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Palestinians in Gaza Are Dying for a Photo Op

And the media are complicit

Liel Leibovitz
May 15, 2018
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A Palestinian woman documents the situation at the border fence with Israel as mass demonstrations continue on May 14, 2018 in Gaza City, Gaza.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A Palestinian woman documents the situation at the border fence with Israel as mass demonstrations continue on May 14, 2018 in Gaza City, Gaza.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“We are excited to storm and get inside,” a 23-year-old Gazan named Mohammed Mansoura, told the Washington Post yesterday. “When asked what he would do inside Israel,” the newspaper reported, “he said, ‘Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.’”

When Israel withdrew every last soldier and settler from the Gaza Strip in 2005, only the most hardened and bitter cynics predicted that the end of Israel’s occupation of 1.3 million Palestinians would bring even greater misery to Palestinians and Israelis alike. After all, the man who led the withdrawal, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was hardly a naive peacenik. The only way things could possibly get worse in Gaza after an Israeli withdrawal, even sober-minded people reasoned, would be if the Palestinians themselves chose leaders who were determined to sacrifice the welfare of every single person living in Gaza to a hopeless yet continuing campaign of cross-border terror against Israel.

Absurd, right? Sadly, that is exactly what has happened, leading to devastating wars in 2009 and 2014, whose failure led in turn to the recent decision by Hamas to launch a series of human-wave attacks against Israel proper. Since there is no state on earth that would allow its borders to be physically overrun by mobs including terrorists with explosives, the outcome of these attacks was clear: Hamas would lose.

To show its strength, Hamas was supposed to turn out several hundred thousand Gazans yesterday to rush the border and kill—or maim—Israeli civilians inside Israel. Instead, they turned out a mere 40,000 people—meaning that the majority of Hamas’ own membership in Gaza opted out of this insanity. By the gruesome calculus that Hamas has imposed on Palestinians and Israelis alike, the tactic of using innocent Gazans as human shields for attacks on Israel’s borders had proven to be a failure.

But Hamas won anyway, by giving the Western media the opportunity to juxtapose pictures of Donald Trump and his family with pictures of dead Palestinians. In exchange for those precious images, the media was more than happy to erase the facts that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, that the attacks on Israel’s borders have been going on for weeks, or that Hamas is an evil, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic, theocratic cult. The chance to bash Trump and demonize Israel was worth whitewashing any number of crimes—and the more Palestinians Hamas sent to die, the better the photo op.

Surely, no one could actually be that cynical and evil, right? Let The New York Times tell the story: “Israeli soldiers used tear gas and gunfire to keep Palestinian protesters from crossing the border fence with Gaza,” the Paper of Record reported to its 15 million followers on Facebook, “killing at least 52 according to Palestinian officials. 40 miles away, officials celebrated the U.S. Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem.” In case you missed the ever-so-subtle storyline, the post contained two photographs, one on top of the other, the first showing Palestinians crouching in a cloud of black smoke, the second Ivanka Trump pointing to the new building’s cornerstone, prominently featuring her father’s name.

The Daily News took the story a step further with allegations of causality: “Dozens of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces at Gaza border, thousands injured in protests over U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem,” read the headline, cheerfully ignoring the fact that the “protests”—a troubling term for consistent assaults on a sovereign nation’s border orchestrated by a terrorist organization—have been going on for weeks now.

Even former CIA director John Brennan, who now spends his days on Twitter, bought in on the storyline of the day: “Deaths in Gaza result of utter disregard of Messers Trump & Netanyahu for Palestinian rights & homeland,” he tweeted. “By moving Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump played politics, destroyed US peacemaker role. New generation of Israelis/Palestinians need to isolate extremists to find path to peace.”

It’s not particularly surprising that Hamas, a murderous group that routinely uses civilians, including children, as human shields, would stage such a gruesome piece of theater, incentivizing tens of thousands of the citizens it had systemically robbed of a livelihood and a future by offering cash prizes to attack the Israeli border. But it is alarming that so many in the media and foreign policy establishment bought into this cynical and deadly provocation, pretending as if the riots had something to do with Trump and then chastising Israel for defending its borders from rioters who openly admitted that their goal was to randomly murder Jews. Were Hamas’ far more deadly wars in 2009 and 2014 caused by Barack Obama? Of course not.

The position that the mobs attacking Israel’s borders were “protesters” is an equally cynical lie. Just look at a snapshot of the day, as recorded by the IDF: Five explosive devices at 12:53 p.m.; another bombing attack five minutes later; six terrorists taking cover among the rioters at 1:15 p.m., opening fire at IDF soldiers; another shooting attack at 1:30 p.m., and another 15 minutes later, this time by eight armed terrorists; three explosive devices detonated at 2:09 p.m. That’s just one random hour out of the day. And it has nothing to do with anything save for Hamas’ repeatedly stated desire to eliminate the Jewish state. To suggest otherwise is to ignore observable reality.

That so many of our elites still fall into a cheap propaganda trap set up by a terrorist cult is dispiriting, to say the least. That they further the goals of a terrorist organization by furnishing the backdrop to its macabre and murderous theater is deplorable. But after 2005, and 2009, and 2014, it has become increasingly hard to credit the idea that anyone involved on any side is naive about the nature and consequences of their actions.

What’s truly disturbing about yesterday’s events is the idea that they were theater. In other words, that the press knows exactly what it is doing—that news organizations are knowingly partnering with Hamas, and gladly whitewashing the crimes of a ghoulish leadership in return for pictures that they want as much as Hamas does, and that they are happy to pay for in uncritical coverage and free airtime.

That kind of cynicism, at the expense of Palestinian lives, is truly breathtaking, even for the Middle East. And it makes us all complicit.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.