RTÉ’s claim that it did not ‘misinterpret or misrepresent’ the views of a woman featured in footage from Gaza is as deceitful as the original report. The footage of the woman appearing onscreen is prefaced by images of a building exploding as a consequence of a missile strike. There is no indication given as to who launched the missile. The voiceover says “even as international pressure increases, the war continued unabated from both sides”.
An uninformed viewer could easily interpret the explosion as caused by a missile launched by either Israeli or Palestinian forces, given the statement of “unabated war from both sides”. In fact, Palestinian forces have used no weapons capable of causing such destruction.
Since the images of the explosion are followed immediately by the Palestinian woman speaking, a viewer could easily infer that the explosion was caused by the Palestinian side. Such an inference would be reinforced by RTÉ’s interpretation and representation of her words: she is ready to strap on an explosive device and fight. Her words and gestures are part of the same flow of images concerning “the war of both sides”.
It is not just a question of her views being ‘paraphrased’, as RTÉ claims: proper paraphrasing requires due attention to the context. Her words about being ready to strap on an explosive device and fight are not because she is a combatant in one “side” of a “war”, which is what RTÉ suggests with the sequence of images and words in its report, but because she is witness to the death of children, as a consequence of precisely the kind of explosion caused by Israeli forces, but shown in the report as if it could have been generated by either “side”.
As she says herself in the translation furnished by RTÉ: “Four to five children die every single day, where are you people? …a four-storey building fell on their heads, it is horrific”. Then: “I am ready to wear the explosive jacket and joint (sic) our fighters…all our children are dying”.
There is a vast difference between a woman saying she will join the fight because “all our children are dying”, and a woman saying she is “ready to strap on an explosive device and fight” without any context or rationale for her words, amid the suggestion furnished by the RTÉ report that even ordinary women are combatants.
Thus the RTÉ report presents the situation in Gaza as a two-sided and even contest, but with the difference on the Palestinian side being that there is no distinction between a civilian and a combatant. The presentation of the Palestinian woman is therefore in keeping with the image of what pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz once described as the “continuum of civilianality” to justify attacks that primarily injured civilian populations, and in keeping with Israeli propaganda more generally. RTÉ’s claim that it did not ‘misinterpret or misrepresent’ the views of this woman could only be justified if it were under orders from the Israeli military, and not subject to obligations as a public broadcaster in Ireland.