The media war between Israel and Hamas is a disproportionately unequal one. It’s unequal because Israel must maintain its credibility, while Hamas and its media allies never worry about their credibility.
In an instant messaging news cycle, Israel responds to accusations of atrocities with an investigation while Hamas and its Hamasbara allies in the media package together bloody photos from local stringers along with a narrative and turn it into an instant story.
Every Israeli statement is pored over and examined from every angle. A Tweet by an Israeli police spokesman was spun by BuzzFeed troll Sheera Frenkel into a claim that Hamas had not kidnapped and murdered the three Israeli boys. The story was then repackaged by New York Magazine for a post that had over 200,000 social media shares. The post was dishonest and untrue… but that didn’t matter.
Meanwhile Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen participated in the attacks against Israel by accusing Haaretz’s Barak Ravid, who had revealed the Kerry ceasefire terms favorable to Hamas, of being a liar who was passing along false Israeli claims.
Rozen’s alternative draft, which appears to have come from Al Jazeera, did not differ significantly from the Israeli copy, but it didn’t stop her from using her Qatari source to attack Israel. Obama went on to reiterate many of the basic terms in the ceasefire proposal, but by then the narrative that the Israeli media was unfairly smearing Kerry was set.
These tactics, born out of the Twitter age and the complete collapse of journalistic ethics, aren’t just a defense of Islamic terrorism, but they also borrow some of the tactics of the terrorists they defend.
Hamasbara is less dependent on developed stories and more on Tweets and blog posts. Its practitioners are just activists with a media forum. Their smear campaigns depend on quick hit and run attacks. They bring a story into being out of thin air and move on to the next attack just as quickly.
There is something of the Hamas suicide bomber in their willingness to constantly self-destruct their reputations, but journalistic credentials don’t mean what they used to. Activist journalists help manufacture a story that is picked up by second-tier media blogs and mainstream media outlets.
In a perpetual news cycle, smears are instantaneous, but they also vanish instantaneously. The painstaking work on the Al-Durrah hoax from fourteen years ago, which is still being investigated by the dedicated journalist Philippe Karsenty, is how the media and its critics used to work.
The Rozen/Frenkel drive by Hamasbara attacks are how it works now.
Atrocity photo slideshows are packaged together by international correspondents who are retweeing material from activists. Some of those photos turn out to have come from Syria and they’re withdrawn, but the damage has already been done because no one who sees of a photo of a dead child really cares whether the photo came from Syria or Gaza. The emotional impact becomes truer than the truth.
These little “mistakes” pile up in a mountain of Hamasbara.
An investigation is slower than a lie so long as the lie is produced quickly. It takes Sheera Frenkel of BuzzFeed or Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor only a few seconds to tweet a damaging Hamasbara narrative.
Untangling and disproving that narrative takes far longer.
That is where the Hamasbara shift from the longreads of a Walter Duranty has its advantage. Its media trolls don’t need to commit to anything. All they have to do is put out a little spin and wait for someone like Katie Zavadski of New York Magazine to blog the crumbs. It doesn’t ever have to become an article. That would almost defeat the purpose. It’s easier to keep it nebulous, a collection of spun citations.
They don’t even have to invest any time and effort into their ugly and dishonest work. It’s their critics who have to take the time to find the truth.
And by then the Hamasbara has trended on to the next tragedy.
Hamasbara’s goal is to maintain constant pressure on Israel with a flood of false attacks that wear down the resources of its defenders while keeping them on the defensive.
Its big lie is made up out of a million little despicable lies. These little lies are disposable.
Like the pixels on an image, they are only there to paint a broader picture with the repetition of constant themes. The overriding theme is that Israel is evil, vicious, cruel and dishonest. No single case has to be proven, like the individual photos there is a mass of small disprovable lies that are too many to disprove individually and impossible to disprove collectively.
Hamasbara media attacks Israel’s credibility on every issue without having any credibility of its own.
But Hamasbara, like Hamas, needs no credibility. It is purely destructive. It operates in the negative space. It exists to destroy reputations, people, countries and ideas while contributing nothing at all.
Hamasbara is about a thousand attacks, each one individually damaging, but ultimately pointless. They are meant to function as cumulative attrition; each libel and slander wearing away at Israel’s defenses. These tactics of media terrorism duplicate the physical terrorist tactics of its Hamas allies.
The Hamas violence and the Hamasbara lies are both weapons. Hamas inflicts damage while Hamasbara cripples Israel’s ability to fight back. Hamasbara helps Hamas snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And Hamas gives Hamasbara a place in the new journalism whose goals are as destructive as its own.
What kind of people would willingly enlist to support a genocidal Islamic terrorist group while putting their tattered journalistic credentials on the line? That is a question that answers itself.
The Hamasbarist has a lot in common with the Hamas terrorists that he defends. We like to think that the savagery we see in Syria, Iraq or Gaza has no counterpart in our own society outside of a few poor and uneducated parts of the country.
But Hamas, like most Islamic terrorist groups, draws its members from the middle and upper classes. That is where the Hamasbarists of our own media also come from.
Behind the disparate ideologies of the Red-Green alliance that bonds Hamasbara to Hamas is a common love of power and destruction. The Hamasbarist lives vicariously through the thrills of Hamas terrorism. The old evil bargain between the propagandist and the thug, the one who breaks the windows and the one who explains why the windows deserved to be broken, is rooted in a mutual desire to destroy.
The media terrorist is as much a terrorist as the terrorists he defends. He has just as much of a desire to burn and kill, to dominate and oppress. What he lacks is the courage to throw off the shackles of his expensive degree, his IKEA furniture and his Netflix account to kill and die in a foreign land.
The Hamasbarist is too much of a coward to kill. Instead he fights his war for Hamas on social media and in the virtual pages of Salon, New York Magazine or The Daily Beast.
He may not be willing to die, but he is more than willing to lie.
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