During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’ strategy of endangering their own population and threatening reporters to blame Israel, became so crude, the façade began to crack. Indeed, the Foreign Press Association of Israel and Palestine released an unwonted condemnation:
The FPA protests in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.
In response to the FPA statement, NYT correspondent Jodi Rudoren tweeted:
In a subsequent email exchange with the FPA, Rudoren called their statement “dangerous.” Lest some consider that further proof of journalists’ fears of the unmentionable, she clarified to Matthew Kalman:
I found the wording of the statement overly broad, and, especially given the narrative playing out in some social media circles regarding foreign correspondents being taken in by the Hamas narrative and not reporting on the war fully or fairly, I was concerned that it undermined what I consider to have been brave and excellent work by very talented people,” she said.
Note Rudoren’s ubiquitous focus on “narratives.” The FPA, in confirming pervasive intimidation, adopts the “Israeli narrative,” and confirms the “narrative playing out in some social media circles [i.e. what Anschel Pfeffer abusively calls the Jewish Jihadis].” That, in turn, undermines the “journalists’ narrative” which itself is under criticism for its remarkable similarity to the “Hamas narrative.” How can we let evidence undermine “talented, brave, excellent” reporters, and, not coincidentally, arouse the ire of those many players who insist on the value of the “Palestinian Narrative.”
The board was aware that any statement might feed into a pro-Israel propaganda campaign [sic] about the accuracy of reporting from Gaza that has angered many FPA members, but that did not deter them, any more than they had been prevented from issuing previous criticisms of Israel or the Palestinian Authority for fear they would be interpreted as anti-Israel or anti-PA.
Note the ease with which the FPA refers to Israel’s [strongly supported] contention about the inaccuracy of Palestinian claims as “propaganda” even as they have a long history of recycling Palestinian propaganda as news. I think this may relate to the most fundamental rule in the Hamas/Palestinian Media Protocols. Journalists may pass on any given piece of Pallywood staging or lethal narrative, but they cannot reveal the staging; they may demur in denouncing Israel for an own-goal Hamas-caused Palestinian tragedy, but they cannot reveal Hamas’ responsibility.
Above all, the most important principle at work here: do not undermine the Palestinian narrative; do not support the Israeli one. That, above all, is the “danger” Rudoren worries about. Far more candid than Rudoren, Matti Friedman puts it bluntly:
Our narrative was that the Palestinians were moderate and the Israelis recalcitrant and increasingly extreme. Reporting the Olmert offer—like delving too deeply into the subject of Hamas—would make that narrative look like nonsense. And so we were instructed to ignore it, and did, for more than a year and a half.
Purely as a tale of a journalistic lapse in informing their audience of writing under persecution, as a case study of the dilemmas facing journalists covering an asymmetrical war where the weak side does not hesitate to use violence while the strong adheres to democratic standards, respecting a free press no matter how hostile, this issue deserves a curriculum of its own in journalism school, and a literature in journalistic ethics.