CAMERA Op-Ed: The Washington Post Parrots Hamas

Hamas has a secret weapon: the press. In the battle for public opinion, the terrorist group counts on legacy media outlets like The Washington Post to portray Israel’s war of self-defense as both indiscriminate and unjust.

Casualty statistics are a key front in this information war. To Hamas, the more casualties, the merrier.

The terrorist organization has a long and documented history of using human shields. Like other Islamist groups, Hamas uses schools, mosques, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure to launch attacks. Attacking civilians while using civilians for cover is a double war crime. For Hamas, it is standard operating procedure.

Douglas Feith, a former U.S. undersecretary of defense and a scholar at the Hudson Institute, has noted that, more recently, Hamas has adopted a strategy of “human sacrifice.”  This strategy seeks to maximize civilian deaths on its own side, which, Feith pointed out, is “unprecedented” in the annals of war. The objective is to “generate international pressure on Israel … and to strengthen Israel’s enemies in their depiction of the Jewish state as a villain.”

Accordingly, Hamas has a vested interest in manipulating casualty statistics. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped press outlets like The Washington Post from taking Hamas-supplied statistics as gospel.

In numerous reports, the Post has cited casualty numbers provided by “Gaza’s Health Ministry” or “Gazan Health Officials.” But as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has documented, that ministry is controlled by Hamas.

The Post knows this. Indeed, in May 2023, several months before the latest war erupted, the Post reprinted a letter-to-the-editor from CAMERA, which noted that “trusting a Hamas-run ‘ministry’ to provide reliable casualty counts is like trusting a fox to guard a henhouse.”

The danger of trusting Hamas was made evident in the early weeks of the war when the Hamas-run ministry claimed that an Israeli missile hit Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, killing 500. News outlets dutifully repeated the claim. But U.S. and other intelligence assessments soon concluded that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short, striking a hospital parking lot and killing anywhere from 10 to 50 people.

The incident prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to tell reporters at an Oct. 20 press conference: “I would not take anything that Hamas says at face value. I’m not sure anyone in this room would take at face value or report something that ISIS had said [and] the same applies to Hamas.”

Indeed, the former Jerusalem bureau chief for Reuters, Luke Baker, noted on Oct. 24 that “Hamas has a clear propaganda incentive to inflate civilian casualties as much as possible.” Baker warned that “the numbers that emerge from Gaza every day” are “simply not verifiable” and “almost entirely uncheckable.”

The Post, however, isn’t deterred. The newspaper has continued to regurgitate Hamas’s claims uncritically. Indeed, they even authored an “analysis” that defended its decision to trust the terrorist group, noting that the United Nations and others have also relied on Hamas-supplied statistics.

But as Winston Churchill famously observed: “Truth is incontrovertible.”  Post readers were given a belated glance at the truth in a Jan. 4 correction issued by the newspaper. The Post admitted that the “Gaza Health Ministry … does not distinguish” between the “deaths of civilians and combatants.” That is, according to Hamas there are no combatants fighting Israeli forces in Gaza. This admission delegitimized the newspaper’s “reporting” on casualties in Gaza.

Trusting terrorists is bad journalism; but for The Washington Post, it’s pro forma.

(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in JNS on Jan. 18, 2024)

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