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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Israel's Gaza war in Dutch state-funded media

Israel's Gaza war in Dutch state-funded media

During Operation Cast Lead, the recent Israel war with Hamas, the Israel facts group monitored the reporting methods of the most important state-funded Dutch news show, "NOS Journal."  We watched and analyzed the prime-time news show at 8 p.m. throughout the war and beyond.  We checked the reports regarding the footage, language and omissions. We compared the reports of NOS with its own journalistic code, which obliges it to provide impartial and independent news and to allow the right of response. We also compared the reports with the ARD reports in Germany (both NOS and ARD are state-funded, comparable with Channel 1 in Israel) and with Israeli reporting on the war by Channel 10 and Channel 1. We found a pattern of omission, distortion and manipulation.  We found that NOS Journal omits and distorts the facts and manipulates the opinion of the Dutch public beyond belief. This is a summary of the original report which was published in the Dutch language: Verslag rapport over de NOS.


We divided the report into chapters with the following content:


Facts and lies; terminology toward Israel and terminology toward the Palestinians; use of footage and assembling of the pictures in reports; omissions and repeating themes.


Here are some examples of our findings.


The outbreak of the war, which actually started on December 19 before the beginning of operation Cast Lead last year, was not covered. The 19 rockets on the south of Israel on December 19 as well as those exploding on the following days were not reported by NOS. Only the 60 rockets on December 24 found their way into the Dutch news show, but NOS found an explanation for them. According to NOS they were the Hamas answer to the Israeli "offensive" on December 23.  In fact Israel responded that day to a Hamas attack on the Gaza border in which three Hamas terrorists were killed. For NOS the Hamas rockets on December 24 were less important than the Christmas preparations in Bethlehem. NOS reporter Sander Van Hoorn was in Bethlehem to talk a little about the improved situation there, but a lot about the Israeli occupation and aggression. He reminded his viewers about the siege of the Church of the Nativity by Israel in 2003, after some wanted Palestinian terrorists had fled into the church, though without mentioning the Palestinian hijacking of the church; the hostages they took and the desecration of the church. Nor did he mention the transfer of control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority by Israel in the week before Christmas. In fact he told Dutch viewers that the occupation in Bethlehem was still in full swing.


When  Cast Lead began on December 17 he reported the action as a desperate act of Israel which was motivated by the forthcoming elections. Two days later, Van Hoorn was reporting on the closed military zone at the Gaza border. He ridiculed the Israeli security measure. He said it was ridiculous because the rockets were fired at Sderot a few miles from the spot he was standing (he omitted that he knew about the sniper attacks on the border). He suggested a different reason for the ban: "Israel did not want nosey parkers."


The pictures shown by NOS in the Journal were mainly the coverage by Ramattan TV, the local Arab broadcaster in Gaza. The footage released by the IAF was never shown in the NOS journal, because according to NOS, Israel was carpet bombing Gaza. There was no shortage of expressions by the NOS reporters depicting Israel as a brutal aggressor, nor was there a shortage of coverage of the dead and wounded in Gaza. In fact 90 percent of all footage dealt with the suffering of the Gaza population.  The Israeli front was finally discovered on December 31, when all Dutchmen are busy with New Year celebrations and do not watch the news. On January 6, NOS invited a Middle East "expert" to the studio, who explained that the Hamas rockets were a punishment for the occupation and said that the ban on entering Gaza was meant to keep reporters away from the "dirty business" in which Israel was involved in Gaza. January 6 was also the day the incident took place at the UN school in Gaza in which, according to NOS, 40 civilians died. An hour before the Journal was aired, we sent the editor of NOS an e-mail in which we alerted him to the IDF version of the incident (Hamas was firing mortar shells from the street next to the school, to which the IDF responded). In the 8 p.m. news there was no mention of the IDF version nor was there one in the 10 p.m. Journal . The NOS reported that Israel was firing at UN schools and kept sticking to that, even after we asked them to correct the error.


On January 13, NOS aired a report by Van Hoorn on the way Israeli television was covering the war. He took Channel 10 as the subject of his report, and started by saying that patriotism was the prime factor in the broadcasts of Channel 10, Israelis saw only the clean face of the war but no bloody or disturbing pictures, and this was the reason 90 percent of the Israelis did support the war. No wonder, he continued, because all the Channel 10 reporters were reporting with one leg standing in Gaza (suggesting that Israeli reporters were imbedded with IDF). In fact all Israeli channels had extensive coverage of the situation in Gaza, and repeatedly Israelis were exposed to the damage and the suffering of the population in Gaza. 


January 17, NOS reported on the live broadcast on Channel 10 in which the Palestinian doctor Abu El Aish reported on the death of his three children by what later proved to be a IDF shell. Israelis saw Channel 10 reporter Shlomi Eldar fighting against his tears when he spoke to El Aish . The Israeli reporter tried during the live broadcast to arrange help for the doctor. NOS succeeded, however, in cutting the footage in such a manner that Eldar's emotions were not in the report. The comment on these pictures and the pictures of the doctor in the hospital in Tel Aviv explained why NOS had cut the footage of Eldar. It said that only for this occasion Israel opened the border for a wounded Palestinian (a blatant lie), because of the personal relationship between Eldar and El Aish, and added that after arrival in the Israeli hospital the doctor could not count on Israeli compassion. After that, some pictures of an Israeli woman questioning the innocence of El Aish were shown.


In general, no official Israeli spokesmen found their way into the reports of NOS, no footage of the ground action or pin point strikes was aired, and the right of reply for Israel was not granted after accusations by NGOs or Palestinians. Pictures of the Israeli front lasted a few seconds and were accompanied by comments that only material damage was reported. A serious analysis of the backgrounds of the war was not provided and all acts which could have been negative for the Palestinians were omitted from the reports of NOS.


NOS was highly critical of Israeli channels and even of Al Jazeera for not conducting interviews with Israelis, while NOS itself only once aired a full interview with a Dutch speaking Israeli in Ashkelon -- "the pot calls the kettle black !"


Our report on the way NOS was dealing with its own commitment to bring impartial and factual news was published in Holland on February 16[JMH2] . It has been sent to all political parties and media outlets as well as to some bloggers in Holland. We concluded that on most points mentioned in its journalistic code, the NOS Journal was violating its own commitments. NOS only replied with a standard response to the many e-mails which were sent with requests to correct errors or to point out the facts as they were known at the time. In some cases NOS did not give any response other than a short notice acknowledging receipt of the letter..


The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Holland during January was skyrocketing. At a demonstration in Amsterdam attended by a Dutch member of parliament, scores of people shouted "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!!" A shooting attack took place on a Jewish health center.


It seems obvious what was fanning the flames which led to these incidents.


The report is published in full in Dutch on our website: Verslag rapport over de NOS  


Yochanan Visser

Israel facts Monitor group Dutch Media


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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