columnIsrael at War

Journalists who aid terrorists help mainstream Jew-hatred

Documentation that freelance photographers working for mainstream outlets helped facilitate the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre shows why coverage of Israel has always been skewed.

A cousin of Shani Louk, who was first thought abducted by Hamas terrorists in the attacks on Oct. 7 but later revealed to have been one of 1,400 people murdered that Saturday morning in southern Israel, speaks to the media outside the Home Front Command base in Ramle on Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
A cousin of Shani Louk, who was first thought abducted by Hamas terrorists in the attacks on Oct. 7 but later revealed to have been one of 1,400 people murdered that Saturday morning in southern Israel, speaks to the media outside the Home Front Command base in Ramle on Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Anyone who knew how Palestinian journalism works probably could have predicted that it would happen. And, yet, like all of the other horrifying details about the Oct. 7 murderous attacks on Israel, most of the world prefers to look the other way. The fact that the Hamas terrorists were—as a report published by HonestReporting documented—accompanied during their pogroms carried out in Jewish communities in southern Israel by photographers who work for CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press and The New York Times still ought to shock the people who watch and read these outlets.

The Times is denying that it had any advance knowledge of the atrocities, though no one is saying it did. Indeed, Hamas operatives didn’t even know the date of the assault in advance. The issue is that people who work for these outlets became part of the terrorist attack—embedded with those who actually carried out the murders, rapes and torture—in much the same way that Western journalists cover armies during wars.

The point those dismissing this story refuse to acknowledge is that legitimate journalists don’t tag along with criminals in the commission of their crimes and take pictures of them as if they were paid to record a wedding for posterity. It’s not good enough to say that these people were merely doing their jobs reporting the news when they worked to help facilitate the barbaric assault on innocent people. Those who do so—and in some cases posted since-deleted pictures of themselves waving grenades or being kissed by a terrorist leader—are, as Israel has rightly noted, not just complicit but no different from the terrorists themselves, and can and should face the same justice meted out to the killers and rapists.

Declining credibility of journalists everywhere

The credibility of corporate mainstream journalism couldn’t be much lower, with Gallup showing in its last yearly survey that only 34% of respondents fully trust the national media. Indeed, a subsequent study from Gallup and the Knight Foundation published earlier this year showed that a full 50% of respondents said they thought that national news organizations intentionally deceived them. The reason for this is that many journalists have discarded even the pretense of objectivity for partisan cheerleading.

Yet it’s still likely that most of their readers and viewers believe that the people who work for the brand names noted in the HonestReporting story are legitimate journalists, rather than fellow travelers actively aiding and abetting the mass slaughter of Jews. But for most of what is published and broadcast from Hamas-controlled Gaza, the assumption that terror groups are not in control of what mainstream outlets report as the truth has always been a myth.

As former AP journalist Matti Friedman noted in an article published in The Atlantic in 2014, the Western media has always been pursuing an agenda in its coverage of Israel.

Part of the problem is the one demonstrated by the way the photographers who work for mainstream American outlets in Gaza tagged along with the terrorists on Oct. 7. Those who report about Palestinian life in Gaza and the territories are in thrall to terror groups.

Since Israel is a democracy with a lively and largely adversarial press corps—most of which, as is the case in the United States, leans hard to the left—there is no shortage of critical coverage of the Jewish state from its own outlets. Foreign journalists have no problem echoing the most hostile Israeli reporting about the country’s government.

How Palestinian journalism works

But independent journalists simply don’t exist in the Fatah kleptocracy of the West Bank that autonomously governs the Arab population of Judea and Samaria. Reporting or photographing anything that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t want to be known can result in grave danger for the individual in question via its brutal security services.

That peril is even more acute in Gaza, which Hamas has governed as an independent Palestinian state in all but name since it took it over in a bloody coup in 2007. Their Islamist tyranny is absolute. Journalists based there would be forfeiting their lives if they allowed the Western outlets that employ them to publish material that didn’t reinforce their preferred narrative of Israeli villainy and plucky Palestinian “resistance.”

To the extent that Western journalists operate in Arab areas, they are dependent on local “fixers” who guide them around, as well as act as translators for those who don’t know Arabic (which is most of them). The fixers themselves operate only with the permission of the terror groups or the slightly more moderate “Fatah.” And that is why, as Friedman explained, their reporting generally helps boost the Palestinian victimhood narrative and portrays Israelis as almost always being in the wrong.

Yet that isn’t the whole answer. These journalists are eager to bolster the Palestinian cause and are reporting about it solely from their perspective, which emphasizes Israel’s illegitimacy.

That trend has been reinforced by the ideological sea change within journalism that has already overtaken most American newsrooms. In the 21st century, young journalists don’t aspire to objectivity or even pretend to do so. Instead, they see journalism as a form of activism. Since most are now the products of elite institutions where toxic left-wing ideologies like intersectionality and critical race theory, which falsely label Israel as a “white” oppressor of people of color, have become commonplace, they readily accept the myth that the Palestinian war to destroy Israel is the moral equivalent of the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

In this way, the mainstreaming of an antisemitic frame of reference about the Middle East that demonizes Israel and any measures of self-defense it might take has spread from academia to the media.

Combining all these factors—from the way Hamas controls reporting from Gaza to the willingness of reporters and editors to both embrace a point of view that sees the Palestinians as the underdog—results in a toxic brew of bias that distorts coverage even of events like the Oct. 7 attacks. Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that editors at The New York Times, for example, were willing to believe the lies Hamas told about Israel attacking a hospital in the early days of the current war without checking first? They still have not fully accepted the truth that it was an errant Palestinian rocket that hit it, even weeks after it was verified by the United States and documented by Israel.

What is most frustrating about all of this is the unwillingness of these outlets to admit the truth about their coverage.

In 2021, the AP said they had no idea that they—along with Al Jazeera—were sharing a building with Hamas operatives for years. This only came to light when in the aftermath of Hamas firing hundreds of rockets at Israel, the Israel Defense Forces demolished the building, though it first informed those working in it to leave. It came out that AP reporters were threatened by Hamas. That’s why their journalists wouldn’t report a missile launch against Israel, even if it took place under their noses, which it often did. What is outrageous is that their editors and employers in the West knew this and were equally complicit in covering up stories the terrorists didn’t want published while pushing ahead with those “scoops” they liked.

Advocacy for anti-Israel bias

What is interesting about Oct. 7 is that in this case, Hamas operatives were eager for coverage of their depredations, including gang rape and torture. They wanted the world to see what they were doing as they infiltrated the border fence and murdered 1,400 Israelis, including entire families, in addition to wounding thousands and dragging 240 hostages of all ages back to captivity in Gaza. These modern-day Nazis correctly concluded that rather than helping Israel’s cause, publicizing the worst mass slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust would generate a wave of antisemitic activity and violence in the West.

As a result, outlets like the Times did report the facts about the massacres. But as the war progressed, they were also forced to admit that everything that comes out of Gaza, including casualty figures and claims about bombed hospitals, comes from terrorists and not objective sources. Curiously, however, their supporters in the West seem to be unhappy about any reporting about Palestinian crimes.

Hundreds of journalists, including many from mainstream outlets, signed a petition condemning mainstream media coverage of the war as too pro-Israel. The petition mentioned Oct. 7 but didn’t condemn it, merely calling it “an attack,” and mentioned that Israelis, including the elderly and children, were “captured” and not kidnapped. What they want the media to do is only report Hamas’s lies about alleged Israeli “atrocities” and “genocide” of the Palestinians. Others are canceling their connection with the Times because it isn’t anti-Israel enough. What they want is not just coverage of Palestinian victims but the erasure of the mass murder of Jews.

Like the ideologues in the newsrooms, those who support Hamas prefer their media to validate their intersectional mythology about an apartheid state committing genocide against oppressed Palestinians. That’s why a mob of leftists chanting, among other things, for Israel’s destruction (and consequently, the genocide of Jews) stormed the Times’s offices this week. And still, the Times’ own account portrayed it as an idealistic romp by a group of well-meaning demonstrators eager to show “solidarity” with Palestinian victims.

While leftists claim that Israel is committing outrages, including the targeting of Palestinian “journalists,” what they are conveniently leaving out of their grievances is that some of them, including those who work for mainstream American outlets, actively collude with the terrorists, both in covering atrocities and in getting their message out.

With so much biased coverage of the conflict, it’s easy to understand why many Americans have bought into false notions about Israel that motivate them to call for its destruction and to exhibit indifference to the lives of its people, including those kidnapping victims whose pictures on posters continue to be torn down.

Part of the reason for the surge in antisemitism and violence against Jews on American streets and college campuses is the skewed coverage that has enabled the demonization of the Jewish state and its supporters. In this context, the story about Palestinian photographers who joined in the horrors of Oct. 7 is an important piece of the puzzle that helps explain the complicity of American journalism in the mainstreaming of Jew-hatred.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

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