Monday, February 22, 2021

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
CNN has the story of Hani Almadhoun and his family, who were stranded in Gaza when they went to visit Almadhoun's dying grandfather. They went to Gaza via Egypt on in early November and then they couldn't leave as Egypt blocked the Rafah crossing due to COVID.

Parts of his story doesn't quite add up, but CNN reports his experiences as accurate.

About a week after Almadhoun's grandfather died on November 19, the crossing was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

..."We realized we were stuck around December 25 ... that's when we started worrying," Almadhoun said.
After his grandfather's death, apparently the family decided to hang around in Gaza for several more weeks. During a pandemic.

The State Department makes it crystal clear that it strongly discourages travel to Gaza at any time, let alone during a pandemic:

Gaza:  The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Gaza as U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling there and are restricted from traveling close to the Gaza demarcation line.  Hamas, a U.S. government-designated foreign terrorist organization, controls the security infrastructure in Gaza. The security environment within Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile. Sporadic mortar or rocket fire and corresponding Israeli military responses may occur at any time. During periods of unrest or armed conflict, the crossings between Gaza with Israel and Egypt may be closed.
So why on Earth did these US citizens choose to stay in Gaza when they could have and should have left?

But instead of asking that question, CNN reports on their plight - and their complaints about the US State Department for not helping them escape

Given his past experiences traveling to Gaza as a US citizen, and the Covid-19 pandemic, Almadhoun expected the US Embassy would help.
"It's not like we went to Gaza to smoke hookah. We went to see our dying grandfather," he said. "It was a human thing to do. We didn't expect not to get any help, or even just kind words, from the American embassy. All their replies were robotic and scripted."
Almadhoun believes that if his family was not Palestinian, the US Embassy in Jerusalem would have treated them differently.
"I never received help from them in the past, but I hoped with the pandemic they were feeling more human," he said. "It's like, you're an American citizen yet when they see you're Palestinian, that's all you are, and that's how you're treated. If they ask if you have a Palestinian ID card and you do, they stop listening."
So did the US Embassy help him in the past or didn't they? The contradiction isn't cleared up. But the State Department makes it clear there is only so much they can do.

In the end, the family appealed to a senator to contact Egypt and allow them to leave a few days after the Rafah crossing opened. 

There were some other parts of Almadhoun's story that were strange as well:

On many nights, while spending time with his family or working remotely, Almadhoun said he could hear the sounds of drones flying overhead and what sounded like missiles striking targets not far from their home in Gaza City.
"Being in Gaza is hard. At times it was hell. You get maybe six or eight hours of electricity a day, and some days there is not even water," Almadhoun said. 
I looked up how many times there were Israeli airstrikes in Gaza during the 100 or so days the family was there. It happened on only four nights, according to the UN: 11/15, 11/21, 12/26 and 1/18. Each of them were in response to Hamas rocket attacks to Israel. There were also some "work accidents" during that time period, but Almadhoun reports every explosion he heard as an Israeli airstrike - and CNN didnt fact-check him/

Also, OCHA-OPT says that Gaza averages 14 hours of electricity a day during the time the family was there. It is possible that he only got 6-8 hours of electricity where he was, but again, CNN took his statement as being truthful for all of Gaza. 

But why shouldn't CNN believe him? Why shouldn't CNN give him the benefit of the doubt?

Because Almadhoun works for UNRWA-USA, which depends on demonizing Israel for its funding. Members of UNRWA-USA have a history of anti-Israel slanders. 

An Arab family decided to essentially vacation in Gaza, and they then blame Israel and the US for making their trip less than enjoyable. And CNN happily reports their story without any skepticism.

(h/t Mathew)


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