"Nowadays, terrorists pass the media's gate through the front door while in the past they were considered the bad guys whom no one wanted to give a stage from which to speak," observed Hebrew University Prof. Tamar Liebes, author of a new book on media and terrorism (Meeting The Enemy in the Living Room), in the June 25th Jerusalem Post.
A July 10, 2007, Los Angeles Times Op-Ed ("Hamas stand: An official of the movement describes its goals for all of Palestine"), makes her point, continuing a troubling trend seen recently in the New York Times and Washington Post (June 20, 2007 Op-Eds by Hamas' Ahmed Yousef).
The LA Times essay by Mousa Abu Marzook, identified only as "the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas" is full of outrageous falsehoods and inaccuracies which seek to justify the unjustifiable the murder of innocent Israeli civilians as well as the terrorizing of Gaza's own Palestinian population, including journalists. Abu Marzook falsely accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, while whitewashing Hamas's reign of terror.
The Rule of Law or War Crimes?
First, Abu Marzook repeatedly emphasizes that Hamas will bring law to the Gaza Strip, referring to "our effort to secure Gaza from the lawlessness of militias and violence," and claiming "Gaza will be calm under the rule of law a place where all journalists, foreigners and guests of the Palestinian people will be treated with dignity."
Which law, Los Angeles Times readers should ask? Certainly not generally accepted standards of international law. As the Washington Post noted alongside a Jan. 31, 2006 Op-Ed by Marzook, the Hamas leader "was indicted in the United States in 2004 as a co-conspirator on racketeering and money-laundering charges in connection with activities on behalf of Hamas dating back to the early 1990s, before the organization was placed on the list of terrorist groups. He was deported to Jordan in 1997." Unlike the Post, the LA Times did not provide readers with this information critical to making an informed decision about Hamas, its leaders and its respect for law.
Nor does Abu Marzook express any genuine interest in the international laws concerning terrorist acts against civilians. Instead, he makes a mockery of them, claiming: "our struggle has always been focused on the occupier and our legal resistance to it a right of occupied people that is explicitly supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention." In fact, obviously, the Geneva Convention provides no such justification for Hamas suicide bombings against innocent civilians, including children. The Los Angeles Times should correct this falsehood.
Even Human Rights Watch, which in the past has glossed over Palestinian atrocities, last month condemned Hamas for gross violations of international law ("Gaza: Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes," June 13, 2007 ). Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said: "The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple."
Examples of these war crimes mentioned in the report include:
* "Hamas military forces captured 28-year-old Muhammad Swairki, a cook for President Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard, and executed him by throwing him to his death, with his hand and legs tied, from a 15-story apartment building in Gaza City."
* "Fatah and Hamas forces engaged in battles in and around two Gaza Strip hospitals."
* "At a hospital in Beit Hanun, three [patients who were] family members with ties to Fatah, 'Id al-Masri and his sons, Farij and Ibrahim, were killed [by Hamas]...one shot at close range."
* "Hamas military forces attacked the home in Beit Lahiya of Jamal Abu al-Jadiyan, a senior Fatah official, captured him, and executed him on the street with multiple gunshots."
And, of course, Hamas' abduction of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage incommunicado for over a year and even denied visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, is another gross violation
of international law.
Reign of Fear
How does Hamas intend to achieve the calmness Abu Marzook promises for the Gaza Strip, a densely populated territory filled with competing armed groups? Avi Issacharoff, writing in Ha'aretz June 22, 2007, has an answer:
"The near-perfect public order that reigned in Gaza this week can be attributed, at least in part, to the fear Hamas struck into residents' hearts last week, during the Strip's civil war. Testimony collected from the days of fighting indicates that Hamas imposed a methodical system of terror and scare tactics intended to deter, shock and frighten Fatah operatives and Gaza residents in general. . . .Aside from assassinating Fatah officials, Hamas also killed innocent Palestinians, with the intention of deterring the large clans from confronting the organization. Thus it was that 10 days ago, after an hours-long gun battle that ended with Hamas overpowering the Bakr clan from the Shati refugee camp - known as a large, well-armed and dangerous family that supports Fatah - the Hamas military wing removed all the family members from their compound and lined them up against a wall. Militants selected a 14-year-old girl, two women aged 19 and 75, and two elderly men, and shot them to death in cold blood to send a message to all the armed clans of Gaza."
Marzook Exaggerates & Distorts Palestinian Casualties
Given Hamas' barbaric execution of an innocent Palestinian girl, a young woman and senior citizens, it is hard to take Abu Marzook's crocodile tears for Palestinian victims seriously. He writes:
As I write these words, Israeli forays into Gaza have killed another 15 people, including a child.
Moreover, it appears that his claim about Palestinian casualties during the period is inflated. Abu Marzook wrote the piece sometime between July 4, when Alan Johnston was freed (the Hamas official begins by making reference to this event), and July 9, the day before his Op-Ed appeared. But according to a report by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which covers the period of July 5 -11, 11 Palestinians were killed during that period in the Gaza Strip, all of them on July 5, during a raid on the al-Boreij Refugee Camp. According to the PCHR, the youngest killed was 18 not a "child."
Agence France-Presse (AFP) repeatedly reported (July 5 and July 6), that all 11 killed were "fighters." (The previous PCHR report reports no Gaza fatalities for July 4, the day Johnston was released.) The Los Angeles Times should correct this point, making clear that Israel did not kill a child, and that 11, not 15, Palestinians were killed in Gaza in "heavy fighting, as sources on both sides said" (AFP, July 6, "Israeli troops pull out of Gaza after deadly raid").
Genocidal Ideology Omitted
Abu Marzook labors to put a "reasonable" face on his organization's genocidal aspirations, claiming: "Nor can any deny the reasonableness of our fight against the occupation and the right of Palestinians to have dignity, justice and self-rule." There is nothing "reasonable" about calling for the death of all Jews, as Hamas does in its charter, which he romanticizes as "an essentially revolutionary document born of the intolerable conditions under occupation more than 20 years ago." That "revolutionary document" contains, among other bloodthirsty statements, the commonly repeated Muslim hadith:
The Hour [Resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, and the rock and the tree will say: "Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him!"
This genocidal sentiment is regularly expressed in programs for children, as well as by Hamas spokesmen. On March 30, 2007, Hamas spokesman repeated the saying, and also threatened Americans:
O Allah, strengthen Islam and Muslims, and bring victory to your Jihad-fighting worshippers, in Palestine and everywhere . . . . Allah take the oppressor Jews and Americans and their supporters!
If Hamas can make this genocidal stand clear to its supporters, why can't the Los Angeles Times make Hamas's stand clear to its readers many Jews and mostly Americans? Why agree instead to print a totally false makeover of "Hamas' stand"?
Has Hamas been treating journalists with dignity as Abu Marzook claims? Not according to Palestinian journalists, who complain regularly about intimidation and abuse from Hamas officials. For instance, the independent Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported July 7, 2007:
Last week, the chief editor of Ma'an News Agency received direct threats on his mobile telephone from Hamas spokesperson, Fawzi Barhoum, who demanded that Ma'an avoid criticizing the Hamas movement. He threatened that, if Ma'an does not stop criticizing the Hamas movement, they will embark on a campaign of defamation against our news agency, and accuse it of reporting false news and of antagonizing the Hamas movement.
Earlier, on June 19, Ma'an had complained about threats against their journalists from both the duelling parties Hamas and Fatah. On June 20, Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned both Hamas and Fatah for attacks on media institutions affiliated with the rival party.
Moreover, according to a July 2 Associated Press report:
A TV journalist who worked for the Al-Arabiya network in the Gaza Strip is seeking asylum in Norway, saying his family was threatened, Norwegian state broadcaster NRK reported. We came to Norway because I, my wife and children received death threats, and we decided to leave Gaza, where I could not continue as a free-speaking journalist, Saif el-Deen Shahin was quoted as saying in a report on NRK's Web site...Hamas had accused Al-Arabiya of bias in favor of its rival, Fatah, in the months leading up to its takeover of Gaza. Shahin said only about 10 percent of journalists in Gaza dare to carry out their profession. The rest have stopped working because of pressure and fears for their lives, Shahin was quoted as saying in the report posted Thursday.
Likewise, on July 5, Newsweek reported:
The Hamas takeover "has had a terrible negative impact on the media," says Musa Rimawi, the director of the PCDMF [Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom]. "Journalists are scared. They're panicking."
Newsweek also noted that Najah Awad, a well-known female broadcaster who has been too afraid to report to work since the fighting started, "says a Hamas Web site recently accused the station's female broadcasters of being 'loose women' one more reason to stay away."
Hamas Role in Attack on Americans
Abu Marzook is again apparently fabricating when he claims that "Hamas has never supported attacks on Westerners, as even our harshest critics will concede." In actuality, Hamas top fighter Jamal Abu Samhadana "is believed responsible for an attack on a United States diplomatic convoy in Gaza in 2003 that killed three American security guards," reported Voice of America (April 22, 2006). The Los Angeles Times itself repeatedly (April 21, 2006; April 22, 2006; May 18, 2006) has mentioned Abu Samhadana's suspected responsibility for the murder of the three Americans. The Times should print a clarification stating that Hamas is, in fact, suspected of deliberately murdering Americans.
Lies About Israeli Parties
In addition to misrepresenting his own party's platform, Abu Marzook deceives about Israeli party platforms, stating: "A number of political parties today control blocs in the Israel Knesset, while advocating for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine . . . " Can Abu Marzook name even one Israeli party currently in government that calls for the expulsion of all Israeli Arabs and Palestinians? Out of the 12 parties currently serving in the Knesset, only one National Union-Israel Beteinu calls for voluntary transfer. None call for expulsion. The Times should print a correction stating that no Israeli parties in government advocate the "expulsion" of Arabs; one calls for voluntary transfer.
Abu Marzook relies on a false Zionist quote to make his fallacious claim that
The writings of Israel's 'founders' - from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion - make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine's non-Jewish inhabitants: "We must expel the Arabs and take their places."
Though Abu Marzook doesnt say so, this false quote is regularly attributed to David Ben-Gurion, as a quick Internet search shows, and originates from Benny Morris' book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. The problem with Morris, however, is that he not only relied on a secondary source, but he also distorted it. Israeli scholar Efraim Karsh, in contrast, checked the original Hebrew document in question, a hand-written Oct. 7, 1937 letter from Ben-Gurion to his son, and found its actual wording to be the opposite of what Abu Marzook and Morris claim:
We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place [ 'ein anu rotsim ve'ein anu tsrihim legaresh aravim ve'lakahat mekomam']. All our aspiration is built on the assumption - proven throughout all our activity in the Land [of Israel] - that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs. But if we have to use force - not to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev and Transjordan; but to guarantee our own right to settle in those places - then we have force at our disposal. (p. 49-50, Fabricating Israeli History: the 'New Historians', by Efraim Karsh)
The Times should print a correction stating that David Ben-Gurion actually stated that "we do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place."
An Open Door to Terrorists
The Los Angeles Times apparently has an open-door policy when it comes to pro-Hamas Op-Eds. Abu Marzook's Op-Ed this week comes on the heels of the June 20, 2007 Hamas apologia by Saree Makdisi, whose regular submissions to the Op-Ed pages are often full of falsehoods. Some might even say that Hamas has breezed through the front door and climbed right into bed with Nicholas Goldberg, editor of the Times' Op-Ed page.