CAMERA Op-Ed in El Mundo: Hamas, An Ethical Dilemma

A CAMERA Op-Ed by Masha Gabriel was published on July 23, 2014 in El Mundo, one of the two primary Spanish-language newspapers in the world.  It sets the record straight about distorted journalism regarding the Hamas-Israel confrontations and the facts ignored by the media regarding Hamas. The article below is the translation from the original Spanish.

Hamas, an Ethical Dilemma

As I write these lines, CNN is reporting that 571 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed in the current conflict By the time you read this article, the number may well be higher.

The images and testimonies from Gaza attest to the suffering of the Palestinians, and it is impossible not to be moved by the pain of the victims. The media, for its part, brings us round-the clock news of the breaking events while the immediacy and passion of social media creates among those far from the conflict a highly charged and emotional climate that leaves no space for reflection. We know what is going on. But we do not really understand why. As the Italian essayist and political scientist, Giovanni Sartori, noted, “we can have a lot of information about multiple issues and nevertheless not understand them.”

And it is especially in this emotional fog, saturated with images of corpses and violence, that the words we use becomes key to understanding the message. The trivialization of language and concepts betrays the truth, and promotes false stereotypes while manipulating the most basic instincts.

Unfair and excessive charges

Thus, in recent days we have witnessed a list of accusations against Israel which extends to a deceptive analogy between what is happening in Gaza and the Holocaust. Anyone who has ever opened a history book knows that this is outrageously false and ethically perverse. But those levelling this accusation do not care about facts and truth; what they are looking for are “emotional allies.” They use facile slogans as a powerful spear to make their point, regardless how distorted or far from reality it is. The loudest noises prevail.

Therefore we must understand that many of articles arriving from the center of the conflict are competing to make the “loudest noise.” But in the same way that a report from Gaza which omits the voices of the victims would be a moral outrage and a journalistic error, coverage of the conflict that is limited to witnesses is nothing but an exercise in sensationalism, providing only an element of confusion.

Has anyone considered why — despite the copious amount of news reports and analyses arriving from Israel– so many news consumers and analysts still wrongly claim that Gaza is territory occupied by Israel or that Jews invaded the Palestinian state? What has gone wrong to produce so much ignorance in the midst of so much information?

The fact is there is no context at all to the information conveyed by news reporters. Journalists care only about what is going on in a specific spot at a specific time, they selectively choose their here and now, ignoring everything that leads up to the moment, and the major ethical questions that arise from the confrontation.

Perhaps no one has defined this better than Fathi Hamed, a Hamas parliamentarian, who in 2008 declared to Al Aqsa TV:

“For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideenand the children,” Hammad is quoted as saying. “This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionistbombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.”

Hamas and victimization of their people

Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and the Jews in general and they try to reach this goal through the victimization of their own people.

The Hamas strategy is simple: attack the powerful enemy until it is compelled to respond. Shoot from schools, use hospital as arsenals, hide behind civilians, urge the people to martyrdom, and so on. Hamas considers the use of human shields a valid and successful strategy because they know that the more their people suffer, the more they can turn public opinion against Israel.

Hamas started this violent escalation, Hamas rejected the offers of ceasefire, Hamas sends its people to their deaths. Yet to the writers and journalists it is Israel that should be accountable.

And the question that arises is: how do you fight an enemy who seeks your death through their own?

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