Hamas is a US-designated terrorist group responsible for the largest slaughter of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust. But for The Washington Post and many other media outlets, Hamas is something else: a trusted source.
On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas and participants from other Iranian-backed terrorist groups, invaded Israel, murdering more than 1,400 people, and taking hundreds hostage. The terrorists were proud of their barbarism, live streaming themselves torturing and murdering men, women, and children — many in their own homes.
After the massacre, operatives from the terrorist group fled to Gaza, taking an estimated 240 hostages, including children and raped women, with them. Hamas then proceeded to do what it has always done: hide and launch attacks while using Gazans as human shields.
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has highlighted, this is a key component of Hamas’ strategy.
Put simply, Hamas wants to kill as many Palestinians as possible, hoping to influence popular opinion against the Jewish State. Accordingly, the terror group uses mosques, schools, churches, and hospitals, to shelter operatives and munitions.
The tunnels that Hamas has built underneath Gaza — tunnels that run for miles, are reinforced and have air conditioning, and cost millions to build — are used only to protect Hamas operatives. As Hamas freely acknowledged in a recent interview, they are not to protect the Palestinian people. The terrorist group has threatened to shoot those Gazans seeking to flee and set up roadblocks to stop them.
Former Pentagon official Douglas Feith has pointed out that “while some of Hamas’s most brutal tactics, like systematic rape and beheading captives, are long-practiced atrocities for which the armies of Stalin, Hitler, and Genghis Khan are infamous, it is unprecedented for a party to adopt a war strategy to maximize civilian deaths on its own side.” It is, he notes, “innovative in the worst way.”
But for Hamas’ strategy to work it needs a compliant press — one that is willing to uncritically repeat casualty claims by the “Gaza Health Ministry,” which itself is controlled by the terrorist group. It needs a press that is willing to obfuscate and downplay Hamas’ strategy of human sacrifice.
Hamas didn’t even have to ask. Many mainstream media outlets were eager to regurgitate claims by the Islamist movement. As always, this led to spectacularly poor reporting.
On Oct. 17, several news outlets repeated the “Gaza Health Ministry’s” claims that the IDF struck Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, killing 500. In fact, US and other intelligence assessments have concluded that it was likely a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short, striking the hospital parking lot and killing from 10 to 50 people. But the damage was done; the decision to treat Hamas’ claims as credible led to rioting across the Middle East, including attacks on US embassies.
The decision to uncritically repeat Hamas’ claims was obscene and led to real bloodshed and danger. Hamas, it must be said, couldn’t do it without the press.
In an October 20 press conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters: “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.”
Similarly, President Biden noted that he had “no confidence” in figures effectively supplied by Hamas.
Nor were they alone. In an Oct. 24 tweet on X, Luke Baker, formerly the Jerusalem Bureau Chief for Reuters, warned that “Hamas has a clear propaganda incentive to inflate civilian casualties as much as possible.” Baker noted that “the numbers that emerge from Gaza every day” are simply “not verifiable.” Indeed, they are “almost entirely uncheckable” and “the only source news organizations have for them is Hamas.”
The terror group has “now been in charge of Gaza for 16 years” and “has squeezed the life out of honesty and probity … any health official stepping out of line and not giving the death tolls that Hamas wants reported to journalists risks serious consequences,” he said.
Numerous outlets corrected their reporting on the Ahli Hospital incident. But many failed to learn. And some, The Washington Post foremost among them, even doubled down.
On Nov. 1, 2023, the Post’s designated “fact checker,” Glenn Kessler, rebuked Biden for his skepticism of Hamas-supplied casualty claims. Adam Taylor insisted in a Post “analysis” that the Hamas-run “Health Ministry” can sometimes be trusted with casualty counts — a curious standard that the Post doesn’t apply to other Islamist terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. They noted that both the UN and the State Department have cited Hamas-figures in the past.
This is poor journalism and even worse logic. The UN’s history of anti-Israel bias has been a matter of record for decades. Indeed, the organization couldn’t even condemn the October 7 massacre when given the chance.
Members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have even been caught on Hamas’ payroll and, in recent days and weeks, colluded with Hamas to prevent Gazans from fleeing. UN Watch has documented numerous UN employees who even celebrated the October 7 massacre.
The State Department also has its own history of anti-Israel bias — indeed, even antisemitism. All of this is documented; it is even the subject of several documentaries and books. And none of it changes the fact that Hamas has a history — a very recent history as the Ahli Hospital incident shows — of lying and it has an incentive to do so.
The Post knows better. As recently as May 2023, the newspaper published a letter from CAMERA entitled “Don’t Trust Hamas.” CAMERA noted that in a 2018 interview, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar admitted to Al Jazeera that the group believed in “deceiving the public” for propaganda purposes. As CAMERA pointed out — and the Post itself printed — “trusting a Hamas-run ‘ministry’ to provide reliable casualty counts is like trusting a fox to guard a henhouse.”
But the Post wants to be fooled, and is perfectly willing to serve as a conduit for Hamas propaganda. A Nov. 5, 2023 story, “As Gaza death toll soars, secrecy shrouds Israel’s targeting process,” again repeated casualty claims provided by Hamas.
In 1,596-words, reporters failed to note the terrorist group’s systemic use of human shields.” As IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus pointed out, the report even “leans on some quasi-experts with checkered past of hostility towards Israel for analysis.” This too is part of a documented pattern at the Post.
Nor is the Post alone. In several reports, USA Today repeated casualty claims by a nonprofit called Save the Children. But as CAMERA pointed out to USA Today editor-in-chief Terence Samuel, Save the Children is relying on Hamas-provided stats. The newspaper declined to correct this.
Others, such as Politico’s Alex Ward, have implied that owing to “Gaza’s density,” Hamas has little choice but to use human shields. This, of course, is nonsense. Islamist terrorists the world over, from barren Africa to urban Iraq, have done so. Indeed, during the 1930s Intifada, Palestinian Arab terrorists used mosques and schools to hide munitions and plot attacks.
This is a long-standing pattern. Hamas, CAMERA noted in 2018, “uses human shields and the Washington Post.” Both are key to its strategy of murdering Jews.
(Note: A slightly different version of this op-ed appeared in the Algemeiner on Nov. 9, 2023)