The horrifying Flour Massacre last week, whereby Israeli tanks fired at a group of starving Palestinians crowded around a truck carrying sacks of flower and food supplies, killing over 100 Palestinians and wounding over 700 others, must be laid straight at Israel’s door. According to international law, Israel is obligated to provide food and basic necessities for all those living under its military authority. Instead, we see them strictly control and impede such food supplies and then shoot at those who are desperate for them. I cannot imagine what justification could exist for such a massacre.

As soon as the event took place, however, Israeli apologists flooded the airwaves giving their versions of the event. They claimed that most of those killed were crushed in the stampede, and not by Israeli fire (which, they said, only killed about 10). They also claimed that the Israeli forces were there to facilitate and not impede humanitarian food supplies, to prevent their theft and looting by Hamas. They also claimed, without any proof, that UNRWA was unreliable to distribute the food supplies and that Israel was trying its best to facilitate the entry of humanitarian food supplies.

This brings me to the subject of this essay: How do we discover the truth when surrounded by so much lying and misinformation about this issue?

Truth, the saying goes, is the first casualty in war. And, on the subject of Palestine/Israel, the mainstream corporate media in this country is openly pro-Israel, and the Palestinian perspective is usually either missing or distorted beyond recognition. Israeli officials and apologists are given ample time to offer their views, which are presented as facts. To arrive at the truth and be able to communicate it to others, we need to do some actual work. We must use critical thinking. These principles apply to all news materials, and they may be well known and even elementary to most of you, but bear with me as I suggest a few necessary steps for finding out the truth:

  • Use a variety of sources. In this country most corporate media follow the same pro-Israeli narrative and uncritically report the version presented by the Israeli army as established fact. Social media is less easily controlled but requires greater effort to evaluate content for reliability and truthfulness. One needs to seek additional sources through the internet, such as Al Jazeera, Al Mayadeen (Lebanese), TRT (Turkish), the BBC (British), and others which can provide valuable and differing perspectives.
  • Always be conscious of the bias of any source to which we are listening. Be particularly skeptical when the source is an official government spokesperson, for Hamas, for the US State Department, for Israel, or for any other official body whose spokesperson is tasked with presenting the official line. Be particularly wary of their self-serving statements.
  • Be mindful of a source’s track record. In evaluating the credibility of our sources, bear in mind not only their bias, but also their record of past lying, of changing their story, promising an investigation, quoting anonymous sources, etc.
  • Similarly, bear in mind the accuracy and truthfulness of past reports. The Palestinian Ministry of Health, for example, has consistently provided accurate and reliable figures of casualties, supporting their figures with names, ages, and even ID Card numbers. The fact that they are affiliated with the “Hamas-run Ministry of Health” (because Hamas was the political party in power since 2007) does not degrade the ministry’s credibility or the professionalism of the healthcare workers involved in the cataloging process.
  • Trust primary accounts over secondary sources. Give more weight to eyewitness accounts citing actual details, rather than second-hand reports or conclusions reached by reporters.
  • Seek verification. Look for corroboration from other sources, where possible, and do not rely on only one source.
  • Seek and give weight to reports by neutral bodies, international agencies, human rights and relief organizations, than to reports by government officials. These organizations, by definition, carry out humanitarian work and are usually politically neutral. Reports by UNRWA, Medicines San Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), Human Rights Watch, UNHCR, Amnesty International, and others should carry more weight than either official Palestinian or Israeli sources.
  • Be skeptical of governments that restrict or deny access to foreign journalists. This is as true of the Assad Regime in Syria as it is of the Israeli Army in Gaza.
  • Also, remember to be more vigilant in a context where an Army routinely targets, imprisons, or kills journalists. Israel has killed over 100 local journalists in Gaza in the past four months, sometimes targeting their homes and killing their family members as well.
  • In listening to official representatives, look for “admissions against interest” and pay attention to what is not being said, or denied, as well as what is actually being said. For example, in cases where civilians are killed, note if the official reports fail to mention any weapons found, which generally would indicate that they have killed unarmed civilians.
  • Bear in mind the broader context for every story you hear. News items usually focus on a snapshot of an event. Longer magazine articles may give more context, but usually the reader/viewer is left to their own devices to gain an understanding of the broader context.

For example, to understand last week’s tragedy, we must note that the desperate mobbing of the convoy carrying sacks of flour is the direct result of a deliberate policy of starvation. Israel has prevented the entry of sufficient food, particularly to the North of Gaza; UN agencies have declared that Israeli attacks on previous convoys made it unsafe for international aid agencies to travel in the Northern part of Gaza, under the full and total control of Israel. Also, we note from the heavily edited drone footage released by Israel that it is inconceivable that a stampede could result in hundreds dead and injured in an open field; Israelis “safeguarding” the supplies were inside tanks and could hardly be threatened by unarmed civilians attempting to escape the gunfire. We should also remember that Israel has not allowed foreign reporters into Northern Gaza and that doctors and hospital staff have stated that the overwhelming majority of the wounded had bullet or shrapnel wounds but not the asphyxiation associated with being trampled in a stampede.

President Biden claimed that there are multiple explanations for what occurred and that an independent investigation is required to determine the truth. Such an investigation would be welcome, of course, but it cannot be undertaken just by the Israelis. In the meantime, with a little critical thinking we can figure out essentially what happened, and it is truly ugly.


Jonathan Kuttab

Executive Director, FOSNA


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