A noticeable disparity often exists between the media’s portrayal of Palestinian terrorist organizations and the actions of the terrorists themselves. Nowhere has this phenomenon been more evident than in Israel’s longstanding war with Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group ruling the Gaza Strip. However, in the wake of Hamas’s executing the deadliest attack in Israel’s history on Saturday, October 7, and Israel’s subsequent announcement of a full-scale war, this facade is finally beginning to unravel. In order to hasten the process, it’s worth understanding how these distorted narratives are perpetuated in the first place.
After the horrific attack, in which hundreds of terrorists breached Israel’s security fence, murdering over 900 Israelis and committing unspeakably evil atrocities akin to those of ISIS, media outlets went to great lengths to downplay its severity. Take New York Times Middle East correspondent Raja Abdulrahim, who, on the day of the dreadful attack, opened her piece by writing that “For some Gazans, Saturday morning’s surprise Palestinian attack into southern Israel seemed a justified response to a 16-year Israeli blockade.”
The Times also peppers its coverage with wildly inappropriate both-sides-ism by, for example, including members of Hamas in its death tallies. As Senator Tom Cotton noted, “It’s morally revolting, akin to including the 19 hijackers in the death toll for 9/11.” Meantime, the Washington Post also draws false moral equivalencies with headlines reading, “Israel formally declares war against Hamas as more than 1,000 killed on both sides.”
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, for his part, hosted a guest who claimed that Hamas “mainly attacks military establishments” and that most of the hostages taken by Hamas are “military people.” In a separate CNN segment, another commentator said that Hamas “wants to sit down and talk peace with the Israelis.” It’s worth mentioning that CNN refers to Hamas as merely “an Islamist organization with a military wing.”
Brief mistruths like these, sometimes imperceptible to people not already knowledgeable about the conflict, subtly penetrate the audience’s psyche, gradually and profoundly influencing their opinions.
In many instances, such abysmal coverage results from Hamas apologists who, eager to present their cause in a manner palatable to Western audiences, soften their rhetoric with progressive terminology such as “liberation,” “resistance,” and “human rights” when interviewed by the media.
Other times, the dishonest coverage is the result of directives from media executives. A leak from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation exposed on Saturday revealed that its reporters are explicitly instructed not to refer to Hamas members as terrorists.
In stark contrast with the media, the groups themselves can be quite candid about their intentions. As news of Hamas’s massacre began rolling in, various terror-linked accounts on Telegram and X (formerly Twitter) started uploading videos of their savagery, not realizing that such footage wouldn’t be embraced in Los Angeles as enthusiastically as in Ramallah. The eagerness of Hamas members to parade their conquests online has allowed a global audience to witness their raw and unfiltered brutality firsthand, bypassing traditional media gatekeepers who would have otherwise protected them.
This slip-up exposed to the public (at least those willing to pay attention) that there is no room for both sides-ism in this conflict, despite what some in the BBC may have you believe.
One side wants to annihilate the Jewish people, and the other side—the Jews—resists that wish. Hamas’s 1988 charter states that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.” Other gems include “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
In addition to its founding charter, countless readily available videos online reveal Hamas leaders explicitly calling for the murder of Jews via explosives, knives, and even decapitation.
Yet, mainstream media outlets and the expert class they platform rarely highlight these facts, which are relegated to audiences already well-versed in matters relating to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This selective reporting is likely why many were taken aback by the recent display of Hamas’s brutality, though the group has been transparent about its intentions since its founding. It’s not that people favored Hamas’s actions—they were simply never provided the truth about this genocidal organization.
Fortunately, the role of journalism is no longer limited to traditional media. Anyone with a cell phone can shed light on under-scrutinized truths. It just so happens that the ones to expose the truth about Hamas were Hamas members themselves.
The glaring contrast between the narratives presented by many mainstream media outlets about Hamas and the unvarnished reality visible on social media should prompt honest observers to rethink how they consume media—and to commit themselves to seeking the truth that lies beneath the headlines.
Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images