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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Hamas staged stunts - candlelight edition

From the Jerusalem Post:
On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

"They had closed the curtains in the rooms to create the impression that Hamas leaders were also suffering as a result of the power stoppage," one journalist told The Jerusalem Post. "It was obvious that the whole thing was staged."
Hamas also seems to have timed its Sunday night blackout for prime-time TV:

Fortunately for those who wanted all-Gaza, all-the-time, there was still Al-Jazeera, which had been on the scene with live broadcasts and commentary from the very moment that Hamas had decided to cut the power in Gaza and send it into darkness on Sunday night.

Indeed, so ready was Al-Jazeera with live coverage of candle-bearing Palestinian children and immediate reaction from across the Arab world, that Israeli officials said Tuesday they strongly suspect the Arab news network had coordinated its coverage in advance with the Hamas leadership.

"They were so prepared, it's hard to believe they didn't know this was going to happen," said the official. "Although it's already dark in Gaza by 6 p.m., they waited two hours to shut their generator down so that the lights going out in Gaza could be carried live on Al-Jazeeera during prime-time viewing."

Others noticed the fortuitous timing of a "spontaneous" candlelight demonstration only minutes after the power plant shutdown:
Minutes after the power plant shutdown, Gaza residents started a candlelight march. Live Associated Press TV pictures showed dots of light moving slowly up a darkened main street.
So when the media talk about how Hamas won the PR war with Israel, it is a bit disingenuous of them not to admit their own responsibility for that victory - the news organizations are not only susceptible to obvious staging, they welcome being manipulated if they can get a good picture or story out of it.

See also my posting "Baking a crisis" on a similar theme.