Yesterday I wrote about Erin Burnett’s classy encounter on CNN with Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, who angrily accused the network of failing to state that Hamas had put weapons in U.N. schools in reporting that Israel had struck a U.N. school in northern Gaza, killing 16. Mediaite has the video here.
Well to her credit, Burnett returned to the report last night, and said that Dermer misrepresented the network. And in the process she got Michael Oren, Dermer’s successor, to assert that Hamas strategy is to “drag Israel” into Gaza and “get Israel to kill large numbers of civilians.” (Shades of Golda Meir saying the Arabs force Israelis “to kill their children.”)
The backstory. On Thursday, Dermer said:
Listen Erin… Do you not think that it’s relevant to report on CNN that the secretary-general of the United Nations warned against the use of schools [for caching weapons]… I’ve been listening for two hours of reports on CNN. I have seen split screens, horrible pictures that any decent human being would be horrified by. I have not seen a single person say what I just said to you now. I think that does a disservice… There must be outrage by the world at Hamas.
And Burnett responded:
Ambassador… here’s my question, and the reason that we’re showing these pictures, because these are dead children. Would Israel have taken the time to confirm that those children were out of the school before you fired, sent someone in to look, or do you think it’s ok that you issued the warning and then just went ahead and fired [figuring] that’s their problem?
Dermer said, in part:
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the media for showing the pictures. I’m blaming the media for not connecting the dots… The outrage of the world has to be turned on Hamas.
Last night Burnett returned to the story, and said that CNN did report the UN’s assertion that Hamas had put rockets in UN schools. Twice in fact. So Dermer was wrong.
Dermer wasn’t available, but Burnett raised former Israeli ambassador Oren (another immigrant from the US to Israel, and awake at 2 in the morning to handle the incoming) if CNN’s coverage was fair. He said:
Israel is facing an enemy in Hamas which has not only military tactics but it has a media strategy.. Media is very much part of this conflict. Hamas knows that it can’t destroy Israel by its rockets and tunnels… Israel is not going to be wiped off the map by Hamas. What Hamas does want to do is drag Israel into a conflict in Gaza to get Israel to kill large numbers of Palestinian civilians. Journalists quite naturally will want to capture those images. The images are tragic, they are lurid, but they also make headlines and broadcast [unintelligible]. Hamas has no compunction whatsoever about putting bodies on air. Israel doesn’t even allow the photographs of injured Israeli soldiers to be broadcast…. Hamas hopes, the reason for this– … that translates into international pressure, riots on the streets of Europe, and it ends up in the Security Council, it ends up in the Human Rights commission, and Israel gets condemned, it gets sanctioned, and then Israel can’t defend itself. That is the ultimate goal of the tactic.
Burnett turned to CNN correspondent Karl Penhaul. He said:
I think that any reporter and any of our colleagues would believe that it was obscene to suggest that we are showing the bodies of wounded, the dead and the dying, to make headlines. That I don’t believe is the case with any of the CNN teams or with any of our journalistic colleagues here in this region. Certainly at no time have we received any instructions from any of the militant factions in Gaza telling us what we can take pictures of or what we can’t take pictures of… [W]e are under no pressure either to or not to film any patients, to film children, or not to film children…
Penhaul then cited the Geneva conventions and the protection of civilians near military installations– whether or not armed forces issue “warnings” before attacking the civilian settings. He was suggesting that Israel was violating international law.
Amazingly, there was no time for Michael Oren to respond.