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Media Analyses





Same Old Hamas, Same Old Media?


Despite its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas remains the same old organization committed to Israelís destruction. Hopes that an election campaign would force the terrorist group to moderate were repeatedly dashed by Hamas leaders, who made little attempt during the run-up to elections to hide the groupís ambition to destroy Israel.

News consumers might be forgiven, however, for thinking the group has reformed, because much of the American media appears eager to minimize threats to Israel and to blame the Jewish state for all lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

Same Old Hamas

It is from the few journalists who donít shy away from accurately reporting Hamasís stated goals and positions that we learn the terrorist group still insists on eliminating Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state.

In a Jan. 24 story, for example, the Boston Globeís Anne Barnard described a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip as follows:

Before crowds of thousands, [top Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar] and other candidates went out of their way to deny they would ever give up their insistence on the destruction of Israel and the right to armed struggle. ...

Hamas's armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, will never be dismantled, as Israel and the US-backed road map peace plan demand, he said.

"They will remain, they will grow, they will be armed more and more until the complete liberation of all Palestine," he said, stressing that Palestine includes not just the West Bank and Gaza Strip that Israel occupied in 1967, but all of Israel as well. ...

Some Palestinian and Israeli commentators have expressed hope that a role in government could moderate Hamas and force the party to court the international community.

But at the Zeitoun rally, Miriam Farhat, famous for appearing with her son in a "martyrdom" video before he infiltrated an Israeli settlement and killed five soldiers in a suicide attack, declared, "Those who say we have changed our methods, we will never change."

In an interview at his home yesterday, Zahar sounded the same note, and denied there was any internal disagreement within Hamas over tactics. ...

[Zahar added that] Palestinians have the right to all the land of Israel, including "Jerusalem, east and west."

A week earlier, Barnard described similar comments by Hamas candidate Yasser Mansour:

Hamas, he said, still wants "Palestine from the river to the sea" -- and believes in retaking the land from Jordan to the Mediterranean, including Israel. (Jan. 17)

In the British Guardian newspaper, Hamasís Zahar is quoted again claiming all of Israel:

"It's our land," said Dr Zahar. "Nobody among our sons and grandsons will accept Israel as a legal state. ... Israel is a foreign body. Not in this generation, not in the next generation, will we accept it here." (Jan. 18)

And on Palestinian television, Zahar said:

We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay [on the land], nor his ownership of any inch of land. ... Our principles are clear: Palestine is a land of Waqf [Islamic trust], which can not be given up. (Jan. 17, translated by Palestinian Media Watch)

Same Old Media

Unfortunately, a number of journalists and news organizations wholly ignored the above (and other) comments by Hamas leaders re-emphasizing their rejection of Israel. The painting of Hamas as moderate without reporting the groupís continued rejectionist rhetoric suggests poor news reporting, or worse, self-censorship.

• Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer provided one of the must jarring examples of journalistic makeovers given to Hamas. While acknowledging that Hamasís 1988 charter "calls for Israel's destruction," reporter Michael Matza implied in a Jan. 20 story that such calls are a relic of the past: "Hamas campaign literature clearly highlights the struggle to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank," he wrote. Somehow, only two days after Zahar called Israel a "foreign body" that would never be accepted, Matza felt it appropriate to imply that Hamasís "struggle" is no longer for all of Israel, but only the West Bank.

Editors at the newspaper have adamantly refused to correct–or even acknowledge–Matzaís erroneous language.

• Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On Jan. 22, Craig Nelson posed the following rhetorical question about Hamasís intentions in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Is its decision to participate in democratic elections part of a Trojan horse-scheme to seize absolute power, impose strict Islamic law in the Palestinian territories and create an armed juggernaut aimed at achieving its official goal of wiping out Israel?

Or is it a sign that the group has become more pragmatic due to pressure from other Palestinians --- a majority of whom, according to Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, oppose attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip and want the current truce with Israel to continue?

It is a valid question; but readers were left to answer it without the benefit of seeing Hamasís own answer. Neither Nelsonís article nor three follow up articles in the Journal-Constitution by Margaret Coker cited any of the antagonistic quotes highlighted above, or any like it. Instead, Cokerís stories reported, accurately but misleadingly, that "Hamas omitted from its election manifesto its long-standing call to destroy Israel" (Jan. 24) and, much less accurately, that the group "has tempered its rhetoric in recent weeks of campaigning" (Jan. 25).

Associated Press

APís record is mixed. Some dispatches did point out Hamas remains committed to Israelís destruction. For example, Karen Laub wrote on Jan. 25:

[Hamasís] top parliamentary candidate, Ismail Haniyeh, said Hamas had no intention of laying down its arms after the elections as Abbas has said he expects. And another prominent candidate, Mahmoud Zahar, said his group is "not going to change a single word" in its covenant calling for Israel's destruction.

Others, however, failed to fully inform the public. An article one day earlier by Ali Daraghmeh, for example, did not disclose any Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel. Moreover, without providing this context the reporter went on to assert that "Israeli officials have said they will not deal with Hamas until it disarms and renounces violence, a vow that could complicate hopes for restarting peace talks." In other words, it isnít Hamasís continued rejectionism that would "complicate hopes" for peace, but rather Israelís refusal to deal with Hamas–a refusal that cannot be fully understood by readers without the context of Hamasís virulent anti-Israel statements.



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