Ha’aretz Prints Hamas Op-Ed Full of Falsehoods

We cannot presume to understand Ha’aretz‘s motivation for publishing an Op-Ed by Hamas’ Ahmed Yousef on February 12 (“Palestinian Revenge was Inevitable”), but we have a pretty good idea why Yousef would want to write one. “Terror is a political act of psychological warfare. The terrorists’ purpose is to influence the viewers and to motivate them into political action. That is achieved by creating fear among the viewers who, as a result, are ready to put pressure on their politicians to change policy, for example, to give back occupied territories or to free many prisoners,” explained terrorism expert Eviathar Ben-Zedeff in the Jerusalem Post.

With threats and blatant falsehoods, Yousef justifies last week’s terrorist attack in Dimona and argues that Israel should accept a ceasefire with Hamas. He erases Hamas’ ongoing involvement in suicide bombings and rocket attacks and grossly exaggerates Palestinian casualties. His false claims are contradicted by Ha’aretz‘s own reporting, and require immediate and full correction in both Hebrew and English.

Lies, Lies and More Lies
Yousef’s very first sentence contains a blatant factual error which requires correction. He writes: “Last week’s bombing in Dimona was the first martyrdom operation committed by Hamas in more than five years.”

Yet, Ha’aretz‘s own archives confirm that Hamas carried out two suicide bombings within the last five years. First, regarding a double suicide bombing in Beer Sheva less than four years ago – in September, 2004, Ha’aretz reported on Sept. 1, 2004:

Sixteen people, including a 3-year-old boy, were killed and about 100 others were wounded Tuesday afternoon in near-simultaneous suicide attacks on two buses in the southern city of Be’er Sheva. Hamas claims the attacks, the first suicide bombings inside Israel in five months.

About that same September 2004 Hamas attack, Ha’aretz reported Nov. 26, 2007:

An Israel Defense Forces court on Monday sentenced a Hebron man to 18 life sentences for constructing the explosive belts used in the double suicide attack on two buses in Be’er Sheva in August 2004. . . .

Abu Shidam was active in Hamas’ infrastructure activities in Hebron and was considered an ‘engineer’ for the militant group.

The second, more recent attack, also in Be’er Sheva, took place two and a half years ago on Aug. 28, 2005. As Ha’aretz‘s Amos Harel reported on Oct. 12, 2005:

In August, the [Dahariya Hamas] network sent Abdel Rakhman Kaisiya, 19, on a suicide mission to the Be’er Sheva central bus station. After he was stopped by two security guards, Kaisiya blew himself up, seriously injuring the guards. Network members had 10 more large explosive charges in their possession when they were arrested. (“Shin Bet arrests 117 Hamas members in West Bank”)

It should also be noted that not all Hamas attacks are “martyrdom operations,” but they can still be deadly and destructive. For example:

* On June 28, 2004, 4 year-old Afik Ohion Zehavi and his 49 year-old grandfather, Mordechai Yosephus, were killed when a rocket fired by Hamas detonated near Afik’s kindergarten.

* On September 29, 2004, two toddlers whose families had come to Israel from Ethiopia, were killed by a Hamas rocket as they were playing outside. Both Yuval Abeva and Dorit Benisian were only 2 years old. Twenty others were injured.

And while Hamas may have found it convenient at times for other terrorist organizations to carry out (or take credit for) terror attacks against Israel, whether with self-exploding bombers or Qassam rockets, the attacks increased once Hamas had total control over Gaza. It was understood that anyone attacking Israel had a green light from Hamas. Terror groups could operate relatively freely against Israel in the terror haven of Gaza, thanks to Hamas.

Yousef makes the absurd, unsubstantiated allegation that “Thirty people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo.” He provides absolutely no documentation, and searches on this topic come up equally empty-handed. The World Health Organization, which provides regular updates about the medical situation in Gaza, makes no mention whatsoever of patients dying for any reason related to the embargo. Likewise, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, a group highly critical of Israeli policies, does not make such a claim.

Hamas has been known in the past to fabricate embargo related deaths. As AP’s Ibrahim Barzak reported on Jan. 21, 2007:

Hamas claimed that five people had died at hospitals because of the power outage. However, health officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were contradicting the official line, denied the claim.

If Yousef and Ha’aretz cannot produce credible evidence to substantiate the absurd allegation that 30 Gazans have suffered embargo-related deaths, then the paper must print a retraction and apology for this libel.

Overstating the number of Palestinian casualties by nearly 100 percent, Yousef lies: “What [many in Israel and the West] seem to forget is that just in the last two years, 2,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military action and thousands more injured.” Yet, according to B’Tselem, the actual number of Palestinians killed by Israeli military forces is 1,030 – 373 in 2007 and 657 in 2006. (Although B’Tselem has in the past misidentified many Palestinian combatants as being “not involved in violence”, the organization’s tabulation of the total number of Palestinian casualties – combining the combatants and non-combatants – is more dependable.)

Yousef doubles the Palestinian casualties that were women and children when he writes: “Only two weeks ago, we saw the appalling sight of over 40 women and children seriously injured when an Israeli F-16 dropped an enormous bomb in the middle of the densely populated Gaza Strip, a few meters from a wedding party.” Palestinian Center for Human Rights statistics contradict Yousef’s. A PCHR report notes: “A woman in a nearby wedding party was killed by the blast, and 46 civilians, including 19 children and 3 women were injured.” And of course, Yousef doesn’t provide any context that Israel’s target had been Hamas’ Interior Ministry building – empty at the time, and unfortunately nearby the structure where the wedding was taking place.

In another blatant falsehood which requires correction, Yousef asserts:

For nine months before the election that brought us to power we observed a unilateral ceasefire, ensuring that no rockets were fired from Gaza by our movement. We observed this policy during the first six months in government, despite the fact that our words and actions were summarily dismissed by the Israelis and their U.S. allies.

Hamas won the elections Jan. 25, 2006, and its elected officials were inaugurated March 30th. In the nine months before the election (from late April 2005 to Jan 25, 2006), and in the first six months after inauguration (April 1, 2006 – late September 2006), the period about which Yousef said Hamas fired “no rockets” from Gaza, there are numerous examples in which Hamas took credit for rocket attacks against Israel. (Hamas stopped firing rockets shortly after a Sept. 23, 2005 Hamas rally in the Jabalya refugee camp during which 19 Palestinians were killed in accidental explosions as Hamas was displaying its weaponry.)

The following is a partial list of Hamas rocket attacks in the nine months before the Hamas victory:

1) The Associated Press reported May 21, 2005:

In recent days, there has been an upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza, with Hamas and other militant groups firing mortars and rockets at Israeli targets, ostensibly in retaliation for Israeli army fire.

2) The New York Times reported on June 7, 2005:

The mortar shell that killed the workers was one of a series of mortar and rocket attacks on the Gaza settlement and the Israeli town of Sederot by Palestinian militants belonging mostly to Hamas and Islamic Jihad…Hamas said it had fired in retaliation for an episode in Jerusalem on Monday at the holy site called the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims and the Temple Mount by Jews.

3) The New York Times reported on June 10, 2005: “In the latest flare-up, Hamas fired a rocket into the town of Sederot.” (Christine Hauser, “Abbas Calls on Militants to Maintain Calm”)

4) The AP reported July 14, 2005:

Two rockets exploded Thursday afternoon in the village of Nativ Haasara. One hit a house and killed a woman in her 20s, the military said. The second destroyed a parked car. A Palestinian militant group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, said the rocket attack was retaliation for the killing of the militant. The Islamic Hamas also claimed responsibility, according to media reports.

5) The New York Times reported on July 18, 2005: “However, Mr. [Siad] Sayyam said Hamas had not abandoned the truce despite its rocket and mortar attacks this week.” (Greg Myre, “Heavy Israeli Armor Presses Gaza Border”)

6) The New York Times reported July 19, 2005:

Mr. Abbas has been described by aides as feeling lonely and even depressed by the behavior of Palestinian factions and Israel, but the fighting with Hamas appears to have restored his confidence. He has refused to take any telephone calls from Hamas or Islamic Jihad representatives since Thursday, when his arrival in Gaza was met with an exactly timed cascade of Hamas rockets and mortar shells into Israel, aides said.” (Steven Erlanger, “Abbas Criticizes Hamas Radicals in Sharp Terms”)

Similarly, Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian government on March 30, 2006, launched numerous rockets at Israel from Gaza during its first six months in government. (The attacks commenced following the June 9 beach incident in which seven Palestinians were killed. Hamas blamed Israel for the deaths, though evidence points to Hamas ordinances hidden in the sand dunes.)

1) AP reported June 10, 2006: “Hamas claimed responsibility Saturday for firing at least 15 rockets and a barrage of mortar shells at Israel. . . .”

2) On June 11, 2006, the International Herald Tribune reported:

Hamas fired 17 rockets at southern Israel, including one that a hit a school in the southern town of Sederot, the Israeli military said. A man at the school was hit with shrapnel and his life was in danger, hospital officials said” (“Israeli attack follows Hamas rocket firings”).

3) AP reported on June 13, 2006, that since the Gaza beach incident:

Hamas militants have fired several dozen rockets at southern Israel, including one that landed in the southern town of Sderot on Monday, slightly wounding a woman in the shoulder. A total of three people have been wounded in the recent rocket attacks, including one man in serious condition.

4) AP reported on July 4, 2006:

A homemade rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a vacant high school in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday, causing extensive damage but no injuries, the army said. The ruling Islamic militant group Hamas, in a fax to the Associated Press, took responsibility for the rocket attack.”

5) < EM>AP reported on July 14, 2006: “Hamas militants fired three homemade rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Friday, causing no casualties or damage, the Israeli army said.”

6) AP reported on Aug. 18: “On its Web site, Hamas’ militant wing said it hasn’t fired a rocket into Israel since Aug. 7.”

7) Furthermore, on June 25, 2006, while Hamas was supposedly observing a ceasefire, members of the group, along with members of the Palestinian Resistance Committee, tunneled into Israel, capturing soldier Gilad Shalit and killing two other Israeli soldiers.

It is difficult to substantiate or debunk Yousef’s claim about “the arrests of more than 500 people in the Gaza Strip” because he does not specify any time period. Here, too, though Ha’aretz should produce credible documentation or issue a correction.

“Ethical Journalism”?

In an article on February 12 about the appointment of Dov Alfon as the new editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz, outgoing editor David Landau said that throughout his tenure the paper “has advocated policies of responsible Israeli Zionism, while maintaining the values of pluralistic and ethical journalism.” If printing an inflammatory, error-filled Op-Ed by a leader of an organization dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish state is “responsible Israeli Zionism,” then we welcome a new era of irresponsible Zionism under Dov Alfon.

Likewise, if “ethical journalism” includes the following actions by Landau, then we cringe at the thought of Landau’s idea of unethical journalism. Actions by Landau include:

* Failing to correct gross factual errors

* Admitting to downplaying corruption by government officials, including Prime Minister Olmert, because Landau likes their politics

* Telling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a September 2007 private meeting with 20 journalists that the U.S. should “rape” Israel . Further exhibiting his lack of judgment, in a December 26 story about the incident, Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt quoted Landau saying: “ ‘I told [Rice] that it had always been my wet dream to address the secretary of state’ on these vital matters.”

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