Eyeless in Gaza: How Hamas controls the media in GazaFor those of you who are in London on Monday night, here's a film you don't want to miss. It's called Eyeless in Gaza, and as the title of this post indicates, it shows how Hamas controls what's reported out of Gaza through intimidation. But that's only half the story. Here's a preview.
Let's go to the videotape. More after the video.
But this isn't just about Hamas intimidating the media. As I have reported previously, the media are willing sheep.
“It’s something I call ‘group think’,” explains Himel. “Group think isn’t a malicious attempt to lie or distort the truth, but there is a strong herd instinct of what is allowable and what is not.
“When you look at reporting on the Middle East in general, the same model is used. The Syrian conflict was described as a fight for human rights and the Arab Spring was hailed as a revolt against brutal dictators.
“What often happens is the group think will significantly distort what’s really going on when you are reporting something – and if you violate group think you can be in a lot of trouble.”
As a case in point, the film highlights the naval blockade and subsequent raid by Israeli forces on a Palestinian freighter named Karine A in 2007. The vessel was found to be carrying 50 tons of weapons, including short-range Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles and explosives.
But as the documentary notes: “Very little of the weapons found…made it to the media. Instead, the news focused on flotillas trying to break the naval blockade.”
Why, then, did journalists focus more on the flotillas than the success of the Karine A operation?
Himel explains: “The group think is that an unjustified blockade is causing hardship for the people of Gaza. They can’t get basic food, they can’t move around, they can’t get to family in other places. The media will be attracted to things that strengthen that assumption.
“So a flotilla coming in trying to save the besieged people of Gaza, like those besieged in Leningrad in 1942, is appropriate, whereas if you are talking about a naval blockade that’s stopping arms getting in, you are instantly making the picture more complex – and that doesn’t sit well with editors.”
The consequences for journalists who veered away from the accepted narrative can be extreme.
When RTV reporter Harry Fear tweeted that Gaza rockets had fired into Israel, he was immediately expelled from the area by Hamas officials, while Palestinian journalist Ayman al-Aloul was imprisoned and tortured for being critical about the governing authority in Gaza.
“You pay the price,” says Himel.
There is, however, also another element, which Himel believes underscores the very reasons why the Israel-Gaza conflict is reported in the way it is.
“The real story is there’s a really serious war of beliefs going on, that’s the basis for all of it.
“But editors don’t want to say it, because that means it’s a religious war and you begin to realise how sensitive and complex the whole issue is.”
That decision not to report the conflict as one based on religion has also effectively blocked out mention of Hamas and its anti-Semitic ethos.
My original post containing that video is here.