As the Israel-Gaza war continues, many reporters are trying to present both sides of the conflict, in order to deliver the objectivity required of journalists. However, when it comes to Hamas, simply treating the terror organization’s statements with the same credibility as those of Israel is an act of journalistic negligence.
Hamas and other Palestinian organizations have a history of deceiving the public in times of war. In late December, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, lied about Hamas’ progress in the war, claiming their forces had killed more than 1,500 Israeli soldiers. In reality, the number of confirmed military casualties as of that day, including those killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, was only 456. Similarly, Mousa Abu Marzouk, a senior member of Hamas, told the BBC that the October 7 terrorists did not murder any innocent civilians; this came after the terrorists filmed themselves killing women, children, and elderly civilians.
The lying phenomenon is not unique to Hamas or this conflict; it is pervasive in the Middle East. In 1967, after Israeli troops had taken control of the Sinai peninsula, Ahmed Said, a broadcaster for an Egyptian state-run radio, famously reported an Egyptian victory, falsely claiming that Egyptian forces had shot down 70 Israeli planes.
To better understand why outright deception is so frequently deployed, it is essential to realize that although lying is forbidden in Islam, all of the above examples are permissible according to Sunni law (the Islamic sect that Hamas is affiliated with).
Many Sunni sources define lying in war as a “non-lie.” Hadith 4921 in Sunan Abu Dawood says, “I do not count as a liar a man who puts things right between people, saying a word by which he intends only putting things right, and a man who says something in war.”
Similarly, the Jami at Tirmidhi Hadith 1939 says, “It is not lawful to lie except in three cases: Something the man tells his wife to please her, to lie during the war, and to lie to bring peace between the people.”
Although lying during war can arguably be justified, especially when it may save lives, Hamas has used this tactic to repeatedly mislead the public for years. And still, despite the repeated lies and their clear, proven, and frequent refutals, often by objective outsiders, the international media keeps treating Hamas with similar credibility as they would any Western government. They quote its casualty figures, and give its representatives a platform to voice their statements and positions.
Accepting Hamas as a credible source has a lasting and damaging impact on readers and viewers, even if the claims are later proven false, because many people hear the lie, but never the correction.
In contrast, Israel continues to prove its commitment to truth and transparency, often putting its reputation and military progress at risk in order to tell the truth. The IDF has reported military errors that led to the death of its soldiers, and has taken responsibility for a botched operation that resulted in the killing of three Israeli hostages. When Israel faced allegations of bombing the Al-Ahli hospital, the IDF spokesperson waited hours before commenting in order to allow for an investigation, which proved Israel had no involvement and was not operating in that area at the time. Still, Israel and Hamas are often treated as equally credible despite the drastic distinctions between the two sides’ approaches to honesty at war.
We must begin to acknowledge Hamas’ lies, and reporters must exercise more scrutiny when repeating them. Simply taking Hamas’ statements at face value without questioning their accuracy and validity is a disservice to readers and viewers.
In order to present an accurate account of the war, it is crucial that commentators recognize Hamas’ history of misinformation, and approach the group’s allegations with a greater degree of skepticism. Although Gaza is a dangerous place that is not accessible to most journalists, deeper scrutiny of Hamas’ statements is the only way to begin telling the truth about the war.
Elya Cowland is a British-Israeli public relations professional living in Jerusalem. Following the October 7 massacre, he has been facilitating media opportunities and press conferences for hostage families and coordinating media campaigns for war-related initiatives and organizations.
Major Israeli Tech Entrepreneur Gil Shwed Retires
Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to his 30-year tenure as CEO of Check Point, an Israeli software firm.
“This year Check Point celebrated 30 years since its establishment, in which we managed to generate growth and reached a peak in almost every parameter. I feel that this is the right time for me to focus on Check Point’s next leap,” Shwed, 56, said. “We are now looking for a replacement for the position of CEO. It’s a process that will take time and even when it ends I will remain involved. I want to focus less on the daily work, and more on the future of the company.”
Check Point was founded in 1993 by Shwed, Shlomo Kramer, and Marius Nacht. Shwed and Kramer were friends from their time together in Israel’s elite cyber unit 8200.
The company provides AI-powered advanced software and hardware for cyber security to more than 100,000 customers globally, bringing in more than $2 billion per year in revenue.
Headquartered in Tel Aviv and publicly traded on the NASDAQ, Check Point has a market cap of more than $19 billion dollars, making it Israel’s second most valuable company, $2 billion less than automobile giant Mobileye Eye. Shwed’s role as CEO has allowed him to amass a fortune of $4.4 billion due to his 20% share ownership in the company.
Shwed is also a recipient of the Israel Prize, an annual award given to Israelis who have shown a high level of excellence in their specific fields. Shwed was given the first award in the technology field when it was introduced in 2018.
Israel’s Leading Hotel Chain Expands Internationally
Israel’s leading hotel chain Isrotel has announced the opening of their first hotel outside of the country.
The brand, under a new division called ALUMA, meaning “ray of light” in Hebrew, will open its Skylark Hotel in Athens, Greece next month.
“We succeeded in doing the best in Israel, creating a culture that people love, so if you know Isrotel you will want to visit,” Benny Levy, the VP of sales and marketing at Isrotel, told The Algemeiner.
Levy says just because they are expanding outside of the Jewish state, “We aren’t stopping opening in Israel … Outside of Israel the potential is endless, it is a significant opportunity.”
Lior Raviv, CEO of Isrotel, added, “ALUMA is an international chain of hotels that will benefit from Isrotel’s longstanding experience and uncompromising standards of excellence, offering global travelers a wide range of city hotels and leisure resorts to choose from, and providing unique hospitality experiences. As a sister company of Isrotel, ALUMA is guided by our approach to hospitality as a way of life.”
They said most of the workers will be Israelis, ensuring the culture of the brand remains. “Israeli tourists, and especially loyal guests of Isrotel, who return to us time and again due to our hospitality experience and high standard of service, will find those same qualities and sense of a ‘home away from home’ at ALUMA, backed by the international standards of perfection and excellence,” added Raviv.
According to Isrotel, the Skylark hotel will be followed by the Anise Hotel, also in Athens, a month later. An additional hotel in Athens and one in Thessaloniki will open by the end of 2024. They said the total investment in the project is 70 million euros, with plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in the future.
Isrotel has 23 hotels across Israel, including eight in the resort town of Eilat in the south of Israel. Their international move comes as Israel’s National Planning and Construction Council announced this week the changes to the city’s height limitations for hotels, allowing up to 20 floors from the previously permitted eight floors.
Tourism Minister Haim Katz praised the move, saying, “We are bringing good news to Eilat. Hundreds and even thousands of rooms will be added in the city. The move will encourage competition, remove excess bureaucracy for a hotel that wants to renew itself, and allow entrepreneurs who have not yet built to increase supply.”
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Investment Firm Announces Recommendations for Preventing Corporate Anti-Israel Bias
Morningstar, Inc., a Chicago based investment firm managing over $250 billion in assets, has issued a report including several recommendations for reducing anti-Israel bias in the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings its Sustainalytics subsidiary assigns to corporations.
For several years, Sustainalytics gave poor ESG ratings to Israel affiliated companies, a practice that led Jewish civil rights groups and lawmakers to suspect that the company was violating state laws against engaging in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.
The firm denied the allegations, but a review of the its ratings by JLens, a leading Jewish investor network, found that Sustainalytics created “BDS blacklists” and used in its internal reports “politicized anti-Israel language” to describe Israel. JLens’ work, which was the first to raise alarms about the issue, led to Morningstar’s cracking down on the practices and adopting policies for ensuring that Sustainalytics does not become a BDS collaborator.
Released on Jan. 31, Morningstar’s new report builds on that commitment, outlining several policy changes, including: eliminating a designation which identified companies as being involved in “occupied territories/disputed region,” quashing reliance on disinformative media reports aimed at distorting a company’s ESG rating, and appointing legal experts to examine matters relevant to international human rights law.
“We welcome Morningstar’s commitment to eliminate anti-Israel bias in Sustainalytics research products,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to ongoing engagement with Morningstar to ensure the expert recommendations are fully and effectively implemented.”
The ADL took a leading role in combating anti-Israel bias in ESG ratings, incorporating JLens in Nov. 2022. ADL noted at the time that BDS activists target firms managing ESG rated funds, which attracted over $500 billion in investments in 2021, a 55% increase from the previous year, according to JP Morgan. During 2022’s proxy season, a time when publicly traded companies hold annual meetings to assess performance and weigh suggestions from shareholders, Israel was named in eight of 20 resolutions targeting foreign governments, “making the country only second to China.”
Morningstar’s recommendations will shield ESG from political bias and increase its reliability, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law founder and chairman Kenneth L. Marcus explained in a statement applauding the report.
“Anti-Israel external forces are doing everything they can to infiltrate campuses, boardrooms, the [United Nations]., sports leagues, and the securities industry,” he said. “We commend Morningstar for engaging with us, examining their ESG product, and committing to make the changes necessary to ensure that their rating system is apolitical, objective, and honest. We believe that implementing the experts’ report is critical to achieving this goal.”
Ari Hoffnung, managing director of JLens, added that “investor are entitled to research that is both objective and devoid of any anti-Israel bias.”
Last July, Morningstar removed 109 negative “controversy ratings” that Sustainalytics subsidiary had given to companies operating in Israel. The firm has also stopped referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ or ‘occupied territory” and committed to educating its employees about antisemitism and amassing information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from “independent, recognized experts.”
Morningstar, however, has repeatedly denied that it ever supported BDS. In June 2022, Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor issued a statement arguing that an external review of Sustainalytics found no evidence that it “encouraged divestment from Israel” but acknowledged that at least one of its departments singled out businesses “linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “sometimes used inflammatory language and failed to provide sourcing attribution clearly and consistently.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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