Even before Hamas members blew holes in the wall separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, the media war between Israel and Hamas had been heating up.
Among others, the al-Jazeera news network has been continuously broadcasting scenes of 'Besieged Gaza' to Arab households across the Middle East and beyond.
Candlelit Hamas government meeting in Gaza (Photo: AP)
Hamas has been quite successful in enlisting Arab media outlets in a public relations campaign to depict the alleged Israeli aggression in Gaza.
Al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arabic newspaper published in London, known to be less than friendly towards Israel – to put it mildly – featured a caricature that seemed to sum up the degree to which things have escalated in the communications battle: an illustration of an Israeli bulldozer plowing into the Auschwitz death camp with a caption that read "the Gaza Strip or the Israeli extermination camp."
Gaza Strip = Israeli death camp (Photo: Al-Quds Al-Arabi website)
Another caricature in the paper on Monday featured a drawing of a baby in an incubator at a neonatal intensive care unit with a caption explaining that the "rockets" Israel has supposedly stopped by imposing a partial blockade on Gaza were in fact oxygen tanks for newborn babies.
'Rockets' are actually oxygen tanks (Photo: Al-Quds Al-Arabi website)
In an article published Wednesday morning by Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, Atwan declared that "the problem is Israel, not the rockets…the Israeli propaganda these days is focused on the rockets being fired by Palestinian resistance groups from the Gaza Strip into Jewish settlements and municipalities in the south. (That same propaganda) is being used as an excuse to continue Israel's massacres and barbaric siege on the Strip."
The newspaper added that Gazans have started selling their cars because of the fuel shortage. According to the report, the blockade on the Palestinian territory has driven Palestinians to use the money they would normally use to purchase fuel to buy more essential products.
In Israel, political officials were furious over the comparisons made to Nazi Germany. They were particularly upset with al-Jazeera's decision last Sunday to cancel its regularly scheduled programming in order to broadcast a clip entitled "Gaza sinks into darkness."
Among other things the program gave Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal a vast platform from which to attack Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and criticize Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the political official said.
'Hamas to blame'
Not all voices were supportive of Hamas however. Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, the director-general of al-Jazeera's competitor, the al-Arabiya news channel, voiced his disproval of Hamas' recent actions.
He placed the blame for the Gaza siege squarely on Hamas' shoulders. Rashid attacked Hamas for its decision to "to provoke Israel and fire rockets that have only caused the injury of dozens of people but have brought about a disaster in every corner of Gaza. The (border) crossings are closed, the electricity and water have been disconnected and why has all this happened? Because Hamas fired its rockets at Israeli areas and that brought on Israel's harsh response."
Rashid, known for his liberal and controversial views in the Arab world, is nonetheless convinced that Israel's response was "criminal" but, he says "Hamas itself is responsible for the danger to the lives of one and a half million residents…where is the good judgment in these confrontations which increase the suffering of the Palestinians without causing any military harm to Israel?"
Fatah ignores Rafah incident
It appears that Israel is not the only one waging a public relations battle with Hamas. Fatah also seems to be struggling against the Islamic organization.
On Fatah-controlled Palestinian television, there was almost no mention of the explosions that brought down sections of the wall on the Gaza Strip-Egyptian border on Wednesday. From the massive demonstrations around the Rafah crossing on Tuesday to the overwhelming crossing over of Gazans into Sinai on Wednesday, the TV station kept mum.
Instead, the channel broadcasted a series of historical documentaries, cartoons and educational programs.
Fatah members sought to emphasize the negative aspects of the fence break-through. Nimer Hammad, an advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, said in an interview with an Arab TV network that "this type of violence is unacceptable and damages Palestinian relations with Egypt and harms Egyptian national security."