Media Mirage: The Dual Identity of Hamas

The framing of Hamas in international media has long been a subject of debate. Hamas’s portrayal often swings between that of a militant entity engaged in violent resistance and a political player with governance responsibilities in the Gaza Strip. This dichotomy presents a complex challenge for media coverage, tasked with navigating the murky waters of political biases, journalistic integrity, and the responsibility to inform. At the heart of this challenge is the theory of framing, which is based in the paradigm of late influences of media studies, which suggests that the way issues are presented in the media can significantly influence public perception and policy decisions. According to Robert Entman’s framing theory, media not only selects certain aspects of a perceived reality to make them more salient but also promotes a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and treatment recommendation. Through the lens of this theory, the portrayal of Hamas in international media is seen as a powerful tool that shapes global understanding and responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The framing of Hamas in international media as a political entity, and a humanitarian organization rather than exclusively labeling it as a terrorist organization, significantly influences the global narrative surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This nuanced portrayal can deeply impact public perception and the international diplomatic approach toward conflict resolution in the Middle East. When media platforms opt to feature interviews with Hamas spokespersons, provide them with opportunities to articulate their stance against the “Zionist occupation,” and portray the actions of the 7/10 massacre as acts of freedom, they play a crucial role in legitimizing Hamas’s political claims and narratives.

Hamas’s media strategy is smart, in a way. In all their public interviews, you’d hear them denying all accusations against them, for example they’d claim it wasn’t their intention to kidnap Israeli residents. Another example is the notorious videos Hamas published each time they released hostages to the red cross. The Hamas is trying to portray itself as a humanitarian organization, while putting the residents of Gaza strip at risk as their human shield. Hamas plays on the poorness of it’s people, as broadcasting to the world photos of the complete damage in Gaza strip, and footage of the residents crying, is something that will arouse empathy on the other side, from a viewer point of view.

Such media coverage effectively positions Hamas not just as a militant group but as a legitimate political actor with governance roles and responsibilities in Gaza. This shift in portrayal can alter the dynamics of international peace negotiations by framing Hamas as a necessary participant in diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a lasting peace in the region. It underscores the organization’s dual identity as both a provider of social services and a participant in electoral politics within Palestinian society, while also engaging in armed resistance.

This complex framing requires a critical examination of the ethical and political implications of media representations, considering both the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians for self-determination and the international legal standards that classify certain actions as terrorism. The balance in media portrayal is essential for fostering a comprehensive understanding of the conflict, as the media is the biggest source for people to learn about the conflict, and I ask – try to see the full picture.

Not everything that is portrayed on both traditional and new media is the blind truth. The content we consume is always framed in one way or another – open your eyes and do your research before believing something is the absolute truth.

About the Author
Neta Meir is a communication student at Reichman University, pursuing in the Argov program for diplomacy and leadership. In the future she aspires to continue exploring the relationship between diplomacy and media.
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