The surreal war of the TV broadcasts

Hamas TV shows Israel’s Channel 2, hoping in vain that it will be showing scenes of Israeli casualties

Channel 2's Ehud Yaari left) speaks to Hamas's Al-Aksa TV presenter, live on both stations (Channel 2 screenshot)
Channel 2's Ehud Yaari left) speaks to Hamas's Al-Aksa TV presenter, live on both stations (Channel 2 screenshot)

Welcome to the latest technological surrealism of modern warfare.

We are currently in the midst of the latest round of Israel’s confrontation with Hamas in Gaza — Israel’s third major attempt, since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, to stop our Islamist enemies’ firing rockets into the country.

The rockets are getting increasingly numerous and flying ever further. Fortunately, it would appear, Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system — plucking the murderous Hamas projectiles out of the sky — is up to the challenge. “It’s a pretty robust system,” said its calm overseer, Danny Gold, in a Channel 2 interview on Saturday night, minutes after Iron Dome had simultaneously intercepted 10 or so Hamas rockets in a barrage that the terror group had bragged would constitute an unprecedented challenge to Israel’s defenses.

Nastier rockets, better defenses… and groundbreaking media coverage, as demonstrated quite bizarrely on Saturday night.

At 8pm, in an announcement timed to coincide with Israel’s main nightly news broadcasts, Hamas declared that an hour later it would be firing a new generation of rocket at Tel Aviv — the J80, named after Ahmed Jabari, its terror chief who Israel killed at the start of the previous round of conflict in 2012.

Israeli braced for the worst, and a little after 9pm, the hefty barrage of rockets was indeed launched from Gaza. We knew this as it was happening because Israeli TV camera crews are monitoring the skies over the Strip, on constant lookout for signs of rocket launches. So we all saw the lights in the sky, little orange balls heading for Israel. We then, mercifully, all saw other lights in the sky, as Iron Dome fired its interceptors and took out the Hamas rockets, one after another, all across central Israel.

So confident was Hamas of its impending “success,” however, that it was broadcasting Israel’s Channel 2 on its Gaza Al-Aksa TV station — hoping it would be relaying scenes of Israelis dead and dying. Channel 2, for its part, used the opportunity to interview the Al-Aksa presenters in mid-broadcast, minutes after Iron Dome had proved itself again.

So our screens showed Channel 2 broadcasting Al-Aksa TV, which was broadcasting Channel 2 TV, with Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari — live, on both channels, of course — attempting to speak to the Hamas TV presenter, who told Ya’ari curtly that he didn’t want to speak to him. (Confused? You should be.) Indeed, the Hamas man said the appearance of the Israeli reporter on Hamas TV screens was absurd, and also accused Channel 2 of falsely broadcasting scenes of Israeli life as usual when the reality was of an Israel cowering under fire.

“They took our feed, hoping they’d show, heaven forbid, rockets hitting Israel,” Ya’ari explained later. “It didn’t work out for them.”

Jabaliya refugee camp celebrations, July 12 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Jabaliya refugee camp celebrations, July 12 (Channel 2 screenshot)

That the rocket strikes “failed,” however, did not stop Hamas from asserting that they had “succeeded.”

By falsely claiming that Israeli media were reporting Israeli casualties from the attack, Hamas prompted scenes of singing and dancing in Jabaliya refugee camp. Although the very fact that millions of Israelis are being forced to take cover from rocket attacks is itself clearly perceived by many in Gaza as a cause for celebration.

It wasn’t Ya’ari first interaction with Hamas broadcasters on live TV. Here’s footage of a conversation he held with an interpreter during the previous war with Hamas in 2012:

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