Media Watchdog: Dutch Coverage of Israel 'Beyond Belief'
A media watch organization says that the primary state-funded news program of the Netherlands engaged in anti-Israel distortion and manipulation of the news from the Middle East during the IDF's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The media fans the flames of anti-Semitism, the group concludes in a report released this week.
According to analysts from the European media watchdog organization Israel Facts Group, a leading Dutch prime-time TV news program, NOS Journaal, "omits and distorts the facts and manipulates the opinion of the Dutch public beyond belief." Israel Facts Group monitors focused on NOS Journaal's coverage of the Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008 and into January 2009.
For comparison, the monitors checked the NOS reporting against the TV station's own journalistic code, which Israel Facts Group member Yochanan Visser said "obliges it to provide impartial and independent news and to allow the right of response." In addition, the Israel Facts Group compared the reports from NOS with those of German and Israeli state-funded news programs.
According to the Israel Facts Group report on the NOS coverage, Palestinian Authority rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel preceding the launch of Operation Cast Lead were ignored. One exception was a report on 60 rockets fired by Hamas on December 19, eight days prior to the start of Cast Lead. "But NOS found an explanation for them," Visser explained. "According to NOS they were the Hamas answer to the Israeli 'offensive' on December 23. In fact, Israel responded that day to a Hamas attack on the Gaza border in which three Hamas terrorists were killed."
Reporting on Christmas preparations from Bethlehem, NOS reporter Sander Van Hoorn "reminded his viewers about the siege of the Church of the Nativity by Israel in 2003, after some wanted Palestinian terrorists had fled into the church, though without mentioning the Palestinian hijacking of the church, the hostages they took and the desecration of the church," Visser said. Van Hoorn "told Dutch viewers that the occupation in Bethlehem was still in full swing."
Once Cast Lead began, according to the Israel Facts Group, NOS refused to broadcast any footage released by the IDF Spokesperson's Office, "because according to NOS, Israel was carpet-bombing Gaza." In terms of broadcast images, "ninety percent of all footage dealt with the suffering of the Gaza population. The Israeli front was finally discovered on December 31, when all Dutchmen are busy with New Year's celebrations and do not watch the news."
On January 6, when an Israeli retaliatory strike hit a United Nations school in Gaza, "we sent the editor of NOS an e-mail in which we alerted him to the IDF version of the incident (Hamas was firing mortar shells from the street next to the school, to which the IDF responded). In the 8:00 p.m. news there was no mention of the IDF version nor was there one in the 10:00 p.m. Journaal. The NOS reported that Israel was firing at UN schools and kept sticking to that, even after we asked them to correct the error," Visser explained.
"In general, no official Israeli spokesmen found their way into the reports of NOS, no footage of the ground action or pinpoint strikes was aired, and the right of reply for Israel was not granted after accusations by NGOs or Palestinians. Pictures of the Israeli front lasted a few seconds and were accompanied by comments that only material damage was reported. A serious analysis of the backgrounds of the war was not provided and all acts, which could have been negative for the Palestinians, were omitted from the reports of NOS," the Israel Facts Group report says.
"The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Holland during January was skyrocketing," Visser continues. "At a demonstration in Amsterdam attended by a Dutch member of parliament, scores of people shouted 'Hamas Hamas, Jews to the gas!' A shooting attack took place on a Jewish health center. It seems obvious what was fanning the flames which led to these incidents."
Ironically, during the Gaza war, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende expressed an understanding for Israel's military actions in Gaza. Israel's campaign, he explained, could not be condemned as it constituted a reaction to the scores of rockets the Gaza regime has fired at Jewish towns in southern Israel.
In a televised interview, Balkenende would not lay the blame for the conflict on Israel; however, he said, "Both parties should acknowledge that it is in the interest of their people if they renounce violence." Balkende belongs to the Christian Democrats party, which has been tagged in European circles as pro-Israel in orientation.