newsIsrael at War

‘Washington Post’ says Israel, Hamas exchanged ‘captives,’ seeming to equate credibility of two

“The Washington Post is a pro-Hamas newspaper,” Sean Durns, a senior research analyst for CAMERA, told JNS.

A freed Palestinian convict arrives to his home in eastern Jerusalem after being released as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas for the return of Jewish civilian hostages, Nov. 28, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
A freed Palestinian convict arrives to his home in eastern Jerusalem after being released as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas for the return of Jewish civilian hostages, Nov. 28, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

A Dec. 2 Washington Post article about the claim that Israel allowed four premature Palestinian babies to decompose in a Gaza hospital refers to a “prisoner exchange” between Israel and Gaza, to Hamas and its “allied fighters,” and to an Israeli “full siege” of the Gaza Strip.

In the article with a tripartite byline, Miriam Berger, Evan Hill and Hazem Balousha also appear to take statements from Hamas, which the United States has designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since October 1997, as seriously as Israeli ones, without noting that Hamas is a terror group.

“The current hostilities erupted on Oct. 7, when Hamas and allied fighters streamed out of Gaza to attack Israeli communities near the enclave, killed around 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240 more,” they wrote. “Israel responded with a full siege, airstrikes and ground operations that have killed more than 15,200 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry, including thousands of children.”

The Post did not note, as other news outlets have, that Hamas controls Gaza’s health ministry, so the figure represents a terror entity’s claim of local casualties within a war it waged against a democratic state.

“Israel has long accused Hamas of hiding command-and-control centers in hospitals; the Biden administration has backed the claim,” the reporters added. “Hamas and Gaza medical staff deny it.” Again, the Post did not note that Hamas is a terror organization that controls Gaza, or that U.S. President Joe Biden has said that an independent investigation by U.S. officials revealed that Hamas uses human shields at hospitals.

“Israeli commanders have made the territory’s health care infrastructure a focus of the military campaign,” the Post added. It didn’t offer evidence that Israel focused on health care infrastructure in particular, as opposed to Israel’s declared mission in the war—pursuing Hamas wherever it is.

The Washington Post is a pro-Hamas newspaper. They’ve made an editorial choice to continue to treat a U.S.-designated terrorist group with a history of both lying and murder as a credible source,” Sean Durns, a senior research analyst for CAMERA, told JNS. “The Post doesn’t provide other U.S.-designated terrorist groups, such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda, with undue credibility—only groups like Hamas whose preeminent target is the Jewish state.”

Profession of information supplier remains unclear

The main claim of the article comes from a Palestinian man who volunteers as a nurse for Doctors Without Borders, who said that he left four premature babies behind at the Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital when Israel told all hospital personnel to evacuate. (The Post granted the nurse anonymity “to protect his privacy.”)

He told the Post he felt assured that Israel had said that ambulances would be able to reach the four remaining premature babies, so in “the most difficult decision of his life,” he left the four behind and took a fifth, who he thought had the best chance of surviving without oxygen.

During the pause, Mohammed Balousha, whom the Post called “a Gazan journalist,” entered the neonatal intensive-care unit and found that the four bodies had decomposed. “Eaten by worms. Blackened by mold. Mauled, Balousha said, by stray dogs,” the Post said. It reviewed video provided by Balousha.

A LinkedIn page for a Mohammed Balousha in Gaza refers to the pageholder being a “competent freelance medical translator, proofreader, editor, subtitler, transcriber, tutor, teacher, copywriter, content writer and data entry clerk.”

For 11 months in 2021, the LinkedIn profile states that the pageholder was a social worker and counselor at Doctors Without Borders. For nine years, from 2011 to 2021, the pageholder states that he was a registered nurse at the Gaza Health Ministry. (The Hamas terror organization took control of Gaza in 2007.)

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Mohammed Balousha quoted in the Post was the same “Palestine TV journalist Mohammed Balousha” that the International Federation of Journalists said was killed on Oct. 17 in a bombing in Gaza City.

The Post said one person who allegedly took footage of the decomposed babies worked for the “Dubai-based Al-Mashhad channel.” It wasn’t clear if the others are related to Hazem Balousha, who wrote for The Washington Post on Dec. 3, the day after the article ran.

Referring to what Balousha found at the hospital, the Dec. 2 article described: “The grim discovery was a reminder of the harrowing civilian toll of Israel’s war to eradicate Hamas, a campaign that has spared neither hospitals nor children. Thousands have been killed.” (The Post did not note that Hamas terrorists intentionally murdered Israeli babies on Oct. 7, and took them and other young children hostage.)

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, Shani Sasson, told the Post “that Israeli forces neither directed al-Nasr’s staff to evacuate nor operated inside the facility,” the paper reported. “She declined to answer whether COGAT or the Israeli military had been told about the babies or taken any action to care for them.”

“Sarah Davies, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jerusalem, said the agency made no guarantees and could not safely reach the hospital,” the article added.

It later referred to “Israel and Hamas” beginning “a weeklong pause to exchange captives and allow more aid into Gaza.”

Holocaust survivor Tzili Wenkert holds a placard depicting her grandson Omer Wenkert, whom Hamas is holding captive in the Gaza Strip, at an event at “Hostages Square” outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari/Flash90.

‘Suggests a symmetry between terrorists and civilians’

The article did not note that the “captives” Hamas held in Gaza were largely kidnapped civilians, including women and children, while the “captives” that Israel exchanged at a three-to-one rate for the civilians were accused terrorists and criminals, including several who had attempted to murder Israelis.

“The Post’s use of the phrase ‘exchange captives’ explicitly suggests a symmetry between terrorists being held by Israel and the innocent civilians who Hamas kidnapped, tortured and in some cases, murdered,” Durns told JNS. “The Post is making a deliberate choice in framing, but terrorists are not the same as their victims.”

“The Post has continually obfuscated and misled about the wide support that Hamas has from Palestinians,” he added. “Hamas is a terrorist group, and its supporters support terrorism, including those who dismember children and burn them alive.”

The CAMERA analyst added that the newspaper’s use of the phrase “full siege” of the Gaza Strip is incorrect.

“Israel has allowed medical supplies and food to enter the Strip, and has constructed humanitarian corridors to allow Gazans to flee,” he said. “Hamas wants to keep their human shields. And The Washington Post wants to shield Hamas.”

In the past, CAMERA has told Post staff and editors that Hamas’s statistics are unreliable, “providing them with ample evidence,” Durns said. The Post published a letter to that effect from Durns last May. “Trusting a Hamas-run ‘ministry’ to provide reliable casualty counts is like trusting a fox to guard a henhouse,” he wrote in the letter.

It is also “common knowledge” that Hamas uses hospitals as command centers. “The Washington Post is helping hide Hamas operatives,” Durns told JNS. “Evidence of Hamas’s use of Shifa [Hospital] has long been in the public domain.” As a 2014 headline in the Post put it: “Why Hamas stores its weapons inside hospitals, mosques and schools.”

“The Post knows that Hamas uses human shields and has an explicit strategy of trying to encourage the deaths of Gazans,” including using hospitals, mosques, schools and other sites to store weapons and plan attacks, he added. 

“By failing to note these facts, the Post is serving Hamas’s strategy. Hamas couldn’t murder Israelis or sacrifice its people without the ‘journalists’ at The Washington Post,” he said. “Islamist terrorist groups use human shields. ISIS did. And so does Hamas. But the Post’s ‘reporting’ on these tactics differs depending on who the Islamist terrorist group is targeting. There are two different standards that they employ—one for when the Jewish state is the chief target of the terror group.”

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