Unfit to Print: Another Killing in the Gaza Death Zone

Amneh Qdeih, 57, died of a gunshot wound to her abdomen last Friday, the latest in a series of Gaza victims shot in the “death zone” near the border fence. Three days later security forces killed two men in an airstrike, one of them identified as a militant involved in launching rockets toward southern Israel.

The New York Times reports the death of the two men today, but it has made no mention of Qdeih, described by her family members as mentally ill. The paper has also failed to mention recent reports that show Israel is targeting and killing civilians near the border when they pose no threat to soldiers or to Israeli security.

The killing of innocent civilians poses a problem for the Times, which prefers to report Palestinian deaths when there is a chance to hang the terrorism charge on the victim or present it as part of an ongoing conflict between two sides. Thus, today’s story notes “increased violence between Israel and Gaza this year” and “strikes on both sides” which “have been at a steady simmer over the past two months.”

Although Qdeih’s death passed without comment in the Times, the Israeli human rights monitoring group B’Tselem has spoken out about her killing and that of other Gaza residents. On Jan. 1 it released a report subtitled “Death Zones Near the Fence,” in which it charges that the Israeli army has apparently given “standing orders to fire at any person who enters the area, regardless of the circumstances.”

The army, of course, denies this, but B’Tselem isn’t convinced. The report continues with a healthy dose of skepticism: “However, the killings in the area since disengagement [after 2005] belie the army’s denial.”

Yesterday, B’Tselem issued a press release stating that the killings at the fence have increased in the past two and a half months. It leads off with the death of Amneh Qdeih. “It is not clear whether she was killed instantaneously or bled to death for hours,” the release says.

According to the B’Tselem release, the army said soldiers “fired at a person who was approaching the perimeter fence in the southern Gaza Strip and did not heed their calls to halt. The unit reported it had a confirmed hit on the target.”

Although the Times is most often content to quote military sources without follow-up, it appears that B’Tselem is willing to raise the hard questions required in situations like this. The release continues, “The IDF Spokesperson did not explain why Qdeih was not given medical treatment that might have saved her life.”

Meanwhile, other media outlets found Qdeih’s death worth reporting. Al Jazeera, ABC News, Ynet, and BBC, among others, released stories about the incident. In the Times, however, we learn only that a militant was killed yesterday and that the army boasted that it had thus eliminated “a real-time threat.”

Barbara Erickson

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