Hamas Second Stage Assault – Media Distortion

by Rabbi Alan Silverstein in Modiin Israel

Blogger Jack Levy wrote – “when a hospital explodes in Gaza, ask: Who is happy, who is relived, and who is upset? Spoiler alert: it’s Hamas and its partners that benefit.

On October 7, Hamas monsters with ISIS-style cruelty stormed the two dozen kibbutzim and yishuvim in Israel’s border so-called “Gaza Envelop.” These barbarians proceeded to commit unspeakable crimes – rape, decapitating of bodies, burning people alive, mass shooting of unarmed civilians, and kidnaping of babies, children, women, the elderly and men of all ages. They did not hide their assault on civilization. Instead, Hamas posted copious videos publicizing genocidal deeds for their shock value.

Once Israel forcefully responded, Hamas shifted to its predictable second line of attack. Their goals are now to employ civilians as human shields and then blame Israel for the resulting deaths of Gazans.

Hamas intentionally locates rocket launchers and other weapons of war within, near or beneath civilian institutions such as schools, mosques. Hospitals, apartment buildings. Once Israel predictably offers humane warnings about impending counter-attacks, Hamas physically prevents retreat by Gazan non-combatants.

This cynical scenario means murdering Israeli civilians and then maximizing the death of Gazans. Hamas exploits the willing collaboration of the international media, reporting whatever anti-Israel distortions they are “fed,” without any effort at fact-checking. The press play into the hands of Hamas military objectives, enabling the assault on truth to achieve propaganda victories.

We witnessed a classic example of Hamas’ second stage assault during the past two days. Missiles were flying, both from Israel and from Hamas/Islamic Jihad. Amid the chaos, one rocket struck Gaza City’s primary hospital. Tragically, a couple hundred patients and staff perished. Hamas issued an immediate press release blaming an Israel attack for the catastrophe. Without fact-checking nor even seeking Israel’s “side of the story,” international media prominently condemned the Jewish State.

For example, the “paper of record,” The New York Times, immediately broadcast “Breaking News: An Israeli airstrike hit a Gaza hospital on Tuesday, killing hundreds of Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry [a Hamas mouthpiece], which said the number of casualties was expected to rise.” The Associated Press listed the number of fatalities at 500. Israeli alleged guilt was broadcast by the AP to hundreds of millions around the world.

Soon thereafter, Israel shared meticulously gathered information documenting that the damage to the hospital had resulted from one of many faulty rockets fired by Islamic Jihad, Hamas ally. Many people died, but the number 500 was an inflated report. President Joe Biden stated that “based on the information [the US] we’ve seen to date, it appears [that the hospital blast was] the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.”

But the propaganda damage had been done. Even if newspapers like The Times issue retractions, the image will remain of Israel callously bombing hospitalized patients in Gaza, and its will be an incentive for Israel’s detractors. Hams knows that this evil strategy will yield consequences.

The uproar of outrage in “the Arab Street,” forced Jordan to cancel a highly anticipated summit of Biden and the leaders of Amman, Cairo, and the Palestinian Authority. Anti-Israel voices in the US Congress such as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar demanded American pressure against Israel. Anti-Zionist “Jewish” groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now joined “the squad” in a raucous rally in front of the White House, based upon a lie, a slander, a “blood libel.”

Hamas success in weaponizing falsified media coverage in war-after-war merits further evaluation. Why does it galvanize eager journalistic compliance?

There is an exaggerated press willingness to scrutinize war-time events when Israel is involved. Seeking the moral flaws in Israel’s behavior has become a journalistic obsession. Reporters feel that their readership is fascinated in seeing the People of the Bible behaving in “a flawed manner.”

Back in 2014 [following one of the several Israel-Hamas wars], journalist Matti Friedman commented about the imbalance, inflating coverage of Israel’s military struggle against a “non-state” terror group, Hamas. Friedman pondered as to why so much coverage? “The Israeli campaign was little different in its execution from any other battle waged by a Western army against a similar non-state enemy in recent years. The only real differences were the immediate nature of the threat to a country’s own population [Gaza being so close to the border with Israel], and the greater exertions [by Israel],.. to avoid civilian deaths.” The same news services which under-reported military action elsewhere over-reported the actions of the IDF.

How was the over-reporting even possible? Friedman noted the extraordinary volume of press personnel stationed in Israel in quest of stories. “When I was a correspondent with the Associated Press, the AP had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia or India, or in all the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined…. The volume of press coverage that results [from excessive press personnel] gives this conflict a prominence [beyond its relative merit].” The reporters were instructed to regard the allege misbehavior of Jews-at-war as if it was the world’s most important story. Israel’s deeds were scrutinized, “Catch the Jew” [quoting Tuvia Tanenboim].

To make matters worse, Hamas Intimidates reporters lest they report facts counter to the terrorists’ propaganda. Friedman recalls that he “saw it in action as an editor of the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail – that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll – because of a threat to our reporter. Similarly the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas’ intimidation of the press; the story was shunted into the deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.”

Middle East reporters’ livelihood requires gaining access to Hamas’ versions of the action. Journalists have to “prove themselves” to the Arabs by espousing a bias against Israel. “They [will lose their ‘sources’ unless] they portray the Jews [automatically] as the party in the wrong… omitting all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscuring the true face of their enemies. [This is not so difficult to achieve since many folks joining the international press corps], tend to [falsely] believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism and militarism. And when these reporters go looking for a country that symbolizes the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream world, the country they chose is Israel.”

Bias in press coverage also is due to a lack of knowledge. Most reporters are localized in their expertise. They do not comprehend the larger Middle East picture. In Friedman’s words, “understanding what is happening in Gaza means understanding Hezbollah in Lebanon, the rise of Sunni jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and the long tentacles of Iran… It requires understanding that the ascendant force in the Middle East Is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam.. that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West.”

The combination of these factors yields a willingness [as shown by The New York Times initial coverage of the Gaza hospital tragedy] to spontaneously accept and then disperse anti-Israel narratives, without checking the facts. Friedman notes that “Many in the [press corps]…. clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. [Thus] they convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem and the Jews’ fault.”

Sadly, many well intentioned Jews, instinctively accept the slanders initially as truth. They ponder: how could The New York Times be in error? Yet Diaspora Jews must keep in mind the following post-hospital-slander lessons posited by The Jerusalem Post:

“The first is that information released by the Gaza Health Ministry should not be presumed true. [As a Hamas propaganda tool] It should be highly suspect. Second, in the fog of war, journalists must take extraordinary care how they report events on the ground. And the Most important lesson is that Israel [a liberal democracy governed b the rule of law] and Hamas [an Islamist terror organization] are not on equal moral footing.”

Journalists, media organizations, and social media platforms wield enormous power in the global conversation. Israel’s supporters must do our best to make certain that the story is reported correctly by engaging in social media, writing letters to editors, granting interviews and keeping updated by the Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post and so forth.

As stated by David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel:

Given the nature of Hamas’ second stage in the assault “The public opinion battlefield is, in many ways, at least as important as the actual conflict zone. If the battle for world hearts and minds is not properly fought, the room for military maneuver on the ground will quickly become constrained.”