AP’s Selective Inability to Verify Information

In the last week, the Associated Press, a leading news agency which prides itself on “advancing the power of facts,” has on five occasions cautioned readers that information concerning the Israel-Hamas war “could not be independently verified.”

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Strikingly, all five instances concerned information originating from Israeli sources. In contrast, at no point in the last week did the news service single out Hamas, the murderous, ISIS-like terror group which on Oct. 7 perpetrated the greatest mass atrocities against civilians in recent history, for providing information which could not be independently verified. (There were instances in which the news agency diplomatically reported it was “not possible to independently confirm the battlefield claims made by either side,” Israel or Hamas.)

The news agency’s application of more rigorous fact-checking standards for Israel compared to Hamas comes in the wake of last month’s Al-Ahli coverage fiasco in which the designated terror organization falsely accused Israel of launching an airstrike on the hospital, killing hundreds.

While that incident underscored the need to take Hamas claims with a silo of salt, the AP nevertheless continues to treat Israeli sources with more skepticism than Hamas sources.

Thus, in their Nov. 4 article, Jerusalem bureau chief Josef Federman, along with reporters Bassem Mrou and Lee Keath, wrote that two separate pieces of information from Israel could not be independently verified (“Israel resists US pressure to pause the war to allow more aid to Gaza, wants hostages back first”) wrote:

Friday’s strike outside Shifa Hospital came after Israel said Hamas has a command center there — a claim that could not be independently verified and that Hamas and hospital officials deny.

At least 15 people were killed and 60 wounded outside Shifa Hospital, said Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra. At least 50 others were killed or wounded in a strike outside Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital, its director said, without providing more precise figures. …

The Israeli military said its aircraft hit an ambulance Friday that Hamas fighters were using to carry weapons. The claim could not be independently verified. It was not clear whether the strike was connected to the one by Shifa Hospital. The military said it took place “near a battle zone,” suggesting it was close to ongoing ground battles.

Al-Qidra said a convoy of ambulances left Shifa carrying wounded people to Rafah when a strike hit a vehicle on the edges of Gaza City. The convoy turned around, and another strike hit another ambulance. He denied that any of the ambulances were used by Hamas fighters. (Emphases added.)

Previously, on Nov. 2, Najib Jobain, Jack Jeffery and Lee Keath took care to point out that the news agency could not confirm a recording released by the Israeli military revealing that Hamas pressured hospital officials to turn over fuel (“After weeks in besieged Gaza, some foreign nationals and wounded Palestinians are allowed to leave“):

The Israeli military released a recording of what it said was a Hamas military commander forcing a hospital to give some fuel. The recording could not be independently verified. (Emphasis added.)

On Oct. 30, AP also diligently reported that multiple points of information provided by Israel could not be independently verified, stating (“Gaza receives largest aid shipment so far as deaths top 8,000 and Israel widens military offensive” by Wafaa Shuafa, Samy Magdy and Kareem Chehayeb):

Israel says Hamas would use [fuel] for military purposes and that the militant group is hoarding large fuel stocks for itself in the territory. That claim couldn’t be independently verified. …

Elad Goren [of Israel’s COGAT] also said Israel has opened two water lines in southern Gaza within the past week. The AP could not independently verify that either line was functioning. [Emphasis added.]

In fact, The New York Times was able to independently verify Israel’s information that Hamas has stockpiled huge amounts of fuel, along with other supplies in anticipation of the disastrous war that it inflicted upon both Israel and its own population (“As Gazans Scrounge for Food and Water, Hamas Sits on a Rich Trove of Supplies“):

As supplies of virtually every basic human necessity dwindle in Gaza, one group in the besieged enclave remains well-stocked: Hamas.

Arab and Western officials say there is substance to Israeli claims of Hamas stockpiling supplies, including desperately needed food and fuel. Hamas, they say, has spent years building dozens of kilometers of tunnels under the strip where it has amassed stores of virtually everything needed for a drawn-out fight. It is a reality that Israel may soon find itself grappling with if it makes good on its threat to invade Gaza.

Hamas has hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel for vehicles and rockets; caches of ammunition, explosives and materials to make more; and stockpiles of food, water and medicine, the officials said. A senior Lebanese official said Hamas, which is estimated to number between 35,000 and 40,000, had enough stocked away to keep fighting for three to four months without resupply.

And, in the same article, the AP writers use different language to make the same point that they just can’t know if the Israelis are telling the truth when it comes to Hamas’ command post under Shifa hospital:

 Israel accuses Hamas of having a secret command post beneath the hospital but has not provided much evidence. Hamas denies the allegations. [Emphasis added.] 

Meanwhile, at no point did AP note that it could not independently verify casualty figures supplied by Hamas, despite the fact that the terror organization has proven itself wildly unreliable regarding casualties. Nor is the news agency transparent about the fact that the Health Ministry is run by Hamas. Instead, it gives the false impression that Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra is independent, professional and credible. But as the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported in 2014:

Dr. Al-Qudra compiles the daily lists of those killed in Operation Protective Edge in his office at Shifa Hospital (which also serves as the headquarters where Hamas leaders are based). To prepare the lists, Dr. Al-Qudra has a team of assistants who update him 24 hours a day about Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks (maannews.net; AFP, July 27, 2014). In our assessment, this team utilizes reports from the field in various areas in the Gaza Strip. It is, therefore, an entire system that operates continuously and is governed by Hamas policy. This system – from its head to the operatives in the field – make an effort to “efface” or obscure the identity of the terrorist operatives who were killed and to present those killed as Palestinian martyrs, civilians who were deliberately killed by Israel.

During Operation Protective Edge, Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra holds a press conference every evening at Shifa Hospital, during which he mentions the number of casualties and publicizes their names The number of fatalities and their identity, distributed by Dr. Al-Qudra and his team and by other Hamas officials or those working in the service of Hamas, create the impression that only innocent Palestinian civilians were killed in Operation Protective Edge.

Of the 150 names of fatalities which the center examined in that report, more than half were confirmed as terrorists identified with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or other terror organization.

Meanwhile, it appears that the Associated Press has completely ignored one story which once again seriously undermines the credibility of Hamas sources.

As reported by The New York Times (but not AP), a Biden administration official revealed that Hamas tried to pass off its fighters as injured civilians who should be evacuated to Egypt for treatment (“Hamas puts wounded fighters on evacuation lists, delaying efforts to evacuate foreigners, a U.S. official says“):

The official said that Hamas had repeatedly provided to Israel, the United States and Egypt lists of Palestinians who were wounded and should be allowed to depart with the Americans and others. But vetting showed that many of them, the official said, were Hamas fighters.

The official said that about a third of the wounded Palestinians on the first list were Hamas fighters and that allowing them to exit Gaza was unacceptable to officials in Egypt, the United States and Israel. The delays continued for some time, the official said, because Hamas kept offering lists that turned out to include its members.

To their enormous credit, Egyptian, American and Israeli officials reportedly did their due diligence, sifting through Hamas misinformation to distinguish civilians from terrorists. This scrutiny stands in striking contrast to AP’s continued embrace of Hamas propaganda, as it continues to treat the terror organization’s doctored casualty figures as more credible than Israeli-supplied materials. 

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