The mildest word I can come up with to describe US media coverage of the deadly Israeli assault on a Gaza aid flotilla would be “credulous.” But one could reasonably use far harsher terms.
The central preoccupation at our papers of record seems to be how Israel’s unprovoked commando operation in international waters, which my colleague Roane Carey appropriately calls “madness,” will rebound against Israel.
The outrageousness of the event itself is remarked only second hand, by noting the street protests the incident has sparked around the globe and the strong diplomatic retaliation from Turkey. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is perhaps typical. He devoted most of his news analysis this morning to how this global condemnation will “complicate” Obama’s relationship with the Israeli prime minister. Gaza itself doesn’t merit a footnote.
An A1 story in the New York Times today likewise focuses almost entirely on the diplomatic fallout for Israel. Worse, it relies on one lone source on the contentious question of whether such a military assault is legal in international waters: the Israeli government. “Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade.” No expert on international law; no UN spokeperson; just "Israeli officials." When, in the article’s final grafs, after the jump, the paper belatedly raises the question of why a flotilla bearing 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza might have been necessary, the paper of record does it again: “Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute humanitarian crisis.” Again, no effort to contact Palestinian leaders or international human rights groups, who have documented that a humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been acute for quite some time.
In some cases, we saw misinformation and an almost gleeful boosterism. Here’s what CNN national security contributor Frances Townsend said to guest host Suzanne Malveaux on The Situation Room last night (transcript here):
"But let’s be honest, Suzanne. Clearly, the blockade was an intentional provocation of Israeli Defense Forces. I mean, imagine for a moment if you had videotape of a U.S. Navy SEAL being thrown by civilians off the side of a ship.
"We would be surprised if not everybody on that ship was killed as a result of that. And so this is really—you have to question what the motivation was here. This was not just about getting aid to Palestinians."
No reaction, incidentally, from Malveaux to this bizarre image of Terminator-style bloodlust on the part of the US Navy. Next question!