For CBS News viewers following the first week of the Israeli military’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which news shows began reporting the morning of Saturday, December 27, 2008, one could easily have gotten the impression that Israel was starving the people of Gaza by barring food entry as part of its blockade, as the network’s newscasts – The Early Show and the CBS Evening News – not only ignored news of aid shipments being allowed to cross Israel’s border into the Gaza Strip – which did receive a little attention from evening and morning newscasts on the other broadcast and news networks – but CBS also ran reports about the Israeli military blocking food and other aid into the territory. On the December 29 Evening News, correspondent Sheila MacVicar claimed: "But the violence was not one-sided. Israel carried out targeted killings, and more importantly, for the people of Gaza, imposed and tightened an economic blockade that cut off supplies of food, medicine and even electricity." During the second week of the war, on the January 7 The Early Show, correspondent Richard Roth even gave the impression that aid had not been allowed into Gaza in weeks as he reported on the humanitarian ceasefire: "Trucks full of food, water, medical supplies and fuel started moving after waiting for weeks on Israel's side of the Gaza border."
On the December 30 The Early Show, anchor Jeff Glor reported on former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s presence on a ship attempting to deliver supplies to Gaza which was "rammed" by the Israeli military. Glor notably misidentified McKinney as if she were a current member of Congress – which could arguably give her more credibility – and did not inform viewers of Israel’s account of the incident or of McKinney’s controversial history, which includes links to anti-Semitic figures. Glor: "A relief ship carrying a Georgia Congressman, Cynthia McKinney, clashed with the Israeli navy this morning. The aid boat carrying activists and medical supplies destined for Gaza was reportedly rammed by an Israeli gunship. There were no casualties." For more on McKinney’s controversial history, see: "CBS Highlights Cynthia McKinney’s Gaza Adventure, Ignores Her Extremism and Anti-Semitic Connections."
On the January 1 CBS Evening News, correspondent Mark Phillips even took out of context an Israeli statement that "there is no humanitarian crisis" in Gaza and paired it with images of suffering Palestinian children, as if to blatantly embarrass the Israelis and make it appear that they were in denial of or indifferent to civilians who had been injured. After showing a clip of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni talking about keeping "pressure on the extremists like Hamas," which she made during her trip to France, Phillips continued: "But the pressure is not just being felt by Hamas extremists. However well they are aimed, the bombs kill and injure the innocents as well." Pairing a voiceover of himself with heartwrenching clips of Palestinian children who were either injured or who had terrified facial expressions, Phillips concluded: "Israel says there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
But the Israeli contention that "there is no humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, presumably taken from Livni’s words, was not a statement that was directed at civilian injuries, but instead was referring to the amount of humanitarian aid the Israeli military had allowed into Gaza, as she was rejecting international calls for a truce to deliver more aid, according to a January 2 article in the Washington Post. The article, titled "Senior Hamas Leader Killed; Israelis Stand Ready to Invade Gaza by Land," by Griff Witte, reads: "Speaking in Paris after meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Livni said there is no humanitarian reason for a cease-fire. ‘There is no humanitarian crisis in the strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce,’ she said. ‘Israel has been supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid to the strip.’" So, even while using a quote from an Israeli official who was referring to the aid that had already been delivered into Gaza, the CBS correspondent still managed not to inform viewers about the existence of this aid.
More elaboration on the January 1 story by Mark Phillips can be found at "CBS Paints Israelis as in Denial of Civilian Suffering, Ignores Aid Shipments."
CBS did not report on any shipments of aid into the Gaza Strip until the Friday, January 2, CBS Evening News, nearly a full week after the campaign in Gaza began on Saturday, December 27. And even on the January 2 Evening News, substitute host Jeff Glor only vaguely informed viewers that "Israel is letting aid in, but the only thing not in short supply is misery."
CBS did not report on the entry of humanitarian aid again until the January 7 ceasefire. As previously noted, on the January 7 The Early Show, correspondent Richard Roth gave the impression that aid had not entered Gaza in weeks: "Trucks full of food, water, medical supplies and fuel started moving after waiting for weeks on Israel's side of the Gaza border."
On the January 6 Evening News, Katie Couric previewed the upcoming ceasefire: "Late today Israel agreed to set up a humanitarian corridor so urgently needed supplies of food and medicine can be brought in." On January 7, the Evening News and The Early Show both informed viewers of the humanitarian corridor that resulted from the ceasefire agreement.
By contrast, while airing complaints that not enough aid was getting through or that people were afraid to leave their homes to collect supplies during the airstrikes, each of the other networks did at least run a few reports during the first week informing its viewers of aid shipments traveling into Gaza. ABC’s World News on December 26 noted the entry of supplies into Gaza before the war even began, although the report could have given the impression that food had been among the supplies not into Gaza since the previous year. On the December 26 World News, substitute anchor David Muir reported: "Israel opened its border to allow food and medicine into the Gaza Strip, despite a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian militants there in recent days. The crossings into Gaza have been largely closed since Hamas militants seized control of the coastal strip there last year. Israel agreed yesterday to allow the shipments to avoid a humanitarian crisis."
On the December 26, 2008, World News with Charles Gibson, substitute anchor David Muir reported: "And in the Middle East tonight, Israel opened its border to allow food and medicine into the Gaza strip, despite a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian militants there in recent days. The crossings into Gaza have been largely closed since Hamas militants seized control of the coastal strip there last year. Israel agreed yesterday to allow the shipments to avoid a humanitarian crisis."
On the December 30, 2008, World News with Charles Gibson, ABC’s Miguel Marquez reported: "One glimmer of hope today, Israel allowed in some medical aid, and generators."
On the December 31, 2008, Good Morning America, ABC’s Bianna Golodryga reported: "But Israel is allowing over 100 trucks full of aid into Gaza today. And the deal is in the works to move seriously wounded Palestinians to Israeli hospitals."
And also on the December 31 Good Morning America, ABC’s Simon McGregor-Wood reported: "Israel will send in more aid today, as they have been doing. Generators and hospital supplies crossing into Gaza on Tuesday. ... Israeli officials say they're only interested in a sustainable cease-fire. And in the meantime, they're doing everything they can to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. They're letting injured Palestinian patients out, and for the first time, letting aid from the Gulf state of Qatar back in to Gaza."
McGregor-Wood reported again later: "In Gaza, life is becoming more difficult. This was a line for bread. But Israel denies it is causing the humanitarian crisis. Today, it let 93 trucks of aid in, and, in front of the cameras, this injured Palestinian out."
On the January 3, 2009, Good Morning America, ABC’s Miguel Marquez: "For people on this tiny strip of land, it is misery. The UN reports despite Israel allowing some aid through, it is not enough. Eighty of the people here are dependent on aid. Food is short, hospitals overrun, electricity, mostly shut down, water running low, and sewage systems not functioning."
On the January 4, 2009, This Week on ABC, as he was interviewed by host George Stephanopoulos, Israeli President Shimon Peres notably contradicted claims of a scarcity of food. Peres: "Even today, by the way, one of the passages is open because there is no shortage of basic needs in Gaza. We take care that medical equipment and food and fuel will arrive to Gaza, even today."
On the December 28, 2008, Sunday Today show, NBC’s Martin Fletcher noted: "The Israelis also pointing out that they are allowing some humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip and saying that yesterday's casualties – 270 Palestinians killed, the biggest total in nearly 40 years of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – of those 270, at least 180 were Hamas policemen."
On the December 30, 2008, NBC Nightly News, Fletcher: "At the minimum, European leaders are demanding a humanitarian aid corridor be open to Gaza, and Israel today allowed 100 trucks to cross, carrying food and medicine, some small relief for the people of Gaza."
On the January 1, 2009, NBC Nightly News, Fletcher: "Inside Gaza, one and a half million people short of everything. But Israel says it's allowed in more than 350 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza since the fighting began ... But in the hospitals, doctors say it's a disaster. They're out of beds, out of medicines and cannot cope with the wounded."
On the January 3, 2009, Saturday Today, NBC’s Tom Aspell: "Israel is allowing some supplies to enter Gaza, about 90 truckloads a day. But Gaza's 1.5 million people are short of food, clean water and medical supplies."
On the January 5, 2009, Today show, Fletcher: "Despite the heavy fighting today, Israel allowed a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to cross into Gaza – a gesture – while thousands more Israeli troops are waiting on the border."
On the December 29, CBS Evening News, correspondent Sheila MacVicar reported: "Since 2005, Hamas militants and their allies have launched more than 6,000 rockets at Israeli targets. Ten people have been killed. As candidate Barack Obama discovered when he toured the frequently hit Israeli town of Sderot last summer, however crudely ineffective the attacks, people did live in fear. ... But the violence was not one-sided. Israel carried out targeted killings, and more importantly, for the people of Gaza, imposed and tightened an economic blockade that cut off supplies of food, medicine and even electricity. The theory was that would encourage Palestinians to reject Hamas. That didn't work. Unwilling to talk to Hamas with Israeli elections coming soon, with no serious prospects for peace, Israel did what it has done before and vows to continue.
On the December 30, The Early Show on CBS, Jeff Glor reported: "A relief ship carrying a Georgia Congressman Cynthia McKinney clashed with the Israeli navy this morning. The aid boat carrying activists and medical supplies destined for Gaza was reportedly rammed by an Israeli gunship. There were no casualties."
On the January 2, 2009, CBS Evening News, substitute anchor Jeff Glor reported for the first time on his network that aid was being allowed into Gaza: "And Gazans continue to struggle to survive both the bombs and the shortages of everything. Israel is letting aid in, but the only thing not in short supply is misery. Some are escaping Gaza's horrors. The Israelis have allowed several bus loads of foreigners to leave the prison that the strip has become. They're the foreign-born wives and children of Gazan men. And they're leaving their husbands and fathers behind to who knows what fate."
On the January 5, 2009, CBS Evening News, Mark Phillips aired complaints of not having enough food and water:
MARK PHILLIPS: For the third night in a row, the fighting is furious, the combat closer than it's been until now as Israeli troops have begun pushing into the heavily populated areas where Hamas fighters wait. The Israelis have continued the relentless air and artillery pounding that has traumatized Gaza's population, raised the civilian death toll and led to increasingly louder calls from around the world for the offensive to stop. The voices from within Gaza have become more desperate.
SAMEN HABEEB, GAZA RESIDENT: We don't have enough food. We don't have enough water. And as you hear, more bombings, and I can see the dust now over my house from the window. This night will be very hot.
On the January 6, 2009, The Early Show on CBS, Russ Mitchell reported: "For Palestinian civilians, water and medical supplies are running out fast. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting thus far."
On the January 6, 2009, CBS Evening News, Katie Couric reported on the impending "humanitarian corridor"agreement: "Meanwhile, street battles continue inside Gaza, but late today Israel agreed to set up a humanitarian corridor so urgently needed supplies of food and medicine can be brought in. UN officials say more than 600 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive, half of them civilians."
During the 7:00 a.m. hour of the January 7 The Early Show, CBS anchor Julie Chen announced: "Both Israel and Hamas say they will stop military operations in Gaza this morning for three hours to allow humanitarian supplies to be delivered."
Correspondent Richard Roth then delivered his report in which viewers could have gotten the impression that food had not been allowed into Gaza in weeks. Roth: "The announcement came first from the Israelis, who say that for a few hours each day now, its military will hold fire in a preannounced part of Gaza to allow the establishment of a so-called humanitarian corridor for aid. Trucks full of food, water, medical supplies and fuel started moving after waiting for weeks on Israel's side of the Gaza border. ... Outrage over the Israeli shelling of a UN school in Gaza where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge may have helped motivate the humanitarian gesture. Israel says it was returning fire from Hamas militants inside the school compound, but the death of more than 40 people and pictures of the horrific aftermath clearly added to the sense of urgency. ..."
After Roth’s report came an interview by phone with Norwegian Doctor Mads Gilbert from the main hospital in Gaza, without informing viewers of his pro-9/11, anti-Israel views which should have raised suspicions about whether he was reliable witness.
On the January 7, 2009, CBS Evening News Katie Couric teased the show: "Tonight, a brief pause in the war in Gaza to get humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians. As the fighting resumes, pressure builds on Israel to make the truce permanent." Couric later added: "The fighting stopped in Gaza today – for a few hours, anyway – and now there's a new push for a permanent cease-fire. ... During today's three-hour truce, truckloads of food and medicine were sent in."
On the January 9, 2009, CBS Evening News, Mark Phillips, without informing viewers of the blockade’s importance in preventing Iran or Syria from supplying weapons to Hamas, the CBS correspondent seemed to imply that Hamas leaders were actually concerned about the welfare of the civilian population as he referred to Hamas wanting an end to the Israeli blockade "strangling" Gaza right before adding that "the innocent suffer." Phillips: "Israel is not only demanding the rocket fire stop, but that Hamas be kept from re-arming itself. And Hamas keeps fighting because it wants the Israeli blockade that is strangling Gaza lifted. And the innocent suffer. Allegations, some of them supported by UN officials in Gaza, continue to be made of Israeli targeting of civilians. This woman told CBS News 20 members of her family were herded into a house by the Israelis, that her husband was shot, and that tank fire badly injured her children. The Israelis deny these accounts."
The day before the war began, during the 9:00 a.m. hour of CNN Newsroom on December 26, 2008, correspondent Alina Cho reported: "And for the first time in ten days, Israel has opened three border crossings with Gaza. About 80 trucks were expected to cross into Gaza. They're hauling goods including fuel and cooking gas. Officials say the decision to open the crossings came after requests from international aid groups in Egypt. Now whether the crossings remain open will be a daily decision."
When CNN’s The Situation Room reported on the ship collision, substitute anchor Suzanne Malveaux did at least describe McKinney as "controversial" as she introduced the story on the December 30 show, and cited the time she slapped a Capitol Hill police officer. Malveaux: "A controversial political figure here in the U.S. is rocking the boat again in connection with the crisis in Gaza now. Many people remember former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in a dustup in which she allegedly slapped a Capitol Hill police officer. But McKinney's public career has been packed with attention-grabbing moments, including this new one. "
But on the December 30, American Morning, CNN anchor John Roberts and correspondent Karl Penhaul – who was on the ship, the SS Dignity, which McKinney was on – sounded sympathetic to the ship’s effort to run the blockade. Since the vessel was damaged, Roberts asked if there was any chance someone else would be willing to "take up the charge" and "try to get those medical supplies in":
KARL PENHAUL: Now from what we've seen from the repeated airstrikes in Gaza, any medical aid at this stage is critical. And not only is the Dignity trying to ferry in three tons of medical aid, but we have a surgeon on board. We also have members of the Cypriot Parliament. It has a children's doctor from the London's Great Ormond Street on board. We have other doctors on board. These are clearly qualified medical personnel and with much needed aid at a time when the humanitarian plight of the Gaza people is extreme in the wake of these successive Israeli airstrikes.
JOHN ROBERTS: Karl, taking a look at the damage to the superstructure there on the bridge of the Dignity, it's not going anywhere for a while. Is there anybody else there on the port city of Tyre who's willing to take up the charge to go back out there on the seas and try to get those medical supplies in, or is the word there now that it's just too dangerous with those Israeli patrol boats running around? And as you have described, it would appear all too ready to challenge any vessels that come into the area.
For more on CNN’s reporting of Cynthia McKinney’s attempt to run the blockade of Gaza, see: "CBS Highlights Cynthia McKinney’s Gaza Adventure, Ignores Extremism & Anti-Semitic Connections."
During the 6:00 a.m. hour of the December 31, 2008, American Morning on CNN, correspondent Hancocks reported: " But at this point, Israel still not opening up those borders, and certainly not opening up the borders to allow much humanitarian assistance in either. Some of the borders are being opened for a little bit of time, but it's a drop in the ocean, according to these aid agencies, the amount of medical supplies and food and water that is getting in to Gaza. Those figures you were just mentioning from the Palestinian medical sources, we now have up to 390 killed and 1,900 injured. You can imagine the state of the hospitals without enough medical supplies.
During the 7:00 a.m. hour of the December 31, 2008, American Morning, CNN anchor Christine Romans reported: "Israel says it won't stop its air attacks against Gaza despite a French proposal for a humanitarian truce. A spokesman for the Israeli government says that they need, quote, sustainable solution and not a Band-Aid that will just kick the can down the road. A spokesman for Hamas says the violence needs to stop and humanitarian aid should be allowed into Gaza before any political solution can be discussed."
During the 1:00 p.m. hour of CNN Newsroom on December 31, 2008, anchor Fredricka Whitfield reported: "While there is no ceasefire, Israel says it will let 2000 tons of food and supplies into Gaza today. The U.N. plans to take in supplies tomorrow. A U.N. worker says there's no fuel or electricity in the territory right now."
During the 4:00 p.m. hour of the January 5, 2009, The Situation Room on CNN, correspondent Christiane Amanpour reported: "Obviously, very, very dire need also for humanitarian aid and more medical supplies. There's deep concern about the lack of water, the lack of medical supplies. And the numbers of bodies, dead and injured, are piling up at the hospitals there."
During the 7:00 a.m. hour of the January 6, American Morning on CNN, anchor John Roberts reported: "The Red Cross is saying the situation in Gaza is dire. A full-blown humanitarian crisis. We heard from one of the U.N. relief workers in Gaza City a few minutes ago here on the most news in the morning that it's literally impossible to get aid to people on the ground there. The Israelis are allowing it to cross the border. The Red Cross is able to get it into their hands, but getting it into those areas is extraordinarily difficult, because Gaza City is one of most densely populated places on earth. There's about 500,000 people living in that city proper, 1.4 million in the greater metropolitan area. And it would be like if the lower part of Manhattan were being targeted, just trying to get relief supplies into these areas with all of the bombs falling and with the ground assault going on as well.
On the January 6, 2009, American Morning on CNN, anchor Kieren Chetry reported: "The conflict sparking calls for Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Right now, the International Red Cross says the situation there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis."
During the 7:00 a.m. hour on the January 7, 2009, American Morning on CNN, anchor Kiran Chetry reported: "Israel has stopped its offensive in Gaza for three hours this morning to move to allow humanitarian aid into the area. The Red Cross says Gaza is suffering a full blown humanitarian crisis."
During the 8:00 a.m. hour on the January 7, 2009, American Morning on CNN, anchor Chetry reported: "Israel has temporarily stopped its attacks in Gaza to allow much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza. CNN's Christiane Amanpour has the latest for us on this as they're calling it the humanitarian corridor trying to allow some of the supplies, including fuel, to get in."
Correspondent Christiane Amanpour continued: "But it's clearly in response to the deep distress of the civilians and the citizens in Gaza have been under with cuts in electricity, lack of water, fuel, food, and not being able to actually go to distribution centers. Remember, Gaza is a strip of land that it is about 80 percent dependent on hand-outs. So this is being severely impacted during this now 12-day military operation."
On the December 27, 2008, Fox Report, substitute anchor Jami Kolbe reported: "The Gaza Strip borders Western Israel and Egypt. Those two countries have virtually sealed off Gaza from the rest of the world, only allowing in humanitarian aid. The goal is to punish Hamas, which controls Gaza, but critics say the blockades have harmed everyone in Gaza, leading innocent civilians to suffer. Hamas responded to the blockades by firing dozens of rockets into Israel this week. The rockets land randomly, sending Israelis scrambling for cover, and making no distinction between military and civilian targets there. At least one person died in the latest round of launches from Hamas."
On the December 28, 2008, Fox Report, correspondent Mike Tobin reported: "Hospitals in Gaza are now overwhelmed and running out of supplies. Aid trucks with medical supplies came in from Israel. They came up from Egypt. Iran sent planeloads of aid to Sinai with the intention of bringing it up through the Egyptian border into Gaza."
On the December 29, 2008, Fox and Friends, correspondent David Lee Miller reported: "The situation, though, in the south does remain tense. Israel has said it is trying to allow, though, humanitarian supplies into Gaza despite the ongoing conflict."
On the December 30, 2008, Fox and Friends, correspondent David Lee Miller reported: "The prime minister has said that they are going to treat Hamas with an iron fist, but that, he also said that, as for the people of Gaza, they are going to be treated with silk gloves. Today some 100 trucks – shipments of food and humanitarian supplies – are being allowed into Gaza. The situation there very dire, we are told. The hospitals are simply overwhelmed."
On the January 2, 2009, Fox Report, anchor Trace Gallagher announced: "Israel allowing trucks carrying relief supplies into Gaza today, and it says it’s now sending out warnings before some bombings to try to avoid civilian casualties."
Later on the same show, correspondent Wendell Goler relayed that the White House had doubts about the U.N.’s characterization of Gaza’s humanitarian situation: "The President is urging Israelis to limit civilian casualties, but his aides aren’t sure they believe the U.N.’s warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. They do believe that Hamas is to blame for repeatedly violating previous ceasefires."
On the January 6, 2009, Fox and Friends, anchor Gretchen Carlson reported during a news brief: "The government in Tel Aviv now stepping up efforts to deliver humanitarian aid. This video was just released by the Israeli embassy in Washington, shows trucks being loaded for the delivery over to Gaza." The story was repeated twice during the three-hour show.