Some clarity in a world filled with media distortion.
As thousands of Gazans clash with Israeli forces along Israel’s border with Gaza, the number of casualties continues to grow – and so has public condemnation of Israel. Here are five misconceptions fueled by the media about the current violence in Gaza – and what really is going on.
1. Gazans are protesting the new American Embassy in Jerusalem
“Tens of thousands protested along the frontier against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem” declared Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Many media outlets followed suit – misreporting the riots that rocked parts of Gaza as a spontaneous eruption sparked by the United States’ decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital Jerusalem.
That overlooks the fact that the ongoing riots were planned months ago: back in February 2018, the Hamas terror group that governs Gaza announced there would be six weeks of riots along the border, set to culminate on May 15, 2018. That’s the day after Israel’s 70th anniversary of its founding as a modern state: May 15 is day mourned as the “Nakba”, or disaster, by many Palestinians and other Arabs. For weeks, crowds of Hamas militants have been gathering at points along Israel’s border with Gaza, burning tires and attempting to break down the fence and storm Israel. They’ve billed it as the “March of Return”, allowing Gazans to relocate and live in what they claim are their ancestral homelands inside of Israel.
It’s not the first time in recent years that Hamas has attempted to invade Israel. The 2014 military conflict with Gaza showed that Hamas had spent years building highly engineered terror tunnels into Israel, designed to allow terrorists to infiltrate and carry out attacks. Israel’s army uncovered ammunition, maps, Israeli army uniforms, and plans to attack an Israeli kindergarten where one of the terror tunnels ended. Since that conflict, Hamas has lobbed scores of rockets into Israel, and has even sent explosives attached to kites over the border to attack the Jewish state. Efforts to tunnel into Israel continue unabated. In April 2018, Israel uncovered the longest and most sophisticated terror tunnel yet.
Hamas doesn’t recognize a state of Israel in any borders, and last week, Yahya Sinwar, since 2017 the leader of Hamas in Gaza, reiterated his group’s position, declaring that he intended to amass enough militants to launch a major invasion of Israel. “What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” he asked. Sinwar’s remarks were widely reported in the Israeli press. It’s impossible that the reporters from Western media outlets tasked with covering this conflict don’t know of Hamas’ plans – to pretend this is a spontaneous uprising sparked by the US embassy’s move is disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst.
2. Israeli forces massacred protesting Gazans
Turkey said that Israel and the US shared responsibility for a “vile massacre” as dozens of Palestinian rioters were killed by Israeli fire on May 14. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has a political sharing agreement with Hamas, declared “today once again, the massacres against our people continue.” In the US Security council, only a veto by the United States averted yet another condemnation of Israel.
In the past six weeks, 40,000 Gazans have stormed the border with Israel in 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence. Fighting these military forces, many of whom traded live fire with Israeli soldiers, doesn’t constitute a massacre. As White House spokesman Raj Shah explained, “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas…. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response.”
As the fighting has escalated, Israel’s army has taken steps to tell civilians to stay away from the riots and to minimize deaths. On May 14, for instance, the Israeli Defense Forces put out media statements telling civilians to stay away from the riots, and dropped two rounds of leaflets warning people to stay away from the fighting.
3. The Gaza rioters are peaceful civilians
In a column in the New York Times on May 14, 2018, a Gazan named Ahmed Abu Ratima claimed that he was one of the first people to dream up the current six-week period of rioting – and admits that it has become out of control, violent and militarized. The riots “cannot be completely controlled. We discouraged the burning of the Israeli flags and the attachment of Molotov cocktails to kites.” he claims; “We have also tried to discourage protesters from attempting to cross into Israel. However, we can’t stop them.” After six weeks of riots, it seems Hamas and other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad are now calling the shots.
In a typical day of rioting, on May 6, 2018, Israeli soldiers shot at a group of terrorists who succeeded in breaching the border and made it into Israel. They were found to be carrying an axe, wire cutters, an oxygen mask, gloves, a camera and petrol bombs. On May 14, the most violent day of riots in this bloody six-week period, Hamas deployed at least a dozen separate terror cells to breach the border with Israel in different spots; they were ordered to confront and kidnap Israeli soldiers. In two locations, teams of Hamas fighters opened fire on Israeli soldiers, and in one spot terrorists planted a bomb along the border. Israeli Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis called the multiple military threats Israel faced on that day “unprecedented”.
In the context of these military-style attacks, the fact that Hamas is encouraging civilians, including women and children, to provide cover for hardened fighters is tragic. These civilian Gazans are nothing less than human shields. For weeks, Hamas has been using its own people as cannon fodder, encouraging civilians into a war zone of its own creation.
4. Hamas is seeking peace with Israel
Back in March of 2018, when the six weeks of violence at the Israel-Gaza border were just getting started, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh attended one of the gatherings and declared that the demonstrations marked the beginning of Gazans return to “all of Palestine” – meaning all of Israel. Since then, Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, has escalated Hamas’ rhetoric, appearing at the riots declaring that the Gaza rioters will “eat the livers” of the Jews, and that he won’t rest until he has personally broken into Israel and marched on Jerusalem.
Hamas, which adopted a new charter in 2017, continues to call for the destruction of Israel. In fact, it won’t even name the Jewish state, calling Israel the “Zionist entity” instead. Speaking with reporters in 2017 when he became leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar declared Hamas would disarm only “when Satan enters paradise” and explained “there’s not one minute of the day or night when we aren’t building up our military might.” The current riots at the Israel-Gaza border are Sinwar’s first chance to show his military might, and he seems to be reveling in the hatred and violence he’s causing.
5. There’s no way to fight misinformation and bias
For weeks, international media have adopted Hamas’ version of events, painting the Gaza riots as peaceful protests and Israel’s reactions as disproportionate and indefensible. For Israelis and Israel’s supporters, it can seem nearly impossible to counter the hate. But it is possible. Here are three suggestions to help inject more fairness and balance into discussions.
First, educate yourself. Read Israeli newspapers online. Subscribe to bulletins from organizations like the Israel Defense Forces https://www.facebook.com/idfonline/ and Honest Reporting (www.honestreporting.org). Speak with Israelis. Despite the violent nature of the current Gaza riots, Israelis have been remarkably unified in supporting their military’s response to the terror and infiltration and live fire they’ve come under. Learn how Israelis are responding to the violence on their border, and to international efforts to blame Israel for the riots.
Second, don’t be afraid to speak out. When you see unfair reporting or hear Israel slandered in the media or elsewhere, say something. Write letters to the editor. Blog about Israel. Speak up when people discuss the news as it relates to Israel. It’s crucial that lies and distortions about Israel don’t go unnoticed and uncorrected.
Finally, do all you can to educate those around you. It can be hard to believe that Hamas is sending bombs attached to kites sailing into Israel. It can sound incredible that they are cynically using human shields in their campaign to invade and destabilize Israel. It seems much easier to blame Israel’s military for the recent violence instead. It’s up to each of us to spread accurate information, showing that far from conducting peaceful, measured protests, Hamas is cynically orchestrating violent protests that harm their own people. As Israel fights at its border, we all have a responsibility to fight misinformation and distortion that slanders the Jewish state.