US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Sunday accused the “liberal media” of “glorifying” Hamas terrorists in its coverage of last week’s US embassy move and concurrent Gaza riots in order to denigrate US President Donald Trump, and appeared to accuse the press of having “blood on its hands” for allowing Hamas to garner front page real estate.
In an op-ed published on the Fox News website late Sunday, the American diplomat maintained that violent riots on the Gaza border, which coincided with the US embassy opening in Jerusalem last Monday, were unrelated to the US move, but were rather the culmination of the “March of Return” protests that began weeks earlier.
He also defended Israel’s use of live fire in response to the protests on the Gaza border, during which over 60 Palestinians were reported killed last week, saying the “overwhelming majority” of the fatalities were Hamas members and no country would have responded differently to the border threat.
“The opening ceremony was a beautiful and uplifting event attended by hundreds and watched by millions. As the ceremony proceeded, there were a few sporadic, peaceful protests from among the hundreds of thousands of Arabs living in Jerusalem. The West Bank remained calm,” wrote Friedman of last week’s US embassy dedication.
Friedman appeared to be referring to a protest outside the embassy opening during which hundreds of people rallied against the move, including several Arab Knesset members. Scuffles between police and protesters broke out and at one point a lawmaker was thrown to the ground. Police said 14 people were arrested.
The West Bank also saw sporadic protests in which several hundred Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces, though the demonstrations paled in comparison to the 40,000 people reported to have protested on the Gaza border.
“The apparent success of the embassy’s opening ceremony enraged the liberal media. Could this be yet another diplomatic triumph by President Trump? The prospect was unbearable,” Friedman wrote.
Friedman blasted the media’s use of the split screen to report simultaneously on both the Gaza border violence and the embassy move, saying it was misleading to viewers as the two incidents were taking place 60 miles apart. His comments echoed other Israeli and US officials, who have sought to decouple the Gaza protests from the embassy opening.
“The next day, the liberal media vilified everyone associated with the embassy move and glorified the poor Hamas terrorists,” wrote Friedman. “Failed diplomats who never brought peace or stability to the region were pulled out of mothballs to regurgitate their calcified thinking. And the most deranged even accused the administration of having blood on its hands.”
Friedman alleged that Hamas was encouraged to stoke violence by media outlets that he claimed were “desperate” to besmirch the US president by presenting “a dark side to an otherwise uplifting story.”
“Ironically, Hamas had recently woken up to the fact that most responsible journalists were on to its game and Hamas was considering ending its suicidal assaults on the Israeli border. But seeing the opportunity to curry the front page or the A Block from reporters willing to shed a negative light on our president, Hamas enthusiastically launched its youth back into the fire. So who really has blood on their hands?” Friedman wrote.
Friedman on Saturday was quoted as saying evangelical Christians are more passionate supporters of Israel than many Jews. Speaking to the New York Times about the prominent involvement of Christian supporters of Israel at the Monday inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem, over which he presided, Friedman said evangelical Christians “support Israel with much greater fervor and devotion than many in the Jewish community.”
On Monday, Israeli army’s spokesperson penned a scathing article for the Wall Street Journal, condemning Hamas for “[lying] to the world” about the recent Gaza border riots and criticizing international media outlets for accepting the falsehoods.
The “modus operandi [of Hamas officials] is simple: Lie. Their lies support the stated goal of Hamas: the delegitimization and destruction of Israel,” wrote IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis.
The deaths of over 60 Palestinians during last week’s violent protests were met with international outrage and calls for an independent investigation of events. The UN’s Human Rights Council on Friday ordered a probe, and a resolution prepared by Kuwait for the UN Security Council urges the deployment of an international force to protect Gazans.
Hamas has subsequently admitted that 50 of the dead were members of the terror group. Three others were Islamic Jihad members.
Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have conducted weekly, sometimes daily, mass demonstrations along the security fence, known collectively as the “March of Return.” Though the marches were started by a coalition of various groups in Gaza who called for them to be nonviolent, the plans were quickly coopted by the Hamas terror group, which has ruled the coastal enclave since taking it over in 2007 in a violent coup.
The violence peaked last Monday afternoon, as US and Israeli officials were gathering in Jerusalem for the embassy dedication.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.