurse in Saint John’s Health Center. He moonlights as a columnist, where his focuses are on health, and Israel, including his Chosen Links section of the Journal. He is a Pico/Robertson native, and lives here with his wife Adi, and children Natalia and Liam. He can be found with his family enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.

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