News Brief: Media Adopts Israel’s Simplistic ‘Hunt for Hamas’ Narrative, Providing Cover For Ethnic Cleansing

Citations Needed | October 20, 2023 | Transcript

Citations Needed
25 min readNov 21, 2023
Still from a Nov. 6, 2023 NBC broadcast.


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow Citations Needed on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed. And if you are so inclined, you can become a supporter of the show through We are 100% listener-funded so your support is incredibly appreciated. We do these News Bfriefs in between our regularly scheduled full-length episodes. And on this News Brief, Adam, we wanted to do an update on Gaza. I know we’ve been talking about Gaza a bunch but you know, when there’s ongoing ethnic cleansing, maybe that makes sense, and especially when we are seeing in the media — and this is a media criticism show — there’s a lot of focus still even after the invasion of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, Adam, we’ve seen now this moving of the goalpost in terms of Israel’s ongoing hunt for Hamas.

Adam: Yeah, so there’s something very strange going on here, which is this is kind of maybe a more of a macro lens here. But on October 13, the Israeli military issued an evacuation order for all of Northern Gaza, specifically Gaza City, and 23 major hospitals were told to evacuate. They’ve been called every day since this evacuation in order to evacuate. And the reason why they’re trying to evacuate northern Gaza, they say it’s because of humanitarian reasons. But the reason is that very clearly, as their president implied on October 9, they are going to probably annex northern Gaza and turn it into a “buffer zone.” They may settle it at some later date. But as The Economist notes, northern Gaza is not inhabitable. It won’t be inhabitable for at least six months, probably several years because of all the dust and rubble and there’s no infrastructure, there’s no homes there, they’ve destroyed 260,000 homes, and the 1.7 million residents, the vast vast majority of whom have now gone south because that’s what they’re told. Now we’ll get to how apparently the main bad guys are in the south now conveniently, but we’ll set that aside for now. And so this is sort of clearly their plan. It’s their plan because everything they’re doing has been pursuant to the goal of basically ethnically cleansing North Gaza. Yeah, and it’s strange because the major example, of course, is Al-Shifa Hospital. So they raided the hospital on November 14th/15th, depending on what hemisphere you’re in. And this was framed in the lead up to the raid of the hospital — US intelligence, Tony Blinken they all said it was a command and control center. Now as of the time we’re recording this on Sunday, November 19, The New York Times wrote, “but proof of an extensive Hamas command center under the hospital is yet to be revealed.” So they found, I think, a tunnel. They found some guns supposedly, although CNN claims they rearranged the guns.

Nima: Yeah, that then they like planted more guns because yeah, it’s the Israeli military and that’s what they do. And since they’ve been carrying out the plan that they said they were going to do, still we see this kind of very credulous, taking at face value idea in the media, which is like, oh, Israel is still looking for Hamas headquarters.

Adam: Yeah, or maybe they didn’t, but may have. CNN says they clearly moved guns when they were doing different videos. But let’s say for the sake of argument, they had some guns at the hospital, I don’t know. And they also released a videotape of armed gunmen, presumably Hamas, bringing in hostages to the hospital on October 7, most of whom were clearly injured to receive medical treatment. And this is seen as evidence that this is a Hamas command and control center. This evidence is not satisfactory to the New York Times. It is not satisfactory to us as of yet to justify calling it a command and control center. Now most people on the left and most people in the human rights world say it doesn’t matter if it was a command or control center, you still don’t get the bomb and shell and use sniper drones on a hospital. But I do think it sort of matters, right? It sort of matters if they’re lying about that. It matters if this kind of hunt for Hamas narrative is being propped up by our media because in the days leading up to the raids, we had headlines like this in the Washington Post, “Israel’s hunt for Hamas puts Gaza Shifa Hospital under siege.” Israel’s military “that al-Shifa Hospital — Gaza’s largest medical complex — sits atop a headquarters for Hamas.” And then the New York Times had one that was even sort of more Zero Dark Thirty-ish when it said “Gaza City Hospitals are Caught in Deadly Crossfire.” Battling Hamas fighters, Israeli forces are “closing in” on hospitals where thousands of people are stranded. And so there’s this idea that there was a battle in the hospital, but there wasn’t. Israel just walked into the hospital. There were some I think light skirmishes outside the hospital because fighters attack Israeli soldiers wherever they are, but there was no evidence of any shooting coming from the hospital. There was no evidence of any gunfire when they went into the hospital. There was no reported IDFs in any of these episodes. And so there’s sort of this general impression and of course, as again, as of this recording, there’s no IDF casualties. Clearly, if there was some kind of, you know, if this was a military base, one would think that that would have happened. So then they kind of waltz into the hospital. There’s no evidence of any Hamas fighters or any militants at all. They claimed that they actually had escaped weeks prior.

Nima: But there’s still no like, evil lair that’s been discovered?

Adam: No, there’s no evil lair at all. And the threshold for what they showed, they showed multi-layer three levels — I mean, it really looked like a Bond villain lair — we have conference rooms, you know, all this lighting.

Nima: These are like the 3D computer models that were passed around by Israeli intelligence and propaganda outfits being like, this is what we expect to find.

Adam: Yeah. And their big smoking gun is like, oh, some hostages were brought into the hospital. But of course, it’s not clear to me what they want them to do. Do they want them not to treat them? I mean, it’s not really clear. I mean, had they refused that would have, I suppose, been worse. They treated the hostages because that’s what doctors do. And it’s not clear who they would even report that to since Hamas is the governing body, guess they’re supposed to report Hamas to Hamas? It’s not clear. But this was sort of seen as evidence of a command and control center. Now, this is not evidence. Again, according to The New York Times, this is not sufficient evidence for a command and control center. And again, they’re excavating around the hospital, who knows what they’ll find. Again, it doesn’t appear to be, at the very least, an active command and control center. And according to The Economist magazine, who wrote on November 18th, “Even Israeli intelligence officials do not believe that the group currently has its main headquarters — to the extent that such a thing exists — below the hospital,” that being Al-Shifa. “These, they say, have probably moved to Khan Younis.” And so Israeli intelligence says it’s not a headquarters, according to The Economist, or at least to the extent to which it has “Hamas presence.” It’s not what they claimed it was. It’s not a command and control center, it’s not a headquarters. The State Department, Tony Blinken has now kind of walked it back. They went from saying it was a command and control center, and now their new phrasing is it’s a command and control node. I guess. And there are strict definitions according to international law but what constitutes a militarized hospital, having some weapons there or treating wounded prisoners or hostages, it’s not nearly sufficient enough to justify it being a military target. And so groups will look into this in the coming weeks. Amnesty International, I know, is currently investigating it. The New York Times, Washington Post, both of whom seem quite skeptical that this is a command and control center are investigating it. Again, to the extent to which Israel believes it, they’ve now sort of shifted the goalposts and now say that the main bad guy center is actually in South Gaza, which brings us to the bigger issue of what are they going to do next?

Nima: Well, right, so as soon as it was clear that the Israeli line about Al-Shifa Hospital was bullshit and intended just to further terrorize Palestinians and further clear out as much of northern Gaza as possible, you got former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying in an interview with Euronews on Friday, November 17th, all of a sudden, he kind of comes out and he’s like, oh, yeah, you know, Khan Younis, which is in the southern part of Gaza Strip is the real headquarters of Hamas. There, “they have the leadership, they are hiding, they have the bunkers, they have the command positions, they have the launching pads.” So instantly, you get this shifting of the goalposts as we’ve been talking about, Adam, which gets us to, as you said, the purpose for actually labeling hospitals as centers of you know, command and control or centers of Hamas threat because in Israel’s attempt to actually ethnically cleanse Gaza, certainly northern Gaza at this point, moving on to southern Gaza soon, some of the last holdouts for people who can’t actually evacuate are going to be hospitals. So there needs to be a pretense and a pretext for going into hospitals and forcibly removing people from them, sending themselves and then saying, oh, no, we actually need to keep attacking Gaza, and we need to keep attacking more and more southerly positions. And then you get to Khan Younis and then eventually it’s going to be oh, no, they’re in Rafa. Oh, no, they’re in Suez. Oh, no, they’re in fucking Cairo and then you eventually get to Johannesburg.

Adam: Well, now the BBC, the Red Cross, and the ICC, they’re all Hamas now, but there is a logic to it. When one accepts the sort of human shields, the perpetual human shields logic that justifies killing 12,000 people, upwards of 6000 children if you include those in rubble and almost certainly dead. There’s a logic to that, morally, that begins to emerge. I think it’s heavily animated by racism. It’s also heavily animated by political necessity, which is that if you take the human shields logic to its endpoint, then by definition, all the Hamas guys’ headquarters would be in hospitals. Because if the vulnerability and innocence and the preservation of life is necessarily like sort of insects going to some, you know, piece of rotten meat — that’s how they view it — they would go to the most vulnerable places. So even I think to some extent, they begin to believe their own bullshit and I think a lot are just kind of cynical and lying. They’re kind of improvising as they go. But I think a lot of people genuinely internalize the human shields rationale because in a way, when you kill thousands of children in less than, you know, 40 days, you kind of have to believe that right? And they say this in their statements, whenever Israeli officials are on CNN, or on NPR, or PBS, they say, well, what about all the children you’re killing? They say, well, that’s Hamas human shields. Hamas human shields, that’s how you rationalize it because how else would you sleep at night? And so, the human shields’ moral ecology becomes its own logic. And so therefore, hospitals and vulnerable places, schools, etc, have to be the place where Hamas keeps their headquarters. Now, Hamas has a lot of tunnels under Gaza. Clearly, that’s how they operate as an insurgency force. So they probably incidentally have tunnels near schools and hospitals. But Amnesty International looked into the issue of human shields both in 2009 and 2014 and found no evidence that they meet the legal definition of human shields because the legal definition of human shield is compelling a civilian to stay in some place under threat so they can deter an attack from someone who has air superiority, which obviously Israel does. And so they found that they did not meet that criteria because simply being a guerrilla or urban insurgency force, whatever you want to call it, does not make you a human shield machine. That’s not how it works. Otherwise, you could just bomb whenever you want to bomb because at any point, you’re going to be within 500 yards of some tunnel or some machine gun.

Nima: Which is exactly what Israel does.

Adam: Because that’s their logic. And it’s a logic that human rights groups categorically, again, since Cast Lead, since Operation Protective Edge, 2014, they’ve categorically denied that as a moral frame or legal or moral framework because it effectively militarizes an entire population. And so that, I think, informs why on some level, they may believe that all these hospitals have these James Bond bunkers underneath them because that sort of follows from the logic of human shields’ moral ecology. So then they raid the place, there’s nobody there and they say, oh, they’re here, but they filled it with cement. It’s like, well, okay, maybe, I don’t know. Again, they’re not saying some tunnels or some guns, right? Had they said we’re gonna raid, shell, and use drone snipers on this hospital because they have some guns or they treated patients on October 7 who were hostages, nobody would have said that justifies this, right? I think that would have not passed the sniff test. These are their words, “beating heart of Hamas,” that was the exact words that Israeli leadership use.

Nima: Until clearly it’s not. And then they just shift where the beating heart is.

Adam: Yeah, and they say, oh, well, there were some Hamas guys here a few weeks ago, and there was a gun. So, yeah, they’re the militia. They’re the ruling party of Gaza. But that’s not what you said. If Israel treats a Palestinian prisoner in a hospital, the hospital does not become a target for bombing and shelling and drone snipers.

Nima: But this is all still taking Israel, almost at face value, when actually, the point is that the Israeli military, the Israeli government, Israeli officials, do not consider Palestinians whether they are one minute old or 97 years old to actually be human beings whose lives mean anything. And so we see this because they say this out loud. For instance, this past Friday, on November 17, a former Israeli intelligence chief was on Anderson Cooper on CNN and said this.

[Begin Clip]

Rami Igra: Again, one little note, the noncombatant population in the Gaza Strip is really a nonexistent term because all of the Gazans have voted for the Hamas. And as we’ve seen on the seventh of October, most of the population in the Gaza Strip are Hamas. Nonetheless, we are treating them as noncombatant. We are treating them as regular civilians, and they are spared from the fighting.

[End Clip]

Nima: So that is Rami Igra, the former Division Chief for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency who said that this past Friday on CNN. Before he says that, he actually commends the Israeli military for being “surgical” in their attack so far and sparing so many civilians. Now, this is, of course, complete horseshit considering 13,000 people at least had been murdered, including over 5,000 children, and that there are still thousands and thousands of missing people. I mean, we can run down the whole list of schools and hospitals and mosques and homes that have been destroyed. So all of this propaganda is just being put out on CNN. But, there is another aspect to this.

Adam: The number one evidence, of course, that they don’t distinguish between Hamas and civilians, is that they are engaging in textbook collective punishment. They’ve cut off fuel, electricity, and water. That is a form of collective punishment to the civilian population. As Israeli Energy Minister Katz said on October 12th, “No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home.” This is President Isaac Herzog also on October 13, “It is not true this rhetoric about civilians were not aware, were not involved — it’s absolutely not true. They could’ve risen up against the evil regime and took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.” When he was asked about the collective punishment of Israeli civilians, the New York Times, three days ago, had a whole article kind of handwringing about various genocidal rhetoric among high-level officials, and their article, “‘Erase Gaza’: War Unleashes Incendiary Rhetoric in Israel. Experts say that inflammatory statements by prominent Israelis are normalizing ideas like the killing of civilians and mass deportations. And this article would give several examples, namely that from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the New York Times describing Netanyahu’s language to Israeli audiences, says, “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember.” And the New York Times would then editorialize, saying this was Netanyahu referring to the ancient enemy of the Israelites in scripture, interpreted by scholars as a call to exterminate their “men and women, children and infants.”

Nima: He’s been doing that for decades. [Laughs]

Adam: There was one minister who suggested using nuclear weapons. There’s been several examples of ministers calling to eliminate or remove Gaza, according to Al-Monitor, the most popular option floated in the Israeli intelligence and security state is to move all the Israelis to 10 cities in the very, very southern tip of Gaza and/or large sections of the Sinai, which is to say ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Palestine and remove them to Egypt. This has not had a lot of traction because Egypt refuses to do it. The US supposedly, is trying to broker some version of that for a more permanent solution, whatever. So the idea of ethnic cleansing is pretty mainstream, it’s pretty popular.

If I was to ethnically cleanse a place, the first thing I would do is say, hey, everyone, from the first half, go to the bottom half. Trust us. You know, we’re only doing this because we want a humanitarian corridor. We want to protect you. That all this evidence we have of intent to commit ethnic cleansing in a sort of textbook way, right, that they don’t view Hamas and the civilian population as much different, they’re all sort of indistinguishable. They view it as an existential threat to them by their sheer existence, something that, you know, the right-wing in Israel especially, has claimed to be axiomatically true, that sort of every Palestinian is a proto-terrorist if not a terrorist. Then the logical thing you do for that is to say, well, we need to clear out everyone from Northern Gaza as a first step as part of this ethnic cleansing campaign. There’s just the first step of every ethnic cleansing campaign. You don’t just say, everybody go all at once. You sort of begin the process. This becomes the framework with which the media ought to be viewing it. But still, everything’s put in the Zero Dark Thirty hunt for Hamas narrative, when the leaders themselves don’t make a distinction between ethnic cleansing and fighting Hamas. Does that make sense? I don’t know if I’m making sense here.

Nima: No, it does. But I think it’s almost more boldface than that. Like, a little over a week ago, the Israeli agriculture minister Avi Dichter said in an interview on Israeli TV that “we are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba, Gaza Nakba 2023.” So, the fact that this is so clearly an ethnic cleansing campaign is not just as you kind of analyzed what’s happening, and oh, they say this, and then they do this, and then they kind of say the next thing, and they try and move the population, south and south and south. They are literally saying what they are doing. And yet, there’s still handwringing and sort of like, ooh, this is incendiary rhetoric, like the media says it’s incendiary. Or then you hear, you know, the US administration, whether it’s Biden or Blinken, or whoever the fuck, saying like, oh, well, you know, yes, of course, we’re going to stand by our ally Israel and keep re-arming them to the teeth so that they can murder as many people as they want, but we’re really, you know, thinking about really making it clear to them that we think they should probably maybe try sorta kinda to avoid civilian deaths. It’s such fucking bullshit.

Adam: That’s what makes the liberal appeals for a more humanitarian war against Hamas popularized by people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. So cravenly obtuse is that everybody knows that the Israeli leadership is not and does not make a distinction. And to the extent to which they aren’t bombing, nuking Gaza City or they show some kind of relative restraint to what they could do, which is always what they argue that oh, we could destroy it overnight if we wanted to. It’s simply taking it up to the threshold that would not create mass riots in the US to be unable to defend them right, to sort of take it up just to the edge of what they can get away with without totally creating disgust in the US Congress. And in the kind of “Arab Street” as they used to say back in the mid-2000s, which is to say, are a bunch of Arabs gonna go fucking start riots?

Nima: I mean, I kind of feel at this point Adam, whatever we’re calling “going up to the edge” is still genocide. And so going beyond that, honestly, I’m like, what would it take? I mean, you know, this is what Ilhan Omar had said, weeks and weeks ago, right? And what so many people have, you know, said before her comments but also since, the idea of how many Palestinian children does it take before this vengeance is quelled on the Israeli side? And it’s like, well, that’s a question that takes at face value that there is like, some sort of endgame that doesn’t have to do with ethnic cleansing, right? That like, oh, aren’t you seeing the harm you’re causing? How can you cause so much harm? And it’s like, Israel wants to cause that harm, like, there isn’t actually a threshold because they’re not being stopped, and they won’t be stopped because the Biden administration has said, flat out, it will not put any limits on whatever “combat operations” — “combat operations” I put in gigantic fucking air quotes — but “combat operations” that Israel is undertaking and decides to enact. So the idea that there’s a line that they’re going up to like, well, yes, of course, they are not literally firing every single missile that they have at once at every single Palestinian baby, but like, what they’re already doing isn’t that far off.

Adam: Well, it’s killing as many people as possible to create a terror regime to ethnically cleanse them to Egypt. And I think a lot of it’s racism, I think it’s cultural proximity. I’ve been to Israel. I know Israelis. Personally, I know that a lot of people in the West know Israelis. Well, they wouldn’t be sort of axiomatically evil. Never mind the fact that we vehemently criticize Saudi Arabia and the US government all the time on this podcast and describe to them the most cynical motives possible. We’re typically right. And no one sort of has an issue with that. I think when it comes to Israel, it’s like, there’s an assumption that they’re being singled out or something and it’s like, no, it’s a very specific form of early 20th, late 19th-century colonialism that has bizarrely lasted until 2023, which requires some very pre-Geneva ugly tactics to maintain itself, like ethnostates to maintain themselves require genocide or genocide-adjacent activity by definition. This has always been the case.

And Israel’s main problem is that they were about 75 years late to the genocide party where Australia, the United States, other settler colonies, they just killed everybody. Right? I mean, obviously, the genocide against Native Americans in North America is still ongoing. But in terms of just numbers, they’re not a “demographic threat” like Palestinians are, which are roughly half the population of the borders from the river to the sea. And so like, that’s why it’s so crude and unprecedented. I mean, the number of children killed in this war far outweighs any other conflict. The Washington Post has a very striking graphic which we can share with you. And this is why there’s so much urgency, so much anger, so much frustration among activists, among young voters, that this is pretty much a textbook ethnic cleansing campaign, textbook genocide in very key ways. But it’s ours. And it’s Uncle Joe’s. And there’s a sort of cognitive dissonance there that people are struggling with, and I get it, but what I would say to you is that’s probably just due to kind of mindless racism and mindless chauvinism and doesn’t really measure up to the objective facts.

To give you one example, in March of 2011, when Muammar Gaddafi said his opponents in western Libya were cockroaches, this was seen by everybody as evidence of genocidal intent, right? One line in Arabic about cockroaches. This was seen as in and of itself, per se evidence of genocidal intent. And meanwhile, the Agriculture Minister says eh, we’re doing Nakba 2.0. The President says there’s no innocent civilians here.

Nima: The Defense Minister two days after October 7 said, we are fighting “human animals” and we’re acting accordingly.

Adam: Right. And then we say, ah, I don’t know, you know, the New York Times does a roundup of it and kind of treats it like it’s ethno-nationalist locker room talk, like, ah, no big deal, boys will be boys. And it’s like, what the fuck are you talking about? This is textbook genocidal intent now. Now, are they publishing a PDF on their website, you know,, saying here’s our plans for genocide? No, although there was one minor think tank that did basically spell out what they’re doing, which is expelling the Palestinians in southern Gaza. This has been floating around right-wing circles in Israel for decades now, which is kind of the final solution for Gaza. You push them all onto Egypt and then annex the West Bank and then you have a two-to-one demographic advantage.

But this is the worst, this is the, we’re kind of saving the worst for last here in terms of evidence of genocidal intent. This was written by Israel Intelligence Minister Gilad Gamliel in the Jerusalem Post on November 19, 2023. And this is a clear–in English, this is an English Israeli newspaper–this is a clear-as-day, and this is the Intelligence Minister, this is the person who’s most responsible for the quote-unquote “post-Hamas war” plans for Gaza. And this is a clear-as-day blueprint for ethnic cleansing. The headline reads “Victory is an opportunity for Israel in the midst of crisis.” It would begin by saying, “Albert Einstein was quoted as saying: “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” This usually means you’re about to get something quite sinister. It would go on to say:

One of the issues on which my office has been working diligently is how to proceed the day after Hamas has been defeated and annihilated.We will still have around two million people in Gaza, many of whom voted for Hamas and celebrated the massacre of innocent men, women, and children.

Unquote. So right there you have the militarization of the civilian population, effectively saying they’re all kind of collectively responsible, which has been the logic of the Israeli government since the beginning of this war. And it would list that the current options don’t work. The Israel controlling Gaza, the PA controlling Gaza, these sort of aren’t good. So she presents what she calls “other options for Gaza.” But there aren’t other options she presents. She actually only presents in this op-ed one option, and that’s to remove Palestinians from Gaza, it’s to remove Palestinians from Palestine. She would write, quote:

ANOTHER OPTION is to promote the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip.

It is important that those who seek a life elsewhere be provided with that opportunity. Some world leaders are already discussing a worldwide refugee resettlement scheme and saying they would welcome Gazans to their countries. This could be supported by many nations around the world, especially those that claim to be friends of the Palestinians.This is an opportunity for those who say they support the Palestinian people to show these are not just empty words.

Unquote. So here we have, as long as you front-load it with “voluntary.” But they’re making Gaza uninhabitable. Which, again, one half of Gaza already is uninhabitable, okay? Human life cannot live there. And now they’re pivoting the war to southern Gaza, so presumably, that’ll go just like northern Gaza, and that’ll be uninhabitable. So if the entirety of Gaza is being rendered uninhabitable, and then you turn around and say, ‘For humanitarian reasons we should voluntarily resettle them,’ that’s not voluntary, because they can’t stay there, because there’s nowhere to stay other than an internment camp. And the op-ed would go on to say, quote: “Instead of funneling money to rebuild Gaza or to the failed UNRWA, the international community can assist in the costs of resettlement, helping the people of Gaza build new lives in their new host countries.” Unquote.

If I make the entirety of Gaza unlivable, and then say, ‘Well, we should voluntarily resettle them,’ there’s a name for that, and it’s not a war, and it’s not a quote-unquote “hunt for Hamas.” It is forcible removal of a population, which is a textbook definition of ethnic cleansing, and a subset of genocide. And to be clear, this is the person, currently, right now, this isn’t some fringe minister or some crazy settler or whatever, this is the person currently in charge of the quote “post-Hamas Gaza strategy” unquote. This is the single most influential person who is involved in strategizing this, who writes an op-ed where she offers only one option, and that is to expel Palestinians from Palestine. There’s no other option proffered in this, in fact, all the other ones are just dismissed at hand. I don’t know how much clearer they can make it.

Nima: Right. I mean, speaking of the West Bank just quickly, over 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military and Israeli settlers since October 7th. And there’s no fucking Hamas in the West Bank, right? So the idea that again, this hunt for Hamas can go wherever the propaganda wants it to go to enable the ongoing apartheid regime terrorizing Palestinians, whether it’s in the West Bank or Gaza.

Adam: Because you can frame anything as a hunt for Hamas. I mean, again, the destruction of UN schools, the destruction of refugee camps, basically anyone who’s held out and refused to go to their little tent cities in southern Gaza can be reversed engineered into a hunt for Hamas story. And this is what makes the media adopting this narrative so problematic because they’re not connecting dots where they would absolutely connect dots. If this was a baddie country, these dots would have been connected a long time ago.

Nima: Yeah, there would be no hand wringing about complexity or oh, there’s a lot of nuances here, there’s a lot of history to unpack, only experts can really know what’s going on here. That would not be the case were this happening almost literally anywhere else.

Adam: And there was, you know, the front page of The New York Times on Sunday has a picture of a Palestinian child looking down at his dead sibling, and the headline reads, “Smoldering Gaza Becomes A Graveyard for Children.” And then it’s like, wow, that’s like, really sobering and dramatic. And then the sub-headline: “Thousands Are Killed in Bombardment as Israel Responds to Hamas Attack.” And it plays into this human shields idea. And that’s developed over decades, this kind of elaborate, moral ecology where Israel can just kill thousands of children, and somehow it’s always Hamas’s fault. And also, they have no choice. And also, everyone’s a human shield, but also, you know, if they weren’t human shields, they’re all gonna be Hamas anyway. And one feels like they’re taking crazy pills, which is why you see this massive disconnect between how younger people view the war versus CNN and people who are older who watch CNN, MSNBC all day because they’re getting a totally different narrative. And I did a piece on my Substack with an anonymous Palestinian-American contributor who works as a quantitative researcher. And he showed the overwhelming preference for focusing on Israel and Israeli deaths versus Palestinians, even as the numbers began to skyrocket up to the several thousands into the five digits. And this is just not what you see on Twitter and TikTok and YouTube, you just see a different story.

Nima: Or tons of front pages across the country, Adam. I just want to note, like, if you look at the New York Post, if you look at a local paper. I mean, I know the New York Post is a tabloid, Murdoch, got it. But it’s still the fourth most popular newspaper in the country exactly. And if you look at any kind of local paper as well, we are still seeing personal stories on the front pages about whether they’re Israeli hostages, or Israelis who were killed on October 7. And when that’s all you get, it is clear whose lives matter.

Adam: Yeah, because our government funds and arms one side of that and not the other side. And so this kind of genocidal intent or ethnic cleansing intentionality, which, again, we have tons of evidence for. Unless Israel publishes it on their website, saying this is our genocidal plan, even though everything fits within that framework very clearly, again, as several aid organizations and human rights organizations have been sounding the alarm about. They’ll say things like potential genocide to be kind of diplomatic and you know, I get it. But like, the problem is that you don’t really have a smoking gun until it’s done. You don’t have a smoking gun for ethnic cleansing until it’s pretty much over and right now in northern Gaza, according to The Economist, not inhabitable for six months to several years.

Nima: Yeah, when you destroy 25 hospitals and 52 health centers, you attack 55 ambulances, you destroy completely 83 mosques, you partially destroy 166 mosques, you target multiple churches, you destroy 262 schools, and you’ve completely obliterated any kind of residential building in entire neighborhoods in northern Gaza, you are not hunting for fucking anything, you are just committing genocide. Like that’s what that is.

Adam: I mean, they keep saying they don’t make a distinction. And the line between not making a distinction between combatant and noncombatant or civilian and soldier. Once you erase that distinction, then all that’s left is ethnic cleansing. Right? Like there is no other option. Unless you know, if you say we’re going to eliminate Hamas, and then you say, pretty much everybody’s Hamas so ergo, whatever sort of Latin syllogism you wish to use, you’re eliminating everybody.

Nima: Right. And so when you see headlines, like from the New York Times, just the other day that say, “Israeli Military Signals Intent to Move Into Southern Gaza.” And you see the Daily Beast say, “Israeli Military Says It Is Preparing to Fight Hamas in Southern Gaza.” Think about what that hunt for Hamas line does to absolve Israel from clear ethnic cleansing. So, Adam, I’m glad we were able to talk that through because we’re seeing these headlines over and over and over again. And the dots just need to be connected because they’re so obvious. And it seems like our media is very hesitant to do so.

Adam: Or at least like proposed as an option instead of saying like Israel says they’re gonna go after Hamas, be like Israel says they’re gonna go after Hamas, but historically they’ve gone after, you know, whatever percentage of people who have died, I mean, are not “Hamas” because they don’t really think there’s a difference. I mean, has anyone even asked Israel what percentage of people they’ve killed are “Hamas.” I don’t think they’ve even said that. So I mean, it doesn’t matter to them. So why should it keep mattering to American media outlets?

Nima: Well, right because the intent is clear. And so that will do it for this Citations Needed News Brief. We will be back very soon with more full-length episodes of Citations Needed. Until then, of course, you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and if you are so inclined, become a supporter of the show through All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated as we are 100% listener-funded. So thanks again for listening. I’m Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams, Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cardano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy.

Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Monday, November 20, 2023.

Transcription by Mahnoor Imran.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.