Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Did Hamas exploit a Palestinian girl and Sky News?


The foreign media in Gaza have been accused of biased reporting bordering on the cynical and cowardly. 

Faced with the fear of what might happen to them by Hamas caused them to abandon any presence of journalistic ethics and simply regurgitate whatever Hamas gave them, or whatever they saw from their restricted vision, ignoring, of course, the rocket fire coming from outside their hotel windows until they were outside of Gaza and felt brave enough to report in hindsight what they experienced.

What’s infinitely worse is a media outlet like Sky News who, from the safe distance of their London studio, still put out emotional Hamas propaganda that takes a gratuitous swipe at Israel.

This occurred on August 10 when they repeatedly broadcast a piece on a seven year old girl who had been apparently paralyzed in an Israeli air strike.

The girl is heard saying “We were sitting at home when we heard a noise. So we went down the stairs.”  What noise was this? Could it have been the “Knock on the roof” pre-strike warning that this house had been sited as a terror target by the IDF intelligence? What’s this girl’s family name? Is it among the names of leading Hamas terrorists? This was partially confirmed by the girl known as Maha when she said “Me and my mother were injured, and we knew if we stayed like this we would die. But my mother stayed at home and she died.” Did her mother knowingly act as a human shield (or sacrifice) for Hamas?  We don’t know. The reporter didn't ask or investigate this.

The report stressed that there are only three hospitals worldwide capable of treating anyone in her condition, a claim I found preposterous. 
There are numerous Israeli hospitals of international reputation that regular treat such injuries. In 2006, in a previous Hamas-incited conflict, another Palestinian girl was paralysed and received five years of treatment at Alyn Hospital. Her family was members of Islamic Jihad, but this did not prevent Israel from giving this girl the best of Israeli medical care at the expense of the state. When Israeli doctors thought she was well enough to continue her treatment at a Gaza hospital her family fought attempts by Israel to transfer her to a West Bank facility. So she and her family remain in Jerusalem courtesy of the Israeli state.

Sky News claimed that Maha was being prevented from leaving Gaza by Israel.  Not true! 
A COGAT top representative, Guy Inbar, told me that a request from Gaza had been made and accepted by COGAT on the same day, July 26, and that final details had been requested by COGAT to prepare her exit. 
Nothing more was heard from the other side.

It certainly appears that Hamas has cynically played a propaganda game for weeks over this little girl. They have invited members of the press into Shifa Hospital to hear her story, rather than expedite her release for treatment.
There is an excellent fully staffed field hospital set up by the IDF on the Gaza border ready to received patients from Gaza. Only problem is that Hamas physically threatens and prevents people from getting to this facility. This also was not mentioned by Sky.
The IDF Spokesman, Peter Lerner, tweeted Sky News offering to give them information but he failed to get a response. Neither did I when I emailed Sky News a list of questions on this incident and their coverage.

It is still far from certain that a Sky reporter ever met or spoke to the girl. Were they there at the Gaza hospital, did they question, did they ask for Israeli response, or did they simply put out the story as presented to them by Hamas?  
My sources in the IDF and with COGAT never received any contact by Sky News on this incident.

The Sky News item did produce some action. 
COGAT was contacted by Palestinian health officials and they are coordinating with them and also with the World Health Organization to have the girl removed from Gaza as soon as a new request is received together with all the relevant documents and information.  She will be removed first to Jerusalem and then on to a hospital where she can receive the best of care.

COGAT has facilitated every request received by people needing to leave Gaza for serious medical cases, one hundred and fifty in number, throughout this current Gaza conflict.

What was missing from the Sky News report was the fact that Maha is the daughter of Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil, an Islamic Jihad commander and a munition expert. He was killed on October 29, 2011 by an Israeli air strike in retaliation for launching rockets into Israel from Gaza on the same day.

As for Sky News, I have yet to receive a response from them, despite having sent them a more strongly worded letter. Their reporting of this incident did wake up people in Gaza to take the accepted steps needed to have the girl evacuated.

But, by that time, they had exploited her and Sky for clearly propaganda purposes that have damaged Israel in a most unwarranted manner.


Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.
He is also the author of 'ISRAEL RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE.' www.israelnarrative.com