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01.06.09

Why Does The New York Times Love Hamas?

The paper of record refuses to call them terrorists, extols the group's humanitarian efforts, and whitewashes its behavior during the now-broken cease-fire.

s humanitarian efforts, and whitewashes its behavior during the now-broken cease-fire.

In the past week, the Fourth Estate’s Hamas cheerleaders have stripped away any pretense of being honest or neutral, with The New York Times continuing to take the side of the terrorist group in one of the most shameful journalistic episodes I have ever seen. In following The Times' coverage for the past six months and checking external sources of information, one can see a clear pattern of propagandistic reporting favoring Hamas that selectively suppressed or willfully misrepresented information.

Even The Times knows it has a bias problem. Readers who detected it got a chilling confirmation of their suspicions in the December 13 column by Ombudsman Clark Hoyt. Addressing a public outcry over the paper’s failure to use the term “terrorist” for the attackers who executed some 170 people in Mumbai, India, in late November (and mutilated the six Jews killed in the Chabad House—a fact never reported by The Times), Hoyt quoted several reporters and editors making extraordinary admissions that shed some light on the newspaper’s most recent dispatches from Gaza.

The next installment should be on Hezbollah’s eHarmony-style dating service for those terrorists too shy to walk up to a female mujahid and ask her if she likes his AK-47.

Addressing the general guidelines for using the T-word, Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief, said, “Our general view is that the word terrorist is politically loaded and overused.” But he said that sometimes, “when a person’s act has been examined and its intent and result clearly understood, we call him a terrorist.” (Never mind that Lashkar e-Taiba, the group behind the Mumbai attacks, has committed hundreds of terrorist attacks since 1996. How much more “studying” needs to be done?)

As for Hamas, the organization that controls Gaza, it has been sponsoring suicide bombers and launching rockets into Israel since 1987, killing and wounding thousands of Israelis (and Americans). But The Times has refused to call it a terrorist group because, according to deputy news editor Phil Corbett, the paper does not want to get into a situation where it might label a worker at a Hamas hospital a terrorist. So instead, it has given a blanket amnesty to all of Hamas—including its Izz ad-Din al-Qassam military wing, which openly claims responsibility for carrying out terrorist atrocities.

This is a familiar ruse by Islamic terrorist groups (including the nonprofit Islamic charities in the United States, which were shut down after 9/11): create humanitarian branches to distract from the true nature of their organizations. But has Ethan Bronner ever stepped inside one of these Hamas hospitals or schools? I have, several years ago, in Gaza, where I saw murals on the wall of Palestinians stabbing Israelis to death.

In the stories filed this past week, Gaza-based Times reporter Taghreed El-Khodary has also fallen for another classic tactic of terrorist groups: embedding their fighters and facilities in residential areas to incur more civilian casualties. El-Khodary’s dispatches have decried the “shocking” nature of the Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, sidestepping the fact that Hamas purposely locates its infrastructure among civilians— in effect holding them hostage.

Despite the fact that Hamas has executed scores of rivals, smuggled in hundreds of tons of explosives and tens of thousands of weapons, killed local Christians and shut down their churches, and summarily executed “collaborators” (those who have been accused, mostly falsely, of working with the Israelis), the paper appears intent on humanizing the brutal regime in Gaza.

On October 20, 2008, for example, The Times painted a sweet portrait of Hamas fostering love, not war, through arranged marriages for members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam (the terrorist squad that specializes in suicide bombings, although this fact was conveniently left out in the story). “Taking advantage of the pause in violence,” El-Khodary wrote, “the Hamas leaders have turned to matchmaking, bringing together single fighters and widows, and providing dowries and wedding parties for the many here who cannot afford such trappings of matrimony.”

How touching. The next installment could be on Al Qaeda’s mixers for Gen-Y terrorists or Hezbollah’s eHarmony-style dating service for those terrorists too shy to walk up to a female mujahid and ask her if she likes his AK-47. And by the way, those Hamas lovebirds were able to participate in an open-air wedding ceremony, because, The Times reported, Hamas “has been observing a truce with Israel since June, allowing its underground fighters to resurface but leaving them without much to do.” In fact, Hamas was routinely violating the truce, allowing scores of rockets to be fired into Israel, smuggling explosives, building underground tunnels, and, as we now know, building tens of thousands of rockets and long-range missiles to target southern Israel.

Yet a week before Israel launched its most recent offensive in Gaza, on December 20,  Bronner was still promoting the Hamas line that it had “ imposed its will and even imprisoned some of those who were firing rockets.” What he neglected to say is that those allegedly imprisoned were never jailed more than two days, and that more than 200 missiles were fired at Israel by Hamas during the truce.

In this same article Bronner places the blame for breaking the truce on “Israel’s decision in early November to destroy a tunnel Hamas had been digging near the border," which "drove the cycle of violence to a much higher level.” In fact, if Bronner had read his own paper’s June 25 report, “ Rockets Hit Israel, Breaking Hamas Truce,” he would have learned that “three Qassem rockets fired from Gaza on Tuesday struck the Israeli border town of Sderot…constituting the first serious breach of a five-day-old truce between Israel and Hamas.”

Another example of The Times downplaying Hamas’ evil nature occurred deep in a December 29 story by Bronner and El-Khodary. Although focused mostly on the Palestinians killed by Israeli bombs, it did make a relatively brief reference to the fact that “Hamas gunmen publicly shot suspected collaborators with Israel,” which the paper described somewhat nonchalantly as “internal bloodletting.” The Times said five victims were taken out of their hospital beds and shot in the head—a chilling episode that should have been a stand-alone story about the thugs who rule Gaza. Moreover, calling these men “collaborators”—when, for all we know, they were simply political opponents of Hamas—conjures up self-justifying images of the French collaboration with the Nazis.

Throughout last week’s reporting by Bronner and El-Khodary, there were numerous references to two Palestinian children killed by an Israeli bombing raids, with the clear implication that Israel was recklessly attacking civilian areas. The paper never once blamed Hamas for intentionally using civilians as human shields. Even more telling of The Times’ bias: On December 26, 2008, the Jerusalem Post reported that, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, two Palestinian children, ages 5 and 12, were killed when Hamas rockets fell short of their Israeli targets. Yet The Times never once reported those deaths.

In its purportedly evenhanded approach to reporting the news from the Gaza front, The New York Times continues to betray the trust placed on journalists to give readers all the facts. And in this clear attempt to place the blame on one party alone—Israel—The Times is advancing the cause of Hamas. If The Times really wanted to present the truth, it would simply drop the pretense of being honest and simply register as a foreign agent of Hamas.

—Additional reporting by Linda Keay

Steve Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of 5 books and countless articles on terrorism. His most recent book is Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S.