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Learning from Paul Danahar

Paul Danahar is the BBC Middle East Bureau Chief and Chairman of the Middle East’s Foreign Press Association. He is camped out in Gaza City and its Shifa Hospital, reporting the sights and sounds of the war in which Israel is seeking to suppress Hamas’s rocket/missile capability. It is a capability that Hamas has freely used over the past 10 years to target Israeli civilians and generate terror among the civilian population in the south of the country.

Danahar’s Twitter feed provides a glimpse of the scene in Gaza from the standard perspective — i.e., with the standard animus — of the British media. Yet we can learn something from Danahar. What might it be?

If you have any interest at all, I ask you to check my observations out against your own by scrolling through Danahar’s Twitter feed. Here is what I observe.

1. Danahar identifies with the Gaza Arabs.

2. Danahar has no comments about Hamas or its goals and tactics. Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization. Doesn’t Danahar know any Gaza Arabs who have any quibbles with its murderous fanaticism or tyranny? Doesn’t Danahar himself? Not so far as I can tell.

3. Danahar expresses no sympathy for the Israelis. None. Zilch. Nada. His observable range of sympathies is remarkably narrow.

4. Danahar is a relentless reporter of the scene. He is tweeting every few minutes.

5. Gaza City presents many targets for Israelis intent on disabling Hamas’s structure of command and control. The Israelis exercise great care to target these sites with precision. Here it helps to collate Danahar’s feed with that of the IDF, which Danahar himself occasionally does in his retweets.

6. Danahar is in the immediate vicinity of Israeli fire. He expresses no fear. He is either confident of the care of the Israeli forces or quite brave, or both, but I have to lean toward the latter because he simply does not credit the care of the IDF. He attributes all manner of harm to the Israelis, as though they exercise no restraint in their military efforts.

7. Danahar hears the fire of short- and long-range rockets/missiles in his immediate vicinity. Within the past 24 hours Danahar tweeted: “Long range rocket just took off near our bureau in #Gaza.” We can learn from Danahar that Hamas has embedded itself in residential neighborhoods and civilian office buildings (including a building in which foreign press offices are maintained).

8. The outgoing fire that Danahar hears is aimed at Israeli civilians with the intent of inflicting maximum damage. Danahar expresses absolutely no feelings about this. He is in this respect a detached observer.

9. Danahar seems oblivious, perhaps willfully obtuse, to the possibility that Hamas communications infrastructure is located on buildings in which the press maintains offices. He tweets, for example: “Question from FPA for @IDFSpokesperson: If targets last night were carefully chosen why were two buildings holding journalists hit in #Gaza.” Danahar retweets the IDF statement that “[t]he sites that we targeted overnight were all positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of months,” but somehow it doesn’t compute for Danahar.

10. Danahar seems unable to put two and two together, responding: “#Israel’s IDF last night hit two buildings in #Gaza where local & foreign journalists are operating from injuring several journalists.” The IDF has tweeted: “Advice to reporters in #Gaza, just like any person in Gaza. For your own safety, stay away from #Hamas positions and operatives.”

11. Danahar’s tweets are suffused with feelings of indignation and outrage about the inevitable civilian casualties that result from Hamas’s modus operandi of hiding behind civilians, but no indignation or outrage about Hamas’s modus operandi.

12. Not all the civilian Gaza casualties are caused by Israel. Danahar does not try to sort out the cause of the particular incidents to which he is witness. He seems to me to accept Hamas’s modus operandi and assume that Israel is the cause. This morning the IDF tweets: “Fact: 99 rockets fired from #Gaza have crashed back into Gaza in the last 4 days. Hamas fires from civilian areas…and hits its own people.”

13. For a good example of the harm perpetrated by Hamas on the Gaza populace — the kind of harm to which Danahar turns a blind eye — see the IsraellyCool post “The kid killed by Hamas” and the related New York Times story “Mistaken lull, simple errand, death in Gaza.”

14. On November 15, Danahar joined his BBC Gaza colleague Jihad Masharawi after the death of Masharawi’s son Omar. Danahar tweeted a family picture of Omar and his photo of the hole in the roof through which the munition that killed Omar entered the house. Danahar attributed the damage to Israeli munition.

15. Last night I tweeted Danahar to ask on what basis Danahar described the munition as Israeli (as opposed to an errant Hamas rocket). Danahar could illuminate this question, but so far he declines. I have yet to hear back from him.

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