Media War: Where Are All the Hamas Fighters?
JERUSALEM, Israel -- In all of the disturbing and emotional images coming out of the Gaza fighting, one major issue that no major media outlet asks about is missing: Where are those fighting for Hamas?
For more than a month, Israel's efforts to stop Gaza rocket fire and destroy Hamas tunnels has made headlines and led newscasts around the world.
Two images dominate the war between Israel and Hamas. One side is Israel's military actions, like airstrikes, artillery, and ground troops. On the other side, video of Palestinians suffering, wounded, or killed in those military actions.
But according to CBN News Senior International Correspondent George Thomas, the Hamas fighters are noticeably absent.
"They're not roaming the streets of Gaza City," he said. "They're not carrying weapons. Where are they? We've never seen those pictures in four weeks of reporting from this region."
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren explained why.
"The Western press does not have access to the fighting arm of Hamas and so the impression created is that you have an Israeli army and you have the Palestinians on the other side and that's already playing into Hamas's media strategy," Oren told CBN News.
Hamas media watchdogs also crush what they consider negative reports. Thomas spoke with one reporter Hamas expelled from the Gaza Strip for his posts on Twitter.
"He came to us, in essence telling us he was hauled in by Hamas militants, interrogated, and threatened," Thomas explained.
"And [they] said they didn't like the tweets he was tweeting, in essence telling the world that Hamas was using civilian areas -- in this particular case using this journalist's hotel, right next to his hotel -- to fire off rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel," he said. "And they gave him 24 hours to get out of the Strip."
Only after leaving Hamas-controlled Gaza, Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati posted this on Twitter: "Out of Gaza far from Hamas retaliation; misfired rocket killed children today in Shati. Witness: militants rushed in and cleared debris."
Barbati's tweet corroborated the IDF's account that Hamas rockets, not the IDF, hit the al-Shifa Hospital on July 28.
Filmmaker Michale Grynszpan posted the following exchange with a foreign journalist on Facebook:
" I asked him how come we never see on television channels reporting from Gaza any Hamas people, no gunmen, no rocket launcher, no policemen? We only see civilians on these reports, mostly women and children. He answered me frankly: 'It's very simple. We did see Hamas people there launching rockets. They were close to our hotel, but if ever we dare pointing our camera on them, they simply shoot at us and kill us.'"
"There was evidence of Hamas using hospitals, schools, civilian neighborhoods, mosques to launch their rockets," Thomas continued. "There was evidence of that, but they did not want the Western world to know."
Oren said keeping the Western world in the dark works with predictable and devastating consequences.
"They're using the civilian population as human shields and so Israel, no matter how cautious it is, invariably ends up causing civilian casualties," Oren explained.
"That creates very painful pictures on television screens that immediately incite the streets, particularly in Europe and South America," he said. "That immediately translates in[to] diplomatic pressure in the [U.N.] Security Council and human rights groups."
"They realize they have a captive audience among Western journalists," Oren continued. "To report one side, to show these horrific pictures of men, women, and children injured, killed. Look, we don't excuse this. It's horrible; this is war, the realities of war. But you have to be able to question Hamas straightforward. You have to ask them, 'Are you using United Nations' facilities? Are you using schools, mosques and places of worship?'"