The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Stop demonizing Israel for defending itself

The Israeli ambassador to the United States says Israel must protect its citizens, and that Palestinians who want to live in peace deserve better leadership. (Video: Gillian Brockell, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

Ron Dermer is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Hand it to Hamas. As this week’s events in Gaza showed, the terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction can still manipulate the media into demonizing Israel for the legitimate actions it takes to defend itself.

Hamas’s four-step formula for success is by now familiar. First, get a media that is largely hostile toward Israel, simply ignorant or both to ignore Hamas’s genocidal goals and excuse its terrorism. Second, put Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. Third, force Israel, while defending itself, to kill some of those civilians. Fourth, rely on that same hostile and ignorant media to blame Israel for these deaths.

In Gaza, step one began some seven weeks ago. Hamas called for tens of thousands of Palestinians to join a weekly “March of Return” — effectively, the flooding of Israel with millions of the descendants of Palestinian refugees from the War of Independence (which five Arab nations started, promising to throw the Jews into the sea).

The March of Return was to culminate in a mid-May march on “Nakba” day, which Palestinians mark each year to remember the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation.

Palestinian “marchers” were told to break down the security fence separating Gaza from Israel, a clear and present danger to all those living in Jewish communities only hundreds of yards from that fence.

Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, could not have been clearer about his goals: “We will take down the border and tear out their hearts from their bodies.”

But as thousands of Palestinians showed up to achieve that murderous goal, the media was determined to tell another tale. Press reports insisted that the march was “against the occupation” and “for humanitarian relief” in Gaza. Such nonsense continued even as rioters destroyed the very infrastructure that enables Israel to deliver food, medicine and supplies into Gaza.

This Last week, the media narrative shifted. Despite all evidence to the contrary, suddenly we were told that the riots in Gaza were against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. “Marches over embassy move take on violent edge” read a headline in The Post, one of many similar headlines around the globe.

The media also insisted that these riots had been peaceful protests, or “mostly” peaceful, whatever that means. Apparently, grenades, molotov cocktails, fire kites, explosive devices, guns and machetes don’t quite hit the media’s bar for what constitutes Palestinian violence.

Mahmoud Zahar, one of Hamas’s founders, said that calling what happened in Gaza peaceful protests was a clear “deception.” In Facebook posts, Hamas called for the rioters to “bring a knife, dagger or gun,” and embedded its own forces in the crowds, ready and willing to kill and kidnap Israelis. Not surprisingly, these facts barely merited a mention in the news coverage.

With the media playing ball, the stage was then set for step two — putting Palestinians in harm’s way. Hamas pushed the Palestinian masses toward the fence, falsely claiming that Israeli soldiers were abandoning their positions and that the fence had already been breached.

Step three was inevitable. Once nonlethal means, from fliers to tear gas, were exhausted, the choice for Israel’s army was simple: Let a violent mob of thousands of people breach the fence, exposing the surrounding Jewish communities to the risk of slaughter, or defend those communities with lethal force. That choice is no choice at all.

The stage was set for the critical final step — get a biased media almost always ready to believe the worst about Israel to demonize Israel. Just like the blood libels of old, Israel was falsely and widely accused of perpetrating a massacre.

Now that the libel against Israel has spread around the world, the truth is beginning to get its boots on. A senior Hamas official said that 50 out of the 62 dead were members of Hamas. Those figures would make the Israeli military operation to stop a violent mob of thousands of people trying to infiltrate our border under a dense cloud of smoke arguably one of the most surgical in history.

While one journalist and a British member of Parliament who rushed to condemn Israel have apologized, others are unlikely to follow. Most of those in the media who constantly target Israel will probably not give a second thought to the damage they have caused.

But they should. Because while they cause damage to my country’s reputation, they actually cost Palestinian lives. By proving to Hamas that the media can be manipulated time after time, the media is only encouraging Hamas to continue to employ this ghoulish strategy.

How to keep this from happening again? Hamas could stop being Hamas. But that is unlikely to happen.

Israel could stop defending itself. But that will never happen. As has been said: Better bad press than a good eulogy.

But there is another way to put an end to this despicable practice: The media can stop demonizing Israel for defending itself. By not giving Hamas the PR victory it seeks, the media would actually be doing something to save innocent Palestinian lives rather than being complicit in their tragic deaths.

Read more on this topic:

Max Boot: Don’t blame the embassy opening for the violence in Gaza. Blame Hamas.

The Post’s View: Israel falls into Hamas’s trap

Kathleen Parker: In Jerusalem, it’s the Trump team vs. reality

Asli Aydintasbas: What is the real value of Jerusalem?

Letters: On the U.S. Embassy in Israel, did Trump make the wrong move?