Falling for Hamas' story
What makes better headlines? Is it numbing figures, such as the 8,000 Palestinian rockets fired at Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and the 42.5 percent of Israeli children living near the Gaza border who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? Or is it images of bombed-out buildings in Gaza and emotional stories of bereaved Palestinians?
The last, obviously, as demonstrated by much of the media coverage of Israel's recent operation against Hamas. But that answer raises a more fundamental question: Which stories best serve the terrorists' interest?
Hamas has a military strategy to paralyze southern Israel with short- and middle-range rockets while launching Iranian-made missiles at Tel Aviv. With our precision air force, top-notch intelligence and committed citizens army, we Israelis can defend ourselves against these dangers. For all of its bluster, Hamas does not threaten Israel's existence.
But Hamas also has a media strategy. Its purpose is to portray Israel's unparalleled efforts to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza as indiscriminate firing at women and children, to pervert Israel's rightful acts of self-defense into war crimes. Its goals are to isolate Israel internationally, to tie its hands from striking back at those trying to kill our citizens and to delegitimize the Jewish state. Hamas knows that it cannot destroy us militarily but believes that it might do so through the media.
One reason is the enlarged images of destruction and civilian casualties in Gaza that dominated the front pages of U.S. publications. During this operation, The Washington Post published multiple front-page photographs of Palestinian suffering. The New York Times even juxtaposed a photograph of the funeral of Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari, who was responsible for the slaughter of dozens of innocent Israelis, with that of a pregnant Israeli mother murdered by Hamas. Other photos, supplied by the terrorists and picked up by the press, identified children killed by Syrian forces or even by Hamas itself as victims of Israeli strikes.
Media emphasize the disparity between the number of Palestinian and Israeli deaths, as though Israel should be penalized for investing billions of dollars in civil-defense and early-warning systems and Hamas exonerated for investing in bombs rather than bomb shelters.
The imbalance is also of language. “Hamas health officials said 45 had been killed and 385 wounded,” The Times' front page reported. “Three Israeli civilians have died and 63 have been injured.” The subtext is clear: Israel targets Palestinians, and Israelis merely die.
Media naturally gravitate toward dramatic and highly visual stories. Reports of 5.5 million Israelis gathered nightly in bomb shelters scarcely compete with the Palestinian father interviewed after losing his son. Both are, of course, newsworthy, but the first tells a more complete story while the second stirs emotions.
This is precisely what Hamas wants. It seeks to instill a visceral disgust for any Israeli act of self-defense, even one taken after years of unprovoked aggression. If Hamas cannot win the war, it wants to win the story of the war.
Israel will take all legitimate steps necessary to defend our citizens. We know that, despite our most painstaking efforts, tragic stories can emerge — stories that the enemy sensationalizes.
Like Americans, we cherish a free press, but unlike the terrorists, we are not looking for headlines. Our hope is that media resist the temptation to give them what they want.
Michael Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Central Catholic holds ‘emotional’ ceremony for Marino
- Boras: Alvarez’s power is too valuable for Pirates to let him leave
- Pirates showing interest in starting pitcher Masterson
- Steelers notebook: Opportunity awaits Boykin
- Pitt guard Robinson says free-wheeling offense is ‘a lot of fun’
- No shortage of offensive weapons for Aliquippa, Karns City in PIAA game
- Gorman: Aliquippa’s Jordan stars in any role
- WVU’s defensive linemen improving as pass rushers
- House votes to thwart power plant regulations
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger remains in concussion protocol
- Official: Plum SD trying to provide better communication, training in wake of sex scandal