THE BLOG

From Gaza to Iraq, the Media Must Report on Counter-Terrorism Consistently

07/10/2014 10:58 BST | Updated 06/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Listening to Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu speak about Islamist terror threats in Middle East, it is clear that the international community's determination to fight Islamic State (commonly known by its Arabic acronym "Daesh") essentially parallels Israel's determination to fight the Islamic Resistance Movement (commonly known by its Arabic acronym "Hamas").

Yet the media has tended to justify the fight against Islamic State/Daesh wholeheartedly, whilst criticising Israel's fight against the Islamic Resistance Movement/Hamas.

When terrorists from the Islamic Resistance Movement murdered three teenagers on their way home from school, its leader Khaled Meshaal declared "blessed are the hands" of the perpetrators.

Israel launched an investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Islamic Resistance Movement then launched thousands of rockets on Israeli civilian populations.

The Movement executed fellow Muslims it suspected of collaboration with its enemies. It called on Palestinians to murder Israeli Jews in any way they saw fit, preaching the intrinsic evil of Jews. If Israel had chosen to do nothing, Israel would be sending a message to the Movement that terrorism is acceptable.

In response to terrorist pressure, Israel chose carefully selected military targets in order to prevent Hamas from continuing its terror campaign against Israeli civilians. Hamas had embedded itself in hugely populated neighbourhoods, used a hospital as a military base, and used civilians as human shields. Due to these tactics, civilians lost their lives in Gaza alongside the terrorists killed by Israeli forces.

Yet parts of the media chose to focus on the civilians killed in strikes, as the main narrative of the war. The intentions of the Islamic Resistance Movement, their brutality, their use of human shields, their designs to oppress and massacre Jews, and their use of sharia law, were all played down.

At one point, a Guardian writer claimed that the pictures of suffering emanating from Gaza ought to cause us such distress, we should forget the very concept of objectivity when reporting.

Soon after Operation Protective Edge finished, an international campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy terrorists from the Islamic State began.

Islamic State had murdered Sunni Muslims it suspected of collaboration with its enemies. It massacred Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims, preaching the intrinsic evil of these groups. If the international community had chosen to do nothing, it would be sending a message to Daesh that terrorism is acceptable.

In response to terrorist pressure, the international community chose carefully selected military targets in order to prevent Daesh from continuing its terror campaign against Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian civilians, as well as Westerners. Islamic State embedded itself in hugely populated neighbourhoods, used a hospital as a military base, and used civilians as human shields. Due to these tactics, civilians lost their lives in Iraq alongside the terrorists killed by international forces.

Yet this time, civilian casualties did not feature so prominently in the media narrative - even when the international community has directly bombedhospitals marked out as a military targets.

Instead, the media focused on the terrorist nature of Islamic State, refusing to refer to the group by its Arabic acronym Daesh. If anything, media concerns were that the international response to Islamic State may be too limited to achieve results on the ground.

When a guest on Radio 4's Today programme warned about civilian casualties in Iraq, the host argued that these were sophisticated, targeted strikes; echoing the explanations those same radio hosts heard from Israeli spokespersons only weeks earlier.

The media rhetoric about fighting Islamic State at times echoed the Israeli public's over concerns over fighting the Islamic Resistance Movement. If you leave an Islamist terror group still standing, will it not regather and attack you again?

Tucked away towards the end of a long article on the bombing campaign in Iraq, The Guardian took care to note that "reports about militants or civilians killed in the strike could not be independently verified." Yet the media often uncritically accepted Hamas statistics about civilian casualties; not thinking to question these, or note that they could not be independently verified.

To hold such contradictory attitudes towards such similar campaigns is playing with fire. The similar natures of the Islamic Resistance Movement and the Islamic State ought to give the media pause for thought - not least the way both terror outfits court funding from wealthy donors in Qatar.

How is the media able to hold two contradictory opinions on Israel's counter-terrorism operation against Hamas, and the operation led by the Arab states against Daesh?

Situational and geographical differences between the two operations abound, and their victims hold to differing religions. Yet the moral case is the same: responsible actors cannot be deterred from curbing terrorism, by the irresponsible tactics of terrorists hiding amongst civilians.

From Gaza to Iraq, the media has a moral responsibility to report on counter-terrorism objectively, for the sake of perspective, professionalism and basic consistency.