ABC News’ Diane Sawyer Mistakes Stricken Palestinians for Israelis

By Juan Cole

In the current round of fighting between mighty Israel and the little Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have killed 53 Palestinians.

The supposedly deadly little rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have killed or injured no Israelis, though they have done some property damage. In fact, those rockets have no guidance systems and very seldom hit anything, mostly landing in the desert.

Nevertheless, Reuters and other agencies (or their headline writers) routinely equate deadly Israeli airstrikes with sophisticated American fighter jets with small dumb rockets, some of them the sort of thing that could be made with an 8th grade chemistry set. And, of course, Palestinian lives are cheap and their 53 dead and (150) wounded don’t count. That no Israelis have been killed is not mentioned because it would interfere with the narrative of violent Palestinians and victimized Israelis (it is mostly the other way around).

In general, since 2010 Palestinians have killed 28 Israelis, while Israelis have killed 575 Palestinians. In general, it is the Israelis who have poor little Gaza blockaded and “on a diet” and not the other way around.

It is therefore no surprise that American media are confused by the actual situation on the ground. There have been over 400 powerful Israeli airstrikes on one of the more densely populated areas on earth, inevitably hitting little children and their mothers, while Hamas’s and Islamic Jihads’ mostly pitiful little rockets (there are a handful of bigger long-range ones) have done relatively little damage.

So here is Diane Sawyer showing footage of the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on non-combatants, with a devastated Palestinian family, which she misidentifies as an Israeli family. (h/t Rania Khaleq at EI). This is not a bug. It is a feature.

Diane Sawyer (ABC) mistakes Gazans for Israelis


ABC late apologized here.

58 Responses

  1. Totally deceptive. I wonder if this was Dianne’s mistake, as she’s just the (responsible) talking head, or some Producer with an agenda. It was only a snippet, but it established the context and anything that follows would been negligible in impact. Whatever might have followed in the report, or in a retraction/clarification of some sort (don’t hold your breath), would have been permanently tainted by the initial bias (lie) this managed to establish.

    • The level of ignorance at most mainstream media organizations is now so high that I doubt whoever put the segment together knew what they were looking at.

    • Many times on Fox News, when a Republican congressman is reported as being caught in wrongdoing, the little (R) after his name mysteriously turns into a (D). Of course this is soon forgotten. Done repetitively, this reinforces the prejudices of the audience.

      • Conversely, consider the psychological study in which white Americans were shown a quick glimpse of a photo of a white man holding a knife on a black man. I think 1/3 of respondents later claimed the photo showed a black man holding a knife on a white man. So, yes, Diane Sawyer might see the Israelis as being enough her race to do that. Isn’t that what white Americans are being indoctrinated to think about Israelis? “Our” race?

      • “the little (R) after his name mysteriously turns into a (D)”

        Yes, this was actually featured on The Simpsons earlier this season.

  2. It is a true, but sad commentary on the state of US media that one gets more actual facts about the conflict form Israeli press (which is heavily government censored) than from any US media. The American public overwhelmingly supports Israel in large part because of this constant propaganda campaign. The campaign consists of some clear untruths ( like the Diane Sawyer thing) , a lot of misinformation and distortion and lots of simply omitting the facts. This hasbara campaign is the greatest shame of a shameful US industry.

  3. If Dianne Sawyer is unable to distinguish between an Israeli woman and a hijab wearing Palestinian, then she definitely shouldn’t be covering news from the the Middle-East, maybe ABC should stick to what they do best – celebrity news.

    • Brian, You are so right about Dianne Sawyer. I think
      Dianne`s day in the sun should be over. She has made
      many mistakes in her reports, and has made many trackless
      remarks to people she is interviewing. There are so many
      wonderful TV journalist now, why settle for her?

    • The networks made “mistakes” like that during the buildup to our invasion of Iraq. Many of our leaders want to expand the war against Muslims but they need the media to get the public in the right frame of mind.

      Read Helena Cobban’s latest comment on the reporting about Israel and Hamas in the Washington Post. Notice how many times Palestinians were called “ARABS.”



  4. Look at all that damage! It’s astonishing that Sawyer would think for even a millisecond that the rockets from Gaza could have caused it. The breadth of blindering ignorance would be unthinkable, and she would be instantly fired, if the U.S. press had any interest in actual journalism. The bible story version of reporting is an incredibly destructive fairy tale, and it shows the U.S. is just as primitive as the people the news media frame as savages. I think the photo used for your posting show who the real savages are. It’s not exclusive to Israel, of course, but U.S news reporting would have us think it was universal across the Arabic-speaking world. Thanks for highlighting this example of U.S. cultural bias, Juan. It’s sick, and it’s a huge problem, as you know.

  5. This article was not one of Dr. Cole’s better pieces. The fact that the projectiles fired from Gaza are crude does not mean that they do not necessitate a response. While there is little doubt that the current situation was largely brought about by Israeli intransigence, there is no excuse for indiscriminate firing of potentially deadly projectiles into population centers.

    This article appears to suggest that due to the fortuitous fact that no Israeli civilians have yet been killed, a deterrent response is not justified.

    • The point is about propaganda, in this case a by-the-way framing “mistake”, made either by someone with an overt agenda or someone who cannot help but take care of their friends at some level.

      YOUR point would be one you should re-consider in terms of what is proportional, but also in terms of context. Israel’s real complaint, and the reason for the consistently disproportionate use of force (an explicit policy of the Israeli government over many decades), is that the Palestinians resist. It’s like a rapist beating the crap out of a practically defenseless woman because she resists: these rapists are only defending themselves, after all, as they proceed with their colonization.

      This may be a provocative analogy, but if it causes you just think about the realities rather than just having a knee-jerk reaction, it’ll be worth your while. The sliminess with which Israel has handled themselves, in practice and propaganda, is such that anyone with any powers of discernment and without a vested interest (this may be a high bar…) who has looked in any depth at the history of this conflict cannot come away without feeling the need to take a shower.

  6. Would seem to require a correction and apology from Diane Sawyer, but I’m thinking we are not likely to see it.

  7. doug s

    It’s telling how many Twitterers, who opine on everything, are silent on what Israel is doing. Is twitter just chatter?

  8. Why is anyone surprised? You are not doing you duty as a citizen if you have not read Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent.

    Agree or disagree with him. That is you right. But you cannot claim to be an informed citizen if you just pretend important books such as Manufacturing Consent do not exist.

    That particular book was published in 1987. The Vietnam War and the activities of the US in central America in the 1980s provide textbook illustrations of the propaganda methods used in the US media. They are easy to recognize after you do a little basic reading – and they repeat themselves constantly.

  9. She had to know. Or is a total numb skull. Will she apologize? This is a very serious mistake (cough). Diane “rockets reigning down on Israel” No mention of the ratio of deaths, injuries. Silence. Diane is a hack

    Prof Cole On Wednesday MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow had Noura Erakat on with Aaron David Miller (who has been everywhere Andrea Mitchell, Diane Rehm, Chuck Todd, a panel that Jane (waddling on over to interfere in the Aipac Espionage investigation) Harman presented through the Woodrow Wilson Foundation). Noura’s appearance on an MSNBC outlets was the very first Palestinian perspective on for over six days. Miller lost it and said to Noura “now back to Planet Earth” after she had gone through a list of facts on the ground seldom if ever heard on any MSM outlet. Worth the watch

      • They always “apologize” after the damage is done. Did Little Miss TelePrompter apologize because she truly regretted her error or because she was caught making it. Or, to put it another way, would she have apologized if the error had not been caught and splashed all over the news.

    • She had to know. Or is a total numb skull.

      Could be either. There was an incident several years ago when a former beauty queen was transitioned into a media person. She asked for an opportunity to interview “that Gandhi woman” who at the time was the late Indira Gandhi.

    • In Dianne’s crowd, personally and professionally, I suspect she’d find it difficult to say very much critical of Israel. A little tepid aint-it-a-shame hand-wringing perhaps; or maybe aping those State Dept officials (“our hearts go out to the woman and children….Israel’s right to defend itself, etc).

      I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t even know what tape was playing as she read her script.

  10. One can fathom why or even “how” these mistakes happen primarily concerning with the Palestinians ?
    97+ years and counting…

  11. One can’t underestimate the stupidity of the media,however one can wonder why the Hamas leaders are sending over those useless rockets giving Israel the opportunity to return very deadly fire..seems counter productive…

    • Every intercepting rocket fired by Iron Dome costs Israel $100,000.00, not including the cost of the system itself.

      The Israeli economy is in a virtual standstill while Hamas rockets are being fired into those affected areas. IDF reserve call-ups are expensive.

      Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 cost the Israeli government $1 billion for the military invasion itself not including lost economic productivity and property damage from Gazan missiles. Gazan damages were pegged at $2.8 billion. Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party was voted out of power a few months after Operation Cast Lead and international opinion was decidedly against Israel after that IDF operation.

      While Gazans will undoubtedly suffer, Israel will pay its own price if the conflict continues to escalate. Social programs will be scavenged from the Israeli budget to pay for this operation.

      • BTW – Each “Rust Dome” battery has ONLY 60 missiles and there are only five “rust Dome” batteries in the entire country. From the photos I have seen, it appears that there is no way to re-load a fired tube on a “rust Dome” launcher in the field (factory load only), so once the 60 missiles are fired, the battery is dead until the three launchers per battery are replaced (a minimum several hour job – the radar and control systems are re-used). The Arabs have figured out that if they overload a “rust dome” battery, some of their missiles will get through just fine. This appears to be similar to the “swarm” technique Iran uses to overpower US ship defenses.

        If you take the IDF at their word that there are more than 50,000 missiles pointed at Israel and are generous with the anti-missile details (they actually fail more than claimed), then overt 45000 missiles are going to get through to Israel just fine.

        In reality, all the Arabs have to do is keep Israel bottled up for a few months and Israel will be on its knees from economic starvation (and some actual food starvation).

        As the US learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending troops to fight build to building gets a lot of soldiers killed from IEDs and ambushes.

        As the US colonist learned over 200 years ago, making a war too costly for the other side (dead canon fodder and real cash), causes the other side to give up. I the Arabs are willing to take the losses, Israel can only lose.

      • Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 cost the Israeli government $1 billion for the military invasion…

        If I recall correctly, Congress rushed through a special measure to replenish the spent weaponry used by Israel to slaughter 1,300-plus Gazans.

        • Congress loves Israel and the more mayhem and cruelty it indulges in the more the love. The way fans of certain rock/sports stars feel about their ‘hero’.

    • Here is a Haaretz article critical of Iron Dome and its costs:

      link to

      Haaretz is also just breaking a story about an Israeli civilian critically injured in Ashdod after a missile struck his car.

      • Thank you for this extremely interesting article. I note that “the United States has pledged ONLY $205,000,000 to the program.” Emphasis mine.

  12. 86 tweets, 134 facebook shares, google+2. And this is important to know.

    “In his fascinating book Carbon Detox, George Marshall argues that people are not persuaded by information. Our views are formed by the views of the people with whom we mix. Of the narratives that might penetrate these circles, we are more likely to listen to those which offer us some reward. A story which tells us that the world is cooking and that we’ll have to make sacrifices for the sake of future generations is less likely to be accepted than the more rewarding idea that climate change is a conspiracy hatched by scheming governments and venal scientists, and that strong, independent-minded people should unite to defend their freedoms.~George Monbiot”

    Again, we see the internet, its social networking, acting more as insulator and filter. What a great loss, all of us pawns, simply grazing.

  13. Even their Facebook apology is still skewed with ‘attacks on both sides’:

    On Tuesday night “World News” aired a report on the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, including attacks from both sides.
    In the introduction to the story, we mistakenly identified a family depicted in a still photo.
    They are Palestinian, not Israeli.
    We regret the error and will correct it

  14. Somebody said “the first casualty of war is the truth.”

    The Israelis and their US media outlets know this well.

    The horrible injustice of it all makes me cry.

  15. Interesting, I didn’t know old Israeli women wear hijab! That’s a new one. This is more than negligent. More like reckless disregard for the truth.

  16. ‘… inevitably hitting little children and their mothers …’

    This may be slightly off topic,, but when reading reports such as this I always wonder why it seems that killing women is somehow worse than killing men. Is it more painful for parents to lose a daughter than a son, a man to lose a wife than a woman to lose a husband (and in many cases the primary or sole breadwinner), or for children to grow up without a mother than to grow up without father? Surely all loss of life is such circumstances is a tragedy of the first order regardless of the gender of the victim.

    • Maybe spend some time re-reading the Pentateuch, which is supposed to be God’s Land Grant to the Israelites. All kinds of good stuff in there about how one goes about dispossessing another tribe, including what one does to the women and children. Lots of inspiration and strategy in especially Exodus and Leviticus, how to blow the walls down and all that. Even more in Judges.

      Also, some say that women carry the vengeance memes from generation to generation, so kill the women and you “cut the head off the snake,” in a metaphor I noticed that one of the “conservative Israeli leaders” used re Palestinian culture. And you know why there’s a rape culture, in so many places, in “wartime:” “Bosnia War Crimes: ‘The rapes went on day and night’: Robert Fisk, in Mostar, gathers detailed evidence of the systematic sexual assaults on Muslim women by Serbian ‘White Eagle’ gunmen,” link to, and this piece of sorrow, too, for believers in justice: “Bosnia’s wartime rape survivors losing hope of justice, “ Nothing new, of course, from ancient sagas to near-now: link to

      And of course there’s the demographic thing pointed out by others here, that Palestinians “outbreed” Jewish Israelis by a considerable amount.

      The Good Old Days, brought current…

  17. Don’t underestimate the cleverness and mendacity required to preserve the notion of ubiquitous symmetry between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In a boot on the throat situation it’s not easy to develop public sympathy for the boot, but the media does its best.

  18. Robyn, I have always wondered the same thing. Possibly, it is because it was always the men that went off to war and fought in the battles, so somehow it has become their duty, and less value has been put on their lives.

    • Also I suspect it’s because traditionally women are known as the nurturers and givers of life, they raise the nation’s future generations and are generally considered the weaker gender (well physically anyway).
      The elderly of either gender should be considered one of the vulnerable in these situations, but to paraphrase the original responder, the equaliser, is ‘a life is a life’.

  19. So if Mexico launched 500 missiles in San Diego I suppose the US would not respond. You logic is absurd.

    • Not as absurd as your example. Proposing ridiculous analogies
      is no substitute for critical thinking.

  20. We keep hoping and wishing that after this one (more) act of cruelty and depravity Israel will finally be rejected by our leaders and Media liars, but it just keeps on going. What has happened is that even the most innocent of Palestinians are treated like criminals and identified with the Nazism that thrived in Germany 70 years ago, thanks to the constant barrage of ‘Holocaust’ indoctrination everywhere in our culture.

  21. When I hear the question whether the U.S. would respond militarily if Canadians were to launch rockets over the border into the U.S., I respond with another question. Do you think that those rockets were launched from Canada in desperation because the U.S. had colonized Toronto, Quebec, Montreal and Vancouver after having violently driven the residents out of their homes and into wretched camps with no water, food, or means of survival or escape?

  22. Most people in America think that the whole situation is about Israel having to deal with a horrible onslaught of missiles by wicked “terrorists” targeting Israeli innocent people. So the narrative fits most people’s perceptions.
    Has ABC ever made a correction to this?

  23. Diane started as a goofy weather reporter and when that didn’t last she found her way to prosperity by writing speeches for Nixon…. Who would ever think she was or was ever hired to be a neutral and factual reporter?

  24. They did it again. On Saturday, as an announcer was speaking of rockets raining down on Israel, they showed in the background what looked (to me) like an Israeli bomb hitting a house.

  25. My thoughts on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are quite simply, the Palestinians are not terrorists in the strict sense, but they do have a legitimate agenda in their reaction to the Zionist theft of ‘their’ land and resources. I would equate the Palestinian fighters to the French resistance during WW2, unlike the Israeli Zionist government who are a self proclaimed expansionist entity, the Palestinians are doing what any other people would do for survival when faced with an unequal power that’s trying to (successfully I might add) take away their ancestral land, livelihood, and aspirations for self determination.
    If I were faced with the same situation with my family forced off our land, and made homeless after our house is bulldozed, then I too would join a resistance group and fire off a few hundred rockets, for the enemy to get the message that we don’t want to be occupied with the eventual annexation of our land.

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