There has been a lot of throat-clearing by the media when it comes to the terror organization Hamas during the current Gaza conflict. Reporters and pundits criticizing Israel want you to know they are not defending Hamas.
Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States since 1997. It has the destruction of Israel as a charter goal, has employed suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, and openly urged Gaza citizens to remain in their homes to serve as "human shields" against Israeli shelling.
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So it's strange that so many have had to qualify their comments on the fighting over the past month by insisting they're not defending Hamas while they simultaneously bash Israel. Much of the coverage has focused on the deaths of Palestinian civilians and international outrage at Israel's supposed responsibility for the conflict, while less has been devoted to condemning Hamas for starting the war in the first place through indiscriminate rocket attacks and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys, and breaking multiple ceasefires by continuing to fire on Israeli civilians.
CNN's Jake Tapper, a mainstay of the network's Middle East coverage, has on multiple occasions conditioned his questions and remarks about the conflict with statements about not excusing Hamas actions.
"If you're in Hamas, and I'm not excusing the group, it's obviously a group the U.S. considers to be a terrorist group," he said Aug. 8 on New Day to preface a question about what the organization's incentive would be to demilitarize. "I'm not saying the Israeli request or demand for demilitarization of Gaza is unreasonable. I certainly think it makes a lot of sense for Israel. They're sick of their people being fired upon by rockets, but from the perspective of Hamas, that is their last card to play, the fact that they can fire rockets at Israel."
Tapper also assured Israeli spokesman Mark Regev he was not "defending Hamas" when discussing with him the group's demands to bring about a ceasefire. In another interview with Regev, Tapper asked him if he could understand the frustrations of people living in Gaza and turning to violence.
"I"m not excusing it," Tapper said. "I'm not excusing it in any way, but I'm just saying that's the reality on the ground."
Regev replied the rocket fire by Hamas on Israeli civilians led to those restrictions in the first place.
MSNBC liberal Chris Hayes had to yell out, "I'm not defending Hamas!" during a debate with Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner about who bears moral culpability for civilian casualties in Gaza.
Another liberal, HuffPostLive host Marc Lamont Hill, found himself on defense after making a head-scratching statement about Hamas on CNN.
"It's very dangerous to frame Hamas as a group of terrorists purely, as opposed to people who are trying to negotiate as well," he said. "And let me be clear. That's not a pro-Hamas statement. I'm not defending Hamas."
Those words were also said by Fox News liberal Bob Beckel on The Five and Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan on Real Time with Bill Maher, while pro-Palestine Rabbi Michael Lerner blustered he did not "support Hamas" on CNN while slamming Israel for civilian deaths. Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera exploded on Outnumbered that he was as pro-Israel as they come despite saying the Jewish state had used "grossly disproportionate" force.
Former MSNBC host Cenk Uygur said he disagreed with Hamas' "strategy" to fight Israel during an episode of The Young Turks. MSNBC guest Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney, stated that "even assuming that Hamas is as vile as it's been made out to be," nothing justified Israel's force.
CNN's Chris Cuomo called out pro-Palestinian Rula Jebreal on New Day when she argued Hamas used violence to bring about negotiations with Israel in the past.
"It's not a justification," she said.
"Sounds like it is," Cuomo shot back.
One finds it hard to imagine any media members ever having to say, "I'm not defending al Qaeda" in the midst of a debate on foreign policy. The fact that this qualifier about another violent, anti-Semitic terror group is so prevalent among the media is curious, indeed.