One front of Hamas’s “March of Return” is a war of words – to project a sympathetic brand of the Palestinians as victims in order to influence global public opinion.
While the terrorist group’s young recruits dress in kaffiyehs and sling Kalashnikovs over their shoulders, its leaders in coat and tie take their cues from leftist media and Madison Avenue’s finest – with techniques author William Safire calls “the gimmicky, slick use of the communications media to play on emotions.”
Possibly due to Israel’s superior defense technology, Hamas is emphasizing the war for public opinion – a strategy Islamist scholars call “jihad of the pen.” It has found a partner in the biased, anti-Israel media. But the truth is its Achilles heel.
During the 2014 war, Hamas cynically used footage of crying, distraught or wounded women and children to blame Israel for the hostilities they themselves started and inflamed by deliberately placing civilians in the line of fire.
They’re at it again in their extended protests at Israel’s border, dispatching women, children, and youth to the border fence, deliberately mixed with armed terrorists to bait IDF soldiers, willing to endanger their people for political gain.
Many major news outlets play into Hamas’ hands by overlooking the terrorist group’s strategy, said CAMERA, a media watchdog. For example, CNN reported: “The goal of the marches, Palestinians say, is to cross the border fence and return to their lands that became Israel seven decades ago.” A fair and balanced report would require a counterbalancing statement from Israel as to its land, which this story ignores, along with Hamas’s intent to use the march to subvert Israel’s 70th Independence Day and undermine US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by that date.
Scholar Bassam Tawil, for the Gatestone Institute, provides a clear perspective: The march aims first to force Israel to accept the “right of return” of millions of Palestinian “refugees” and their descendants, rendering the Jews a minority in their own country. “The next step would be to kill or expel the Jews and replace Israel with an Islamic state.”
Mimicking the Soros-funded activists bused to US cities for racially charged, anti-police demonstrations, Hamas forced bus drivers to transport protesters to the border, jailing those that refused, and paying off more than 20 bus companies, according to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Further honing its branding and disinformation campaign, the terrorist group billed the march as “peaceful and non-violent” protests that would not approach or breach the border fence. But no one was surprised when, from day one, the “peaceful” protesters hurled rocks and firebombs, and fired weapons at the IDF soldiers defending their country’s borders, as militants mingling with the mob attacked border-fence sections, trying to infiltrate the country.
Despite the evidence, Hamas supporters and politicized media jumped on the buzzwords “peaceful,” “nonviolent” and “freedom of expression” in what looks like a well-orchestrated attempt to deny Israel’s right as a sovereign state to defend itself from aggression.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi: “We condemn Israel’s violence against peaceful protesters and the innocent lives who want to practice their right of expression to reject the occupation.”
EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy leader Federica Mogherini: “Freedom of expression and…
assembly are fundamental rights that must be respected.”
PLO Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour: The “peaceful demonstrators posed no threat whatsoever to Israel or its heavily armed soldiers, yet its trigger-happy soldiers used live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem: “By the people maintaining that [these] marches are peaceful [we] strike a blow against the propaganda…
spread by the occupation.”
Let’s put these comments in perspective.
Media and PR strategists know that the effectiveness of a media or ad blitz depends on who’s listening – the “target” audience.
The fantasy of an Israeli “occupation” is as illusory as Coca-Cola’s classic ’70s TV ad, in which scores of fresh-faced youth from nations where Coke targets international sales dreamily harmonize: “Coke, it’s the real thing.” While Coke is a popular beverage, it’s no more “the real thing” than the “occupation” – a deceptive slogan to market the Palestinian political agenda.
Hamas changed its tune with a different audience and exposed the absurdity of its bogus claim to Israel’s land when political leader Fathi Hammad confronted Egypt for withholding fuel. In a TV broadcast translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Hammad urged Egypt to reconsider: “Half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. Brothers, half the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.”
Even top PA religious-affairs adviser Supreme Sharia Judge Mahmoud Habbash knows better. In a TV statement translated by Palestinian Media Watch, he accused Hamas of “slogans of heroism”: “Afterwards you discover they’re only selling illusions, trading in suffering and blood, trading in victims, [saying]: ‘You Palestinians, our people, go and die so that we’ll go to the TV and media with strong declarations.’ These [Hamas] acts of ‘heroism’ don’t fool anyone anymore.”
Let’s hope Habbash is right.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post