The scene was too neat.
I had just arrived outside the shattered remains of a large mosque in central Gaza City last week. It had been pulverized by an Israeli airstrike. There was rubble, glass and metal everywhere. But on a patch of ground in front of the structure, visible for everyone to see, was a small, dusty carpet.
On top lay piles of burned, ripped copies of the Koran, Islam’s holy book. The symbolism was obvious, almost too perfect. It was clear that someone had placed them there to attract sympathy for the Palestinian cause. A television crew spotted the pile and filmed it. Mission accomplished…
In the middle of the road, where the kids were killed, was a small pool of blood. At first glance, it evoked a sense of sadness and outrage. As I looked closer, I noticed a child’s slipper in the middle of the blood. The slipper was intact. There were no bloodstains. And next to the slipper, a black plastic toy gun.
Again I noticed a television cameraman drawn to this powerful image. I moved on.
Earlier that day in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as the dead and wounded were being rushed into the building, I saw a girl, no older than 7, dressed in a yellow and blue dress, speaking in front of a television camera.
“Bring back my brother and father,” she cried, visibly upset.
Her mother, seated next to her, whispered into her ear and nudged her.
“They were kids,” the girl continued, following her mother’s coaching. “They were just playing. What is their crime, for Israel to target them? They are just kids.”
90 percent of PR is giving reporters what they need to tell a story. Hamasbara and Hamaswood are largely about staging the same scenes that their predecessors have been staging for decades, giving sympathetic reporters and even detached press who just want a good quote and a good symbolically sad photo the material they need to wrap up and go home.
Most don’t want to look any further.