New York—Three days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza, with more than 1,100 rockets fired at Israeli cities, did not receive as much attention in the United States as previous rounds of violence between the two sides.
Many Americans were not aware that tensions had ratcheted up again and spilled over during the weekend. And media outlets did not immediately dedicate their front pages to the conflict and even Washington seemed quieter than usual.
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire on Sunday, saying that his administration worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and others throughout the region to “encourage a swift resolution to the conflict.”
As of Tuesday, the ceasefire is still holding after a weekend that left dozens of Palestinians dead and several homes and other structures in Israel damaged as a result of direct hits.
A statement from the White House read that Biden’s “support for Israel’s security is long-standing and unwavering – including its right to defend itself against attacks.”
The president called reports of civilian casualties in Gaza a “tragedy,” whether by Israeli strikes against Islamic Jihad positions or from the more than 200 Islamic Jihad rockets that reportedly misfired and fell inside Gaza.
Biden also commended Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid for his “steady leadership” throughout the crisis and highlighted the U.S. support for the Iron Dome system that “saved countless lives.”
That statement was the loudest signal that the White House has made on the issue during the 50 hours of fighting between Israel and Gaza.
Meanwhile, the president’s official Twitter account made mentions of the Inflation Reduction Act, shared a fact sheet on the administration’s strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa and expressed sadness over the “horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque.”
At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces crackdown on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – named Operation Breaking Dawn – did not draw extensive coverage by the U.S. media. Nor did it resonate greatly in the American political and public discourse, unlike Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021. This might be explained by different reasons – the timing of the operation, the manner in which it began, its target: PIJ and not Hamas.
The Iran-backed group has proven once again that it has long-range capabilities to attack Israel’s deep center. This follows their recent involvement in terror operations as part of a deadly terror wave in Israeli towns earlier this summer.
Hamas, which American audiences usually hear about in Israel’s conflicts with Gaza, have so far kept away from this latest round of violence.
Whereas Operation Guardian of the Walls lasted 11 days and trickled into mixed Jewish-Arab towns and the Temple Mount, Operation Breaking Dawn lasted only three days over a weekend. In the U.S., weekend news programming and ratings are considered to be slower than weekdays.
Former Israeli prime minister and current leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave an interview to Fox News on Sunday. His main message had more to do with the country’s internal politics than the military operation.
“In times of crisis like this, there’s no opposition, there’s no coalition,” Netanyahu said. “We, Israelis – at least I do – unite behind the current effort to step out the terrorism.”
The drama dominating the news cycle over the weekend took place in the U.S. Senate, where the Democrats passed their $750 billion health care, tax and climate bill.
Only a few U.S. lawmakers, like Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX, N.Y. Governor Kathy Hochul, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL and several others, dedicated time to post their support for the Jewish state’s defensive actions and the U.S. funding of the Iron Dome.
As warning sirens sound in cities across Israel, we send unwavering support to our ally as she works to protect her people from terrorism. I will continue to support funding for Iron Dome, which is saving countless Israeli and Palestinian lives. https://t.co/2SfOiTT0iA— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@RepDWStweets) August 5, 2022
Our Israeli allies have a moral obligation to defend themselves and their citizens against these genocidal Iran-backed terrorists. The US must and will continue to stand with them. https://t.co/noO5Q2keo0— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) August 5, 2022
New York will always stand with Israel as it seeks to defend itself against terror. As the Jewish community commemorates the 9th of Av and the tragic destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, we continue to pray for peace and security in Israel.— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) August 7, 2022
Notably, near-absent from the pro-versus-anti-Israel debate online were the progressive U.S. House members of the so-called Squad, who spent the weekend in Minnesota helping Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN, in the final lag of her primary race.
Palestinian-American Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-MI, was less vocal than usual this time around, writing on social media that “the lives of the Palestinian people are not disposable.”
“The fact that our country continues to ignore and fund the aggressive violence and killing of Palestinian lives, especially children, just enables more death. It is not okay to keep looking away. It’s actually sickening,” Tlaib wrote.
The lives of the Palestinian people are not disposable. The fact that our country continues to ignore & fund the aggressive violence and killing of Palestinian lives, especially children just enables more death. It is not okay to keep looking away. It's actually sickening. https://t.co/Lea4XCfrbp— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 7, 2022
Another reason for the relative lack of notice to the fighting in Gaza might have to do with the circumstances that led to its eruption. This time, there were no abducted soldiers or civilians, violence on the Temple Mount, Palestinian protests at the border, incendiary balloons or an impressive barrage of missiles. It all started following an IDF arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank – is a good story for a local news channel by American standards.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.