ABC Omits Vital Details, Hails ‘Damning’ State Dept. Report On Israel

The State Department released its report on whether Israel has been violating international law and its weapons agreement with the U.S. on Friday, and it read like a politician desperately trying to appease two irreconcilable factions of his base. Nevertheless, ABC White House correspondent MaryAlice Parks told Saturday’s Good Morning America that the report was “damning.” Both Parks and her NBC Today counterpart, Aaron Gilchrist, omitted information that paints Israel’s actions in a very different light.

In studio, Parks declared that “this is a damning report, the strongest criticism that we’ve heard from the Biden Administration, saying Israel likely violated international law in Gaza, but the report stopped short of drawing any final conclusion or requiring any change in U.S. policy, saying that more information is needed.”

Now doing a voiceover for a pre-recorded report, Parks added, “Overnight, a new State Department report finding Israel may have violated international laws in Gaza and likely used American-supplied weapons to do so. The report saying Israel has the knowledge and means to mitigate civilian harm, but the high level of civilian deaths ‘raises substantial questions about whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases.’”

Parks also hyped that “given Israel’s reliance on American-supplied weapons, it is ‘reasonable to assess’ that some U.S. weapons have been used in instances inconsistent with Israel’s obligations under international law. International laws Israel has agreed to requires nations to protect civilian lives, allow humanitarian aid into war zones, and avoid excessive destruction of civilian infrastructure. The report says more information is needed, details hard to assess given the conflict and accuses Israel of a lack of transparency.”

Gilchrist was marginally better, he didn’t use breathless words like “damning,” but he also didn’t provide the full context, “The U.S. will continue to provide weapons to Israel, that’s one of the top lines from that  highly anticipated State Department assessment of how Israel is using American weapons in Gaza. Now, the report says it’s “reasonable to assess” that Israel may have violated international law, but that the country has not broken the terms of the U.S. weapons agreement. Now, this report calling the assurances Israel provided credible enough to continue the flow of weapons.”

Someone who did provide a fuller context was D.C. correspondent Natalie Brand on CBS Saturday Morning. After going through the same details as Parks and Gilchrist, she asked Middle East Institute senior fellow Brian Katulis, “So, what message does this report send Israel?”

Katulis was more honest, “It sends a muddled message because it’s inconclusive.”

After going through several clips of GOP condemnation of Biden’s weapons and halt and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defending it, Brand touched on a different aspect of the report, “The new report also mentions Israel has a number of ongoing active investigations pending and notes military experts describe Gaza as being as difficult a battle space as any military has faced in modern warfare. Now, in a new statement this morning, Israel says it’s in complete compliance with the laws of armed conflict.”

The part about military experts’ take on the Gaza battle space should be included in every report about civilian misery in Gaza because people with no knowledge of military matters, but who have agendas cast moral judgements and lob all kinds of incendiary accusations at Israel do so without this context. ABC and NBC leaving it out was pure dishonesty.

Here is a transcript for the May 11 shows:

ABC Good Morning America

5/11/2024

7:09 AM ET

JANAI NORMAN: Now to the Israel-Hamas War and the release of a long awaited report on whether Israel has violated international law in its use of U.S. weapons in Gaza. ABC’s MaryAlice parks joins us live in studio with more. Good morning to you, MaryAlice. We’ve heard the Biden administration stepping up its rhetoric but this is a new level.

MARYALICE PARKS: Yeah, absolutely, good morning, Janai. This is a damning report, the strongest criticism that we’ve heard from the Biden Administration saying Israel likely violated international law in Gaza, but the report stopped short of drawing any final conclusion or requiring any change in U.S. policy, saying that more information is needed. 

Overnight, a new State Department report finding Israel may have violated international laws in Gaza and likely used American-supplied weapons to do so. The report saying Israel has the knowledge and means to mitigate civilian harm, but the high level of civilian deaths “raises substantial questions about whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases.” 

Adding, that given Israel’s reliance on American-supplied weapons, it is “reasonable to assess” that some U.S. weapons have been used in instances inconsistent with Israel’s obligations under international law. International laws Israel has agreed to requires nations to protect civilian lives, allow humanitarian aid into war zones, and avoid excessive destruction of civilian infrastructure. The report says more information is needed, details hard to assess given the conflict and accuses Israel of a lack of transparency.

***

NBC Today

5/11/2024

7:05 AM ET

AARON GILCHRIST: The U.S. will continue to provide weapons to Israel, that’s one of the top lines from that  highly anticipated State Department assessment of how Israel is using American weapons in Gaza. Now, the report says it’s “reasonable to assess” that Israel may have violated international law, but that the country has not broken the terms of the U.S. weapons agreement. 

Now, this report calling the assurances Israel provided credible enough to continue the flow of weapons. That news coming just days after President Biden acknowledged that U.S. weapons killed innocent Palestinians. He also acknowledged he paused a new shipment of 3,500 bombs to Israel last week and he warned he would suspend further weapons shipments if Israel carries out a large-scale assault on Hamas in Rafah where we know more than a million civilians are holed up now.

The president’s warning during an interview this week drew praise and criticism from Republicans and Democrats. Progressives calling it a positive step in holding Israel accountable, conservatives blasted Biden, though, calling the pause a reward to Hamas. 

Pennsylvania Democrat Senator John Fetterman called that decision “deeply disappointing” and even as the U.S. questions how effective Israel has been at limiting the civilian harm in Gaza, the administration has sent other defensive weapons and small arms to Israel.

***

CBS Saturday Morning

5/11/2024

8:05 AM ET

NATALIE BRAND: However, it says it’s not able to reach definitive conclusions on whether U.S. supplied weapons were “used in the actions alleged as violations of” humanitarian law, but it goes on to say, “given Israel’s significant reliance on U.S.-made defense articles, it’s reasonable to assess” that weapons may have been used by Israel’s military in instances, quote, “inconsistent” with international law. 

So, what message does this report send Israel?

BRIAN KATULIS: It sends a muddled message because it’s inconclusive. It leaves open the question of what’s the best way for the United States and Israel to try to bridge the gaps that now have become so apparent between the two of them on this particular Rafah operation.

BRAND: The report comes the same week as the Biden administration’s decision to pause the delivery of thousands of bombs to Israel, a move blasted by Congressional Republicans.

JONI ERNST: And he is turning his back on Israel.

TOM COTTON: The president is only emboldening Hamas.

BRAND: President Biden says he will not supply offensive weapons that Israel could use in a large-scale military operation in Rafah.

LLOYD AUSTIN: If the question is, is it possible to conduct effective operations and protect civilians? Absolutely, it’s possible.

BRAND: Defense secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Friday there have been far too many civilian casualties since the Israel-Hamas War began.

AUSTIN: We would like to see that trend change, so that’s really our focus.

BRAND: The Biden administration says it’s also watching with concern what the U.N. calls a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The State Department’s report says while the overall level of aid reaching Palestinians remains, quote, “insufficient,” it goes on to say it doesn’t “currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or restricting delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance.” 

The new report also mentions Israel has a number of ongoing active investigations pending and notes military experts describe Gaza as being as difficult a battle space as any military has faced in modern warfare. Now, in a new statement this morning, Israel says it’s in complete compliance with the laws of armed conflict.

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