Reporting Traditions Means We’ve Lost Sight of the Scale of October 7

Israel protest terror - 03/02

One of the first things many of us learn when we get into journalism is to personalise big issues. Tell a story. You often hear journalists express how they want to “tell peoples’ stories” or similar. It is hard to process the big numbers and the big picture, but we can all latch on to individual stories. 

Normally, such an approach serves reporters well. However, it seems to have failed in discussing the October 7 atrocities and the subsequent war in Gaza.

Journalists covering the Hamas attacks have written about individual hostages or individuals murdered. We should. I did it myself when writing about meeting the families of some hostages and a documentary about the Nova music festival for The Spectator. However, in doing so, the scale of what Hamas did has been lost. As the Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff explained:

Numbers: By latest count, the attacks by Hamas—the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement—killed more than 1,300 Israelis and third-country nationals, including at least 29 Americans, in a country whose population is less than 10 million. In America, that would be equivalent to killing nearly 40,000—13 times more than the number of Al Qaeda victims on 9/11.

(It should be noted, more recent death tolls put the number at around 1200, but that hardly reduces the obscenity of what occurred nor the salience of the point Satloff is making.)   

I absolutely do not want to diminish the scale of the suffering and death endured by Palestinian civilians. Death and war are not a football match during which we compare the scores of each side.

Remember the names of those murdered. Call for the release of each individual hostage. At the same time, make sure the sheer vastness of the horror that took place on October 7, the trigger for this war, is not forgotten either.

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