PBS NewsHour Propaganda Piece Attacks Israel with Bogus Exploding Bullets Charge

PBS Newshour has once again grossly deceived its audience, with a propaganda piece that could have come directly from Hamas’ playbook. Coming more than a year after the start of the terror organization’s “Great March of Return,” the report twists those violent riots into an indictment of Israel’s military response.

The Aug. 20th special report by special correspondent Jane Ferguson, entitled “Gazans suffer life-shattering injuries when border protests turn violent,” focuses on Palestinian rioters who were injured or lost limbs during the riots, amplifying Hamas propaganda claims about criminal Israeli soldiers targeting innocent, peaceful Palestinian youth and – its central claim – using exploding bullets to maximize the damage inflicted upon their Palestinian victims.

The first two thirds of the 10 minute broadcast is devoted to interviews with injured Palestinians, their surgeon, and representatives from anti-Israel NGO’s to condemn Israel and exonerate the Gazan rioters. Ferguson does not interview any Israeli who might challenge the accusations and condemnations. Instead, she reads an IDF statement – 7 minutes into the broadcast– which she immediately refutes by citing a widely rejected report by the biased UN Human Rights Council.

Whitewashing and Justifying Hamas’ “Great March of Return”

The Great March of Return, orchestrated and managed by Hamas, has been thoroughly analyzed and described by CAMERA in the past. For example:

Since late March 2018, Hamas has been sending terrorists—interspersed with unarmed civilians serving as human shields—to try and breach the Israel-Gaza border.

Hamas has dubbed this long operation—whose participants have included members of U.S.-designated terror groups, like Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—the “Great Return March.” The terror groups hope to sacrifice their own people by placing Israel in a no-win situation. If terror operatives are able to cross the border, violating Israel’s sovereignty and endangering its citizens, it’s a win. If Israel defends itself and Gazans die in the process it’ll garner condemnation from self-styled human rights arbitrators, fueled by a gullible media.

As Matti Friedman, a former IDF soldier and AP journalist, recently observed that Hamas knows that “The press could be trusted to present dead human beings not as victims of the terrorist group that controls their lives, or of a tragic confluence of events, but of an unwarranted Israeli slaughter.”And Hamas has pulled out all the stops to put on a grotesque show: paying and busing in demonstrators and bringing children and the disabled to the border in the hopes that they catch an errant bullet. Indeed, the group has even burned tires and used mirrors to obscure the vision of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) snipers who are seeking to specifically target the terror leaders hiding among the civilians…

…Hamas has always targeted Israeli civilians and employed Palestinian human shields—a double war crime. The group has used schools to hide its weaponry, equipment and fighters, and, as recently as the 2014 conflict, employed ambulances as “transport vehicles” and hospitals as “command centers.”

Since its creation as a Muslim Brotherhood spinoff in 1987, Hamas has made its objectives clear. The group’s own founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jews—even approvingly quoting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas has launched no fewer than three wars against the Jewish state in 2008, 2012 and 2014—all in addition to the frequent rocket attacks that began shortly after the group seized power in 2007.

Yet, this history—and Hamas’s genocidal objectives—has largely gone unmentioned by many media outlets covering the latest round of violent demonstrations at the border. Instead, many in the media have uncritically echoed casualty claims made by the “Palestinian Health Ministry”—a Hamas-controlled entity that shares the terror group’s objective of delegitimizing and destroying Israel.

It’s hard to imagine the press echoing the claims of other Islamist terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al-Qaeda. Yet, with near ubiquity, they’ve done so with Hamas—and all while ignoring video and photographic evidence showing Palestinians planting explosives, carrying firearms, knives and Molotov cocktails, even launching kite bombs embroidered with swastikas because, as one nineteen-year-old Gazan proudly told an NPR reporter: “We want to burn” the “Jews…this is actually what we want them to know.” (CAMERA Op-Ed: Here’s Why the Media Got the Gaza Violence Wrong)

Yet reporter Jane Ferguson whitewashes this campaign that has crowds of men aiming stones and firebombs at those protecting Israel’s border fence, and setting fire to Israeli fields and buildings, as mainly peaceful “protests along the border of Gaza.” And later, even when she does acknowledge Hamas’ motive of “return”, she sanitizes and justifies it as

“a protest along Gaza’s border with Israel to demonstrate for the right to return to their family’s ancestral homes inside Israel, homes their forbearers fled when Israel was formed in 1948.”

She paints Hamas’ role in the campaign as a disputed Israeli claim:

“Israel says the protests are organized by the militant group Hamas, but the people we met here deny that.”

But, in fact, the Israeli claim is borne out by the statements of Hamas leaders and officials. From early on, Hamas leaders urged Gazans to breach Israel’s borders and march to Jerusalem in their a quest to remove the border and “liberate” Palestine from the Jews. Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar acknowledged that Hamas was “supporting, even leading” the march. As MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) has noted:

An examination of statements coming out of Gaza about the “Great Return March” campaign, by Hamas officials, by campaign organizers, and by participants and supporters of the campaign, reveal that it was not merely a popular civilian campaign but was fully supported by Hamas, and that its goal was to breach the border fence in order to penetrate Israeli territory and march on Israeli communities. Since it began, on Land Day (March 30, 2018), Hamas officials have paid visits to the camps along the border where the marchers congregate, to express their support and encouragement. Hamas officials noted that movement members had participated in the marches and that they comprised the majority of fatalities. Mahmoud Al-Zahar even emphasized that the march was not a form of peaceful resistance…

Exploding Bullets Propaganda

A central feature of the report is the claim that Israeli troops employ exploding bullets as they target innocent Palestinian “protesters”:

Jane Ferguson: It’s the nature of the wounds that most disturbed Dr. Al Borsh. Despite fighting for lives through three wars in Gaza, he had never seen anything like this before.

Adnan Al Borsh: The entry point, or the entrance from the bullet, it was one centimeter, and the exit more than 15 and 20 centimeters.

In that way – in its way, it takes bones, it takes arteries, it takes vessels, it takes nerves. So, its future is for – uncertain, really. I think, because such bullets which were used, when they entered the body, explodes inside the body, and it take everything in its way.

Jane Ferguson: So, even if the limb is saved, it will never be of use and will need surgery after surgery to avoid amputation.

This exploding bullets charge was promoted by various Gazan doctors, working under the auspices of the Hamas-led Health Ministry which is known for its false claims about Palestinian casualties as part of its demonization campaign against Israel. (*See examples at the end of the article.)

In an article published by a Palestinian-based NGO last year, the physician who was featured in the PBS broadcast, Adnan Al Borsh, demonstrated his role as propagandist for Hamas, as he demonized Israeli troops for defending its border with Hamas, introducing the “exploding bullet” theory:

Dr. Al-Borsh believes the Great Return March is a mostly peaceful phenomenon that calls attention to Palestinians’ legal right to return to their ancestral homeland. He also censures Israelis’ immoral and disproportionate response—resulting in more than 200 deaths and more than 17,000 injuries. It frustrates him when the media blame protestors for protesting, but never blame Israeli soldiers for shooting unarmed Palestinians.

He adds, “From my direct experience with the march injuries, I can state that the Israeli army is following a new strategy of creating a disabled generation by using destructive types of bullets and deliberately shooting protesters in their joints.”

Other Gazan physicians at the time promoted a similar claim to journalists. They alleged Israel was using destructive exploding bullets to deliberately maim young, innocent Palestinians. Their evidence? They claimed that:

“…a noticeable number of the gunshot injuries comprise an exit point larger than the entry point, suggesting explosive bullets.”

CAMERA immediately debunked the claim:

According to ballistics experts and doctors, though, it is typical for exit wounds to be larger than entry wounds. “At high velocities, mainly over 2,000 fps the bullet deformity and tumbling in the body usually causes a larger and more irregular exit wound than the entrance,” doctors Nimrod Rozen and Israel Dudkiewicz explain in their chapter on “Wound Ballistics and Tissue Damage” in the book Armed Conflict Injuries to the Extremities: A Treatment Manual. (Wounds from low velocity bullets may behave differently.)

According to the British Journal of Surgery, “The exit wound is usually the larger.” A piece in the Canadian Medical Association Journal likewise explains that “exit wounds … are often larger than entrance wounds.” An article on gunshot wounds to the skull in Forensic Science International studied 17 entrance and exit gunshot wounds and found that, in all but one case, the exit wound was larger than the entry wound. And so on and so on and so on. (AP Sidesteps Skepticism and Science in Relaying Palestinian “Explosive Bullets” Charge)

After communication from CAMERA, the media outlets that credulously reported the questionable claim updated the story, removing references to explosive bullets.

Using Fake Statistics to Amplify the Numbers of Palestinians Killed and Injured

Ferguson claims, without citing any source for her statistics that “seven thousand have been shot by the Israeli army while taking part in protests along the border of Gaza in the last 15 months. Dozens of those have lost a limb.” She implies that these were primarily peaceful, unarmed protesters. She goes on to highlight May 14th as a particularly violent day when “73 Palestinians were killed and over 2,500 injured.”

But it was widely reported that 60 people were killed and 1700 hospitalized with injuries on May 14, “according to Palestinian officials.” Two more were reported killed the following day.

So, Ferguson is exaggerating even the notoriously unreliable statistics provided by the Hamas Health ministry.  (*See examples at end of articles.) Indeed, even the number given by Hamas of 62, over the two-day period, was overstated, because it included a baby who had died from a pre-existing condition. Hamas subsequently removed this infant from their list of casualties once the truth came to light. 

And of the 61 remaining claimed fatalities over the two-day period of May 14-15, the majority were claimed as members of terrorist organizations – fifty belonged to Hamas, and three more were claimed as members by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Misleading Rebuttal to IDF Statement

No Israelis are interviewed to counter the falsehoods and claims made against it. As her excuse, Ferguson claims that the IDF “would not grant an interview to the ‘NewsHour’.” Instead, she reads an IDF statement which she immediately rebuts with a report by the highly biased UN Human Rights Council.

IDF Statement: “For over a year, the Israeli Defense Forces have been operating against violent riots and terrorist activities under their auspices, which include shooting at soldiers, attempts to penetrate into Israel, attempts to damage the security infrastructure, burning tires, throwing stones, throwing Molotov cocktails and grenades in order to harm IDF soldiers.”

Jane Ferguson: But in a damning report released in March, the United Nations’ independent commission of inquiry disputed that, saying the Israeli military sniping at protesters was unlawful and unjustified, and should be referred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague….

That this is a highly biased report based on a fundamentally flawed foundation by a UN body that is notorious for its anti-Israel bias is not indicated by the reporter. Yes, Ferguson notes that Israel rejected the report and that the Israeli prime minister noted that it was motivated by an ‘obsessive hatred of Israel’, but implies that this was just a self-serving claim by Netanyahu. There is no indication that the report was rejected by a panel of military and legal experts, or that the UN Human Rights Council anti-Israel bias has been extensively documented and acknowledged by prominent officials worldwide, including three U.S.-appointed ambassadors (Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe), two UN Secretaries General (Ban Ki-Moon and Kofi Annan), Democratic members of Congress (including Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson, and Nita Lowey), and even officials from Human Rights Watch (Peggy Hicks and Tom Malinowski).

Instead, Ferguson cites the report as a “damning” last word on the matter (that disputes the IDF statement). But even the highly biased report does not “dispute” the IDF’s statement. It notes that the rioters “were at times violent, including throwing stones, cutting through the separation fence, and launching incendiary kites and balloons.”

Attributing Blockade of Gaza Solely to Israel

Reporter Ferguson attributes the ills of Gazans to the Gaza Strip’s “blockade by Israel since June 2007” and later talks of Gazan children “trapped in a tiny strip of land under blockade by the Israeli government…” No mention is made of Egypt’s restrictions of cross-border movement on its border crossing with Gaza, the Rafah crossing. As CAMERA has pointed out previously:

Two countries border the Gaza Strip. Both strictly limit the passage of goods and people into and out of the Strip. But when describing the effect of these border restrictions, some — including journalists who should know better — inaccurately and unfairly attribute responsibility to only one of the countries. According to some major media organizations, there is an “Israeli siege” or an “Israeli blockade,” and Gazans are “penned in by Israel.

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* Falsehoods disseminated by Hamas health ministry officials and propagandists hiding behind the mask of medical professionals include claims of Palestinian pregnant women, infants and other innocents killed by Israeli fire that are often later proven false. For example:

On May 4, 2019, the Gaza Ministry of Health reported that a pregnant woman and a 4-month old baby, initially said to be mother/child, then aunt/niece, were killed in an Israeli airstrike response to Hamas rocketing. But, in fact, Islamic Jihad later admitted that one of its “rockets of resistance” exploded inside the family’s home due to a technical failure, and prematurely exploded.

In May 2018, the Gaza Ministry of Health announced that Laila Anwar al-Ghandour, an eight-month-old baby girl, died of tear-gas inhalation – a story dutifully conveyed by numerous media outlets. The baby was touted by Palestinian propagandists as “a victim of Israel’s brutal repression against Palestinians.” But, in fact, Laila suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, as did her brother who had died at a similar age the previous year. It later emerged that the family was paid 8000 shekels to blame the death of the baby on Israeli tear gas.

In September 2018, the Gaza Ministry of Health announced that an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was hit by Israeli fire and died from head wounds. In fact, the boy was killed as a result of an injury caused by a rock being thrown at the time of the violent actions of riot. (Read about it here.)

In September 2016, the Gaza Ministry of Health declared a 16-year-old Palestinian boy “was killed by an Israeli bullet to the head” during a border clash in the central Gaza Strip. But there was no shooting in the area at the time. Forces stationed at the border had used tear gas that led to the dispersal of rioters trying to breach the buffer zone in Gaza and attempting to damage the security (border) fence.