Did EU Official Really Blame Hamas for Gaza Violence?
Did EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel place the blame for the violence in Gaza squarely on Hamas, as numerous news reports last week suggested? "EU envoy lays Gaza blame on Hamas," a BBC headline declared. "EU official: Hamas responsible for Gaza," ran the headline in the Jerusalem Post. "EU commissioner hits out at Hamas on Gaza tour," an AFP dispatch pronounced. All the articles quote Louis Michel as assigning "overwhelming responsibility" to Hamas for what he describes as the "abominable" destruction that he viewed in the Gaza strip during a brief visit on Monday, January 26.
The citation appears to have originated with the French wire service, the AFP. A French-language AFP dispatch has Michel speaking of a "responsabilité écrasante" of Hamas, which would indeed correspond to "overwhelming responsibility." "We must, however, also remember the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," Louis Michel is supposed to have said. The dispatch appears, however, to refer to a press conference that the Belgian commissioner held in English, not in his native French. An extract from that press conference can be viewed here as part of a report from the French-language Israeli news channel Guysen-TV. The extract is accompanied by the following "translation" of Louis Michel's words:
We must, however, also remember the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas. I want to say this here deliberately [à dessein]: Hamas is a terrorist movement and it must be denounced as such.
The original English-language soundtrack is not audible. It is, however, audible here, starting some 34 seconds into the video. What Louis Michel in fact says is this:
We condemn military operations that target the Palestinian people and their property, all such acts are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.
Asked by the author about the discrepancy, Guysen reporter David Sebban said that it was the result of a "film editing error" [erreur de montage]. He confirmed that the AFP was the source of the French "translation."