ABC, NBC, and CBS Mislead On Court Ruling To Portray Israel As Lawless

The Saturday network morning shows consisting of ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS Saturday Morning all discussed the International Court of Justice’s Friday ruling against Israel by portraying the country as defying the court’s order to halt its battle against Hamas in Rafah. However, what the court actually ruled was more complicated, leaving viewers unaware that Israel may not be in violation of the ruling at all.

CBS was the worst offender. Host Dana Jacobson began, “The United Nations’s highest court has ordered Israel to immediately end its military operations in Rafah in southern Gaza, but it stopped short of demanding a full cease-fire. The court itself has no enforcement powers, but the U.N. measure is the latest of legal and diplomatic challenges for Israel.”

Of the 13 judges in the majority opinion, two wrote additional opinions, echoed by the two dissenters, stating they believe they are ruling that Israel can continue to operate in Rafah, it just needs to comply with its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which Israel claims it is already doing. Only one, the ad hoc judge from South Africa, interpreted the ruling as saying Israel must completely stop. The other ten remained silent. By contrast, the ICJ’s ruling against Russia was much clearer, ordering it to “immediately suspend” its operations against Ukraine.

Correspondent Imtiaz Tyab added to the confusion, “Israel’s response was ferocious. Making it clear it won’t stop its military operation in Rafah. The court, which is also investigating Israel for, quote, ‘plausible genocide,’ also said 800,000 Palestinians have been displaced since Israeli forces launched an offensive there two weeks ago. Triggering a humanitarian situation the ICJ called disastrous.”

Retired Judge Joan Donoghue was on the court during the “plausible genocide” ruling Tyab mentioned and she recently criticized the media in a BBC interview, claiming it is misrepresenting that ruling. The court ruled that it is “plausible” that Palestinians are a protected class under the Genocide Convention, not that it is “plausible” that Israel is committing genocide.

Over at ABC, host Whit Johnson also oversimplified the ruling, “This morning, international pressure on Israel is intensifying after the U.N.’s top court called for a halt to the offensive in Gaza.”

Correspondent Britt Clennett also got in on the action, “The fighting rages on in Gaza despite the ruling by the U.N.’s top court urging Israel to stop its very controversial military operation in Rafah… Even though the ICJ can make legally binding rulings in disputes between countries. In this case, it has no way of enforcing those orders. So, instead, it has to rely on tools from other governments like sanctions or even arms embargoes to really press Israel into compliance, but this ruling is symbolic, it is largely symbolic, it does add to Israel’s increasing isolation we’re seeing on the world stage.”

Meanwhile, at NBC, host Peter Alexander similarly avoided the court’s ambiguous ruling, “Now to the war in Gaza, despite an international court ordering Israel to stop its assault on Rafah, the Israelis say that they will continue their operations.”

Correspondent Meagan Fitzgerald echoed those sentiments, “The International Court of Justice issued a three pronged order here telling Israel to immediately stop its offensive in Rafah, to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and to allow in humanitarian aid, and ordering Israel to provide access to the enclave so investigators can determine if Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. While this is a significant ruling, Israel is showing no signs that they’re willing to comply with stopping their offensive, and in fact, our teams on the ground in Gaza have seen air strikes since the ruling came down.”

The ICJ’s ambiguity on Rafah is not a defense of the ICJ. On one hand, it wants to claim Israel needs to do more to protect civilians and on the other, as Tyab reported, it calls the evacuation of civilians from the combat zone disastrous. It holds Israel accountable for Egypt holding up aid, and it should’ve simply ruled Rafah is a legitimate target under Article 51, Section 7 of the Additional Protocol of the Geneva Convention, but it does show that Israel isn’t the rogue state the Saturday shows portrayed it as.

Here are transcripts for the May 25 shows:

ABC Good Morning America

5/25/2024

7:08 AM ET

WHIT JOHNSON: We turn now between the war between Israel and Hamas. This morning, international pressure on Israel is intensifying after the U.N.’s top court called for a halt to the offensive in Gaza. Britt Clennett joins us from Tel Aviv with the latest. Britt, good morning.

BRITT CLENNETT: Good morning, Whit, yeah. The fighting rages on in Gaza despite the ruling by the U.N.’s top court urging Israel to stop its very controversial military operation in Rafah. Now, Israel said the court ruling was outrageous. It said it was morally repugnant, it said it was disgusting, and it said that claims that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza are false, that it is acting within international law. 

Even though the ICJ can make legally binding rulings in disputes between countries. In this case, it has no way of enforcing those orders. So, instead, it has to rely on tools from other governments like sanctions or even arms embargoes to really press Israel into compliance, but this ruling is symbolic, it is largely symbolic, it does add to Israel’s increasing isolation we’re seeing on the world stage.

***

NBC Today

5/25/2024

7:08 AM ET

PETER ALEXANDER: Now to the war in Gaza, despite an international court ordering Israel to stop its assault on Rafah, the Israelis say that they will continue their operations, they’re looking to root out terrorists in the heavily populated city and it all comes as Egypt says it’s agreed to send United Nations humanitarian trucks into Gaza through a critical crossing. NBC’s Meagan Fitzgerald joins us with the very latest this morning. Meagan, good morning.

MEAGAN FITZGERALD: Peter, good morning. The International Court of Justice issued a three pronged order here telling Israel to immediately stop its offensive in Rafah, to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and to allow in humanitarian aid, and ordering Israel to provide access to the enclave so investigators can determine if Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. 

While this is a significant ruling, Israel is showing no signs that they’re willing to comply with stopping their offensive, and in fact, our teams on the ground in Gaza have seen air strikes since the ruling came down. The Israeli government has released a statement Friday saying they embarked on a just defensive war following the attacks on October 7th, and it’s acting to reduce as much harm as possible to civilians. 

Now, keep in mind, while the order is binding, there’s no way for the court to enforce it, but there’s no doubt this is a blow to Israel’s international standings, and it’s one that adds even more pressure to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

***

CBS Saturday Morning

5/25/2024

8:10 AM ET

DANA JACOBSON: The United Nations’s highest court has ordered Israel to immediately end its military operations in Rafah in southern Gaza, but it stopped short of demanding a full cease-fire. The court itself has no enforcement powers, but the U.N. measure is the latest of legal and diplomatic challenges for Israel. The increasingly isolated government has been facing pressure on all sides to end the war and bring the hostages home, but so far they show no signs of complying with the world court’s order. Imtiaz Tyab has more.

IMTIAZ TYAB: Israel’s response was ferocious. Making it clear it won’t stop its military operation in Rafah. The court, which is also investigating Israel for, quote, “plausible genocide,” also said 800,000 Palestinians have been displaced since Israeli forces launched an offensive there two weeks ago. Triggering a humanitarian situation the ICJ called disastrous. 

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