Covering the 2008 Gaza war as a reporter for the Associated Press, Matti Friedman learned an important lesson about how Hamas has become adept at manipulating Westerners:
Hamas understood early that the civilian death toll was driving international outrage at Israel, and that this, not improvised explosive devices or ambushes, was the most important weapon in its arsenal. Early in that  war, I complied with Hamas censorship in the form of a threat to one of our Gaza reporters, and cut a key detail from an article: that Hamas fighters were disguised as civilians and were being counted as civilians in the death toll. . . . [W]e used that same casualty toll throughout the conflict and never mentioned the manipulation.
Hamas understood that Western news outlets wanted a simple story about villains and victims and would stick to that script, whether because of ideological sympathy, coercion, or ignorance. The press could be trusted to present dead human beings not as victims of the terrorist group that controls their lives, or of a tragic confluence of events, but of an unwarranted Israeli slaughter. The willingness of reporters to cooperate with that script gave Hamas the incentive to keep using it.
The next step in the evolution of this tactic was visible in [the recent] awful events. If the most effective weapon in a military campaign is pictures of civilian casualties, Hamas seems to have concluded, there’s no need for a campaign at all. All you need to do is get people killed on camera. The way to do this in Gaza, in the absence of any Israeli soldiers inside the territory, is to try to cross the Israeli border, which everyone understands is defended with lethal force and is easy to film. . . .
The attempts to breach the Gaza fence, which Palestinians call the March of Return, began in March and have the stated goal of erasing the border as a step toward erasing Israel. A central organizer, the Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, exhorted participants on camera in Arabic to “tear out the hearts” of Israelis. But on Monday the enterprise was rebranded as a protest against the opening of the American embassy [in Jerusalem], with which it was meticulously timed to coincide. The split screen, and the idea that people were dying in Gaza because of Donald Trump, was what Hamas was looking for. The press coverage on Monday was a major Hamas success in a war whose battlefield isn’t really Gaza, but the brains of foreign audiences.
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