Goldstone vs. Talal abu Rahmah on Hamas’ human shields: Whom to believe

As any serious reader of this blog knows, I don’t have a lot of respect for Talal abu Rahmah, the seeing of whose rushes (see below) for September 30, 2000 inspired the term Pallywood. So what to think when he and another favorite unreliable rogue in my gallery disagree?

The Goldstone Report, at paragraph 481, takes up the subject of whether Hamas deliberately hid among civilians.

¶481. On the basis of the information it gathered, the Mission is unable to form an opinion on the exact nature or the intensity [emphasis added] of their [Hamas’] combat activities in urban residential areas that would have placed the civilian population and civilian objects at risk of attack. While reports reviewed by the Mission credibly indicate that members of Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from civilians, the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack [emphasis added].

Moshe Halbertal in “The Goldstone Illusion,” not an author known for his sarcasm, remarks on Goldstone’s cautious conclusion:

The reader of such a sentence might well wonder what its author means. Did Hamas militants not wear their uniforms because they were inconveniently at the laundry? What other reasons for wearing civilian clothes could they have had, if not for deliberately sheltering themselves among the civilians?

So imagine my surprise when I ran across the following gem from Talal abu Rahmah in a phone interview with a CNN reporter on January 2, 2009:

Hamas, they are under cover, all of them they are civilians now, you don’t see any militants around you, even the cars I don’t know if the car in front of me or in the back of me, if it’s a target or not.

Whom to believe?

Here I think Talal has told us the truth. Why? Partly because he’s showing off. “This is really difficult and scary. I have to do my job, what can I do. Now Hamas…” After presenting himself as a brave journalist who has to do what he must, he jumps on Hamas’ contrasting behavior.

But also, I think he tells us this in part because he thinks the journalist interviewing him is too stupid to notice what a revelation he’s handed her.

And he’s right. Her next question is not: “So Hamas is hiding among civilians and endangering the population? That’s a war crime. How do people feel about that?” Instead it’s the kind of nauseating experiential post-modern journalism that the Gaza war was full of, where the interviewer gives Talal a platform to vaunt his courage, his “in-his-blood” journalism, and the dangers he runs.

Tell us more about how it feels, Talal, send us more pictures, and stay safe. Why without you, we might have to think.

Appendix: Talal’s rushes as presented to the French court (17 of the 21 minutes).

16 Responses to Goldstone vs. Talal abu Rahmah on Hamas’ human shields: Whom to believe

  1. RickD says:

    Strictly speaking, what Rahmah says is not that he he’s seen Hamas men hiding among civilians. What he says is that he hasn’t seen any Hamas men. He infers that they are running around in civilian clothes, and might be in any car, but he doesn’t say that he’s seen them in any particular place. It’s just as likely that they’re in some hidey hole.

    At any rate, the problem with liars is that you can’t believe them when they say something that matches your belief. The guy would lie if the truth made a better story.

  2. E.G. says:

    I think Talal was affiliated with Fatah.

  3. Cynic says:


    Talal explicitly says that Hamas is under cover
    all of them is civilian now.

    Nothing inferred there.

  4. Joanne says:

    What strikes me is that, after all the scandal about his tapes of Al-Durrah, this reporter is treating him like a hero…in 2009.

    I don’t understand. Do these people live in a parallel universe? Doesn’t she know that he had been caught red-handed making false reports?

    This interview was fulsome, and I cringed when she thanked him for his brave work in getting the images out. It made me think that perhaps we’re the ones living in a parallel universe, that what we’ve read here and other places on the Web hasn’t pierced the consciousness of the mainstream media at all. That’s a scary thought.

  5. E.G. says:

    Perhaps Latma should do a sketch on “the Producers”: Talal and Charles?

    Anyway, he’s probably being monitored by Hamasniks.
    He actually says he’s endangered due to their hiding among the civilian population (in the car in front/behind him)

    Anyone noticed that it’s the CNN telephonist who asserts (at about 1:50)that the bombings are unannounced and their location unknown? (she repeats this on the next question too). Mr. Rahma doesn’t bother to correct her by telling her that his co-Producer’s pilots drop flyers and Charlie’s Jewish angels phone Gazans to prevent them.

    Last but not least, in his bragging about journalism, he states that when he has a camera he’s not afraid.
    – Because his camera is his weapon?
    – Because he knows that Israelis don’t shoot journalists?

  6. Ray in Seattle says:

    Joanne, I’d say your comment about parallel universes is right on. When someone’s mind is populated by strong identity beliefs they do live in their own universe. Their view of events will be forced to fit with and support those beliefs. Contradictions can not exist and their mind will create whatever fictions necessary to maintain the illusion. But they usually don’t realize they do this. That would be admitting to the fantastic nature of it all and their minds protect them from that.

    Along the same lines, RickD says, “At any rate, the problem with liars is that you can’t believe them when they say something that matches your belief.”

    I find this sentence interesting. It reminds me of when I used to train hunting dogs. It took me several years to realize that when a dog does what I wished him to do – if he did it because he wanted to do it he is not yet trained. It’s only when he doesn’t want to do it but reliably does so on command that the training has been accomplished.

    I might have stated your sentence as:

    When a person’s mind is populated with strong identity beliefs, if they say something that actually matches objective reality – you still don’t know if they are being objective – or just that their beliefs happen to line up with reality this time, as, like a broken clock, they occasionally will.

    Being objective means always re-testing your own beliefs against reality. I doubt that Rahmah’s mind – as with most Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims is anywhere close to that ideal. They live in a culture where fantasy in the service of protecting their identity beliefs is the norm. It’s expected. They know the cues and when to discount what another Arab says.

    I think that Richard called it correctly – Rahmah’s desire to boast took over at that moment and he failed to engage his reasoning ability to protect “the narrative”. A common lapse among the true believers of all denominations.

    BTW, I think Rahmah’s egotism is very evident in his video interviews.

  7. Ray in Seattle says:

    Along these (psychological) lines, Barry Rubin has a very interesting recent article here:

    . . where he narrates a running account of Arab cultural forces at work shaping dueling Arab narratives in this case, regarding Egypt’s border barrier – as Rubin provides the play by play.

  8. Joanne says:

    Thanks, Ray,

    This reminds me of a talk I had with some friends and acquaintances recently. They were praising Michael Moore. I said that, though I agree with many of the points Moore makes–especially regarding the US health care system–I found his methods dishonest and I wished someone else would make those films, but with humor AND integrity. That way, the films won’t be so easy to discredt.

    I won’t bore you with the details of the discussion. But they sort of ganged up on me, saying that:

    a) Though many people have tried and keep trying, they’ve found nothing major to pin on Moore.

    b) Moore’s depiction in Sicko of the Cuban health care plan was accurate. Cubans are well cared for and they even send doctors abroad.

    c) Moore’s movies are meant to be comedies, anyway, and everyone understands that.

    When I tried to argue, my friends either categorically dismissed what I had to say or just refused to listen. As the French would say, it was “un dialogue des sourds” (dialogue of the deaf). Talk about a parallel universe!

  9. Ray in Seattle says:

    Hi Joanne, I’ve seen a couple of MM’s films. I didn’t find them very compelling although I do believe some form a national health care insurance for all Americans is long overdue. I’m skeptical of the current plan as I understand it – which is not very well due to all the political noise.

    You say you find his methods dishonest. I don’t remember having that reaction myself but I don’t remember much at all about his movies. I can’t even remember which ones I saw. Can you give an example?

  10. E.G. says:


    Yes, you’re living in a parallel universe, because very few people heard about the al-Dura hoax, and even fewer have acquired the certainty that it is a hoax.

  11. Joanne says:

    Well, let’s see:

    I remember a Village Voice article many years ago (but can’t find it now)about Roger & Me that mentioned the now-famous point that the people he shows skinning rabbits to live had never worked for General Motors, and thus had never been fired by them. The film also made it seem as if GM had fired thousands of workers hastily, when, in fact, the firings had occurred over a period of 11 years. The article listed plenty of other fast-and-loose treatments of the truth, but I cannot recall them now, and I cannot find the article. I’m sorry.

    Regarding Fahrenheit 9/11, one particularly fulsome scene was Moore’s depiction of Iraq before the invasion as a peaceful, prosperous place. I was and am four-square against the invasion, but this was obnoxious.

    In Bowling for Columbine, Moore presents Charlton Heston making the remark that they’d have to take his gun “out of my cold, dead hands” at an NRA meeting after the Columbine shootings, when, in fact, he had made the speech a year before. Moore had spliced together tapes from two meetings and presented them as if they were from one meeting, in the wake of the shootings, thus making the statement far more damning.

    In describing the culture of violence in Colorado, in Bowling for Columbine, Moore interviews the head of a factory that he presents as a munitions factory, never saying that the factory in fact hadn’t made munitions for 30 years and was, in fact, a communications satellite factory–a prime example of swords into ploughshares.

    Moore presented the act of getting a gun through a bank (though itself admittedly disgusting enough) as being much easier than it actually was. I don’t remember the actual requirements, but it was longer and more difficult than Moore portrayed. He made it seem as if you could practically get it by coming in off the street.

    I thought his portrayal of health care in Cuba was fawning and distorted, having heard that the care he described was available only to VIPs and not to the common folk, who cannot even get many medications (although that could also be partly, though only partly, blamed on those stupid US sanctions).

    There have been articles over the years that have listed Moore’s distortions point-by-point, and they weren’t all niggling points. But many of them were published well before the Internet. However, here are some articles that I’ve found in respectable sources, rather than in over-the-top right-wing sources, of which there are many:

    1. From Huffington Post, showing how Moore’s lies in Sicko has given ammunition to the right:

    2. About the dangers of mockumentaries, mentioning Moore:

    3.About Fahrenheit 9/11:

    4. About Fahrenheit 9/11:

    5. Here is Christopher Hitchens on Fahrenheit 9/11:

  12. Joanne says:

    I should mention, Ray, that I agree with you on US health care. I’m for a single-payer system. So I’m not exactly against Moore because of his ideology. In fact, I was very moved by Moore’s depictions of Americans deprived of health care coverage, and that part rang true for me (I was gypped by an HMO myself, to the tune of thousands of dollars).

    I’m also no fan, to put it mildly, of corporate America, the NRA, or of George Bush. So I’m not coming at this from a conservative ideological standpoint. Far from it.

    What gets me especially worried is that there was some talk of his doing a documentary on Israel/Palestine. He is very pro-Palestinian. This gets me nervous, as Israel/Palestine is the last issue that needs the Moore treatment.

  13. Ray in Seattle says:

    Thanks Joanne, That’s a pretty complete and convincing picture. I knew I didn’t like his stuff.

  14. […] Augean Stables for a highly lucid comment on the subject and further video evidence of Hamas […]

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