Whose Truth Do You Trust in the Gaza Conflict?

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler 1-07-2009

In addition to the obvious and outrageous tragedy of those killed by the Israeli bombing of Gaza (640 killed so far in this incursion) and Hamas' terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians (22 killed since the year 2000), add that first casualty of war: truth.

Who do you believe when both sides trade accusations of terror and war crimes? Even the horror of 30 civilians killed by the shelling of a designated U.N. refugee compound is complicated by allegations that Hamas militants were intentionally firing mortars from nearby.

But also add this critical fact of the ongoing conflict from yesterday's coverage (emphasis added):

Gaza health officials said that 562 Palestinians had been killed -- including at least 111 children -- and some 2,500 wounded. The figures can't be independently verified because Israel has barred foreign journalists from Gaza since the offensive started.

So if foreign journalists aren't allowed, the media must rely on Gaza residents who are under attack, and the official spokespersons of Hamas and Israeli forces who are fighting -- all unlikely sources of unbiased information -- though it is an important distinction that it is the Israelis and not Palestinians who are barring foreign journalists.

Full disclosure: I travelled to Gaza in 2004 as a freelance photojournalist visiting humanitarian projects. At two different points while touring damaged buildings and bulldozed homes of Palestinians, I was shot at by Israeli forces. Warning shots, most likely -- though it is inconceivable how I could have been perceived as a physical threat as I walked around in the open in broad daylight. And my experience as a journalist in the Occupied Territories is not unique.

But for those still looking for credible testimony about what's really going on in Gaza, here is some heart-wrenching testimony from a Norwegian doctor working with the U.N., as broadcast by CBS:

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners.

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