Anti-Israel WH Reporters Demand Israel Show ‘Restraint,’ Blame Them for Palestinian Deaths

Considering the liberal media’s history of being anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, Monday’s White House Press Briefing featured plenty of leading questions for Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah suggesting that Israel was responsible for the deadly protests by Palestinians along with the Israeli/Gaza border. This all came as the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem.

Some were fair (such as one from the Fox News Channel’s John Roberts) and others touched on the controversy of the Trump administration inviting Pastors John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, but the most obnoxious ones came concerning the brazen violence by Palestinians.

 

 

Reuters White House correspondent Steve Holland went there first, wondering if the U.S. will be “calling on Israel to use restraint when dealing with these folks.” 

Shah hit back that “Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths, that their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what's leading to these deaths and we want them to stop.”

Holland fretted in his first of two follow-ups that Shah wouldn’t admit that there’s a “burden on Israel to do something to sort of rein it in.” Instead of offering a question about what the embassy meant for peace in general, but he wanted to know if “today’s situation hurt[s]” the chances of Israeli/Palestinian peace.

While a shorter exchange, NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander smugly questioned Shah about whether Israelis have a right to “kill” Palestinians “at will” (click “expand” to read the back-and-forth):

ALEXANDER: If I can very quickly, the French foreign minister, Raj, said about what's taking place in Gaza, he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So, to be clearly. Does the U.S. not agree with the French that the Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint.

SHAH: We believe that Hamas is responsible for what's going on. 

ALEXANDER: So there’s no responsibility beyond that on Israeli authorities. Just kill at will?

SHAH: What I’m saying is that we believe Hamas, an organization, is engaged in cynical action that's leading to these deaths. 

At two different points in the briefing, Breakfast Media’s Andrew Feinberg and Yahoo’s Hunter Walker inquired about Hagee and Jeffress, but the worst exchange came from a female reporter whose face was obstructed by most camera angles (and not shown at all on some networks).

She first posed this question to Shah: 

On the issue of peace between the White House and Palestinians, when is the last time the White House reached out to the Palestinian leadership and will, given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what’s happened a massacre, will the White House be reaching out? 

When Shah replied that he didn’t know, the same reporter used remarks by Jared Kushner in Jerusalem blaming Palestinians for instances of violence to then take this anti-Jewish swipe: “But given the fact that it's only Palestinians that are being killed. Should Israel not shoulder some of the blame?”

Shah upped his rebuttal, calling Monday’s campaign to blame Israel (which, by extension, includes the media) “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.”

The reporter persisted with this possible future Notable Quotable: “But people are throwing rocks 50 meters from the wall and were faced with sniper attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split screen reality that’s occurring?”

Here’s the punchline: Who asked those questions? Turns out, it was Al Jazeera English correspondent Kimberly Halkett, which is amusing since Al Jazeera English is the English-language arm of Qatar state media. 

It’s quite ironic that the reporter representing an authoritarian Middle Eastern country with a horrid human rights record is suggesting Israel is indiscriminately killing a group of people.

Following Holland’s line, The Daily Mail’s Francesca Chambers asked the last policy-related question on Israel by asking Shah if this “split screen” has “undermined” the Trump administration’s upcoming peace plan. On cue, Shah flatly denied it.

Editor’s Note, May 15, 2:36 p.m. Eastern: This post has been updated to correct the name of the female reporter who questioned Shah about a “split screen reality” occurring in Israel and Gaza. NewsBusters regrets the error.

To see the relevant Israel questions from May 14's White House Press Briefing, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
May 14, 2018
2:20 p.m. Eastern

JOHN ROBERTS: At the same time, there was the celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy, in the south of Israel along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives. Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel's response to people trying to climb over the fence? 

RAJ SHAH: Well, we’re aware of the reports of continued violence in Gaza today. The responsibility for these tragic deaths rest squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response and, as the Secretary of State said, Israel has the right to defend itself.

(....)

STEVE HOLLAND: Raj, the death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is the U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint when dealing with these folks? 

SHAH: Well, we believe that, you know, Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths, that their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what's leading to these deaths and we want them to stop.

HOLLAND: There is no burden on Israel to do something to sort of rein it in? 

SHAH: No. We think that we shouldn't loss sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bears responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.

HOLLAND: And lastly, Raj, the United States has been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today's situation hurt that? 

SHAH: I don't think it hurts the peace plan. The peace plan will be introduced at the appropriate time, but what today is about is following through on what the President promised and believes, and it is also recognition of reality. I think we've, for decades, you know, walked on eggshells pretending that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel when it obviously is and this is just a recognition of reality. 

(....)

PETER ALEXANDER: If I can very quickly, the French foreign minister, Raj, said about what's taking place in Gaza, he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So, to be clearly. Does the U.S. not agree with the French that the Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint.

SHAH: We believe that Hamas is responsible for what's going on. 

ALEXANDER: So there’s no responsibility beyond that on Israeli authorities. Just kill at will?

SHAH: What I’m saying is that we believe Hamas, an organization, is engaged in cynical action that's leading to these deaths. 

(....)

ANDREW FEINBERG: I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today -- 

SHAH: Yep.

FEINBERG: — the person who delivered the indication. Robert Jeffress. He's made some statements in the past that he believes that Muslims are going to help, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering, especially, his remarks that he’s one of the best people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel and can you give us a little information of how that came to be?

SHAH: Well, I honestly don't know how that came to be, and I know that — I think it's — I think it's Pastor Jeffress has had a strong relationship with many people in the faith community, as well as folks in the administration, and Republicans on the Hill and others. I believe Democrats as well. So, I think he has a longstanding relationship with public officials. You know, beyond that, I don't really have a whole lot to add. 

FEINBERG: If I could follow-up real quick. Do you think it's appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to hell to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?

SHAH: I — I, you know, haven't seen those remarks, but obviously, those aren't the remarks that the President feels. 

(....)

KIMBERLY HALKETT: On the issue of peace between the White House and Palestinians, when is the last time the White House reached out to the Palestinian leadership and will, given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what’s happened a massacre, will the White House be reaching out? 

SHAH: Well, I don't, honestly, have an answer for you and I’ll get back to you.

HALKETT: And if I could just follow up then —

SHAH: Sure.

HALKETT: — I mean, Jared Kushner, in his speech, pointed a finger at the Palestinians, saying they were responsible for provoking violence. But given the fact that it's only Palestinians that are being killed. Should Israel not shoulder some of the blame? 

SHAH: Well, as I said earlier, we believe Hamas bears the responsibility. Look, this is a propaganda attempt. I mean, this is a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt. I think the Israeli government has spent weeks trying to handle this without violence. 

HALKETT: But people are throwing rocks —

SHAH: We find it very unfortunate. 

HALKETT: — 50 meters from the wall and were faced with sniper attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split screen reality that's occurring?

SHAH: Again, we believe that Hamas is responsible for this. 

(....)

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS: Raj, on Israel, the United States and the White House are hoping to release their peace plan in the next few months. Going back to that split screen, I understand that you're blaming these on Hamas. But does the White House feel that the position is undermined now by these deaths that have happened today that, last time, the count was at 52. 

SHAH: No, I don't. Look, the peace plan will be brought forward at the appropriate time and evaluated on its merits but the actions today, both the opening of the Embassy in Jerusalem and these tragedies in southern Israel, you know, we don't think will impact the peace plan. 

(....)

HUNTER WALKER: You said before that you hadn't heard Pastor Jeffress' remarks. Among other things, he said “Mormonism, Judaism, Hinduism, they lead people to a separate of god and an eternity in hell.” I also want to talk about Pastor John Hagee, who was involved in that ceremony. He once said that Hitler was an instrument of god. Separate from that, on Sunday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with a  Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel and he once compared black people to monkeys. So I'm wondering, in all three of these instances, can you tell us anything about how these people were brought in to the ceremonies? And do you think it is regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government? 

SHAH: I don't have any read-out on how they became involved with these events. All I'll say is that those specific views that you specifically outlined, if they’re accurate reflections of what was said, wouldn't be embraced by this white house. Beyond that, I don’t have anything else.

[SHOUTING]

BRIAN KAREM: Shouldn’t you know — shouldn’t you know before running to the podium whether or not this guy is worthy of talking to people at our Embassy?


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