Why Israel attacks media offices and targets journalists: To keep us in the dark

The missile attack that destroyed the AP office in Gaza was shocking — but it served Israeli purposes perfectly

By Norman Solomon

Contributing Writer

Published May 21, 2021 6:00AM (EDT)

Smoke rise after an Israeli air-strike hits at Al-Jalaa tower, which houses apartments and several media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, amid the escalating flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence. (Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Smoke rise after an Israeli air-strike hits at Al-Jalaa tower, which houses apartments and several media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, amid the escalating flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence. (Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Israel's missile attack on media offices in Gaza City last weekend was successful. A gratifying response came quickly from the head of The Associated Press, which had a bureau in the building for 15 years: "The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today." 

For people who care about truth, that's outrageous. For the Israeli government, that's terrific.

AP president Gary Pruitt said, "We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP's bureau and other news organizations in Gaza."

There's ample reason to be horrified. But not shocked. Israel's military began threatening and targeting journalists several decades ago, in tandem with its longstanding cruel treatment of Palestinians. Rather than reduce the cruelty, the Israeli government keeps trying to reduce accurate news coverage.

The approach is a mix of deception and brutality: Blow up the cameras so the world won't see as many pictures of the atrocities.

Of course there's no need to interfere with journalists documenting the also awful — while far less numerous — deaths of Israelis due to rockets fired by Hamas. In recent days the Israeli government has spotlighted such visuals, some of them grimly authentic, others fake.

The suffering in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is tragically real on both sides, although vastly asymmetrical. During the last 10 days, as reported by the BBC, 219 people have been killed in Gaza. In Israel, the number was 10. In Gaza, at least 63 of the dead were children. In Israel, two.

In the midst of all this, shamefully, President Biden is pushing ahead to sell $735 million worth of weapons to Israel, a move akin to selling more whips and thumbscrews to torturers while they're hard at work tormenting their victims. 

On Wednesday, a few members of Congress introduced a bill that seeks to do what the Israeli targeting of media seeks to prevent: galvanize informed outrage. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., introduced a resolution opposing the sale of those weapons. 

"For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights. In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions," Ocasio-Cortez pointed out.

Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American in Congress, said: "The harsh truth is that these weapons are being sold by the United States to Israel with the clear understanding that the vast majority of them will be used to bomb Gaza. Approving this sale now, while failing to even try to use it as leverage for a ceasefire, sends a clear message to the world — the U.S. is not interested in peace, and does not care about the human rights and lives of Palestinians."

As usual, Israel's latest killing spree can avail itself of lavish resourcews provided by U.S. taxpayers, currently amounting to $3.8 billion a year in military assistance. An article published last week by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace makes a strong case that the massive subsidy is legally dubious and morally indefensible. 

Not many members of Congress can be heard calling for an end to doling out huge sums to the Israeli government. But some progress is evident.

A bill introduced last month by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., designated as H.R. 2590, now has 21 co-sponsors and some activist momentum. Its official purpose flies in the face of routine congressional evasion: "To promote and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds are not used by the Government of Israel to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law."

The government of Israel has exerted deadly force on a large scale to underscore an assertion of impunity — in effect, wielding its overwhelming military power to subjugate Palestinian people with methodical disregard for their basic human rights. The process involves reducing or eliminating, as much as possible, eyewitness news coverage of that subjugation.

Israeli leaders know that the truth about human consequences of their policies is horrific, when it's illuminated for the world to see. That's why they're so eager to keep us in the dark.

By Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of many books, including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." His latest book, "War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine," was published in June 2023.

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Associated Press Commentary Gaza Israel Journalism Media Palestinians War Crimes