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Once Again, CNN Distorts Gaza War and Ignores Israel’s Efforts to Protect Civilians

CNN logo. Photo: Josh Hallett / Flickr

As CAMERA has repeatedly documented, there is a pattern of CNN reports lobbing horrific allegations at Israel, based on exceedingly thin evidence and lots of insinuation. It’s a standard, or practice, akin to tabloid journalism — a standard certainly not appropriate for serious journalism nor serious accusations of war crimes.

The latest example comes from a February 13 article entitled, “‘We were walking in water, sand, mud’: Palestinian women describe terror of 12-mile escape on foot from Gaza City,” by Abeer Salman and Mohammad Al Sawalhi.

The gist of the story, based on the claims of four women in Gaza, is that they and other Gazans were besieged and almost buried alive in a building in the al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City by Israeli forces before the women and children were forced to walk eight hours south to Deir al-Balah while the men were “abducted.”

As is all too common in such CNN articles, there is heavy use of suggestive language implying Israeli cruelty.

For example, the authors repeatedly imply that Israeli forces were shooting civilians without explicitly saying so. For example, they quote one of the women saying, “We opened the door for them and asked them not to shoot. We told them we only have kids, but they kept shooting.” Another supposedly told CNN that, “Israeli forces were firing towards them as they walked” after leaving the building in al-Rimal, while a third also supposedly told CNN that “they could see Israeli missile boats off the coast and were fearful they would be fired on.”

Yet, despite all this apparent shooting, the article never says whether anyone was actually killed or wounded. Surely the journalists would have mentioned it had any of the civilians actually been shot by Israeli forces in these instances. Either Israeli forces are murderous, but terrible, shooters, or something else is going on.

In a similar apparent effort to depict Israeli forces as cruel, the authors insinuate that the IDF was trying to demolish buildings with civilians inside. One of the Gazans from the al-Rimal building is quoted saying, “We heard the houses collapsing on the heads of people” and that “[t]hey were about to bury us as well, but we begged them to let us out.”

The evil Israelis, it’s implied, were knowingly going to bury them alive inside the building.

But this depiction makes little sense when one looks more closely at the order of events depicted by the article:

Israeli troops arrived at the building and told those sheltering inside to leave, explaining it would be “blown up within 10 minutes,” according to interviewee Hoda Harb.
According to interviewee Israa Hassan Ahmed al-Ashkar, the Gazans “did not want to leave the building, but the Israeli military began intensive bombing in the immediate area. They ‘destroyed the building entrance and came upstairs…’”
Then, according to al-Ashkar, “We heard the houses collapsing on the heads of people,” she claimed, and then the ruins of the buildings were bulldozed.
Finally, said al-Ashkar, “They were about to bury us as well, but we begged them to let us out.”

Read together, we’re being told that Israeli troops wanted to evacuate those taking shelter (they “told those sheltering inside to leave”) but also wanted to bury them alive inside (“They were about to bury us as well”) — and this was a building which the soldiers were themselves inside of (“[They]…came upstairs”). We’re also told that the Israeli forces wanted to blow up the building within 10 minutes, but before that, they had enough time to blow up and bulldoze other buildings.

It’s bad journalistic writing by authors either incapable of crafting a clear, coherent story, or intentionally trying to obscure the story in an effort to mislead readers.

The holes in the story would perhaps make more sense had the authors provided additional relevant context.

Consider these three crucial bits of context that should have been mentioned in the article, but weren’t. Each would have provided readers with important information to understand what might have actually happened.

1) Al-Rimal neighborhood is a known Hamas “nest of terror.”

The CNN authors carefully avoid the important question of who, exactly, the Israeli forces were shooting at; readers are only told they were shooting. The omitted detail that likely would have shed light on this question is that al-Rimal neighborhood is well-known for being a “nest of terror.”

From the very beginning of the war, Israeli officials were identifying al-Rimal as one of the key “terror hubs” (see, e.g., here and here). Since then, Israel has provided substantial evidence of terrorists having embedded themselves in and underneath civilian infrastructure.

In mid-November alone, Israeli troops located approximately 35 tunnel shafts in the area, along with numerous military posts and weapons in residential areas. In early December, troops found terror infrastructure and a large number of weapons and military equipment inside Al-Azhar University, along with a tunnel running from the campus to a school a kilometer away. A week later, troops found Hamas terrorists hiding inside two schools in the al-Rimal neighborhood. Just days later, Israeli forces killed and captured terrorists in yet another school in al-Rimal, including one who had participated in the October 7 massacre.

Shortly after, the IDF uncovered the massive amount of Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Palestine Square, located in al-Rimal, including command and control centers in buildings and terror tunnels located amongst residential buildings, commercial buildings, and even a school for deaf children. In another incident, Israeli soldiers were saved from an ambush by a terrorist lying in wait inside of a building by an Oketz Unit canine named Toy, who bravely neutralized the terrorist.

In fact, based on one map produced by the IDF, one of the buildings in which they found a terror tunnel back in December was located just a few blocks away from the building that is the subject of CNN’s article.

Several blocks in the other direction, Hamas terrorists had barricaded themselves inside the Blue Beach Hotel, launching missiles at Israeli forces, in early January. The IDF then found seven tunnel shafts inside the hotel, as well as a large quantity of weapons and drones. Given the estimates about how many buildings have contained terrorists, terrorist equipment, or terrorist infrastructure, it is almost guaranteed that even more was found in the vicinity as Israeli forces approached the building in question.

Despite the abundant evidence of Hamas having systematically embedded itself in civilian structures in the area, the journalists demonstrate zero interest in this crucial context. The authors include only a generalized, boilerplate statement from the IDF about operating against “Hamas strongholds” – hidden halfway through the article – as if that absolves them of their responsibility to investigate and report about this critical aspect of the story themselves.

But if it turns out, as seems highly likely, that those incidents of “shooting” referenced by the Gazan women occurred because there were Hamas or other Palestinian terrorists in the vicinity, then the authors’ decision to omit this context becomes indefensible.

2) Hamas has been repeatedly caught exploiting civilian shelters.

A related piece of context, omitted by Salman and Al Sawalhi, is the documented pattern of Palestinian terrorists exploiting civilian shelters, like the building in question, for military purposes in Gaza. Among the incidents that have been documented during the current war:

A school in Jabaliya, serving as a civilian shelter, in which troops of the 551st Brigade located weapons belonging to Hamas terrorists. (Times of Israel, December 21)
In northern Gaza, a building in which civilians were sheltering also contained a large cache of weapons used by Hamas, including “explosive belts adapted for children,” “dozens of mortars,” and “hundreds of grenades.” The building was notably located near a school, a mosque, and a clinic. (Times of Israel, December 24; see also images of the weaponry found at IDF, December 24)
In the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, Hamas terrorists were found in a school serving as a shelter. A cache of weapons was also found inside, including assault rifles, grenades, and other explosive devices. (Times of Israel, December 24)
In al-Bureij, troops of the 188th Brigade were fired on by terrorists hiding inside of a school sheltering civilians. (IDF, December 30 (see also video here))

One is left to wonder whether something similar occurred at the building in al-Rimal. Were the explosions nearby because the IDF was fighting terrorists? Did the IDF demolish the building because there was terrorist infrastructure inside? Were terrorists using the building for military purposes in some other way?

It would amount to journalistic malpractice if the authors did not even bother to ask the witnesses about this. Assuming they did, why, then, would they not mention this in the article? Given the article includes the allegation that the Israeli forces “abducted” the men in the building, don’t the journalists have a responsibility to investigate why they were detained?

3) The IDF had been urging them to evacuate for nearly four months.

Israel had been calling on Gazan civilians to evacuate northern Gaza, including al-Rimal neighborhood, for nearly four months. As far back as October 13, when conditions were much better, the IDF was “call[ing] for the evacuation of all civilians of Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza…” In that same announcement, the IDF cited the exact reasons mentioned above: “Hamas terrorists are hiding in Gaza City inside tunnels underneath houses and inside buildings populated with innocent Gazan civilians.”

But the IDF was warning residents of al-Rimal neighborhood more specifically even earlier than that. The IDF was already sending warnings to residents in the area to evacuate as early as October 10, as the neighborhood was a known “power base” for Hamas and thus was one of the areas targeted by airstrikes early in the war.

Perhaps those CNN spoke to simply were simply unable to evacuate at any point during those four months for one reason or another. But why did the authors not mention that the IDF had been trying to get civilians to leave the area for a long time for the stated reason of getting them out of harm’s way?

All of this omitted context, and all of these unexplored questions, point to either exceedingly lazy or intensely biased journalism. Neither is a good look for the network, which is more than capable of producing excellent journalism.

David M. Litman is a Research Analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), where a version of this article first appeared.

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

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Israel’s Kafkaesque Ordeal at the ICC

Proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, February 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI/Handout via Reuters.

Israel is facing unprecedented and bizarre proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), crescendoing with a request by Prosecutor Karim Khan for arrest warrants against its sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

These events are the result of a multi-faceted and long-developing campaign by anti-Israel activists that has largely advanced under the radar.

Firstly, Israel is not a member of the Court and does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over its actions. In the late 1990s, Israel was initially a strong backer of the ICC, but during the drafting of the Court’s governing Rome Statute, the Arab League blocked efforts to include terrorism as an international crime and helped invent a new crime that would specifically target Israeli activity across the 1949 armistice lines. For these reasons, Israel refused to ratify the Rome Statute and join the Court.

In any other situation, this would be the end of the matter. However, beginning in 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA), acting in collaboration with UN Rapporteurs and European-funded NGOs linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, attempted to join the Court.

Rather than dismiss the PA’s effort immediately because the PA is not a state — and ICC membership is only available to states — the ICC Prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, launched a PR campaign to ostensibly “debate” the issue. Three years later, he rejected the PA’s application, but instead provided a blueprint facilitating the Palestinians’ ability to circumvent the clear standards of the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the Palestinians succeeded in upgrading their status at the UN to “non-member observer state.” Merely on the basis of this semantic, rather than substantive change, ICC officials allowed the Palestinians to game the system and join the Court.

Despite these machinations and exploitation of the Court, the next Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, filed a request with the Court’s Pre-Trial chamber (PTC) in December 2019 seeking authorization to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the “State of Palestine,” despite the fact that this state does not exist and has no defined territory. Moreover, she argued that the Court could proceed against Israelis, regardless of whether it was a member of the Court.

This action, endorsed by the PTC in February 2021 in a controversial 2-1 opinion, essentially eviscerated the Oslo Accords, the agreement mutually agreed to between Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s, which lays out governance of the West Bank and Gaza.

A key provision of the Accords is that the PA would not have any authority to exercise or delegate any criminal jurisdiction over Israelis to the Court. The Prosecutor and the Court completely ignored this issue.

In yet another unbelievable move, the Court next also allowed the Palestinians to retroactively assign temporal jurisdiction going back to June 13, 2014, precisely the day after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, which triggered the war that summer. This meant that Hamas’ brutal murder and kidnapping of Jews, a preview of what Israel would experience on a larger scale on October 7, would get a free pass from the Court.

Fast-forward to Khan’s move to file for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant. Here, too, the Prosecutor’s office engaged in highly questionable conduct. Khan could have already issued indictments against Hamas leaders on October 7 itself, when their flagrant crimes were broadcast around the world. Instead, he chose to wait until after manufactured allegations of “starvation” could be crafted against Israeli officials. He also inexplicably ignored thousands of other war crimes, including each rocket attack on Israel, committed by Palestinians since 2014.

In yet another outrageous move, at the time of the announcement, Khan’s team had been scheduled to attend meetings in Israel. However, the planned trip appears to have been a bad faith ruse. Instead of the team boarding the plane, Khan went on CNN to tell Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview about the arrest warrant requests. It doesn’t take an expert in communications to know that such a step would generate a storm of PR almost solely focused on Israel, meaning attention on the Hamas atrocities and real crimes committed on October 7 would be virtually ignored.

One also wonders if any mind was paid to what this action might mean for any hope of a ceasefire to secure the release of the hostages.

Egregiously, Khan’s actions offended another cornerstone of the Rome Statute, that of complementarity. The ICC is only supposed to act as a court of last resort in situations where a judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate international crimes. As he himself acknowledged on a visit to Israel in early December, Israel has robust investigatory mechanisms and judiciary — one that has never shied away from intervening in military matters, nor in going after the most senior officials, including prime ministers.

Instead of giving the Israeli system a reasonable time to proceed, however, the Prosecutor disregarded the complementarity requirement and decided to bulldoze forward. In contrast, although Khan has had for years the jurisdiction to act against President Maduro in Venezuela, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and military junta in Myanmar — authoritarian governments responsible for horrific atrocities — no cases have been filed.

Multiple procedural irregularities and political maneuverings of the Office of Prosecutor have been well-documented, and there are several other disturbing aspects to the “Situation in Palestine” not mentioned here. For years, the ICC has been under intense criticism for its lack of accomplishments in its more than 20 years of operation. Khan was brought in to serve as a sober and responsible actor to right the ship. The actions of his office the past few months now call this assessment into question.

In an interview published with the Times of London a few days after his inexplicable actions, Khan stated, “if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto.” The Prosecutor would be wise to reflect on his Office’s history and follow his own advice.

Anne Herzberg is the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research organization.

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