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Questionable Haaretz Reporting Used to Sully Israel


One of the most prevalent issues with coverage of the current war between Israel and Hamas is the spread of inaccurate reporting and misinformation.

As was seen with the Al-Ahli Hospital explosion and other similar instances, inaccurate reports help to fuel a narrative that whitewashes Hamas’ terrorist actions while simultaneously condemning Israel for acts that it did not commit. This false narrative then takes off on social media and quickly becomes an accepted fact for many people.

Two instances of seemingly inaccurate reporting that have spread in both the mainstream media and online are the reports that the IDF Spokesperson announced that Israeli strikes against Hamas would emphasize “damage and not accuracy,” and the claim that some of those killed at the Nova music festival were killed by an Israeli military helicopter and not by Hamas terrorists.

Both of these claims were initially reported in the Israeli daily, Haaretz.

“Damage and Not Accuracy”

On October 10, three days after the horrific Hamas terror attack in Israel’s south, the Haaretz daily blog reported a number of statements made that morning by the IDF Spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, in a briefing to military reporters. One of these statements attributed to the spokesperson was that, for the IDF, “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.”

From an analysis of the text of Rear Admiral Hagari’s statement that morning, it appears that this is not an exact quote but a paraphrasing of his words.

The actual quote is “between accuracy and the scale of damage, right now we are busy with what generates maximum damage” (emphasis added). It was said in the context of the spokesperson’s remarks on Israel’s bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza and the armaments that Israel had at its disposal to complete this task.

The statement was made during the initial stage of Israel’s retaliation against Hamas for its brutal slaughter on October 7 and was not a declaration of how Israel would conduct itself throughout the war.

Despite the nuanced context of the statement, the Haaretz paraphrasing was soon picked up by a variety of international media organizations and has been used to support incorrect observations about Israel’s conduct in this war.

On that same day, Haaretz’s English website featured a report that quoted the Gaza Health Ministry’s accusation that Israel was conducting indiscriminate bombing in Gaza. The report continued in the next paragraph, “On Tuesday morning, the IDF reported having dropped hundreds of tons of bombs in attacks on the Strip and said that ‘the emphasis is on damage, not precision.’”

This leaves the reader with the incorrect impression that the Hamas-run Ministry’s accusation is in line with the IDF’s stated method of warfare.

Also on October 10, The Guardian reported that “Speaking on Tuesday morning, IDF spokesperson R Adm Daniel Hagari made the startling admission that ‘hundreds of tons of bombs’ had already been dropped on the tiny strip, adding that ‘the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.’”

Here too, the underlying message appears to be that Israel is indiscriminately bombing Gaza in its fight against Hamas.

Israel military spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the army drops hundreds of tons of bombs in attacks in the Gaza Strip, and —— “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.”

— Haaretz

Via @MacaesBruno

— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 10, 2023

One month later, in his column for The Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor claimed that the IDF’s assertion that it tries to avoid civilian casualties and is only focused on military targets is at odds with Rear Admiral Hagari’s earlier statement “that the ’emphasis’ of the IDF’s reprisal was ‘on damage and not on accuracy.’”

Only by dissecting the original quote from its proper context could this assertion appear to have any validity.

This decontextualized paraphrasing of the IDF Spokesperson’s comments on October 10 has also been used by Vox and Al Jazeera to insinuate that Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza might be tantamount to genocide (an absurd and dangerous allegation).

Aside from the mainstream media, this paraphrasing of the spokesperson’s original comment has also made its way onto social media, where it is used as a cudgel by opponents of Israel to delegitimize the Jewish state’s fight against Hamas.

Despite the fact that the IDF Spokesperson’s comments on the morning of October 10 were poorly paraphrased in the initial Haaretz report and Israeli officials have continually asserted that Israel does not target civilians, this modified quote has continuously appeared out of context in both the mainstream media and online as a means of questioning the morality of Israel’s military strategy and disqualifying its legitimate war against Hamas.

Related Reading: Israel, Hamas & International Law: A Guide

The Israeli Helicopter at the Nova Festival

On November 18, Haaretz published a piece by Josh Breiner on the ongoing investigation into the atrocities of October 7, including the massacre at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im.

As part of his report, Breiner wrote that “According to a police source, the investigation also indicates that an IDF combat helicopter that arrived to the scene and fired at terrorists there apparently also hit some festival participants.”

This one sentence then became the basis for an article by Business Insider, which was subsequently promoted by Yahoo News.

.@BusinessInsider has responded to our complaint by adding an editor’s note that an Israel Police statement has been added to the story, which it attributes to @haaretzcom.

That’s not good enough. Bottom line: it’s still an inaccurate and damaging story.

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 21, 2023

The claim that some of the casualties at the Nova festival had been killed by Israel was also picked up by anti-Israel news outlets such as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Press TV, the Hamas-affiliated Quds News Network, and Electronic Intifada.

Then, this story was further blown out of proportion on social media by those seeking to absolve Hamas of its crimes by claiming that the deaths at the festival were largely the result of indiscriminate fire by the IDF and not Hamas terrorists.

This story even went so far that the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming the IDF for the entire Nova massacre and a representative of Hamas claimed on Sky News Australia that “Israeli jets” killed “1,400 people” at the music festival.

Israel’s Haaretz reports that an Israeli official investigation concluded that an Israeli military helicopter killed revellers at the Nova rave on 7 October and that Hamas fighters did not know about the festival.#Israel started its offensive on #Gaza, killing over 11,000…

— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) November 18, 2023

In response to this false narrative, the Israel Police released a statement in response to the original Haaretz article wherein it clarified that “Contrary to the publication, the police investigation does not refer to the activity of the IDF forces, and therefore no indication was given of any harm to civilians caused by any aerial activity at the site.”

Despite the fact that the Israel Police has disavowed it, an unverified claim made by an anonymous source in a Haaretz article is enough for many to whitewash Hamas’ crimes while directly implicating Israel in a massacre of its own citizens.

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Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg via Flash90

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