For years, the Gaza Strip conflict has been as much about media optics as anything else. Hamas, the controlling party in Gaza, have become expert media manipulators. They carefully stage propaganda for the mostly sympathetic international media and our own media here in the US. In the wake of the worst terror attack against Jews since World War Two, however, that has seen the death toll rise to more than 1,000 victims and 150 hostages, you would think Hamas would be about to lose the optics war. Not so fast.
What began as breaking news reporting by American outlets quickly shifted to the default position of sympathizing with Palestinians, and focusing almost solely on Israel’s retaliation, as has usually been the case with this conflict. National news outlets such as CBS and NBC have already decided on language that presents this as a Palestinian humanitarian crisis enacted by Israel’s overbearing and heavy-handed response.
They’ve defaulted to language such as “Hamas militants,” “conflict,” “crisis,” “escalation” and “both sides.” You might even surmise from early coverage that our media believes there are “very fine people on both sides.” Many of the actual events from this weekend’s mass terror attack have been sanitized out of mainstream outlets who are ignoring the brutal details of Hamas rocket attacks into civilian neighborhoods, or roaming death squads going door to door to kidnap or execute in summary fashion.
Pro-Hamas rallies this week were framed as “small rallies” by NBC, who also defaulted to images and stories of Palestinians grieving their own losses. A Stop Antisemitism organization on Twitter/X obtained what they call a leaked email with specific sanitization of language concerning Hamas and the attack, directing employees to remove the word terrorist, among other things.
The tone of the coverage thus far has been so blatantly one-sided that Anti-Defamation League president Jonathan Greenblatt ripped MSNBC while appearing on the network’s flagship program Morning Joe, while Al Sharpton of all people looked on. “Who is writing the scripts?… The people who did this are not fighters… they are not militants… they are terrorists.” Greenblatt asserted. Later on that same network, a guest suggested Israel make concessions by redrawing its borders to receive hostages back.
This is how the national media coverage of this attack will proceed. The nature of the original terror attack, the innocent music festival goers massacred and sexually assaulted, the hostages — will all be sterilized out of the coverage, and the onus will then be put on Israel’s response. This, of course, only empowers Hamas to continue their attacks and threats on civilians. It will be the fault, in the eyes of the news media, of Israel for escalating a response, and not for Hamas terrorists perpetrating the conflict to begin with.
This is the kind of “both sidesism” our journalists and media critics have decried over the years when it has come to the topic of former president Donald Trump, that Trump is a destabilizing threat to our institutions and the very Republic itself, and therefore must be presented that way at all costs. Now, with a cause they sympathize with, they are struggling to rationalize the brutality of Hamas’s actions, and instead are attempting to justify them away.