Hamas’s barbarism was on full display last Saturday. On Shabbat and the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, Israelis were slaughtered in the streets, babies and the elderly were kidnapped, and teenage girls were raped and taken as war booty to Gaza. The images that came out the same day were reminiscent of ISIS, the death toll of Jews the highest in a single day since the Holocaust.
Even as news organizations such as the New York Times have, in the past, made ridiculous claims like “Hamas Gives Peaceful Protests a Chance,” Israel and its supporters have always known that this was the enemy we faced; that given the opportunity, they would not hesitate to engage in unspeakable cruelty. Attempts to explain this to reporters who ran cover for Hamas were often to little avail. But all week, images that shock the conscience have been circulating on social media and the reality can no longer be denied.
Now even the New York Times has provided its readers with graphic depictions of what has occurred. Its blog included the now-famous video of Israeli Noa Argamani being abducted on a motorcycle, a photo of burned out cars in the aftermath of the attack on the rave, and a video compilation of the beginning of the attack on the rave, with people running for their lives. A news article included accounts from three separate people describing the moments when their loved ones were abducted. A video on Tuesday’s digital front page described in detail “How Hamas’s Massacre in Sderot Unfolded.” The Washington Post, CNN, and the Atlantic all prominently featured graphic accounts of what had occurred. Tablet and Rolling Stone have published interviews with eyewitnesses to the rave massacre.
At one news outlet, however, the most prominent feature of its reporting was victim-blaming. On Monday evening, October 9, MSNBC aired an episode of Joy Reid’s program that would have been right at place if it had aired on Iranian state TV instead. Her guests Peter Beinart, Ayman Mohyeldin, Ali Velshi and Lt. General Stephen Twitty ignored Hamas’s dedication to genocidal violence as expressed in its charter and in its leaders’ rhetoric, omitted any mention of offers of Palestinian sovereignty and independence, and sought to imply that the carnage was inevitable due to Israel’s actions – therefore excusing and justifying Hamas’s barbaric attack.
For all of the complaints about the closed border between Israel and Gaza, or the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank (the so-called “apartheid wall,”) now it’s undeniable what happens when those walls are breached. The prevention of atrocities like those we saw Saturday was exactly the reason such measures existed. But Joy Reid and her guests continue to reverse cause and effect.
The Hamas charter, adopted in 1988 and never revoked, states plainly that “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it….” It further states, “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” It is this ideology, and not any action by Israel, that led to Saturday’s massacre.
But both Reid and her guests made comments attributing the blame for the weekend’s slaughter to Israel’s blockade, rather than to Hamas rule. Lt. General Stephen Twitty, for example, described it as “a pot of water on a stove that’s going to boil over” and finally did. Reid herself was more direct, saying twice that Israel had “provoked” this response from Gaza with settlement activity in the West Bank and its recent actions on the Temple Mount. One of these “provocations,” apparently, was Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount, and leading “more than a thousand Israeli settlers to the compound.” But Hamas is a group whose leader declared in 2018, “we will take down their border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.” They did not need to be “provoked” with settlement activity in a neighboring territory, or with Jews visiting their own holy site. Israel read the Hamas charter, it listened to the words of Hamas leaders, and it accurately predicted what they would do if given the chance. Reid did not.
The program included this completely dishonest exchange with Mohyeldin: Reid began, “The sort of obvious answer has always seemed to be for there to be a Palestinian state and Israeli state and then you could have peace, but no one has gone for that seemingly easy, not easy, but that answer.” That’s false, of course. Israel has “gone for that answer,” in 2000, in 2008, in 2014. But it was Palestinian leaders who rejected it.
In response to the question of whether such a thing was still possible, Mohyeldin, said, “it’s hard for me to imagine that it is feasible at this point for a few reasons. One, the fundamental equation of what Oslo tried to set up, which is land for peace, was always from the very beginning flawed. The Palestinians were not seeking land. They were seeking freedom and self determination.” But in all of those offers –2000, 2008, and 2014 – Palestinians would have had self-determination. (Whether that self-determination would have included “freedom,” of course, could not have been determined by Israel.)
Guest Peter Beinart told MSNBC viewers, “I think the challenge is to hold these two truths. One is that what Hamas did was horrifying. Absolutely horrifying and gut-wrenching. And the other is that doing what Ayman was just describing, holding millions of people in an open air prison, ultimately does not keep Israeli Jews safe.” Reid herself also described Gaza as an “open air prison” and “one of the poorest places in the world.” But Gaza’s leaders live in luxury off stolen aid money, while using remaining aid money to build terror infrastructure. Calling it an “open air prison” dishonestly deflects blame for the people’s poverty, as well as for the restrictions on entry, from Hamas leaders onto Israel.
It’s important to understand, Mohyeldin says, that Gaza “is not an open sovereign territory where people have the freedom to leave.” But it could have been. When Israel evacuated the territory in 2005, with a greenhouse business and beautiful Mediterranean beaches, Gaza could have become an independent, peaceful, and prosperous, if small, nation. The people of Gaza made the choice to elect a terrorist government sworn the destruction of its neighbor Israel. Everything else – the poverty, the destruction, and today’s war – stems from this choice.
While Reid does note that Israel withdrew from Gaza, and that subsequent to that withdrawal, Gaza elected Hamas, she is either unable or unwilling to see the causal connection between the election of Hamas and Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza.
Meanwhile Reid gave short shrift to the Israeli side of the story, showing only truncated clips of interviews with Israelis who had lost family members and some of the videos with which most of us have become familiar only in the background. The goal of her program seemed to be to portray the Palestinians ultimately as the real victims. Velshi said, “A terrible, terrible tragedy that occurred on Friday and Saturday is now becoming a substantially worse tragedy” for the Palestinians. “As horrible as the situation is, for Gazans, it’s about as horrible as anywhere on Earth and it’s about to get worse.”
Velshi also claimed that “when Gaza launched this attack, Hamas said it was about what was going on in the West Bank, in addition to other things.” Of course, what’s been going on in the West Bank are counter-terror operations. But those who want to kill Jews don’t like it when Jews defend themselves.
Some in the media, like Reid and her guests, will continue to attempt to invert morality, asserting or implying that the slaughter of Jews is the proof of Jewish misdeeds.
Those at MSNBC and elsewhere who seek to disguise Hamas’s instigation of war in talk of a “cycle of violence,” or who seek to “deescalate,” or claim that the attack was “not unprovoked,” – and certainly those who brazenly deny that Hamas intentionally targeted civilians – need to look honestly at the true depravity of what has occurred, and to stop shifting blame on the victim.