What really happened in Gaza: An exercise in comparative journalism

Alain Gresh analyses on his blog the different ways with which the recent clashes between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza were reported by the press and adds his own voice on what really happened there.

Here is a summary in English:

-Most western news media presented Hamas as evil people and Fatah as nice people and attributed, in their titles, the responsibility to Hamas, despite the gap between the information in the articles to which the titles refer and the titles.
Indeed, even the most damning title for Hamas from the French newspaper Liberation 'Hamas gunmen target the crowd' does not match the article in which the reporter writes that such an information was given by Fatah while Hamas affirmed that its members were provoked by Fatah. Le Monde's correspondant in Jerusalem is more cautious. Despite the title 'Hamas members shoot Fatah's who were celebrating Arafat's third anniversary death', the article tells us that the 'fighting started at the end of the gathering without known reason. Some protesters started to throw stones on members of the Hamas security who retaliated. Hamas accused Fatah of posting snipers on the roofs to shoot the members of the executive branch of Hamas.

-An interesting analysis published in English and signed by Tony Sayegh gives us a totally different version of the events.

It has been a while since the last US-sponsored, color-coded “revolution.” But that does not mean that Elliott Abrams and Condoleezza Rice have stopped trying.

Just a few days ago, several trucks made their way into the Gaza Strip with the help of Israel. On board supposedly were food supplies for the starving population. However, upon inspection the cargo turned out to be 45,000 yellow Fatah flags and an equal number of baseball caps with Fatah logo on them and kafiyyahs to complement the ensemble.

Hamas could have confiscated these supplies, since it knew what they were intended for. But it decided to let Fatah receive the implements of what was intended as a yellow color-coded mass rally against Hamas. The occasion chosen was the third anniversary of Arafat’s death.

Two observations are in order. In the past two years, when Fatah controlled the Gaza Strip, nothing comparable was organized in Arafat’s memory. The other point is that this organized rally was much larger than any rallies in the West Bank, which Abbas and his cohorts still control.

To Hamas’ credit it gave permission to hold the rally, even though Hamas is totally forbidden from holding even a rally of two dozen people in the West Bank. When Hamas supporters attempted to organize a small protest in Al-Najah University in Nablus, they were beaten up by Abbas’ thugs, some were imprisoned and many expelled from the university.

The Gaza rally almost ended peacefully as was agreed upon with the police. But this was not the plan all along. The plan was to provoke Hamas and instigate violence, and this was what happened. A few supporters of the former Fatah warlords in Gaza opened fire on some of the civilians and on the Hamas security. The idea was to create chaos and to blame the killing on the Hamas police; classic USraeli tactics. Several Hamas policemen were injured and six or seven civilians were killed.

To their credit, the English press like The Guardian and The Independant were more cautious.
Six die in clashes as Fatah emerges onto streets of Gaza

Five killed during Arafat rally

And for a perspective on the clashes from Hamas's point of view:
Hamas holds Fatah leadership fully responsible for Gaza events

Gresh concludes that both Fatah and Hamas are responsible for the deterioration of everyday life for Palestinians while Israel, the main culprit, continues to increase pressure on Gaza with defence minister, Ehud Barak, announcing on November 12th that Israel will step up an ongoing electricity blockade on Gaza.

Conclusion: With the clashes between Fatah and Hamas and sensationalist western titles about them, the news of the garotting of the Palestinians in Gaza at the hands of Israel went totally unnoticed in the media.

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Since March 29th 2006