Kent Osband

Hamas illiteracy project

After October 7, I reached out to the Alabama Holocaust Education Center (AHEC) to offer help in preparing exposés of Hamas’s explicitly genocidal aims and attempts to whitewash this by blaming Israel. AHEC responded that it had already engaged the News Literacy Project (NLP) to combat misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict. Curious, I checked out NLP’s dedicated links on the topic and found them guilty of what I hoped AHEC would combat.

NLP does this through a mix of ignoring some key truths, distorting other truths through euphemisms, and championing some biased interpreters as unbiased judges. Under the guise of “news literacy,” it promotes a toxic illiteracy, particularly about Hamas. Much of that is summarized in NLP’s misleading recommendation to “seek credible news sources” that “aspire to ethical guidelines, including accuracy, transparency, and independence.” While that sounds appealing, no Israeli news source is mentioned. Granted, no Arab news source is mentioned either, but why treat press norms in Israel as even remotely comparable to press norms in the Arab world? Why not encourage students to sample both and make up their own minds?

The NLP proceeds to link to three new sources it deems credible: the BBC, the Associated Press (AP) and NewsGuard. For anyone familiar with reporting on Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, this seems a cruel joke. A Google search for “BBC bias against Israel” returns 5.6 million results. The BBC’s bias has been criticized in this newspaper and ridiculed repeatedly on Israeli TV. But the NLP doesn’t mention this; it just links to the BBC’s article “explaining” the history of the conflict. There we find most of the conflict blamed on Israel’s intransigence without mentioning Hamas’s explicitly genocidal aims.

As for the AP, its pro-Hamas bias was exposed here and here by a former AP reporter. Yet the NLP calls the AP “dedicated to factual reporting” and links to the AP’s “Israel-Hamas Topical Guide,” which advises:

  • Never call Hamas fighters “terrorists,” even when they fulfill AP’s textbook definition of terrorism, because the terms “have become politicized and often are applied inconsistently.”
  • Never call Hamas fighters “soldiers” because only governments can field soldiers and Hamas doesn’t really govern Gaza; it’s just a group that seized control from the PLO.
  • Do call Hamas fighter “militants” since they are “vigorous and aggressive in supporting or promoting a cause.”
  • Do describe Hamas’s cause as seeking “to liberate occupied Palestinian territories” and “annihilate Israel” but not as annihilating Israeli Jews.

As for Newsguard, this is less an independent news agency than a rater of other agencies’ news. It criticizes misrepresentations on both sides. However, there’s a slant to its purported unslantedness. A banner report challenged the quickly repeated media claims that Israel bombed a Gazan hospital on October 17. It noted that

  • Intelligence authorities in the US, Canada, France, and the UK were very confident that Israel had not.
  • Damage was too light to be caused by Israeli bombs.
  • The WSJ, CNN and the AP all concluded that a stray Palestinian rocket likely caused it.

However, Newsguard did not mention that Hamas quickly cleaned the site before allowing inspection, which is a tacit admission of the true source. The only judgment Newsguard offered was that was NOT “clearly to blame” for that attack. Claim without evidence that Israel most likely did and Newsguard evidently finds no problem. Of course that leaves Israel clearly to blame for the other hospital attacks since, regardless of Hamas’ systematic use of hospitals as military headquarters and tunnel shields.

When I brought NLP’s shortcomings to AHEC’s attention, Executive Director Lisa Bachman responded, “You have many valid points… U cringe every time I see the multitude of news sources that refer to Hamas as militants and not terrorists.“ However, three weeks later she reaffirmed AHEC’s engagement with NLP, without refuting any of my observations.

Why won’t Holocaust educators openly expose genocidal Hamas wannabes? It is not aversion to linkages per se. AHEC has previously likened the Holocaust to Jim Crow segregation in the US South and Anne Frank to a Black lynching victim. The ED dedicated an exhibit at her previous Holocaust Center on an exhibit of “portraits that capture visceral reaction to the violent death of George Floyd.” This elicited harsh criticism e.g.,

  • It demeaned the Holocaust to compare intentional state-sponsored mass slaughter with a single death in police custody that was immediately denounced and prosecuted.
  • It obscured the truths that Blue lives generally save Black lives and that defunding and de-motivating the police would catalyze thousands more murders of Blacks.
  • It exalted raw emotion over reasoned analysis, feeding an “I feel, therefore it is” mentality that inflames more divisions than it heals.

However, by the ED”s own account, such criticisms made her even more confident of her judgment, since “the Holocaust Center knows it’s doing something when its work draws the ire of detractors.”And AHEC’s Board after considering the ED’s history proclaimed its “unwavering support”.

If Holocaust linkages to Black travails are fine, why not draw the far clearer Holocaust linkages to Hamas? The only reasons I can think of are that in the leftist circles AHEC likes to mingle in, (1) Hamas isn’t considered rich and white enough to be responsible for genocidal aspirations and (2) defense of Israel’s existence is no longer considered a progressive cause. While neither notion is inherently leftist, and while both notions are arguably insane, AHEC apparently prefers to bow down than to speak out.

Unfortunately, AHECs affliction seems to be shared by many Holocaust museums in the US. I hope they change soon. Perhaps they can even add two exhibits: one on Hamas, and another on the painful analogies between silent 2023 good American Jews and silent 1933 good Germans.

About the Author
Kent Osband graduated Harvard magna cum laude and received a PhD in economics from UC Berkeley. He worked for major financial institutions including the IMF, the World Bank, and Goldman Sachs, with primary focus on early warnings of major crises and recovery efforts after. He has published three books on financial risk analysis and one book on calculus for kids.
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