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The Media’s Role in Hamas’ War Strategy


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the-medias-role-in-hamas-war-strategyThe American Interest:

Hamas’ PR strategy can only work if international news media follows the script, whether willingly or under coercion.

Richard Landes

August 5, 2014


In this most recent exchange of hostilities between Hamas and Israel, a number of commentators have noted Hamas’ unusual war tactics. Jeffrey Goldberg asks, “Is Hamas Trying to Get Gazans Killed?” Even Mahmoud Abbas queried, “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” As Bob Schieffer put it with a touch of euphemism:



In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause—a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters.





The Western News Media’s Scripted Role

Of course, Hamas’ strategy, what Elie Wiesel characterizes as child sacrifice, can only work if it has the sustained cooperation of the international news media, which must fulfill two key tasks in the strategy: 1) broadcast to the outside world the suffering the conflict causes; and 2) implicitly or explicitly blame Israel for that suffering. Without the first, there is no sense of outrage and urgency. Without the second, the world might not intervene on the Jihadi side.


Hamas shows full cognizance of the media’s importance. It has even issued detailed directions to Gazan “social media activists.” And although Hamas addressed them to Palestinian social media activists, the guidelines clearly apply to their media “fixers,” who direct all the foreign journalists working in Gaza. One might call these directives the “Hamas media protocols.”


  • not to show Hamas fighters, certainly not firing from hospitals and schools;
  • to attribute all the casualties to Israeli attacks;
  • to call all dead “civilians”;
  • to give the statistics Hamas supplies as facts, emphasizing how the “vast majority” of casualties are civilian;
  • to show the face of Palestinian suffering 24-7;
  • to give voice—their own and those of invited guests—to indignation and outrage over the appalling carnage.




Most of the time, it seems like the media reacts to criticism of its forced collaboration with Hamas’ war strategy with indignation and a rapid call to change the subject. Instead, they depict Israel as trying to censor, intimidate, and kill journalists, and themselves as bravely resisting this intimidation. CNN’s Karl Penhaul rejected as “obscene,” the mere suggestion that “we [journalists] would show dead, wounded, and dying to make headlines,” then denied any Hamas “instructions” on what to and not to report. On the contrary, tweeted one beleaguered journalist, Western journalists in Gaza feel bullied not by Hamas, but their Zionist critics in cyberspace who accuse them of doing Hamas’ bidding.



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