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August 5, 2014 1

The Foreign Media Fails to Cover Hamas

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 ndtv.com 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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July 23, 2014 0

More Reflections from Israelis:  Mourning two American-Israeli soldiers 

 

Overflow at the July 23, 2014 funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

Over­flow at the funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

16 Days into Pro­tec­tive Edge oper­a­tion, the list of fallen sol­diers grows longer and longer. In the last 48 hours, two names of so-called “lone sol­diers” whose fam­i­lies live out­side of Israel were added to the list: two young Amer­i­cans who moved to Israel and served in the IDF – Sgt. Sean Carmeli, who grew up in South Padre, Texas, and Sgt. Max Stein­berg, from Los Angeles.

On Mon­day after­noon, when the funeral of Sgt. Sean Carmeli was announced, there was fear that not that many peo­ple would attend as he does not have imme­di­ate fam­ily Israel.  The Mac­cabi Haifa soc­cer team, of which Sgt. Carmeli was a fan, called on the pub­lic to pay their respects to the lone sol­dier.    Par­tic­i­pa­tion went far beyond all expec­ta­tions: around 20,000 peo­ple from all over Israel came together to pay their respects.

And, today, the peo­ple of Israel embraced the fam­ily of the lone sol­dier from L.A, Sgt. Max Stein­berg. As a Jewish-American orga­ni­za­tion, ADL Israel staff felt the need to attend the funeral and pay our respects to this young American-Jew who came to Israel and fought in his com­bat unit shoul­der to shoul­der with his Israeli friends.   On an extremely hot day, tens of thou­sands flocked to the ceme­tery  – esti­mates runs between 30,000–40,000 peo­ple – the vast major­ity of whom did not know Sgt. Steinberg.

The funeral started with the almost sur­real announce­ment by the Home Front Com­mand instruct­ing atten­dees what to do in case a siren went off dur­ing the funeral. Even dur­ing this emo­tional and tragic moment, this reminder served to rein­force the frag­ile nature of the cur­rent Israeli reality.

The eulo­gies deliv­ered at the funeral brought to life Max’s char­ac­ter and the strong con­nec­tion he felt for the State of Israel and the IDF. His insis­tence on serv­ing in the Golani com­bat unit, and doing so with excel­lence in the var­i­ous courses dur­ing the train­ing process, reflect his spe­cial com­mit­ment and strength.

As Israelis, we felt that join­ing the impres­sive atten­dance at the funeral was our way of express­ing our sor­row at the loss and our deep­est grat­i­tude for an indi­vid­ual who was will­ing to sac­ri­fice his life in a just war, in order to pro­tect our lives. Many brought Israeli flags and waved them proudly. Max’s emo­tional father ended his remarks with a prayer for peace, and a stir­ring: ” Am Israel Chai” – the peo­ple of Israel live.

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July 22, 2014 0

More Reflections from Israelis: This is Our Home

Phyl­lis Ger­ably, Direc­tor, ADL Israel 

On Thurs­day, the day Israel expanded its oper­a­tion in Gaza to include ground forces, as I drove back to Hod HaSharon, a sub­urb of Tel Aviv, I heard over the radio that sev­eral sirens were heard all over the country.

Thurs­day evening is usu­ally a hor­ren­dous drive tak­ing close to two hours.  The ride this time was under an hour with most Israeli fam­i­lies stick­ing close to home. aliyah-nbn-2014-b-272x125

As I was dri­ving, I recalled other times that we were at war.  The clos­est to my heart, was dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War, when my son was born.  It was amaz­ing to me at the time to see how every­one came together like one big fam­ily.  I couldn’t help but think about all the women now who are giv­ing birth and their hus­bands who are being called up to serve.  Forty-one years later and we are again in a war that no one wants but that leaves us no choice.

You have to be here to wit­ness the small sto­ries that illus­trate what Israel is all about:  a col­league today told us she was order­ing chal­lah for the Sab­bath from a bak­ery in Sderot in order to give them the busi­ness in these dif­fi­cult times.  Sev­eral fam­i­lies in the North have opened their homes to fam­i­lies from Beer­sheva and Sderot so their chil­dren won’t spend most of their sum­mer hol­i­day in shel­ters.  And the story of the first Israeli casu­alty in the con­flict:  a man who insisted on vis­it­ing IDF sol­diers and bring­ing them sweets who was killed by mor­tar fire.

Pres­i­dent Peres met with chil­dren who said, “Of course we can make peace, the Amer­i­cans are help­ing us”(Iron Dome)!   Even with the backup of the Iron Dome, it’s hard to imag­ine any kind of peace­ful set­tle­ment when Hamas con­tin­ues its attacks on Israel. Even after the Israeli gov­ern­ment agreed to a cease­fire for sev­eral hours to allow human­i­tar­ian aid to Gaza, the Hamas rock­ets fell on Israel.

430 new immi­grants arrived in Israel on Wednes­day.  The Jerusalem Post reported that one immi­grant, Eric Azizi, who came with his wife and three chil­dren said, “Our com­ing does not depend on the war, but [is] because of our chil­dren; Even if Israel is burn­ing, we will be there.”

Last Sat­ur­day, we cel­e­brated the birth­days of my two grand­sons.  About half an hour into the cel­e­bra­tions, the siren was heard.  We all ran to the safe room in their house.  Three gen­er­a­tions of our fam­ily in a small shel­ter.   The kids played on the floor on mat­tress with their toys until we heard the boom of Iron Dome doing its job.

I heard sev­eral times on Israel radio sto­ries of peo­ple who refused to leave their homes despite ongo­ing rocket attacks.  One woman said, “The ques­tion of leav­ing isn’t even an option.

This is our home.”  I guess that sums it up for all of us – this is our home.

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