On Tuesday the Israeli Defense Forces carried out an unsuccessful mission to eliminate Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who survived the helicopter strike upon his vehicle in Gaza City. An outpouring of media criticism has followed, claiming Israel's attempted hit has damaged hopes for Mideast peace.
HonestReporting encourages members to be on the lookout for these five media myths, and to respond appropriately with the facts:
Myth #1 Rantisi is not all that bad.
The Associated Press issued a lengthy, sympathetic biography of Rantisi, described in the headline as a "pediatrician and poet." The AP's Jayson Keyser characterizes Rantisi, who "wears gold-framed tinted glasses," as a healthy, caring and gracious patriarch of "six children and 10 grandchildren. He has written poetry for one of them, a girl named Assma." Keyser then proceeds to quote effusive verses from the love poem.
Fact: Rantisi, the "great family man," stated to the AFP in August that he would encourage his own sons to become suicide bombers. Rantisi has claimed responsibility for many bloody Hamas attacks, including the Hebrew University cafeteria bombing last summer. Prior to the Iraq war, Rantisi called on Iraqis to carry out suicide bombings against US forces.
Can one imagine AP describing so warmly a perpetrator of mass terror against Americans?
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Myth #2 Israel has undermined Abbas' effort to rein in terror.
The New York Times predicts the strike will "doom any prospect of a cease-fire in the near future," and Washington Post editors claim "the strike likely will undermine Palestinian efforts to control terrorism."
Fact: Abbas has suggested only a hudna (temporary ceasefire) with the terror groups, a frail approach Israel has consistently rejected. The road map itself demands at this stage much more than a hudna — calling on the P.A. to "arrest, disrupt, and restrain" terror leaders.
As recently documented by The Washington Institute, Hamas agreed to ten ceasefires in the past ten years, and after every one of them returned freshly rearmed for terror. Why should this time be different?
Myth #3 The timing of the hit indicates Israel is trying to kill the peace effort.
The Globe and Mail called the strike "a direct challenge both to peace and to Mr. Bush."
Fact: The IDF action was not intended to kill the road map, but actually make the process possible. Consider — had the strike been successful, it would have strengthened Abbas by removing one of his most ardent opponents, who condemned Abbas' peaceful course, then directed Sunday's killing of four Israeli soldiers, just days after the hopeful Aqaba summit.
As Vice President Cheney expressed after the recent attacks against Americans in Saudi Arabia, to bring peace, terrorists must be eliminated: "The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it. There's no treaty that can solve this problem, there's no peace agreement, no policy of containment or deterrence that works to deal with this threat. We have to go find the terrorists."
At the least, this attempted strike keeps Hamas leaders off-balanced, on the defensive, and denies them the opportunity to perpetrate attacks unhindered, which would ultimately derail the peace process.
Myth #4 Israel has abandoned diplomacy in favor of military means.
The Times of London headlined their report, "Roadmap Left Burning on the Streets of Gaza."
Fact: On Monday, Israel began dismantling 14 illegal settlement outposts, a tangible expression of its commitment to moving the road map forward. Israel has always maintained, however, that even as it fulfils its road map commitments, it will continue to act against the terrorists and defend its citizens if the PA does not take action. The PA has not acted, the terror continued, and the IDF responded.
Myth #5 The consequence of the strike will be more terror.
The Washington Post claims "it's not hard to imagine the probable consequences of Israel's failed attempt yesterday to assassinate Abdel Aziz Rantisi...[Hamas] will now launch a new terrorist onslaught at Israeli civilians."
Fact: Israel currently has over 50 specific warnings of planned terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. This figure existed on Monday, even before the attempted hit. Never has Hamas indicated their plans are anything other than a "terrorist onslaught at Israeli civilians." Israel had every reason to assume that Rantisi's terror activities would increase; one Israeli official said "Rantisi was not just a ticking bomb, but a factory of ticking bombs."
HonestReporting encourages members to look out for these five media myths, and to respond with the appropriate facts.