To understand not just the Israel-Ham@s War, but also the reporting on the Israel-Ham@s War, it’s important to understand that we are dealing with a repressive, fascist, genocidal, and totalitarian regime that controls — or does its very best to control — every bit of information that comes out of the Gaza Strip.
According to Freedom House, the Gaza Strip scores 11/100 (“not free”) on the freedom scale; by contrast, Israel scores 76/100 (“free”). The Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, classifies the situation for the press in the Palestinian Territories as “very serious.” For reference, the classifications are as follows: very serious, difficult, problematic, satisfactory, and good.
According to the Press Freedom Index, Gaza is “particularly inhospitable” for the free press, as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad not only control news output but also threaten the lives of journalists, especially when said journalists are suspected of collaborating with Israel, even if such suspicions are unfounded.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad often harass and obstruct journalists, and international journalists report threats to their lives if they dare to publish content outside of the official Hamas party line. Journalists suspected of collaborating with Israel are harassed, jailed, and tortured. Palestinian reporters that expose Hamas human rights abuses are also imprisoned and tortured.
JOURNALISTS, PART 2
In 2014, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman wrote an exposé on the media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
“There has been much discussion recently of Hamas attempts to intimidate reporters. Any veteran of the press corps here knows the intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail—that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll—because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. (The policy was then, and remains, not to inform readers that the story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli. Earlier this month, the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas intimidation; the story was shunted into deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.)”
Similarly, in 2021, an aspiring journalist named Manar al-Sharif reported that she had dropped out of the Islamic University of Gaza because the curriculum was infused with Ham@s propaganda. In fact, Ham@s, she said, uses the Islamic University of Gaza to recruit members. Al-Sharif was imprisoned and tortured for various months for criticizing the regime and speaking with Israelis via Zoom.
On October 28 of this year, a leaked email from a BBC staffer instructed journalists to accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and “settler colonialism” in their reporting. The email also decried the use of language such as “massacre,” “slaughter,” and atrocities” to describe the Ham@s massacres of October 7.
Al Jazeera — and its younger, hipper version, AJ+ — are Ham@s mouthpieces. Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatari royal family — which is also Ham@s’ largest financier. The top two Ham@s leaders, Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal, currently reside in mansions in Qatar.
In 2010, a WikiLeaks article confirmed that the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera’s coverage of events. In the WikiLeaks cable, Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani commented that “[Al Jazeera’s] ability to influence public opinion is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar.”
After Israel raided the Jenin refugee camp for Ham@s and Islamic Jihad terrorists this summer, the Palestinian Authority allegedly threatened to “take action” against Al Jazeera, which it accused of “promoting sedition among Palestinians” and “harm[ing] civil peace and the fabric of society.” The Palestinian Authority, controlled by the political group Fatah, remains at odds with Ham@s since the Ham@s-Fatah Battle of Gaza in 2007.
In Whispered in Gaza, a series of anonymous interviews published by the Center for Peace Communications, a Gaza resident attests that Al Jazeera — as well as Al Mayadeen — are working for Ham@s. The raw footage of the interviews was verified by a number of publications, including Arab News, Al Arabiya, and the Times of Israel.
According to an ongoing Jerusalem Post investigation, some 60 or so seemingly “independent” and “grassroots” influencers in Gaza, with a collective 100 million followers, have direct ties to Ham@s.
These influencers, such as @byplestia, @wizard_bisan1, and @hindkhoudary, have been featured prominently both in mainstream media outlets, including the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press, as well as by influential people such as Shaun King.
These influencers post out of Al-Shifa Hospital, which has served as the main Ham@s command center for years and has long been an open secret for journalists covering the conflict. As early as 2006, Ham@s was meeting with reporters out of Al-Shifa: “Back in 2006, PBS even aired a documentary showing how gunmen roam the halls of the hospital, intimidate the staff, and deny them access to protected locations within the building,” according to a 2014 Tablet Magazine article.
@hindkhoudary, for example, turned in a number of peace activists to Ham@s in 2020, whom Ham@s imprisoned and tortured. Another influencer, Abdallah Alattar, posted seemingly original live footage of the October 7th massacre to his Telegram channel, suggesting he was somehow involved. Another influencer, Saleh al-Jafarawi, known on Jewish social media as "Mr. FAFO," has appeared everywhere during this Israel-Ham@s war -- including CNN and the BBC. And yet, on October 7, he posted Naama Levy's abduction, and was allegedly the first to do so, meaning he is affiliated with Ham@s. Yet the media is treating both Khoudary, Alattar, al-Jafarawi, and others as legitimate, unaffiliated sources.
These “Ham@s influencers” were the first to spread the libel that a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket that landed at the Al Ahli Hospital parking lot was actually an Israeli airstrike on the hospital which killed “500 to 1000” people. In reality, independent investigations have concluded that the casualties are closer to 10-300.
The Jerusalem Post alleges that an “inside source” has revealed that Ham@s is closely monitoring these influencers’ social media to ensure that they don’t stray from Ham@s’ version of events. The fact that Ham@s monitors Gazans’ social media has been reported by a number of human rights organizations for years.
THE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES
First, let’s make one thing clear: there have indeed been thousands of casualties in Gaza, including many civilians. This slide does not intend to downplay this. It’s a tragedy and people are suffering.
Independent of that: because of the technology of the Iron Dome, Israeli casualties in every Israel-Ham@s war since the Second Intifada have been low. For anyone paying attention, this has been a major propaganda point for years. Basically: because exponentially more Palestinians are dying, that must mean that Israel is the aggressor (this is a bogus argument to begin with. Exponentially more Germans died than Americans and British during World War II, yet it’s pretty clear who the aggressor was).
October 7 turned this narrative on its head. In a single day, over 1400 Israelis were slaughtered in the most vicious of ways. Of course, we didn’t know the exact death toll on October 7, because it’s impossible to know so quickly, as many bodies were mutilated or burnt beyond recognition. All of a sudden, Israel suffered an outrageous amount of civilian deaths.
It took Israel several days to get its southern communities under control, so by the time Israel started striking Gaza back, the death toll was on the Israeli end was much higher. Suddenly, the Ham@s Ministry of Health started reporting outrageous death tolls, very quickly, higher than they’ve ever reported from a single blast, as though trying to play catch up. None of these numbers can be independently verified. The most obvious example of this was the Al Ahli Hospital incident, when Ham@s reported 471 casualties, which independent investigators concluded were closer to 10-300.
THE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES, PART TWO
After Biden commented that he had “no confidence” regarding Ham@s’ numbers, Ham@s immediately released a list of 7024 names with ID numbers and birthdates. Think critically. This is obviously an inflated list. First, it’s impossible, in the midst of an active disaster zone, to identify bodies so quickly, by name, ID, and birthdate.
All of the bodies from the 9/11 terrorist attacks have not been identified to this day, for example. Israel is still trying to identify bodies from the massacres of October 7. According to Interpol, it generally takes various weeks to identify bodies after a disaster. To reiterate, Gaza in the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe and is a disaster zone, lacking in electricity, internet, and other basic resources. To think that the Ham@s Ministry of Health has already identified 7024 people is absurd.
People who have scrolled through the list of names have noticed a number of inconsistencies. For example, the Ham@s Ministry of Health listed Zaki Hassan Al-Tahrawi, age 33, ID 802837393 as a casualty of this war. Yet, in 2014, Ham@s claimed that this exact same person, with the exact same birthdate and ID number, was killed in the 2014 Israel-Ham@s war.
While there is no doubt that many of the names on the list are genuine, it’s also very, very probable that the numbers are inflated. Additionally, Ham@s has been known to list combatants as civilian deaths in the past, and it does not differentiate victims of IDF bombings from victims of misfired Ham@s or Islamic Jihad rockets. Statistically, around 20 percent of Ham@s and Islamic Jihad rockets misfire and land within the Gaza Strip.
You’ve probably heard it time and time again: Ham@s uses civilians as human shields. This is not just an Israeli talking point. This has been independently verified by journalists, the United Nations, and NGOs over the years. As discussed in the previous slides, it’s in Ham@s’ interest to inflate the Palestinian death count to garner sympathy. Using their own people as human shields is one way that they do this.
The use of human shields is prohibited in Protocol I of the Geneva Convention and is considered a war crime per the Rome Statute. The Rome Statute defines the use of human shields as “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations.”
As mentioned in a prior slide, Ham@s has used Al-Shifa Hospital as a main base of operations for years, which, again, is prohibited by international law. Time and time again, Ham@s has been caught storing weaponry or operating out of mosques, hospitals, press centers, schools, refugee camps, and United Nations facilities. These are all war crimes.
Ham@s itself has even periodically admitted that it uses human shields as a strategy. In 2014, for example, in 2014, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri stated on a Ham@s TV station: “The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation.”
Some argue that Ham@s has no choice but to fire from densely populated areas because Gaza is densely populated. But this is simply untrue. There is plenty of empty space in Gaza, and Gaza City doesn’t even crack the top 50 most densely populated cities on earth.
International law makes it clear that human shields cannot render a valid military target “immune.” While, per international law, Israel still has the responsibility to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible, in the case that human shields are used and there are civilian casualties, the war crime belongs to Ham@s, not Israel.
Even I have personally been surprised by the amount of sloppy mistakes the Ham@s propaganda machine has made during this current war. Some examples:
(1) Ham@s claimed that Israel bombed the evacuation routes to the south of Gaza. Video from the incident clearly shows that the explosion came from the white van, not from an airstrike. This was before Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza. Satellite imagery also showed Ham@s trucks blocking the evacuation routes.
(2) on October 16, UNRWA, the United Nations agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees, posted a Twitter thread alleging that men associated with the Ham@s Ministry of Health had stolen medical equipment and fuel from them. The thread was quickly deleted. Presumably, UNRWA was intimidated into silence.
(3) on October 17, an explosion went off at the Al Ahli Hospital parking lot. Within minutes, Ham@s claimed that an Israeli airstrike had targeted the hospital, killing 471 people, and the worldwide media ran with it. As mentioned prior, it’s impossible to count casualties so quickly in an active disaster zone. Additionally, a number of independent investigations concluded that what actually happened is that a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket hit the Al Ahli parking lot, killing between 10-300 people. Satellite imagery shows the hospital is still standing, and the damage is not at all indicative of an Israeli bomb.
(4) a number of human rights organizations and reporters in Gaza made the claim that Israel used white phosphorous. Israel denies this. The video circulating social media as “evidence” is from a Russian attack on Ukraine in March of this year.
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