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Harry Potter and the Order of Hamas

I want him given the opportunity to tell the truth.”
“There’s no market for a story like that” said Rita coldly.
“You mean, the Prophet won’t print it because Fudge won’t let them” said Hermione irritably.
Rita gave Hermione a long hard look and then, leaning forward across the table towards her, she said, in a business-like tone, “alright, Fudge is leaning on the Prophet, but it comes to the same thing. They won’t print a story that shows Harry in a good light. Nobody wants to read it. It’s against the public mood.”
“So the Daily Prophet exists to tell people what they want to hear, does it?” Said Hermione, scathingly, downing her butterbeer.
“The Prophet exists to sell itself, you silly girl.” Said Rita coldly.
– JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25: The Beetle at Bay

***

I shall brave the trolls on the internet and express my love of Harry Potter and JK Rowling until my dying day. The world of Harry Potter and the way it blended the magical world and the real one created a fantasy that revealed many truths about people and society. Never has this been made more clear to me than the way in which the media in Harry Potter, personified by one Rita Skeeter and her poisonous Quick Quotes Quill shaped public opinion, with lies of omission and the careful shaping of facts. In the Order of the Phoenix, from which this article gets its name, Harry Potter’s desperation to tell the truth is lost in a sea of articles about him which wilfully misinterpret his thoughts and actions in the name of a political agenda. And it was incredibly successful; even Harry, after knowing the lies that were said about him, believed them about someone else he knew and loved later on. After all, journalists and newspapers are the fourth-estate, intended to give us the information we need to conduct ourselves in the world. And when it comes to the war in Gaza, journalism and its biases are alive and well, and present the ultimate chicken-and-egg scenario: is all of the attention on Israel a result of popular opinion and interest in it, or does all of the attention the media gives it generate people’s obsession? After all, if you open any news source right now, you’d hardly have any idea that there are other conflicts and other crises in the world. None of the many other situations of war and famine receive a fraction of the attention that the Arab-Israeli conflict gets, and we, the Jews of the world, are forced to live with the ugly outcomes of this attention, the shaping of the truth, and the violence that this messaging often results in. After all, embracing complexity for people on the outside of the far-left’s performative empathy and activism is against the public mood, and certainly unacceptable in a movement that is increasingly dogmatic.

The evidence of this is numerous and alarming.  In 2009, the UN Goldstone report came out, the result of a fact-finding mission of the first Israel-Hamas war. It described Israel as having used disproportionate force to specifically target and kill a civilian population. Only after this widely-disseminated report came out did the UN “fact-finders” acknowledge that they only spoke to Palestinian civilians and NGOs while Hamas operatives were literally in the room, and that they did not investigate any of the — later proven — claims that Hamas embedded itself purposely in civilian infrastructure, used mosques and hospitals as army bases, used human shields to protect themselves, and actively fired at Palestinian civilians when the IDF was in the area. When Goldstone himself came out two years later and said that the findings were incredibly inaccurate, that Israel didn’t actually target civilians, and that “if he knew now when he knew then, the report would have been completely different” it almost didn’t matter. The damage was done.

Hamas leans on the journalists, NGOs and even the UN personnel who are stationed in Gaza to report everything in a way that villainizes one side exclusively. And when journalists choose not to focus on this, or to underreport it, or just blatantly refuse to acknowledge this, they are handing a victory to a terrorist organization who seeks the destruction of a sovereign country and the genocide of its people, and uses their own people — for whom they care little. And this tendency to immediately blame Israel, and then later quietly change that information when the facts become apparent (see the Rafah explosion that turned out to be the result of a massive hidden Hamas arms store as an example) has come to infuse how the conflict is reported upon.

On October 8th, CBC (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) sent a highly-publicized memo to its staff instructing them to “not refer to militants, soldiers or anyone else as ‘terrorists.’ The notion of terrorism is highly politicized and part of the story.” This, while Israeli civilians who had been hacked apart and killed still lay in their homes, while videos showing the rape, murder and kidnapping of civilians proliferated on the internet. From John Oliver who regularly dismisses Israel/ the IDF as “war criminals” and “Apartheid”niks, to CBC who “accidentally” ran images of refugees in Gaza while a reporter talked about the significance of Chanukah to the Jewish community. From the Nobel-winning journalist Maria Reesa, who spoke at the Harvard convocation, and said that “because [she] accepted your invitation to be here today, [she] was attacked online and called antisemitic by money and power because they want money and power” — as if that isn’t the ultimate antisemitic trope, to the AP, which used pictures taken by photographers who just “happened” to be at the fence in the exceptionally early morning right when Hamas broke through. Or, for that matter, the AP being awarded “team picture of the year” for the picture of Shani Louk’s dead body on a truck, surrounded by Hamas terrorists. The NYTimes, the most widely-read newspaper in the world, reported this week that the “Top UN court orders Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah,” which ignored the part where the court actually ruled that it must only stop operations that “may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions in life that may bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Which are two very different rulings. Indeed, the ICJ Vice President said that the measure did not entirely prohibit the Israeli military from operating in Rafah, instead it openly operates to partially “restrict Israel’s offensive in Rafah to the extent it implicates rights under the Genocide convention.” So, like the earlier ICJ ruling, it orders Israel to prevent genocide — not stop the war. This is the same NYTimes that sent out a push notification saying that Israel struck the hospital back in the autumn, and then quietly changed their headlines — sans push notification — when it became clear that it was a PIJ/ Hamas rocket that misfired. Or the BBC, who took Reuters’ accurately reported “IDF medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need” and somehow morphed that into “the Israeli military is targeting people, including medical teams, as well as Arab speakers.” Or the BBC reporter Jeremy Bowen who acknowledged that Israel had not in fact “flattened the hospital” like he said they had, but then said he “didn’t regret one thing.” Or the same BBC that took Yoav Gallant’s  actual statement to the troops, that “Gaza will not return to what it was before. There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate it all” and conveniently took out the clearly-heard “Hamas,” twisting it into: Gaza won’t return to what it was before … we will eliminate everything.”

That Hamas’ shaped truth is taken uncritically by many in this establishment is shocking, particularly in light of frequent and verified untruths. Yet the news often takes Hamas narratives and casualty numbers as gospel — but then regularly will say that IDF reports are unverified. The ones that usually have video evidence. Could you imagine establishments taking Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS or even Putin at their word? But when you devote all of your attention to the singular coverage of one conflict, to the detriment of others, perhaps you have a much bigger problem at hand. JK Rowling, as usual, is brilliant (whatever you think of her opinions on feminism and transwomen) and hits on a fundamental point about journalism: that these papers exist to sell themselves. Particularly in the age of the internet, that which gets the most attention is promoted — and a conflict that engenders such emotion, such anger, and such vitriol is the ultimate clickbait. But these journalists perhaps fail to see their own failings as well as the violence their reporting often brings.

Because, all of this coverage is having a direct impact on the safety of law-abiding citizens who are desperate to be left alone. When these numbers are reported uncritically, it encourages the baseless accusations that are made against Israel, that of their being “genocidal,” “Apartheid,” or “settler-colonialists.” And of course people who are not versed in the deep complexity of the conflict, who are moral people, see this news coverage and assume that where there is smoke there is fire. That it is often Hamas’ smoke is ignored. After all, it’s easier to say that Israel denies the Palestinians a state than discuss the refusal of Palestinian leadership to ever accept a state that existed side-by-side. It’s more acceptable to blame military power for being more militarily powerful than examine the fact that it had to become that way because it has been forced to live by its sword for 76 years. It is easier to reinforce the notion of Palestinian powerlessness than to examine the power and agency of Hamas. And in this increasingly dogmatic world, it is a more morally comfortable position to associate powerlessness with innocence, even at the expense of truth. But this complexity is against the public mood. A public mood that has, in many ways, been created, shaped and reinforced by the same media that now dictates what should or should not be reported on. 

Like artists the world over, JK Rowling uses artistic licence to tell the truth. And the truth is something that we all need to examine critically: you cannot separate biased media coverage from the increasing antisemitic violence that is impacting  Jewish communities around the world. Or the fact that Israel, the victim of a genocidal death cult, is the one accused of genocide. And unlike Harry, the extent of the violence directed towards us is not going to be a magical cut in our hand instructing us to “not tell lies.” Just look at the day school in Toronto that was shot up this weekend. There are real world consequences for your clickbait. And maybe the most widely-read book series in the world still has lessons that need to be read and understood.

At least this should (but probably won’t) but to bed the notion that Jews control the media.

About the Author
Dr. Alexandria Fanjoy Silver has a B.A. from Queen's University, an MA/ MA from Brandeis and a PhD from the University of Toronto (all in history and education). She lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, and works at TanenbaumCHAT as a Jewish history teacher. She writes about Jewish food history on Substack @bitesizedhistory.
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