Recently, the Telegraph published what it billed as a major expose of Turkish collusion with Hamas to foment terror attacks against Israel. The story made it appear that Turkey had become a major haven for the international terror operations of one of the most fearsome Islamist militant groups in the region. The claims in the article fit nicely with the prevailing political winds, which portrayed the country’s president as an increasingly tyrannical leader who violently suppressed a Kurdish insurgency while seeking to expand Turkish territorial dominance into northern Syria at the expense of the local indigenous Kurds.
Among the charges leveled, were that Hamas had transplanted some of its major operational officials from Gaza to Turkey; and that there they planned several dramatic terror plots including the potential assassination of two right-wing nationalist Knesset members. The plots, according to Sanchez, were exposed by Israeli intelligence and never came to fruition.
Sanchez notes that Hamas and its supposed nest of terror operatives have been rewarded with personal meetings between the group’s leader, Ismail Haniya and Pres. Erdogan. The clear implication is that Turkey has become a central headquarters for international terrorism.
There are several key elements that Sanchez left out of his reporting which impeach its credibility. First, his source for the entire story is the very Israeli intelligence agency which foiled the terror attacks. Of course, he does not say this explicitly (another deficiency of his reporting). The only hint of where the material on which his reporting is based came from, is a note that he had access to “police interrogation transcripts.” But his source wasn’t the Israeli police (at least not directly). While there is nothing wrong with a journalist using such a source, there is something very wrong with not examining and noting in your reporting the self-interest of one’s source and balancing his interests with those of careful, balanced journalism.
Of course, Israeli intelligence will want to trumpet its successes in disrupting such grave plots against Israeli political figures. And the same agency will be eager to serve the political interest of its boss, the prime minister, by hitting out at a major rival of Israel in the region, Turkey. None of this critical subtext appeared to factor into Sanchez’ presentation.
But the most important and egregious weakness of the report is its denial of any context to Hamas’ purported terror operations. So let’s ask the question Sanchez should have asked in his story: why would Hamas engage in terror? Are acts of terror simply bred into the DNA of all Islamist groups? Or is there a historical context in which the strategic choice of terrorism developed?
Of course, Hamas hasn’t chosen to be a terrorist organization from a wide range of options. If it had its choice, it would surely wish to have a military headquarters in the middle of Ramallah or East Jerusalem as Israeli does (the IDF Kirya is in the middle of Tel Aviv), from which it could dispatch its F-16s and Apache helicopters to defend Palestinians. It would love to emulate Israel with its hundreds of nuclear warheads to use as blackmail against any rival who threatens it. But it doesn’t’ have that choice. Instead, it has primitive rockets and foot soldiers willing to engage in precisely the sorts of acts which pre-state Israeli Jewish terrorists perpetrated when they had no national army and no other choice but terror.
In other words, Hamas’ operations must be seen in the context of Israel’s. The Islamist group does not mount an operation without there being a context. It always is responding to an Israelis act of terror. If we want to condemn the attempted assassination of Israeli leaders, why not condemn as well Israel’s repeated assassination of Hamas‘ senior leaders? Why not condemn another Israeli act of terror as well: repeated invasions of Gaza resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians?
There is no difference between Israel’s terror operations and Hamas’. Yet you would not know this from Sanchez’s reporting. And you should have. He owed it to his readers to not just convey the propaganda peddled by his Israeli security source, but to offer a full, balanced portrait of the relationship between Israel and Hamas.
British progressives call the Telegraph, Torygraph. Now, perhaps we progressives abroad can also call it Bibigraph (just as Israel HaYom is known as Bibiton).
A final note, I do not support terrorism whether perpetrated by Hamas or Israel. Nor am I a defender of Erdogan, who is a deeply flawed, untrustworthy dictator. But as important or more than any of these is accurate journalism. Reporting on the region is so beset with both hidden and blatant bias, that exposing them is vitally important so that readers get a balanced picture of reality, rather than one skewed by propaganda or self-interested intelligence officials.