Today, I have an essay for you by Richard Behar. It comes from the August 21, 2014 edition of Forbes Magazine. The original essay is over 23,000 words. I have condensed and edited it.
I urge you to look at the original, at Forbes Magazine.
This essay is important. It demonstrates what journalism should be—a monitor. Because the press has behaved so badly during this 2014 Hamas-Israel war, this essay might be the final word on the media’s unprofessional performance in Gaza.
If you keep a scrap-book on this war, consider this essay. Perhaps it should stand as your collection’s ‘Introduction’:
The Media Intifada: Bad Math, Ugly Truths About New York Times [and other news outlets] In Israel-Hamas War
It’s a “media intifada,” notes Gary Weiss, an old colleague and one of the world’s top business investigative reporters. He is referring to the ongoing war in Gaza, where journalists working for American news outlets have, he says, “become part of the Hamas war machine.”
More than a month has passed since Israel began its Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. It’s high time to dig through the carnage that many of my colleagues are leaving behind.
On August 11th, the normally Israel-averse Foreign Press Association in Israel conceded what those closely following the war coverage already knew: That Hamas has been intimidating foreign reporters. In a harsh statement, it condemned the terrorist group for “the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.”
This is hardly surprising, as who can expect a terrorist group to treat reporters nicely? But what is surprising is that New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren undermined her own newspaper—quickly denouncing the FPA’s statement. She said in a tweet that she wasn’t aware of any such harassed reporters, even though she concedes she spent only one week in Gaza herself during the height of the conflict.
There’s a lot of nonsense being disseminated about Israel’s war with Hamas. Since late July, I’ve discovered exactly how much nonsense. My findings are hardly complete, as it’s impossible to keep up with all the coverage while fighting continues. I focus heavily on the Times because it is, without question, the most important media outlet in the world, in terms of setting the table each day for other outlets. It is also widely regarded as the most authoritative media outlet in the world for international coverage. Since the operation began on July 8th, much of the Western coverage has been predictably skewed against Israel—through those time-honored journalism 'tools' of sloppy and lazy reporting, superficiality, omission, lack of historical knowledge, or flat-out agenda-driven lies and bias.
I raised the topic last week with Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York. “As someone who is a student of the media and a former journalist,” he says, “I find it bizarre — journalistically and morally – that after a month of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, there were hardly any images shown in Western media of Hamas terrorists holding guns or Hamas terrorists engaged in hostile activities against Israel. It’s as if there’s only one side, and this could be a result of two reasons: Either journalists are looking for the easy story, the available story, what’s in front of their eyes. Or they’re being intimidated by Hamas. And I believe that what we’ve probably had is a combination of both.”
This epidemic of journalistic malpractice is contributing to the pain and loss of life that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering—as it helps to empower Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan, Egypt and Jordan. (This designation is too often not-fit-to-print by the New York Times and other media outlets.) In turn, this no doubt helps spread oil on the rising and frightening anti-Semitism we’re seeing in Europe and elsewhere.
And that is no accident. Hamas’s rarely-mentioned 1988 charter is a throwback to 1930s Nazi anti-Semitism, pure and simple, with a genocidal intent that is unambiguous. Indeed, Hamas is the spiritual successor to the anti-Semitic Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who famously met and worked with Adolf Hitler and his henchman Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and architect of the Final Solution, as he aligned the Palestinian Arab cause with the Axis during World War II.
You might say that the battle that Hamas is fighting is not a new one at all, but a continuation of Hitler’s unfinished business from World War II. If this all sounds new to you it’s no wonder—the media rarely delves beyond the surface into Hamas’s ideology and historical antecedents. But that is but one of many problems with the coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, and not even the worst.
Here is a sampling of what the Times, and the media in general, feel is not fit to print:
*** Proof of the use by Hamas of civilians as human shields has finally been ably exposed by reporters for media outlets in Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, and others—but not by news organizations with greater resources at hand such as BBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others. (A too-brief exception: the Washington Post.) Sadly, the Associated Press has failed dismally. As for Reuters, in 2011, its new editor-in-chief, Stephen Adler, promised to bolster the newswire’s enterprise reporting. In some ways he has, but its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be weak and riddled with falsities.
*** In late 2012, during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, I examined the Facebook page of Fares Akram—the most important Gaza-based reporter for the New York Times [who still works for the Times in Gaza]. His profile photo was not of himself, but of PLO leader Arafat. A second photo, still in his album, waxes poetically about Arafat in the context of “heights by great men.” But Arafat, among many things as the longtime leader of the Palestinians (the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre comes to mind), opted for the Second Intifada in 2000, rather than accept a generous peace offer from Israel. Before he died, he said on TV that dead Palestinian children are good for the cause.
*** Abeer Ayyoub, another Palestinian resident of Gaza and former Times reporter there (until 2013), was boycotting all products made in Israel before and after her Times gig. Her Facebook posts and stories for other publications in 2014 are hostile to Israel.
*** The arithmetic of civilian casualties in Gaza is one of the principal media crimes in this war. It became obvious weeks ago that major Western journalists routinely swallowed the huge civilian-casualty figures dished out to them by Gaza’s Ministry of Health, a bureaucratic arm of a terrorist group that was shown to have lied about such figures in past wars. In some cases, reporters cite numbers instead from the United Nations, which gets its numbers from—surprise—the Hamas ministry, a dubious source of information, akin to relying on the Reich Health Office for German civilian-casualty statistics during World War II. On many occasions, major American news outlets haven’t bothered to even attribute the numbers to either the ministry or the UN—simply reporting as fact that “most,” or “the majority” or the “vast majority” of casualties in Gaza are civilians.
Meanwhile, Israel’s best research institute on the subject, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, is to this day all but ignored by Western media. They are the only independent outfit that takes the time to match the names of the dead with known terrorists. Their results thus far (with 450 deaths analyzed) show that approximately half are civilians. Based on prior wars with Hamas, it’s highly likely that, in the final analysis, the majority of the dead will have been terrorist operatives.
CIVILIAN SHIELDS? WHAT CIVILIAN SHIELDS?
On July 27th, I spoke at length with a reporter in Gaza who is covering the war for a major, highly respectable U.S. media outlet that has enormous resources. Regrettably, the reporter insisted on not being named, as his company wouldn’t permit it. Our talk took place just as Gaza-based reporters for smaller, non-English-speaking media outlets were beginning to reveal proof that Hamas was using civilian centers (such as schools, hospitals, dense residential neighborhoods—even the main hotel in Gaza City where reporters are staying) as rocket-launching sites.
Q: Israel received severe condemnation from many world leaders after a strike on Al-Shifa, Gaza City’s largest hospital. [Evidence is now showing that it was actually an errant Hamas missile that hit it.] Are Hamas leaders and fighters using it as a base for operations?
A: It’s not the fighters who are there [see below: there were fighters there], and they’re not using the hospital to launch rockets from [see below: they did fire rockets from there], they’re using it to see media. These are Hamas spokesmen [at the hospital], not leaders [see below: Hamas leaders are there]...There are probably a couple of reasons [for holding press conferences there]. It’s a safe place. Israel doesn’t kill spokespeople. Also, it’s a good place to get journalists, as we’re passing through the hospital, since that’s where the bodies are coming in. It’s a place journalists have to go anyway.
This has been a brilliant strategy by Hamas, although any skeptical reporter would have seen through it—and a couple did. Why are press conferences being held in a hospital, as opposed to another location such as the main hotel where they stay? Surely, hotels are also fine places for Hamas to “get journalists” to come to.
Clearly, Hamas wants the reporters to see the dead and injured on a regular basis if they want access to spokespeople. It safely gives lazy reporters a constant stream of tragedies to write about. A seasoned reporter would have surmised that this could be the perfect location for Hamas’s leaders to operate from, especially below the first floor. And, in fact, that is what happened. …
Moreover, this was nothing new. In 2006, PBS’s Wide Angle aired a documentary showing how gunmen move through the corridors of that hospital, intimidate the staff, and deny them access to protected locations inside the facility—where the camera crew was forbidden from filming….
On the same day I spoke with this reporter, I also reached out to Eado Hecht, an independent defense analyst who has taught military theory and history at the IDF Command and General Staff College. He currently works with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (Israel’s leading think tank), and sits on the board of The Journal of Military Operations.
I asked Hecht about what I call “human-shield blindness,” a rare medical condition that afflicts American reporters based in Gaza – from the New York Times to CNN and Reuters. “As to foreign journalists seeing things, I am certain they are seeing the use of supposedly innocent buildings for military purposes, but most are either too scared to report this or ideologically motivated not to,” he said. “Yesterday [Aug 1st], a Finnish reporter did talk shortly about the use of Al-Shifa hospital to launch rockets after seeing it with her own eyes. But who watches Finnish TV except the Finns? The use of fear to influence journalists is not new – it has been happening for decades. The ideological motivation is not new either – many of the camera crews are locals.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t just a Finnish reporter who earned her pay. Hamas’ operations at the same hospital were the focus of a report by a French-Palestinian journalist for France’s Libération. He said that Hamas had summoned him to Al-Shifa Hospital, where he was interrogated by a group of young fighters and told to immediately leave Gaza without his papers; he later asked the newspaper to take down the story.
“No Israeli missile hit the [Al-Shifa] hospital,” says military expert Hecht. “It was a Hamas rocket, one of approximately 300 that have malfunctioned and landed inside Gaza instead of in Israel. Apparently there are also cases in which Hamas deliberately bombarded its own residential areas to blame Israel (this was not the case at Shifa) – but the only evidence is not good enough to prove it. Shifa hospital has been identified by the IDF as providing cover to a network of underground rooms and tunnels that serve it; they have simply stated that under Shifa is the most developed and senior Hamas command post and left it at that. There are certainly many Hamas security personnel around the hospital (they can be seen in the background in TV reports) and they have used the hospital as a launch site for rockets.”
To his credit, William Booth of the Washington Post wrote back on July 15th that Shifa “has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.” Two days later, Booth and colleagues Sudarsan Raghavan and Ruth Eglash reported that a group of men at a mosque in northern Gaza said they had returned “to clean up the green glass from windows shattered in the previous day’s bombardment.” But those men, the Post wrote, “could be seen moving small rockets into the mosque.”
Bottom-line: With the exception of the Washington Post, audiences in America might need to turn to other countries to follow the war, as well as any future wars between Israel and Hamas.
As for Rudoren’s attack on the Foreign Press Association, in which she was dismissive of the claim that foreign reporters have been intimidated by Hamas, one only hopes she has seen the video last Thursday of a Hamas official conceding that the terrorist group has strong-armed journalists. The official, Isra Al-Mudallal, the head of foreign relations in Hamas’s Information Ministry, also admitted that some reporters were kept under surveillance—and some booted out of Gaza after they tried to film the launching of rockets against Israel, which the official called “collaborating with the occupation.”
Unfortunately, we cannot be certain whether Rudoren or her staff in Jerusalem or Gaza has seen it. There’s still no mention of the video in the newspaper. Not fit to print, apparently.
THE BIG LIE: A RACIST STATE
Thanks in good measure to what investigative reporter Weiss calls “the media intifada”—the trans-Atlantic epidemic of lazy, incomplete, sometimes mendacious journalism and imitations thereof that has plagued the conflict—the cries of Israel as a racist-colonial state are being vomited forth from San Francisco to Spain.
So goes the monotonously screamed lie, despite the presence on the Israeli side of Arab Israelis, Bedouin tribesmen, Druze and black African soldiers—as well as Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jewish youngsters—comprising much of the Israel Defense Forces.
Israel’s diversity is a subject almost never covered in the West. The Times contributes to the racism label, adding to the nonfeasance in its news pages, by printing on its famously predictable op-ed page, cookie-cutter, paint-by-numbers tracts by Palestinian officials and Israel-hating academics that label Israel a racist state—a tedious litany of drivel repeated dozens of times before.
Case in point: ‘Israel’s Colonialism Must End,” an August 4th op-ed by Ali Jarbawi, a professor and former Palestinian Authority minister, which is chock full of variants of the words racism and colonialism that he uses to smack Israel with. But it’s all nonsense, and it’s high time that the newspaper’s editorial board stopped inflaming anti-Semitism with this stuff.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining with Dumisani Washington, the head of a group called the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel. “The claim that Israel is a racist/colonial/apartheid state is a blatant, bald-faced lie,” he says. “Further, those false accusations cheapen the experiences of South Africans, Black Americans and others who experienced those horrors—like my parents and grandparents. Israel is diverse in virtually every facet of society. It is intellectual dishonesty to affix those gross labels on a liberal democracy.”
While discrimination certainly exists in Israel (although not in its laws), as it does in most countries, the situation is improving and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle has nothing to do with race. For starters, Judaism is not a race, and anybody can choose to become a Jew. The late senator and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, made that clear enough in 1975, when he rose to the rostrum to condemn the UN’s labeling Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination” (a designation the UN reversed). Moynihan called it “a lie” and “this obscenity.”
Nor is Zionism a colonial enterprise, as Jews immigrated in large numbers to escape persecution, not to plant the flags of other nations.
Nor is Israel engaged in “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, another farcical slander. Since 1948, the Palestinian population has increased eightfold.
But for those who insist on brainwashing themselves into believing it’s a racist conflict, they might want to see a photo posted on Twitter by Gutiérrez—the Spanish journalist who exposed Hamas’ firing a battery of rockets from the press hotel in Gaza. It’s a picture of an Arab IDF soldier kissing his mother, who is wearing a hijab, on the cheek. “I would be lying if I told you I saw signs of apartheid in Israel,” the journalist wrote next to the photo. “But I’m not going to lie.”
On August 11th, Fox News editor-at-large George Russell exposed an internal UN report revealing financial mismanagement at the agency that “adds a new level of potential credibility to Israeli accusations that internationally-managed relief supplies to Gaza were diverted into construction” of tunnels used by Hamas to organize rocket attacks and infiltrations into Israel.
** Finally, another investigative story worth pursuing, although it will also upset the press corps’ hosts in Gaza, is the sordid relationship between Hamas and UNRWA. While the UN has called for a probe of Israel for war crimes, the agency itself has been caught red-handed three times storing Hamas rockets—and has publicly admitted handing rockets back to Hamas. UNRWA has also admitted to hiring Hamas teachers at the schools, which are sometimes used as recruitment centers for child soldiers. The curriculum brainwashes the kids into working for the elimination of Israel.
Essayist Richard Behar is right. The Western press, particularly The New York Times, aids and abets the Hamas war to exterminate Israel. You’d think The Times was professional enough to know better. It isn’t.