How the Media Support Hamas' Efforts to Delegitimize Israel
The Palestinians long ago realized that they cannot defeat Israel militarily and opted instead to delegitimize and diplomatically isolate Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has approached this goal by pushing for unilateral diplomatic recognition, a strategy facilitated by its claim to represent a peaceful approach to the conflict with Israel. That claim became far less credible once the PA (1) accepted Hamas, which the U.S. State Department has designated as a terrorist group, into a unity government, and (2) more recently embraced Hamas' violent attacks.
Like the PA, Hamas also seeks to delegitimize and diplomatically isolate Israel, and uses its civilians and the mainstream media to that end. By posing a direct threat to Israeli civilians, Hamas compels Israel into a war that Hamas is bound to lose militarily but win on the PR front.
Hamas knows that the international media will rarely provide the context, balance, history, and technical details for Israel to be judged fairly. So to achieve its goal of delegitimization, Hamas just has to start a war with Israel. Then, a cooperative media will dutifully reinforce a simple and oft repeated narrative: the militarily superior IDF brutally and disproportionately harms innocent and defenseless Palestinians. That narrative defames Israel, with potentially serious political and economic consequences.
In the current conflict in Gaza, the mainstream media has been abundantly helpful to Hamas. There are countless examples, but here are some highlights that demonstrate just how much the press helps Hamas (out of anti-Israel animus, journalistic sloppiness, and/or naivete).
The media clearly favor Hamas by:
- Focusing so much more on Palestinian suffering than anyone else's. Nigerians must die in far greater numbers before the mainstream media take notice (those hundreds of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls left the front pages long ago).
- Minimizing its coverage, if any, of the Hamas attacks that led up to Israel's military response and generally providing so little context that outsiders think that Israelis kill Palestinians just for fun. The French media are particularly guilty of this, and their distortions of the conflict are so one-sided that they incite Muslims across France to attack Jews and synagogues (which attacks unwittingly remind everyone why the Jews need a state).
- Emphasizing the Gazan civilian death toll without explaining that (1) Hamas casualty reports are hasty and inflated, and (2) Hamas maximizes that total by using Palestinians to shield its weapons and by urging them to stay in the very areas that the IDF -- in its effort to minimize our civilian deaths -- warns Gazans to evacuate.
- Never mentioning the fact that if Hamas could kill millions of Israelis, they would (after all, their charter calls for Israel's destruction and their anti-Semitism is amply on record). Just as the 9/11 hijackers made the most of what they had but would have liked to kill far more Americans (for example, with the help of WMD), Hamas too would love to kill far more Israelis. Indeed, they have purposely targeted Israel's nuclear reactor on several occasions, with that very goal in mind. Of course, the media rarely highlight the genocidal intent behind such attacks when mentioning Israel's "disproportionate" response.
- Never calling Hamas "jihadists" even though they persecute Christians (the same as the ISIS, which just compelled Mosul's Christians to convert to Islam). The forced conversion, expulsion, or murder of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamists has been happening for millennia, as assiduously documented in Raymond Ibrahim's Crucified Again, but such historical context is absent from most reporting on Hamas' conflict with Israel.
- Downplaying how bad Hamas is for Gazans by not reporting on, for example, their attack on the very Israeli power station that provides electricity to 70,000 Gazans. The media also ignored how the Israelis -- in their remarkable display of goodwill -- exposed their workers to the perils of our rockets so that they could restore power to Gaza.
- Minimally reporting on Hamas' corruption, unfair wealth, or vast expenditures on tunnels to attack Israel while ordinary Palestinians grew poorer.
- Overlooking how -- to maximize Palestinian deaths -- Hamas stored its missiles in an UNWRA-run school and how, when UNWRA found out, they just handed the missiles back to Hamas.
- Disregarding Arabs who have the courage to critique Hamas -- like Dr. Tawfik Hamid, an Islamist-turned-reformer who blames Palestinian suffering entirely on Hamas.
- Ignoring Israeli humanitarianism in providing medical aid to the very terrorists trying to kill them.
- Failing to acknowledge Israel's immense restraint. Had Hamas been fighting Syria's Assad regime, by now Gaza would have been flattened -- devastated by barrel bombs, poison gas, and other attacks that are far more indiscriminate than Israel's intelligence-directed strikes. And of course, if Syria were killing Palestinians, the media would hardly care. But luckily for Hamas, they're fighting Israel -- that country that everyone loves to hate -- so Hamas can count on favorable coverage.
- Omitting how Israel chose to sacrifice dozens of IDF soldiers when destroying Hamas tunnels and weapons in densely populated areas like Shejaiya because doing so with air strikes (which risks no soldiers) would have killed many thousands of Palestinians. The media's omission of such crucial moral facts repeats how the press covered Jenin in 2002, when (again) -- rather than praise Israel's humane but costly decision to use ground troops rather than air strikes -- the media falsely accused Israel of a massacre during another IDF operation to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
- Not sharing with English readers what Hamas openly says in Arabic: that they view any truce as just an opportunity to rearm for their next war against Israel (as Hamas spokesman, Musheer Al Masri, recently declared on TV).
- Not underscoring that Israel can do nothing to make peace with Hamas (after all, Israelis ended their occupation of Gaza in 2005 and they've been rocketing Israel ever since). Hamas absurdly insists that the next cease-fire deal remove Israel's blockade so that they can more easily replenish their weapons and restore their tunnels for their next attack. Anyone who -- like Qatar -- sides with Hamas' terms for a truce plainly wants to subject Israel to ceaseless, bloody attacks.
- Not reminding readers, when mentioning potential truce arrangements, that world powers are no more capable of ensuring a demilitarized Gaza than they were capable of disarming Hizb’allah in south Lebanon.
As if all of the above weren't bad enough, the mainstream media's skewed reporting encourages countless pro-Hamas protesters to organize often violent demonstrations that embolden the terrorist group while giving it a veneer of political legitimacy.
Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.