As the media engages in the latest round of blaming Israel solely for the conflict in Gaza, it is a good time to remember what members of the media have admitted in the past about the way “journalists” cover this story.
On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that, among other businesses, housed the Associated Press’ Gaza Bureau, as well as office space for other media outlets, including the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera. Israel says the building was used by terrorist organization Hamas to house military intelligence offices and more. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt claimed on Saturday that the outlet was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” implying they may have been the target rather than Hamas. On that same day, Pruitt claimed the AP “had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building” and said such a suggestion “is something we actively check to the best of our ability” because the outlet “would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
But back in 2014, former AP reporter Matti Friedman wrote in The Atlantic on the relationship between Hamas and reporters in Gaza. Friedman specifically notes how the AP dutifully reported Hamas’ spin on the situation in Gaza to craft a narrative that Israel is an oppressive nation and Palestine are innocent victims:
During my time at the AP, we helped Hamas get this point across with a school of reporting that might be classified as “Surprising Signs of Moderation” (a direct precursor to the “Muslim Brotherhood Is Actually Liberal” school that enjoyed a brief vogue in Egypt). In one of my favorite stories, “More Tolerant Hamas” (December 11, 2011), reporters quoted a Hamas spokesman informing readers that the movement’s policy was that “we are not going to dictate anything to anyone,” and another Hamas leader saying the movement had “learned it needs to be more tolerant of others.” Around the same time, I was informed by the bureau’s senior editors that our Palestinian reporter in Gaza couldn’t possibly provide critical coverage of Hamas because doing so would put him in danger.
Friedman admitted back then what is reported today only by right-leaning outlets: That Hamas stores its weapons in civilian areas and uses those weapons to provoke Israel, getting civilians killed in the process. Media outlets then cover the deaths as being Israel’s fault, when Hamas strategically places its weapons to cause maximum casualties to civilians. Hamas knows the media will cover the story this way, and uses it to its advantage.
Further, Friedman wrote:
Hamas understood that journalists would not only accept as fact the Hamas-reported civilian death toll—relayed through the UN or through something called the “Gaza Health Ministry,” an office controlled by Hamas—but would make those numbers the center of coverage. Hamas understood that reporters could be intimidated when necessary and that they would not report the intimidation; Western news organizations tend to see no ethical imperative to inform readers of the restrictions shaping their coverage in repressive states or other dangerous areas. In the war’s aftermath, the NGO-UN-media alliance could be depended upon to unleash the organs of the international community on Israel, and to leave the jihadist group alone.
When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)
Friedman’s first-hand claims fly in the face of the AP’s recent statements about their office space in Gaza. The AP’s current claim is that it didn’t know Hamas also used the building and that it would “never knowingly” put its journalists at risk, but Friedman writes of a symbiotic relationship between the terrorist organization and the AP. How are we supposed to believe the AP didn’t know Hamas was operating in the same building when the news outlet has such a close relationship with the terrorist organization?
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