Israeli government officials and military leaders thought they were well prepared for the first round of Gaza’s “Return March” along the border, at least compared to previous confrontations with Palestinians over the past two decades. The scenario was understood in advance – indeed, Hamas leaders made no secret of their plan to stage a series of such mass confrontations, using thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, as camouflage for attacking soldiers and infiltrating terrorists into Israel. On this basis, the Foreign Ministry and other branches sent diplomats and journalists analyses, telling them not to be fooled by this cynical ploy, and the IDF practiced responses to breaches of the border that would prevent or minimize civilian deaths.
But, to understate the reality, even in the initial skirmish the results of these preparations were less than satisfactory – Israel’s image took a beating, with another round of condemnations and “war crimes” allegations. The headlines in media platforms and the accompanying photos again portrayed Israel as the Goliath in the drama, with the Palestinians in their standard role as the innocent victims. The pictures – featured on the front pages of many mainstream newspapers and leading the video news feeds – reinforced this slogan. The New York Times lead (before the number of dead reached 16) screamed “Israeli Military Kills 8 in Confrontations on Gaza Border.”
In later versions of the news stories, the detailed evidence which clearly linked at least 10 of the 16 dead to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad was cited, usually briefly. This part of the reporting took the standard “he said, she said” format, as if Hamas and Israel were on parallel footings.
However, as always, the greatest damage was from the visuals of death and suffering that are deemed necessary to grab readers and for use as “click bait” on social media. These images, perhaps staged (a process known as Pallywood), all featuring Palestinian “victims” and without any Israeli parallels, gave editors their headlines in what is otherwise yet another predictable round of the ancient and immovable conflict.