Message to the Media: Beware of Hamas’ Traps

By Jerry Silverman

Hamas has been very good at manipulating the media. They are not the first terrorist organization to do so and they won’t be the last.

Along with meticulous planning for the terrorist attack on Israel, I imagine that their media strategy went something like this: “We’ll take a hit right away, but the public’s attention span is short and, once Israel fights back, it will be blamed for a humanitarian crisis.”

Hamas has set a number of traps for the media. The one that concerns me the most is the trap of false equivalency.

There is no equivalency to the brutal and deliberate slaughter of innocent people – men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled. There is no equivalency to murdering 260 innocent young adults at a festival. It is certainly not equivalent to any collateral damage that has and will occur to Gaza civilians. 

There are at least three other traps for the media:

The first one is fairness. Good journalists, and yes there are some, are trained from journalism school throughout their careers to be fair. This often translates into getting both sides of a story or multiple sides to a story. But there is no other side to the slaughter of innocents, just like there is no other side to genocide. There never has been and there never will be.

The second trap is the explanation trap. Good journalists aim to explain events so we can all make informed decisions. This means providing context and perhaps history. But there is no explanation for evil. We must call it out for what it is.  

We Jews can discuss and disagree about the West Bank, a two-state solution, Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli government.  And we do, Lord knows we do. But these are separate issues and should remain separate from any explanation or rationalization of the Hamas attack.

And that leads me to the third trap –complexity. The Middle East is complex and the media doesn’t do complexity well. And let’s be honest, we, as media consumers, don’t always do complexity well either. We have become accustomed to news briefs on our phones and sound bites on our TVs.

This will most likely be a long war that will be fought on the actual battlefield and on the battlefield of public opinion. The media must look at the minefields and traps that Hamas has set. Do it in the interest of fairness.

Jerry Silverman is president of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs. He is a retired journalist and past president of the Empire State Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.