Investigation explodes myth that Israel targets journalists

Media reports claiming vast numbers of journalists have died in the Gaza conflict are based on nothing more than Hamas propaganda, report reveals.

By David Isaac | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90

Despite Israel’s herculean efforts to avoid killing noncombatants in the Gaza Strip, a new wrinkle has been added to media charges of indiscriminate Israeli killing—a kind of blood libel within a blood libel—namely that Israel is also targeting journalists.

During its war with Hamas, Israel has eliminated nearly 100, if the numbers are to be believed. This would be astonishing as it surpasses the number of journalists killed in World War II and the Vietnam War.

In fact, according to UK-based journalist David Collier, the actual number is more like 15.

Collier, the author of a 200-page report titled, “The Journalists of Gaza: A Modern-Day Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory Promoted by Mainstream Media,” finds that the lists relied on by the press are nothing more than Hamas propaganda. “This report shows that the claim Israel has been targeting journalists to silence them is an unsupportable and disgraceful fiction,” he writes.

There are two lists of dead journalists. One is from the Gaza Media Office, i.e. Hamas. The second is put out by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based NGO. What Collier discovered is that the lists are essentially the same. The CPJ list is basically a whitewash of the terror group’s list.

“CPJ is a subset of the Hamas list. The key source that the CPJ is using are the Gazan-based Hamas organizations making the announcements,” Collier told JNS.

Collier focused most of his report on the CPJ list, the more important of the two as most reporting relies on it.

“We know we’re dealing with Hamas propaganda when we’re talking about the Hamas list, and there’s little point addressing it. The issue that we have is when Western NGOs run with what is effectively watered-down Hamas propaganda, which is what the CPJ is doing,” he said.

The CPJ list numbered about 60 to 70 journalists at the time of Collier’s report (it has grown to 88 as of Feb. 26). All the names on it came from the Hamas list, Collier discovered. At the time, the Hamas list numbered 107. Collier surmises that CPJ culled the list to strike off those individuals who were most obviously terrorist operatives and least defensible as journalists.

Collier was able to identify 93% of the 107 people listed through their social media accounts. He found that 35 of the 70 (50%) on the CPJ list worked for proscribed terror groups.

“I mean, you could argue that they are journalists. But they work for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” he said.

About 19 (27%) weren’t journalists at all.

Seventy-nine percent endorsed terrorism and the killing of innocents. For Collier, the most egregious example was Hassuna Salim, who worked for Hamas-affiliated Quds News Network, and posted on a Telegram channel on Oct. 7 at 6:36 a.m. a directive from Islamic Jihad calling for everyone to pick up a gun and fight.

“Messages such as these sent 100s of armed ‘civilians’ across into Israel to help Hamas rape and murder,” his report notes.

Others celebrated terror attacks against Israelis over a period of years. Most sound more like psychopathic killers than journalists. Duaa Sharaf, who worked for Hamas-affiliated Radio Al-Aqsa, posted to social media on April 7, 2022 after a mass shooting in Tel Aviv, “Kill them. May Allah punish them with your hands, and humiliate them, and help you against them, and heal the hearts of a believing nation.”

“Hit Tel Aviv. Hit it,” wrote Assem Kamal Moussa, a journalist with news site Palestine Now of the same attack. On May 2, 2023, he posted a picture of Hamas rockets launched at Israel: “And you are on your way to transfer the occupier’s life to the sanctuaries of hell.”

Another journalist, Jamal Mohamed Haniyeh, is actually the grandson of Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas.

Collier described CPJ’s research as “sloppy,” “consistently amateurish” and “significantly compromised,” noting that all the information he worked from was publicly available. “This was the real letdown with the CPJ,” he said. “Why the hell didn’t they do that work? How could they not bother to check anybody on social media?”

Noteworthy is that CPJ broke its own rules when compiling its list. According to its website, it doesn’t include anyone who is “acting on behalf of militant groups.” That should have eliminated half of those on the list, who worked directly for terror groups, Collier said.

Another big red flag for Collier was that many of the journalists were killed in their homes, and not out “on a battlefield or in a military context,” another CPJ rule that went by the wayside.

Said Collier, “Most of the people were killed at home and this raises the big question: What was targeted?” Ahmed Shebab, who worked for Islamic Jihad’s Radio Voice of the Prisoners, died in the home of a relative, likely an uncle, who was an Islamic Jihad leader.

“Islamic Jihad came out with a notice after the assassination, after the targeted killing, saying we’ve lost our great leader. So [Ahmed] is in the house of an Islamic Jihad leader. He’s not out there in the field. He’s been killed not because of his journalism at all but because he’s directly related to an Islamic Jihad leader. This was easily accessible information,” Collier noted.

CPJ declined JNS requests for an interview, but in an emailed statement said, “CPJ does not support journalists engaged in breaking the law. In the cases we have documented, multiple sources have found no evidence to date that these journalists were engaged in militant activity.

“We do not include journalists if there is evidence that they were actively inciting violence, acting on behalf of militant groups, or serving in a military capacity at the time of their deaths.

“We continuously update our database and if we discover new information showing that a journalist was involved in such activities, we would remove them from our list,” it added.

CPJ is “playing dumb,” Collier told JNS.

“The key sources CPJ are relying on are ‘Hamas sympathetic’ to some degree, and like the terrorist group are intent on creating false images about events in Gaza,” he said. “Nor do the CPJ’s own protestations hold up to inspection. For example, they list Hassouneh Salim as a journalist. But Salim explicitly posted an Islamic Jihad call to arms in the early hours of Oct. 7, so how on earth is that not ‘acting on behalf of the terrorist group?’ ”

Collier suggests CPJ may be playing games when it claims it doesn’t support journalists who break the law, noting that in Gaza it’s not against the law to be a Hamas terrorist and kill Israelis. “The bottom line here is that the CPJ are not even playing by their own rules and the list they provide is dangerously deceptive,” he said.

“In short, the CPJ numbers are grossly exaggerated, they’ve included dozens of people they should not have done, and by promoting these fictions, CPJ are helping to spread raw Hamas propaganda into the mainstream,” Collier added.

The problem extends far beyond CPJ. Numerous media outlets have published stories using CPJ. Wikipedia, too, relies on CPJ’s list.

Alex Safian of CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) told JNS: “When journalists get killed covering a war it doesn’t mean that those journalists were targeted personally or as journalists, which is why western media should not accept at face value Hamas claims that Israel has intentionally killed Gaza journalists.”

“After all, Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist organization that is willing to murder, torture, rape and kidnap Israeli civilians, so it should not be a surprise that they would also be willing to lie,” he added.

In certain cases, there’s sufficient circumstantial evidence to show that the media itself is being deceitful. Collier pointed to a lengthy Washington Post piece on Feb. 9 based on the CPJ list. The report referred to “at least 85 journalists and media workers, such as interpreters and support staff” killed in the conflict.

It profiled seven of them. Collier found the seven to be “clean,” that is, not involved in terror. When doing his report, he did find some real journalists. “It’s a war and people do die,” he said.

“My issue with this is a very simple one. There’s a random selection here. Given that 80% of the journalists supported terrorism against civilians and half of them worked for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, you don’t randomly select seven clean ones, which means that the Washington Post must have come across within the list many that they couldn’t profile,” he said.

The Washington Post revealed it had gone through the social media of the journalists, meaning it would have learned of the pro-terror views of most, if not outright terror ties of some. The paper even highlighted some of them, though it was careful not to profile them as part of its cherry-picked seven.

The Post used the seven to “piggyback” on the CPJ’s claim of 78 journalists (at the time ) who had been killed, Collier said, adding that the paper knew, “at the very least, that they were being deceptive.”

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