Calling Hamas, part 2

Haaretz carries an informative account of the planning that went into Israel’s current offensive (Operation Cast Lead) in Gaza. Haaretz’s account emphasizes the intelligence-gathering underlying the operation:

[Defense Minister Ehud] Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas’ security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.

This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates for other facilities.

Carl in Jerusalem has posted an Israel Air Force video testifying to the intelligence underlying the operation. The video depicts an airstrike on an underground rocket launcher situated between two civilian homes. Two Hebrew captions come into the picture. The fist points out the underground launcher, the second an exploding rocket as a result of the direct hit from the plane.

The video vividly illustrates how Hamas uses civilians as shields against a humane enemy, making the avoidance of civilian casualties virtually impossible. Hamas’ conduct is illegal and evil. Under the circumstances, the Bush administration’s instruction to Israel to avoid civilian casualties at best represents a kind of confusion regarding the challenges Israel faces on each of its borders. The challenges are akin to those the United States faces in its own engagements in the region, so it is hard to believe that the problem is one of intellectual clarity rather than political cowardice.

The IDF has also released released aerial photos of Hamas facilities targeted by IAF fighter pilots on Saturday. The photos show the military training facilities Hamas has developed in Gaza, “from where,” Israeli National News adds, “Israel forcibly evicted close to 10,000 of its Jewish citizens in August 2005 in hopes of establishing peace with its Palestinian Authority Arab neighbors.”

At Mere Rhetoric Omri Ceren has been following the repsresentation of the conflict in the media. Yesterday Ceren appeared to have caught the New York Times scrubbing a story reporting that “[m]ost of those killed were Hamas police officers and security men, including two senior commanders, according to Palestinian officials.” The original version of the story is here.
What Ceren calls the scrubbed version of the story is here.

Whether or not it was “scrubbed,” the Times story by Taghreed El-Khodary and Ethan Bronner is remarkably sympathetic to Hamas. Indeed, its sympathy is so transparent and clichéd as to be laughable. To take just one example, consider the following:

Israeli officials said that anyone linked to the Hamas security structure or government was fair game because Hamas was a terrorist group that sought Israel’s destruction. But with work here increasingly scarce because of an international embargo on Hamas, young men are tempted by the steady work of the police force without necessarily fully accepting the Hamas ideology. One of the biggest tolls on Saturday was at a police cadet graduation ceremony in which 15 people were killed.

The “scrubbed” information reappears in the Times story by El-Khodary and Bronner on the second day of the Israeli offensive. In the fifth paragraph, they report: “Palestinian officials said that most of the dead in Gaza were security officers for Hamas, including two senior commanders, and that at least 600 people had been wounded in the attacks.”

The fog with which the mainstream media envelops its coverage of Israel makes understanding difficult. Lenny Ben-David also follows the media treatment of the offensive at I*Consult. See “Here comes the propaganda attack.”

The Middle East coverage provided by the New York Times through correspondents such as Roger Cohen and Ethan Bronner is willfully obtuse, but the problem runs deeper than that. As I discovered in doing the research for the Standard article “He didn’t give at the office,” the mainstream media also disseminate the work of Arab propagandists working as journalists.

Occasionally the truth bubbles up through the muck. Buried in the initial AP story by Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel on Israel’s offensive was this illuminating nugget:

Militants often operate against Israel from civilian areas. Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.

Put aside the AP’s reference to terrrorists as “militants.” Ibrahim Barzak is among the worst of the reporters covering the Arab-Israeli conflict for the mainstream media. CAMERA devotes a page to his work. This past Friday John caught Barzak larding a story with a little Hamas-friendly spin. Nevertheless, these two sentences from the Barzak/Teibel AP story blaze with a clarity that the White House was unable to achieve.

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