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Media spin: ‘Hamas-bruiden’

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Last week, Hamas sponsored a mass wedding celebration in Gaza, perhaps in an attempt to reverse its flagging poll ratings:

  ‘Nearly a thousand Palestinians celebrated marriage on Thursday night in a ceremony organised by Hamas in the north of the Gaza Strip.

    Hamas dignitaries including Mahmud Zahar, one of the militant group’s top leaders, were on hand to congratulate 450 grooms who took part in the carefully stage-managed event.

    “We are saying to the world and to America that you cannot deny us joy and happiness,” Zahar told the men, all of whom were dressed in identical black suits and hailed from the nearby Jabalia refugee camp.’

    This seemingly innocuous event has formed the basis for the latest fabrication making the “pro”-Israel rounds: that many of the people getting married were pre-pubescent children. As one Daily Kos diarist fumed,

    “The sad, inherently biased-against-Israel mainstream media reported on a great “celebration” in Gaza hosted by Hamas where over four hundred happy couples were married…

    What no one seems to be reporting is the sick fact that most of the brides appear to be under the age of 10.”

The right-wing “pro”-Israel blogosphere has been up in arms, reporting this latest manifestation of Hamas’s “sick” ideology with comments like: “it says a lot–not just about HAMAS, but about Islam period”, “now where did Hamas get the idea that prepubescent girls were of marriageable age? Could it be from Muhammad, the prophet of Islam … ?”, “Mass pedophilia. Islam is so disgusting” and “ just carrying on the legacy of their pedophile prophet, I guess”.

The Daily Kos blogger is right -Ma’an News, Xinhua, the AFP and (briefly) the AP all covered the event without once reporting that the lucky brides were under 10 years old. Reasonable people might conclude from this that the brides were not in fact under 10 years old, but instead we are asked to believe that the mainstream media are so biased in favour of Hamas (bear with me) that they would either pass up the chance to further demonise an official US/Israeli enemy by ignoring the event completely,  or else cover the wedding, reporting on even minor details like the colour of the bridegrooms’ suits (black, according to the AFP), without mentioning that the brides were young children.

To say that this stretches credibility would be an understatement, and indeed the evidence for the “child brides” story turns out to be non-existent. It boils down to this AP photo:

and this video:

both of which show that young children dressed up and took some part in the celebration, and neither of which suggest that those children were the actual brides. According to the AFP, the brides “shared none of the glamour” of the event and remained “among the audience”. Another account similarly reports that the brides “were hidden from the public’s view”, presumably watching the “performances by a men’s choir and child couples dancing” from the audience. In fact the children were probably flower girls – y’know, like you’d expect.

Once again, the Islamophobic right’s selective outpouring of apparent concern for the welfare of Muslim women and children turns out to be an attempt to propagandise for their oppressors. I realise “pro”-Israel propagandists have been finding it difficult lately, especially given Hamas’s increasingly explicit acceptance of a two-state settlement, but really, they’re going to have to do a lot better than this.

Update: Tim Marshall from Sky News comments:

    Hi. I was there. The girls are relatives, nieces etc. Dressed up having fun. Brides were in ther audience. its always like this. Hamas does enough terrible things without anyone having to make up nonsense about child brides…

    I was there at the Wedding ceremony. We filmed the event. These young girls are NOT the brides. The brides are among the 5,000 or so audience. Where is your proof they are child brides. It is a cultural thing among the conservative Gazans to do things this way. It is grossly unfair to portray ordinary Gazan men in this way. Hamas does enough terrible things to write about without having to resort to making things up. The girls are having fun drssing up. Its been like that for years.”

More from Tim here.

[The Heathlander]

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