Israeli Jornalist Amira Hass: Haaretz editors sensationalized reporting sparking rumours of executions in Gaza
Date: 10 / 01 / 2009 Time: 10:15
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Amira Hass
Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – Israeli journalist Amira Hass said her editors at the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz distorted and sensationalized her reporting by inserting an incorrect headline to about Hamas’ alleged executions of criminals and collaborators in Gaza into the printed copy of the article.

Hass told Ma’an that her article, which appeared Thursday in the Hebrew and English editions of the newspaper, was intended to be a much more nuanced look at Hamas’ continued and sometimes repressive control of the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Israeli offensive in Gaza on 27 December.

Currently residing in Ramallah, Hass is the only Israeli journalist to have lived in the occupied territories. Her reports from Gaza in the 1990s documented the transition from direct Israeli control to Palestinian Authority rule.

Hass and the editorial staff at Ha’aretz had agreed on a title that reflected these facts, but the title was later changed without her permission.

The title later applied by her editors, which appeared in the Hebrew print edition of the newspaper, referred to “Hamas exploiting the situation [in Gaza],” and “eliminating Fatah.” The misinformation in the title sparked rumors of the mass killing of Fatah members across Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

In English, the article first appeared under a title referring to “dozens” of collaborators killed, when Hass had in fact verified that only some convicted or suspected collaborators and “common killers” were among the 40 to 80 people who were killed by Hamas members.

Hass called this change, which she did not agree to, “irresponsible, and “unprofessional.”

“They wanted something more sexy,” she said.

This title, Hass said, “minimizes what Israel is doing,” in the Gaza Strip and seems to point to Hamas as a primary enemy to Gazans. She said she thought the title could be misleading to “a person who does read me but only listens to the IDF spokesperson etc, who is very much under the impression of the propaganda.”

In this article I wanted to stress three things: (1) That there is fear of collaborators, and I quoted someone saying that this fear is actually justified, of course. (2) There is the conflict with Fatah. And (3) there is a conscious [on the part of the Hamas government] attempt to prevent the collapse of society, for example there was an order not to raise food prices.

Those three points were the main features of her original article, Hass explained. “I am very cautious about details and about numbers. I agreed with the copyeditor about the title, which talked about the killing of collaborators,” she said.

Hass’ editors “wrote that Hamas ... is exploiting the fighting. First, fighting is not a word I use. ... I refuse to use terms that allude to symmetry [between Israel and the Palestinians]. And I said don’t use the word ‘exploits’ because in these circumstances, we remember during the second Intifada how many suspect collaborators were killed by Fatah.”

“And then I find in Hebrew this scandalous, wrong title,” she said, “that of course spread as rumors. I was in a demonstration in the Manara [in Ramallah] and [at] it already the rumor spread to be that ‘yesterday Hamas killed 80 Fatah people.’"

Asked about the challenges of objective reporting in the Israeli media, which are said to be heavily influenced by spin from the government and military, Hass said: “It’s a choice, of Israeli journalists, of Israeli media, of consumers of the media. It’s a decision not to know. One needs a disaster like the school, and one needs that this school be UN with people who speak English who can talk about it, while the same day thirty people of the Ad-Daya family who were killed, and they didn’t get such headlines.

"It’s terrible that we need disasters to penetrate through the thick layer of willful ignorance.”