One has to wonder about both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times lately. In two articles that appeared this past weekend they took a strange parallel view of Gaza that raises serious questions. The Saturday editions of both papers reported on the return to Gaza of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and quoted his declaration, “Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah, Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa.” According to Edmund Sanders writing in the LA Times, Mashaal was:
…referring to, in order, the West Bank city that hosts the Palestinian Authority headquarters, the city both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, and two Israeli cities with large Arab populations.
The subjective message, according to Sanders, was that what does want Mashaal, control of the West Bank, Jerusalem and cities with large Arab populations in Israel. Later in the piece Sanders insinuates that maybe Mashaal is moving away from violence: He writes that “Mashaal refused to take a rifle offered to him” and that “he supports signing a long term cease-fire agreement.”
Things were not better in the NY Times, where the effort to sanitize Mashaal was being replicated. Steve Erlanger, the Times correspondent, reported the same story, telling the reader:
“As a practical matter, Israel deals indirectly with Hamas but regards it as a terrorist group that uses violence against civilians in its effort to drive Israelis from the region. Later, in an emotional speech to supporters, Mr. Mashaal said: ‘Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem, then Haifa and Jaffa.’ Mr. Mashaal also referred to the Palestinian boundaries of 1949, not of 1967, and said that Palestinian unity would come on ‘national principles, of Jerusalem, the right of return, and the West Bank.’
To the average reader Mashaal sounds like a guy who wants to make a deal, all you got to do is go back to the boundaries of 1949, after the establishment of Israel. Englander does almost the same as Sanders, he tells the reader only the part of the story, and fails to spell out the real truth. To Hamas all of Israel is occupied territory. Peace and co-existence are not on the agenda.
The same day these two stories appeared in the US, Mashaal gave another speech that revealed his true intentions, calling for Israel’s destruction. Sanders didn’t write a word about it in the Sunday edition of the LA Times. Instead he has a long article about the difficulties of Gaza residents in the wake of the conflict. The article itself was balanced, implying that many of the difficulties for residents of Gaza were caused by Hamas. There wasn’t one word about Mashaal’s inflammatory speech. We don’t really know the inner workings of the Times editorial staff. Maybe Sanders did write the story and it was canned by the editors. Englander over at the NY Times did faithfully report the news of the Saturday speech in the Sunday edition.
These two reporters are not the fly in variety, correspondents for media outlets that flock to the most recent war, some with a limited understanding of the history and nuance needed in reporting conflict. These two are seasoned veterans. They know the story, they live it every day. And we as readers, even when we are critical, should not underestimate the challenges they both face in reporting from Israel. No matter how you write, someone is going to be upset.
Still both papers could do much better and report a more accurate reflection of Hamas. Here is a lead that would have done the job:
Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas, whose Charter demands the destruction of Israel and a war against Jews worldwide, called for taking over the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israeli cities of Jaffa and Haifa. Mashaal, who returned to the Gaza Strip, has said time and again that he would like to destroy Israel, however he is willing to sign a long-term ceasefire agreement to allow time for Hamas to solidify its rule and rearm again.
Israel removed close to ten thousand Jewish residents and its military presence from Gaza seven years ago. Since then, instead of creating an oasis of opportunity, Hamas has turned the area into an armed camp with strong ties to Iran, and repeatedly launched rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.
One has to wonder: why the resistance to telling the real story about Hamas? Why attempt in even a subjective fashion to make a terrorist like Mashaal a bit better than he really is? Maybe the reporters are hoping by portraying them in a more gentle fashion they will encourage moderation by Hamas. The tragedy is that both Englander and Sanders are not being true to their readers or their profession. Their editors back in New York and LA should ensure they write the truth. Hamas is dedicated to Jewish genocide. Their aspirations, as enshrined in their Charter, say exactly that. Let them both report the facts not try to make them sound a bit less extreme than they really are.
If the residents of the Gaza Strip, pick up either paper and read the real story, maybe they will realize that with such a despotic government that aspires to eternal conflict with Israel they will never have a chance for a decent life. That could inspire them to overthrow Hamas and there might be a chance for peace. In the meantime being obtuse about who Hamas is and what it plans to do does little service to the readers, and the journalists themselves.