On Hamas Repression, the NY Times, and Amnesty International

When Hamas arrested Palestinian peace activists last week for their participation in a conference call with Israeli counterparts, the New York Times got scooped by, well, just about everyone.

Times reporters David Halbfinger and Muhammed Najib first mentioned the Zoom call in an April 9 story that made no mention of the arrest earlier that day. Their article briefly referenced the conference call, which had taken place three days earlier, by relaying a joke by one of the Gazan activists:

“In my opinion, thank you, corona, because corona put the Gaza Strip equal with everyone outside,” joked Rami Aman, an activist with the Gaza Youth Committee, on a Zoom call with other Palestinians and Israelis on Monday night.

But by the time Halbfinger shared his article on Twitter around 1 pm eastern time Thursday, Aman was presumably not laughing. He had long been in Hamas custody, having been arrested earlier that morning for what the organization’s officials had characterized as “treason.”

Iyad el Bozom, a Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman, posted on Facebook at 7am eastern time about the arrest, and Aman’s family confirmed he turned himself in that morning in Gaza.  

Indeed, it was only one minute after Halbfinger shared his article on Twitter that Adam Rosgun, a correspondent for the Times of Israel, shared a post of his own about the arrest. 

And hours before that, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh posted on Twitter, and on the Jerusalem Post, about the detention of the peace activists.  

Had the New York Times bothered to dig even a little deeper, it might have discovered that Hamas has repeatedly arrested and harassed Aman for participating in such calls in the past, notwithstanding the activist’s open criticism of Israel. And it might have followed up by checking on his well-being after the most recent conference call. But the paper fell short.

Even after multiple Twitter users responded to Halbfinger’s post to inform him that the activist he mentioned had been arrested, the Times didn’t update its article. So as the Associated Press, Reuters, Guardian, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Agence France Presse, RND, Sputnik, and even Romania’s Agerpress covered the arrest that day, the New York Times was playing catch-up. It wasn’t until the following day, April 10, that the paper got around to informing readers of Hamas’s repressive measures against the Palestinian bridge-builders.

But late, as they say, is better than never — a truism that felt all-the-more true when the newspaper, after the next extraordinary twist in the story, opted for “never.” A Gazan who betrayed the activists had been an employee of one of the most prominent human rights NGOs, and Times journalists didn’t bother to mention it. 

The newspaper’s story on the arrest pointed out that a “journalist” named Hind Khoudary had, just prior Aman’s incarceration, “posted angry denunciations on Facebook of Mr. Aman and others on the call, tagging three Hamas officials … to ensure it got their attention.” It quickly emerged that the same Khoudary who demanded Hamas take action about the conference call was last year employed by Amnesty International.

Is it newsworthy that a so-called human rights organization would hire the type of person that collaborates with a terrorist group to ensure the oppression of peace activists? Not to the New York Times or other mainstream media outlets. It was left to Jewish and pro-Israel researchers to expose the scandalous relationship.

And there’s more. “It’s clear from her social media posts that Khoudary has been a long-time and open supporter of both Hamas and Hezbollah acts of terrorism against Israelis,” noted UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer. The former Amnesty employee and so-called journalist also retweeted a post calling on Palestinians to “self-censor” in the interest of anti-Israel “resistance.” 

At the time Amnesty considered hired her, the organization would have only had to look back a few months to find her retweeting a post that ends with a call for “death to Israel.” No big deal, apparently. 

An August 8th, 2018 Twitter post retweeted by Khoudary calls for “death to Israel.”

Khoudary’s relationship with Amnesty International underscores the corruption and bias of NGOs that so many in the media rely upon and treat as self-evidently credible. And it is part of a pattern.

For example, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Marc Garlasco, who had helped the fallen organization sit in judgment of Israel, turned out to be an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia. (“The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” he once wrote in an online forum for fellow collectors.)

The Israeli organization B’tselem had employed Ataf Abu Rub, a Holocaust denier, to aid its anti-Israel activism. “It’s a lie, I don’t believe it,” he said of the Holocaust, unaware that he was being recorded with a hidden camera. Although B’tselem spokesperson initially responded to the scandal by insisting the charges were part of a campaign of lies, the organization eventually admitted they were true and fired Abu Rub.

Breaking the Silence, another anti-Israel NGO, was discovered to have worked with and paid Ezra Nawi, an extremist activist who was caught on camera bragging that he acted as an informant for the Palestinian Authority, giving them the names of Palestinians interested in selling land to Israelis so that the Palestinian Authority could kill them.

The rot goes all the way to the top. Consider the way the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Ken Roth, responded to Hamas’s arrests for the crime of free speech, free association, and peace activism. Roth pulled no punches, turning to the word “repressive” to express his thoughts on the situation — alas, not to describe Hamas’s repression, but rather to attack Israel.

Of course not all NGOs, and not all employees of human rights organizations, deny the Holocaust, brag about getting Palestinians killed, and encourage arresting peace activists. But it doesn’t take much imagination to come to the realization that the organizations that hire such immoral extremists are also full of more “vanilla” anti-Israel partisans who are inclined to downplay or ignore Palestinian human rights violations. There’s a story there. We just shouldn’t expect the New York Times to cover it.

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