Hamas’ Other War
February 21, 2006
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
As athletes compete at the Winter Olympics and Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” plays in theatres worldwide, few remember that Palestinian terrorists’ murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics was more than a mere act of blood-lust. As seen in this video clip from CBC’s recent broadcast of the Academy Award-winning film “One Day in September,” the Munich massacre was first and foremost a public relations exercise. 30 years after Munich, the last surviving terrorist declared:
“I’m proud of what I did at Munich. Before Munich the world had no idea about our struggle, but on that day the name of ‘Palestine’ was repeated all over the world.”
Like other Palestinian terror organizations, Hamas understands the value of public relations. By projecting a “moderate” and “pragmatic” image while clinging to its genocidal ambition, Hamas seeks international legitimacy and financial support to cement its control over Palestinian society, annihilate Israel and replace it with an Iran-like Islamic theocracy.
Hamas underscored its media-savvy approach by hiring a media consultant to help soften the organization’s image. Nashat Aqtash, a professor of media studies at Birzeit University in Ramallah, offered advice such as, “Don’t talk about destroying Israel,” “Do talk about Palestinian suffering,” and “Don’t celebrate killing people.” Here is how Aqtash spins five years of deadly Hamas terror:
“Hamas does not believe in terrorism or killing civilians. But Ariel Sharon pressed buttons to make people angry. Sometimes we are innocent enough to react in a way that the Israelis use the reaction against us.”
Will Hamas’ public relations offensive work? The answer depends largely on the international news media. And if past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, there is much cause for concern.
In her new book “The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Struggle for Media Supremacy,” journalist Stephanie Gutmann documents an assortment of plagues that afflict news coverage of the Middle East: Israel’s often ineffective public relations efforts, the Palestinian Authority’s intimidation of reporters, journalists’ tendency to adopt a shared (if often inaccurate) conventional wisdom, reporters’ reliance on Palestinian “fixers,” and their over-simplification of a complex situation whose subtleties they do not entirely understand, among others.
For insight into how the international news media often fail to report fairly and accurately from the Middle East, HonestReporting Canada recommends reading journalist Hillel Halkin’s review of Gutmann’s book: a long version of Halkin’s article can be read in Commentary Magazine; a shorter version appeared in the National Post.
What is Hamas?
Classified as a terrorist organization by the Canadian and other Western governments, Hamas is a radical Islamist organization that murdered approximately 500 Israelis and injured thousands of others since September, 2000, and maintains a charter that calls for Israel’s annihilation.
But Hamas’ strategy of eliminating Israel is multi-pronged. In addition to murdering Israelis, Hamas maintains a network of public services for Palestinians (unofficially, this network helps recruit and indoctrinate future suicide bombers). More recently, Hamas won a majority in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
As the increasingly media-savvy Hamas presents a pragmatic, charitable face to the world, its messages in Arabic tell a different story. As Palestinian Media Watch reported:
“A video placed on the Hamas website after its victory in the January 25, 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections makes clear that Hamas still considers itself as a violent group aiming at nothing less than Israel’s destruction. The video promises that the ‘homeland is returning through blood’ at the same time an image of the Israeli coastal city of Haifa is displayed.” (See video here.)
And a February 13, 2006 interview on Egyptian TV recorded by MEMRI TV shows Hamas’ Deputy Political Chief declaring:
“Hamas believes that historical Palestine, that is, all of Palestine, belongs to the Palestinian people. We say that all of Palestine, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, belongs to the Palestinians… But we also say that we are dealing realistically with the current phase – an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty over the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip… It is a temporary and phased solution. This is not the permanent solution.” (See video and transcript here.)
Despite Hamas’ clear pronouncements in Arabic, many international news media have drawn an imaginary dividing line between Hamas’ violent agenda and political pragmatism. Already Hamas’ political leaders, some of whom are technocrats appointed to give the organization an air of credibility, are described by Canadian media as “pragmatic” and “moderate.” Hamas representatives have begun making vague pronouncements about a “temporary truce” if Israel withdraws to indefensible borders. And some Canadian reporters and columnists may have trouble navigating Hamas’ double-talk.
Hamas’ media strategist told the Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter: “Hamas is recognizing that the media war is more important than the actual war on the ground.” Will you help prevent Hamas from exploiting the news process to advance its genocidal agenda?
How You Can Make a Difference
Help ensure accurate coverage of Hamas by monitoring Canadian media coverage of Hamas and contacting the media when they fail to expose Hamas for the genocidal terror organization that it is.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to fair and accurate
media coverage of Israel and the Middle East