The Huffington Post blog, which far too often functions as a magnet for Israel haters, has posted another anti-Israel screed. The author is Alex Shams, identified as an Iranian-American journalist and PhD student of anthropology at the University of Chicago. Missing from the Huff Post bio is that he was until recently based in Bethlehem, serving as an opinion editor at the Palestinian Ma'an news agency.
"Killing of Mentally Ill Palestinian Swimming Off Gaza Coast Highlights Maddening Effects of Israel's Siege" is the grotesquely misleading headline of Shams' equally distorted Huffington Post blog post about Egypt's killing of a Palestinian who illegally crossed the border. His post represents the cynical attempt to turn a story about the Egyptian-Gazan border into an anti-Israel hit piece.
Nowhere in the lengthy description of the killing of the "mentally ill Palestinian swimmer" does Shams say that Egyptian troops killed the Gazan. Instead, his clear implication is that Israeli soldiers were guilty of a heartless crime: murdering a mentally disabled Palestinian victim. As Shams writes in the Dec. 28 piece:
In the video, a naked young man slowly swims in the ocean, wading his way bit by bit through the waves to reach the other side of an invisible border.
He swims further, getting closer to the invisible line that cuts through the sea from the border fence visible onshore.
From the beach, a man shouts, pleading with an invisible soldier not to shoot the swimmer.
The naked swimmer emerges, bobs up and down, and crosses the invisible line. Shots ring out. His dead body floats to the surface.
The swimmer's name was Ishaq Khalil Hassan, and he is a 28-year-old from Gaza who had reportedly spent the last few months trying to get permission to leave the tiny Palestinian coastal enclave in order to seek medical treatment abroad.
Hassan had grown increasingly despondent, as all of Gaza's borders are shut and there is no way out. His friends say he was depressed and increasingly suffered from the mental anguish of living in a giant prison, as Gaza's 1.8 million people do.
The Gaza Strip is under Israeli siege, and it has been so for the last nine years. Nothing can go in or out -- neither people nor goods -- without Israeli permission, and the sea to the west, the land borders to to the north and east, and the air are all patrolled by the Israeli military with shoot-to-kill orders.
On Gaza's southern side sits Egypt, which enforces the blockade at Israel's behest. The Rafah crossing, Gaza's only land border into Egypt, is closed almost every single day of the year.
The author distinctly avoids mentioning which border Hassan approached (Egypt's) and conceals which soldiers actually shot the victim (Egyptian.) Both the headline and Sham's manipulated description of Hassan's shooting, which refer to the "Israeli siege," are designed to mislead readers about the facts. Indeed, Shams' post resembles an overt anti-Israel propaganda screed rather than a piece of legitimate journalism.
In Sham's rant, everything is turned into an indictment of Israel. Egypt's clearly-stated justification of its border closures with Gaza, namely, to battle an Islamic insurgency and staunch the flow of terrorists and arms into Egypt from Gaza, is glibly dismissed by the author as "an obviously flimsy excuse, a convenient way to avoid dealing with the real sources of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians."
Sham fills his piece with the formulaic tropes, canards and anti-Israel hate rhetoric that is so popular among those who oppose a Jewish state and justify anti-Israel terrorism. For example:
"Hamas is an anti-colonial movement dedicated to the liberation of what it sees, understandably, as foreign occupation."
"Israel was built on lands seized from Palestinians in 1948 (what is now Israel) and occupied by military force in 1967 (the West Bank and Gaza)..."
"Hamas, in contrast, is a militia outfitted primarily with homemade weapons that is part of a political party that emerged in 1988 to resist military occupation...."
"Hamas is a symptom. The Israeli occupation is the cause...."
In Sham's telling, Palestinian militants bear no responsibility for the situation in Gaza: There are no Hamas terror tunnels, no Palestinian rockets into Israeli population centers, just Israel's unprovoked "recurring assaults on the Strip."
It is not particularly surprising that a former opinion editor at a Palestinian news agency might be a less-than-objective purveyor of news. But readers should be aware that what they are finding on the Huffington Post blog is a completely distorted version of events.