JERUSALEM, Israel — Deputy Minister Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, told Breitbart News on Wednesday that Hamas is using the western media to undermine Israel’s national security.
Dr. Oren spoke exclusively with Breitbart News in the dining room of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, two days after the U.S. embassy opened in Jerusalem and after dozens of Palestinian rioters were killed at the Gaza border.
The international media, he noted, had reported the clashes as if Israel were killing innocent, young Palestinian demonstrators, even though many of the rioters were armed, and many — at least 24 of the 61 dead — were members of the Hamas terror group.
“We developed Iron Dome,” Dr. Oren said, referring to Israel’s anti-missile system, “but we have no Iron Dome, as far as I can see, for the public diplomacy and legal aspect of this, because the next war is not going to end on the battlefield, but at The Hague.
“The battlefield is no longer the battlefield, but the media,” he continued, adding that Hamas had developed a “new missile” that can evade the Iron Dome.
“It’s called a ‘demonstrator.’ It’s cheaper, it carries less risk, and in most cases, the missile is reusable.”
Dr. Oren, a historian by training, marveled at the fact that most of the western media — and even members of Congress who support Israel — were ignorant of the basic facts about Gaza.
“There’s no real blockade of Gaza — it’s a myth. There’s no humanitarian disaster. Hamas cut the number of aid trucks from Israel by two-thirds, then burned the crossing [where they enter]. They burnt the fuel lines into Gaza.
“Their purpose is to starve out their own population. Hamas creates a despondent population that is willing, almost mindlessly, to run to a fence. Then they cry to the world that Israel is creating a humanitarian disaster, and the world believes it, [so that] we’ll be blamed for war crimes.”
Dr. Oren, a member of the centrist Kulanu party, lamented that even supporters of Israel — such as the Republican congressmen who came to Israel this week for the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — seemed not to know many of the relevant facts about Hamas.
Furthermore, he argued, Israel had not developed an effective media strategy for countering Hamas propaganda. The Israeli military had been prepared for the moment when Hamas would rush the border. But Israel had not been prepared, he said, for the media fallout.
“Over the last 48 hours, in the international media, where I’ve been interviewed, the Hamas narrative has been accepted 100%.
“We’re accused of maintaining the world’s largest open-air prison, of creating a humanitarian crisis, of killing innocent kids who just want to protest for peace. All of these things are flagrantly untrue.”
Dr. Oren noted that he had managed to turn the tables on hostile journalists. For example, after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had asked him earlier Wednesday whether there “is there any limit to the number of Palestinians that Israel is willing to shoot and kill,” he had answered: “You’re doing just what they want you to. Even your line of questioning is just what Hamas wants. … [Y]ou’re complicit in further damage and even deaths of Palestinian kids. Because Hamas is going to conclude from listening to this interview that it works.”
But the anti-Israel bias was almost universal in the media, he said.
“I didn’t encounter one journalist who even tried to understand our side. The Washington Post ran one of the most anti-Israel articles I’ve ever seen.” [Breitbart News pointed out that the Post had described the rioters, many of whom were Hamas members, as "demonstrators.”]
“The New York Times didn’t even bother with the pretense of trying to understand,” Oren continued.
“There’s a built-in racism in the media — racism against us, but much more against Palestinians. They don’t care when Syrians kill Palestinians, only when Israeli Jews kill Palestinians in self-defense — and then they don’t acknowledge it is self-defense.
“Willingly or unwittingly,” he said, the media are “accessories to Hamas. They will bear responsibility the next time Hamas does this, because it works.”
Oren suggested that there were some measures that Israel could take to lessen the damage. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), he said, could embed journalists in its combat units, as the U.S. military sometimes does, despite the risks to soldiers in battle zones.
Also, in anticipation of a possible war with Hizbollah, an Iranian proxy, in Lebanon, Israel could build a mock-up of a Lebanese village, Oren said, to demonstrate to journalists the degree to which Iran had hidden weapons among the civilian population.
“Hamas and Hizbollah missiles are not designed to destroy us,” Oren observed. “They are disdained to hit us and cause damage, but more than that, they are designed to get us to attack them.
“They want us to counterattack, first from the air and then on the ground — which is more destructive — and they want us to kill as many civilians as possible.
“Those images are immediatley transplated into western public opinion.
“The goal is to whittle away at our legitimacy — first at our right to defend ourselves, and ultimately at our right to exist. That is what they are doing,” he warned.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.