The Foreign Media Fails to Cover Hamas

  • by:
    • Susan Heller Pinto
  • August 5, 2014

With a shaky cease fire in place, foreign journalists are beginning to leave Gaza, some of them revealing for the first time on-the-ground photo and video evidence of Hamas operations in civilian areas.

During the four weeks of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, there has been plenty of video and photos taken by foreign journalists in Gaza, most of it depicting the civilian humanitarian toll. To the consternation of many, there were virtually no videos of Hamas operatives launching one of the over 3,000 rockets sent against Israel, no photos of armed Hamas operatives on the streets, few descriptions of Hamas operations centers or safe houses.

On August 5, the Indian network NDTV featured an “exclusive” video of a rocket being prepared and fired from a location just outside their hotel, in an area of civilian homes and commercial businesses.

Why have these photos and videos been lacking until now?   There have been allegations that journalists in Gaza were bullied into silence, reports that those who reported on or photographed Hamas operating in civilian areas were forcibly removed from Gaza.   In explaining why news stories haven’t mentioned the well-known fact that Hamas has an operation center in a bunker directly underneath one of Gaza’s main hospitals, Tablet Magazine explained:

“What Hamas has done, therefore, is to turn Shifa Hospital into a Hollywood sound-stage filled with real, live war victims who are used to score propaganda points, while the terrorists inside the hospital itself are erased from photographs and news accounts through a combination of pressure and threats, in order to produce the stories that Hamas wants.”

Others claim that such photos were just not available to be taken.  In an interview for The New York Times’ The Lens Blog, photographer Tyler Hicks explained why among the hundreds of photos he took over a two week period in Gaza, almost none were of Hamas rockets, weapons or operatives:

Q: We have many photos of the casualties and destruction in Gaza. Why don’t we have many photos of Hamas fighters or missiles? A: This is a war fought largely behind the scenes. Hamas fighters are not able to expose themselves. If they were to even step a foot on the street they would be spotted by an Israeli drone and immediately blown up. We don’t see those fighters. They are operating out of buildings and homes and at night. They are moving around very carefully. You don’t see any signs of authority on the streets. If you can imagine every police officer, every person of authority in America gone, this is what that would look like.  If we had access to them, we would be photographing them. I never saw a single device for launching the rockets to Israel. It’s as if they don’t exist.  Sometimes people assume that you can have access to everything, that you can see everything. But the fighters are virtually invisible to us. What we do as photographers is document what we can to show that side of the war. There are funerals, there are people being rushed to the hospital, but you can’t differentiate the fighters from the civilians. They are not wearing uniforms. If there is someone coming into the hospital injured, you can’t tell if that’s just a shopkeeper or if this is someone who just fired a rocket towards Israel. It’s impossible to know who’s who. We tried to cover this as objectively as possible.

Other news crews have inadvertently filmed rockets.  For example, this France24 reporter was surprised when a rocket was fired right behind him during his July 31 live report. Upon posting the video of the rocket launching, NDTV explained that it was being made public because the news team responsible for the clip had left Gaza:

This report is being aired on NDTV and published on after our team left the Gaza strip - Hamas has not taken very kindly to any reporting of its rockets being fired. But just as we reported the devastating consequences of Israel's offensive on Gaza's civilians, it is equally important to report on how Hamas places those very civilians at risk by firing rockets deep from the heart of civilian zones.

As journalists begin to stream out of Gaza  to cover other crises around the world, it is likely we will be seeing more and more of these “exclusive” videos and photos of Hamas operations suddenly revealed.

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