BROOKE GLADSTONE: Foreign reporters now inside Gaza choose their words with care as they cover the war, but that’s not the coverage the Gazans themselves are consuming. Sherine Tadros is Middle East correspondent for Sky News. She’s spent years living among and listening to the people in Gaza. We called her to explain what they see and what many of them have come to believe. Sherine, welcome to On the Media.
SHERINE TADROS: Thanks.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So, where are Gazans getting their information?
SHERINE TADROS: Well, the majority of Gazans really have very little access to information. At least 200,000 or so Gazans that have left their homes are now sheltering in hospitals and schools wherever they can. All they have is word-of-mouth. Some people we’re seeing at hospitals are just waiting for loved ones that they haven’t heard from in days to turn up at the morgue. So it’s really grim. But, of course, others who are still at home and do have television sets will be able to have access to mainly Hamas-affiliated channels, a lot of propaganda on these channels that will tell you about how many Israeli soldiers were killed and captured, and so on. There’s also the radio that tells you constantly where strikes have taken place, how many people are killed, and so on. But because there’s such a huge electricity crisis, you’re talking about just a few hours of electricity every day, there is also very limited amount of time that people can spend in gathering their information.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So, both figuratively and literally, they’re really in the dark.
SHERINE TADROS: Precisely. Parts of the psychological war that Israel wages on the Gaza Strip and has done so for many years, is controlling the information that they get. So we’ve seen broadcasts on television and also on the radio be interfered with by the Israeli Army. We were watching the other day a speech by the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, on TV and suddenly the Israeli Army shield comes up on television. You know, it’s a way to show the Palestinian population here that they are in control. And likewise, on Wednesday, a colleague of mine was in the car listening to the radio and suddenly the broadcast was disrupted and then we heard a voice of someone saying, “If you’re a terrorist, beware, take cover, we will come and get you,”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are there any independent actors working to disseminate information on social media or otherwise, or is this principally a Hamas media?
SHERINE TADROS: There is certainly a lot of independent actors insofar as citizen journalists, doctors, people who have just taken it upon themselves to document and report what they’re seeing, not necessarily reporters or activists. And you see that on social media all the time. But I think the general Palestinian television and radio stations are hijacked by a Hamas narrative of what’s going on.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So what is the message being put forth on Hamas TV?
SHERINE TADROS: The message from Hamas that’s coming directly from their media is that we are winning this war, that the resistance is bearing fruit, that Israeli soldiers are paying the price, that Israeli citizens are paying the price, constant propaganda videos showing militant fighters firing rockets, then getting out of Gaza underwater and crossing over the sea and then making it into Israeli territory. And they have a basically split screen most of the day where they show a live feed from the main hospital and, you know, completely unedited, you see people being, you know, taken into hospital with missing limbs. Once we saw, you know, someone with a missing head, dead bodies all the time.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do people feel Hamas TV is a reliable source?
SHERINE TADROS: I don't think that Palestinians see it in that way. I think they understand that this is propaganda. They see this rocket fire and this fight by Hamas as a fight on their behalf, just like Netanyahu talks about the need to protect and defend, the right to protect Israel and Israeli citizens, Hamas use the same language. They are using the rocket fire to fight back and to protect their people and break the siege.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So there’s no openness to the Israeli talking point that Hamas, by launching missiles from the basements of hospitals or from schools, and so on, is actually using the population of Gaza as human shields?
SHERINE TADROS: I think for anyone who actually has been in the Gaza Strip, you, you will see how controversial this claim is. This is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Everything is next to a school or a mosque or a building. Add to that the fact that Hamas cannot have a military base. They would not allow the Hamas to build an official headquarters. But, of course, they have used certain areas for protection. The international community have made a big point about that being possibly a war crime, that, you know, I think there’s a lot of context that goes around this idea of Hamas using human shields.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Every time you hear an Israeli official on the media, what they say is, “Look, we sympathize. They should just tell Hamas to stop firing and this could all be over”
SHERINE TADROS: Once again, the context is completely missing in that, and this is not in any way to condone what they are doing but just to explain the context behind it. You know, the idea of all they need to do is stop the rocket fire and then Israel will stop the bomb, and then where does that leave the Gazan people? Once again under an Israeli siege, once again having everything, from toothpaste and medicine trickling in, once again living in essentially an open-air prison!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much, Sherine.
SHERINE TADROS: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Sherine Tadros is a reporter for Sky News. She joins us from Gaza.