Media intimidation

During the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in July 2014, numerous reports alleged that Hamas restricted media coverage of its activities in Gaza, threatening reporters against covering terrorist activities and allowing only footage of wounded Gazans. The absence of photos of Hamas rockets did not go unnoticed by others in the media. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Uriel Heilman questioned The New York Times’ lack of coverage, in particular. Heilman concluded that Western media largely ignored or made few references to reports of Hamas’s usage of Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital as its base or Hamas’s execution of suspected collaborators.Uriel Heilman, “The Images Missing from the Gaza War,” JTA, July 31, 2014, http://www.jta.org/2014/07/31/news-opinion/the-images-missing-from-the-gaza-war. He cited a tweet from freelance Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati that backed allegations of Hamas’s threatening of journalists: Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris (July 29).”Uriel Heilman, “The Images Missing from the Gaza War,” JTA, July 31, 2014, http://www.jta.org/2014/07/31/news-opinion/the-images-missing-from-the-gaza-war.

Uriel Heilman’s piece earned a response from The New York Times’ vice president for corporate communications, Eileen Murphy, who defended her paper’s omissions: “Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground.  It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun. I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants.  We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to.”Uriel Heilman, “NYT on Why It Hasn’t Shown Photos of Hamas Fighters: We Don’t Have Any,” JTA, July 31, 2014, http://www.jta.org/2014/07/31/news-opinion/nyt-on-why-no-photos-of-hamas-fighters-we-dont-have-any-1.

A July 31, 2014 Jerusalem Post piece reported that Hamas had threatened international reporters to prevent reporting on the terror group’s use of human shields and use of civilian sites from which to launch rockets.Lahav Harkov, “Journalists Threatened by Hamas for Reporting Use of Human Shields,” Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Journalists-threatened-by-Hamas-for-reporting-use-of-human-shields-369619. According to the Post, Hamas interrogated French journalist Radjaa Abu Dagga, threatening to throw him out of Gaza.Lahav Harkov, “Journalists Threatened by Hamas for Reporting Use of Human Shields,” Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Journalists-threatened-by-Hamas-for-reporting-use-of-human-shields-369619. The French newspaper Liberation printed a report on Abu Dagga’s ordeal, but Abu Dagga requested its removal.Lahav Harkov, “Journalists Threatened by Hamas for Reporting Use of Human Shields,” Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Journalists-threatened-by-Hamas-for-reporting-use-of-human-shields-369619. Hamas also told RT correspondent Harry Fear to leave Gaza after he tweeted that Hamas had fired rockets at Israel from nearby his hotel, and that the group was using human shields in Gaza’s al-Wafa hospital.Lahav Harkov, “Journalists Threatened by Hamas for Reporting Use of Human Shields,” Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Journalists-threatened-by-Hamas-for-reporting-use-of-human-shields-369619.

While examining a July 20 photo essay in The New York Times, the Weekly Standard’s Noah Pollak discovered that of the seven images in the compilation, three were of distressed Gaza civilians, one was of smoke rising over Gaza, and three were of the Israel Defense Forces, including tanks and attack helicopters. “The message is simple and clear: the IDF is attacking Gaza and harming Palestinian civilians,” Pollak wrote.Noah Pollak, “All The News Hamas Sees Fit to Print,” Weekly Standard, July 20, 2014, http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/all-news-hamas-sees-fit-print_796823.html. He questioned whether the Times had become an anti-Semitic mouthpiece or if it had been intimidated by Hamas. “These journalists must be terrified—and they also must know that the best way to ensure their safety is to never run afoul of the terrorists in whose hands their fates lie,” wrote Pollak.Noah Pollak, “All The News Hamas Sees Fit to Print,” Weekly Standard, July 20, 2014, http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/all-news-hamas-sees-fit-print_796823.html.

Hamas issued media guidelines, which, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, ordered Gazans to refer to all dead as “innocent civilians” and to avoid posting pictures of terrorists online.“Hamas Interior Ministry to Social Media Activists: Always Call the Dead ‘Innocent Civilians’; Don’t Post Photos of Rockets Being Fired From Civilian Population Centers,” Middle East Media Research Institute, July 17, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8076.htm. Among Hamas’s guidelines, according to the translation, includes this directive: “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.”“Hamas Interior Ministry to Social Media Activists: Always Call the Dead ‘Innocent Civilians’; Don’t Post Photos of Rockets Being Fired From Civilian Population Centers,” Middle East Media Research Institute, July 17, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8076.htm.

The media guidelines also included rules for Palestinian activists, including, "Do not publish photos of military commanders. Do not mention their names in public, and do not praise their achievements in conversations with foreign friends!”“Hamas Interior Ministry to Social Media Activists: Always Call the Dead ‘Innocent Civilians’; Don’t Post Photos of Rockets Being Fired From Civilian Population Centers,” Middle East Media Research Institute, July 17, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8076.htm.

Notwithstanding the lack of photographical evidence, Western pundits recognized Hamas’s violent actions, while simultaneously chastising Israel for civilian casualties. Bob Schieffer called out Hamas during one episode of his “Face The Nation” television show: “In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause, a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters.”Jack Mirkinson, “Bob Schieffer Has Some Very...Strong Opinions About Gaza,” Huffington Post, July 29, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/29/bob-schieffer-gaza_n_5630519.html.

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God forbid, if a time comes when we have no choice but to watch our citizens breathe their final breaths, and when there are no ventilators… we will make six million Israeli settlers unable to breathe.

Yahya Sinwar, Leader of Hamas in Gaza Apr. 2, 2020
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