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August 4, 2022 11:36 am
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The Media Achilles’ Heel That Is Hamas Propaganda

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue

Opinion

IDF materials showing alleged Hamas tunnel infrastructure located beneath schools in the Gaza Strip. Photo: IDF

A Hamas spokesman this week released a statement claiming the death of one of its fighters who had been tasked with guarding the remains of an Israeli soldier being held by the Gazan terrorist organization. Abu Obeida revealed that the unnamed militant belonging to the special band of militants dubbed the Shadow Unit, was killed in a strike by Israel during the May 2021 Hamas-initiated conflict against Israel, while three other unit members had been injured.

Since the 2014 Gaza war when they were killed, Hamas has used the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin as bargaining chips in an attempt to secure the release of Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel.

“On the eighth anniversary of the Battle of Asaf al-Makul [2014 Gaza War] during which the al-Qassam Brigades [Hamas] captured two Zionist soldiers …  Al-Qassam leadership is allowed to reveal that a place during the battle of Sayf al-Quds [2021 Gaza war] last year was subjected to Zionist bombardment, which led to the martyrdom of one of the shadow fighters and the wounding of three others while they were carrying out the mission of guarding one of the [Israeli] soldiers,” Obeida said without identifying which POW he was referring to.

In addition, Hamas is also holding captive two Israelis, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who both entered the territory voluntarily and are thought to be alive.

Al-Sayed, a Bedouin from the Negev village of Hura, was reportedly suffering from mental health issues when he crossed into the coastal enclave in 2015, while Ethiopian-born Jew Mengistu, who is said to have been battling schizophrenia, was captured after climbing the border fence that separates Gaza from Israel.

HonestReporting just recently highlighted the media’s apparent indifference to the fates of Mengistu and al-Sayed, noting that it was only when a video was released in July of Al-Sayed hooked up to an oxygen mask — the first confirmation since his disappearance in 2015 that he was still alive — did news outlets focus on his plight and highlight Hamas’ barbaric war crimes.

According to Joe Truzman, a research analyst with the Long War Journal, who specializes in Palestinian jihadist groups, the Hamas statement, which came more than a year after the alleged death during an Israeli strike, is part of a deliberate propaganda ploy by the terror organization:

While the information about the killing and injury of Hamas’ shadow unit members is new information, Obeida’s main message, though not explicitly stated, is that Israel bombed the site where an IDF prisoner was being held, possibly causing him injury … Obeida purposely omitted key details of the strike and the status of the POW in an attempt to create urgency and press the Israeli government to accept a prisoner swap with Hamas.

Of course, Hamas is no stranger to employing propaganda tactics in a bid to influence both the Israeli government and the Western media.

For example, the May 2021 war saw the terror propaganda machine in full swing, including when the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior in Gaza issued stern guidance about how the foreign press can be best manipulated. “Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza,” read one of the directives.

Another directive stated: “Avoid publishing pictures of rockets fired into Israel from [Gaza] city centers. This [would] provide a pretext for attacking residential areas in the Gaza Strip. Do not publish or share photos or video clips showing rocket launching sites or the movement of resistance [forces] in Gaza.”

The guidance seemingly did the trick.

The BBC, for example, fell into the trap of peddling Hamas propaganda when it ran an article that was designed to tug at readers’ heartstrings, specifically its description of a photo of a little girl holding a doll as she sat in the “ruins of the tower block that was brought down by Israeli air strikes next to her family home — which was also hit.”

The British broadcaster, however, neglected to tell its readers that the tower block that had been hit was housing members of Hamas and was being used for military purposes, despite its location in a densely-populated area.

The New York Times was also apparently used as a mouthpiece for Gaza’s genocidal rulers when it purported to highlight the devastating impact of the war on young Palestinians. As well as failing to mention Hamas’ policy of using its civilians as human shields, the newspaper only mentioned in its accompanying article — and not the 14-minute video lead — that the film had only been produced after “securing permission from Hamas.”

As we noted at the time, Hamas shapes the narrative of such reports by accompanying foreign journalists and vetting their every move. Those who fail to observe the rules are liable to be harassed, have footage destroyed, or risk being banned from the enclave.

Returning to the latest Hamas propaganda statement about an allegedly deceased militant guarding the remains of an Israeli soldier, there has been radio silence from news outlets. Not a single mainstream media publication has reported on Hamas’ implicit efforts to blackmail the Israeli government into releasing Palestinian prisoners.

It would appear, therefore, that the media has something of an Achilles’ heel when it comes to identifying Hamas propaganda, whatever guise it comes in.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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