“We bless the (Jerusalem) operation. It will not be the last,” Hamas said in a statement following the terrorist attack at Mercaz HaRav, a Jewish yeshiva in Western Jerusalem, as candy was handed out in celebration in the Gaza Strip.
Just three days earlier, a Reuters headline on an article presenting Hamas terrorists as heroic warriors trumpeted, “Inspired by God, Hamas Fighters Battle On.” Readers might have thought they were reading a PR press release by the terrorist organization meant to embolden its members and frighten the enemy.
The March 3, 2008 article by correspondent Nidal al Mughrabi conjured up images of a biblical David taking on a mighty Goliath, as it portrayed a Hamas gunman as a brave hero battling a mighty enemy. The lead paragraph began:
Abu Mohammed picked up his rifle, said farewell to his wife and six children and went out to face the Israeli tanks, helicopter gunships and missile-firing airborne drones.
Mughrabi devoted three quarters of the article to direct quotes and paraphrasings of the Hamas gunman’s words explaining and justifying his actions; the rest of the article expounded upon Hamas’ message and emphasized the image of a David/Goliath battle.
The reporter thus informed readers that the Hamas hero “sees himself on a mission from God to rescue his people from 60 years of misery as refugees since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948” and that this conviction makes Hamas “an enemy to be reckoned with, for all that Israel’s hi-tech army easily outguns their rifles, home-made rockets and, if they choose, their suicide bomb belts.”
Throughout the article, Hamas terrorists — even suicide bombers targeting civilians — were referred to in heroic terms, as “Islamist fighters.” Mughrabi sought to explain their rationale:
For the 1.5 million Palestinians in the slums and refugee camps of the Gaza Strip, the question of why one of their compatriots would sacrifice his or her life to kill Israelis needs little soul-searching.
“An Islamist fighter has two motives: a religious motive — God’s reward; and a social motive — appreciation from the people he is defending,” explained Fadel Abu Heen, a prominent Gaza psychiatrist.
And religion was the stronger motivation for Islamist fighters. “That is what makes them braver and more aggressive fighters than others,” he said.
The theme of Hamas fighters being braver, more aggressive and a force “to be reckoned with” echoes the bravado-filled rhetoric heard from Hamas leaders as they attempt to emulate Hezbollah. This theme was reinforced by the article’s conclusion, a direct quote from Abu Mohammed:
“In the end, Israel will have to agree to our terms. There is no alternative to returning all of our Palestine.”
It is hard not to be struck by the propagandistic nature of this article. Like Hezbollah, who boast of using the media “as a weapon” and “an example to the Arab world on how to fight the enemy psychologically” (CAMERA Backgrounder: Hezbollah’s Media Weapon, Sept. 26, 2006), Hamas is doing the same. A New York Times article (“As Israelis Pull Out of Gaza, Hamas Celebrates Its Rocketry,” March 4, 2008) describes how Hamas leaders appear to be “following the playbook of their Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, in its 2006 war with Israel” and quote a Hamas spokesman saying, “What we learned from Hezbollah is that resistance is a choice that can work.”
If it wants to be considered a responsible news service, Reuters cannot allow itself to be used as a weapon in the arsenal of a terrorist organization or to act as a platform for terrorist propaganda.