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August 23, 2022 11:10 am
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What The Hill? Guest Pundit Rants About ‘Pro-Israel Media Bias’ in Outrageous Interview

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue

Opinion

Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants gather at a mourning house for Palestinians who were killed during Israel-Gaza fighting, as a ceasefire holds, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 8, 2022. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Comedian, writer, filmmaker, podcaster, and political commentator Katie Halper is best known for her two programs, “The Katie Halper Show” and the podcast “Useful Idiots,” which she fronts with writer Matt Taibbi.

Recently, she appeared on the Hill TV web series “Rising,” which reportedly averages hundreds of thousands of viewers daily, and was at one point reportedly the fastest-growing political series in the United States.

However, instead of the “cutting edge analysis” of current events that the program promises, Halper was given free reign to utterly re-imagine the latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

The show’s hosts opened Halper’s segment with a reference to a recent Haaretz story about Palestinian workers who had been told to vacate a bus after a complaint by Jewish passengers. Halper uses this as a jumping-off point, suggesting that the unfortunate occurrence of a bus driver behaving in a most inappropriate manner was irrefutable evidence of Israel being an “apartheid state.”

Yet, Halper failed to inform viewers that the regrettable incident was highly unusual. Specifically, one of the Jewish passengers who had boarded in the central city of Bnei Brak, falsely claimed to be a Transportation Ministry Employee. The passenger proceeded to intimidate the newly-hired driver by warning the latter he would lose his job or be heavily fined if he did not comply with the former’s demand.

Also left unsaid by Halper was the fact that the CEO of the Tnufa bus company, Mikhael Kopilovsky, immediately apologized for the incident and pointed out that many of the firm’s employees are Arabs.

Critically, Halper also failed to acknowledge that far from being an apartheid state, public transportation that is divided on religious or racial grounds is a flagrant violation of Israeli law, which protects the civil rights of all its citizens.

Shifting to Israel’s recent campaign against the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist (PIJ) group, Halper takes umbrage with the IDF’s “preemptive strikes” against PIJ during Operation Breaking Dawn earlier this month, which she confidently asserts “were not in response to anything.”

We can only assume that Halper is blithely unaware of the fact that the operation was necessitated by the threat of imminent revenge attacks by PIJ following the arrest of one of its commanders, Bassam al-Saadi, on August 1 in Jenin.

In addition, such strikes were focused on taking out terrorist tunnels and infrastructure, which PIJ deliberately conceals within or beneath residential areas so that innocent Gazans are effectively transformed into human shields for the organization.

Most disturbing, however, is Halper’s insidious suggestion that Operation Breaking Dawn was the brainchild of Prime Minister Yair Lapid in a bid to up his poll numbers ahead of the national elections in November, which she describes as how one “scores political points in Israel.”

Seemingly asleep at the wheel, the program’s hosts Robby Soave and Briahna Joy Gray allow Halper’s blatant falsehoods to go unchallenged.

As such, her fabrications get even more fantastic as the segment continues.

For example, she asserts that “not a single rocket was fired [from the Gaza Strip] until hours after the [Israeli] bombing started.”

Of course, this ridiculous claim totally ignores the fact that rockets are fired into Israel from the coastal enclave all year round. For example, on July 16, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one of four rockets that were fired from the Strip.

Taken as a whole, Halper’s segment on Hill TV is ostensibly about the biased way in which the escalation between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad was reported on by international media outlets, such as The New York Times and NPR. She takes aim at the Times for correctly pointing out that the Gaza flare-up was preceded by a spike in [terrorist] attacks in Israel — “I don’t know where that is coming from” is Halper’s glib response to that piece of rather relevant reportage.

Presumably, she failed to read about the dozens of Israelis who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists earlier this year.

Later, Halper hits out at Jerusalem’s practice of reminding its critics that it has a right to defend itself, saying that this right is “up for debate” because it is “an illegal occupation.” This must be the loosest definition of illegal occupation in history considering Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Finally, she compares Israel’s actions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, bemoaning how PIJ terrorists are characterized as “militants” while Ukrainians are referred to as “defenders” of their country. Such pernicious comparisons have been debunked by HonestReporting on several occasions (see here and here).

There are other falsehoods and distortions, including Halper’s criticism of one media outlet that described Hamas as “seizing power” in the Strip. She suggests that this is incorrect because the US-designated terror group “won elections.” This pronouncement is absurd: viewers of Hill TV would probably have been surprised to learn that the last elections in Gaza were held in 2006.

But while Soave and Gray were physically present during the segment, they were nowhere to be found as Halper, during a 10-minute segment supposedly meant to call out media distortions and bias, did nothing but spin anti-Israel tropes out of whole cloth.

Why did Hill TV allow such hypocrisy to be broadcast without the program’s hosts checking Halper’s egregious misrepresentations at any point?

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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