As a reporter, editor, and newspaper publisher, I am loathe to wade into the discussion of how other publications gather news, or what their opinion columnists should write about.
But the last two weeks have given me pause, and I cannot be silent about several pieces published by the Boston Globe. (For full disclosure, I take no pleasure in criticizing the Globe – I was a staff reporter there for 15 years.)
A news organization’s credibility is built by accuracy, and the Globe erred badly on Oct. 17. It rushed out a story and headline online, declaring, “At least 500 killed in Israeli airstrike on hospital, Gaza ministry says.” The Globe has not had a Mideast bureau or reporters on the ground in Israel and Gaza for decades, and relied on a wire report. Less than an hour after that story was published online, the Israel Defense Forces refuted that accusation, and asserted that it was a Palestinian rocket that landed on the hospital (this account was later backed up by the United States, England, France, and Canada).
Nevertheless, for hours, the Globe left up its online headline blaming Israel for the bombing. In the already tense landscape that now exists between Jews and pro-Palestinians in Boston, it’s hard to walk back an error of this magnitude. (Note: To date, I have not seen a correction about this error.)
A few days earlier, it published a nonsensical article by staff writer Hiawatha Bray, in which he lent credence to a retired MIT professor’s claim that Israel’s Iron Dome “is at best 4 or 5 percent” effective in intercepting attacks. Hamas has fired over 8,000 missiles toward the Israeli cities of Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, as well as cities farther north. If there was any truth to this article, nearly every city in Israel would be partially destroyed, and the deaths would be in the tens of thousands.
But perhaps the worst was an Oct. 17 column by Renée Graham, entitled “In the battle between Israel and Hamas, another potent weapon – propaganda.” Graham’s main point was to refute a report that Israeli babies had been decapitated in the Oct. 7 massacre. “There was no evidence,” she concludes.
She goes on to wax poetic about the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, who “reportedly said, ‘In war, truth is the first casualty.’ ” She is correct in using this quote because I believe it directly refers to her type of journalism.
The bodies are still being discovered and identified in Israel, and whether or not babies were beheaded is not the point. The truth is Hamas slaughtered Israeli babies. (This has been verified by Israel’s National Center of Forensic Medicine.)
Perhaps this is not enough for Graham and the Globe. Perhaps the testimony offered by forensic specialists who documented the atrocities – including the beheading of babies – means nothing to her. Maybe I don’t understand just how important it was to Graham – and the editor who signed off on her column – to focus on decapitated babies.
Here’s a couple of facts that Graham and the Globe should consider before writing another piece that defames the memory of the Israelis murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7. The first fact is that Israel is not in the business of being a victim. Israelis and Jews have no time to plead for world sympathy; it’s not their nature, and it is not a part of their narrative. This is a country and a people that values this world – life – over death.
Another important fact: Israel is not in the business of propaganda and spends little time on its public relations. It does not have slick campaigns that it rolls out immediately after every battle. For those following this conflict for decades, this has been clearly evident.
The column was allegedly about propaganda in war. But what Graham and the Globe chose to ignore was the propaganda that emerged from the horrific atrocities that took place that day. This type of hate and slaughter – which was live-streamed – seemed to captivate and energize a segment of the world population eager to accept a false narrative. This should be examined in a major metropolitan daily publication such as the Globe.
But to do that, you’d have to ask hard questions such as why this brutal slaughter has been embraced by so many on elite college campuses, stretching from Harvard to Stanford. And if a columnist such as Graham chose to focus on why this propaganda resonated so far and wide, she would learn the truth: that Hamas is a proxy of Iran.
She would learn that Hamas militants are not victims; rather, they are fervent believers in a violent form of Islam that forbids freedom of speech, civil discourse, and anyone who is not heterosexual. She would learn that they teach children jihad at an early age – for decades, tens of thousands of young children under the age of 10 have attended Hamas military summer camps where they are trained with machine guns and other weapons to kill Jews. She would learn that Hamas does not believe in coexistence with Israel, and its main goal is to destroy Israel.
She would learn that these children who have grown to become violent Islamists, are not Palestinian freedom fighters. Its leaders also do not want to establish a Palestinian state – rather, an Islamic state. She would learn that the real victims are the majority of Palestinians who have to live under their tyranny, and their Israeli neighbors who have had to put up with their suicide bombings and rocket attacks for decades.
So, instead of wondering about what kind of human being could participate in the mass slaughter of more than 1,400 people – mostly civilians – Graham chose to throw a dart into the pain that many Jewish and non-Jewish Globe readers alike are feeling.
We are not ignorant. We have read the verified reports. And so I ask you, Ms. Graham, and the Globe:
Was it not enough that babies were slaughtered, and burned alive, by Hamas? This has been confirmed. You chose to omit that, and the other facts that are listed as follows:
• Hamas terrorists did decapitate Israelis on Oct. 7.
• Whole families were burned alive by Hamas.
• Hamas terrorists raped women that day, and then summarily executed them.
• Hamas chose to cut off the limbs of some of their victims.
• Dozens of people died in a bomb shelter after Hamas threw poison gas into the bunker.
• Hamas murdered 260 people at a dance rave – and slaughtered them in nearly every conceivable way. Survivors recall that Hamas used rocket-propelled grenades – which are used in war against tanks – to hunt down the young people who tried to flee. The survivors also recall Hamas operatives laughing and congratulating one another after shooting someone.
• Hamas terrorists filmed much of the slaughter (perhaps you did not see it?). They insisted on live-streaming four families they had kidnapped and were in the process of torturing.
• Hamas video, and other video taken from survivors at one scene, was described this way by the Associated Press: “It showed bodies of people who had been bound. A room with at least seven bodies reduced to ash. Civilians shot in bedrooms, bathrooms, front yards. Blood so thick it nearly obscured hallway floors.”
Your subject was propaganda, but you declined to write about the cruel, psychological warfare inflicted by Hamas through social media. In our search to determine the facts, we have had to watch the sadism inflicted on Israelis, and on citizens from dozens of other countries who were attacked and butchered on Oct. 7. This is not just propaganda: This is an attempt to normalize this type of carnage.
As the regional paper of record, the Globe has a responsibility to get its facts right. Its readers need it to be a credible publication.
It is time to let these babies who were murdered by Hamas rest in peace. May their memory be a blessing. Θ
Steven A. Rosenberg is the editor and publisher of The Jewish Journal.