The Missing Israeli Arsenal: Time for “Balance” in The NY Times

The New York Times today gives us a look at the “growing arsenal of homegrown rockets” fired out of Gaza. Now, in the interest of balance, it is only reasonable to ask for a Times story on the Israeli arsenal directed against the residents of the Gaza Strip (as well as those in the West Bank).

So far no one at the Times seems to think it necessary to look at the sophisticated weaponry under the control of the Israeli military in this conflict, but if we are going to read about M-302 Syrian-made rockets, we should also hear something about the capabilities of night-vision and missile-equipped Apache helicopters or the five types of Israeli tanks or Sa’ar warships loaded with air-to-surface missiles.

The fact that there is no story about Israel fire power and the lopsided nature of the attacks is symptomatic of the Israeli-centric point of view at the Times. Thus, in another story today (“Israeli Leader Vows to Intensify Gaza Attacks on Hamas”), we are told that a ground operation could create problems. Why? Because the toll of Palestinian civilian deaths “could bring more intense criticism of Israel,” not because innocent people will die.

The “homegrown arsenal” story by Steven Erlanger takes a look at Gaza’s store of rockets, most of them handmade, inaccurate and limited in range, from 12 to 50 miles or so. The M-302, however, can fire rockets up to 100 miles and could cause harm to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and offshore oil rigs. It is unclear how many of these are in Gaza, but with the closure of smuggling tunnels by Egypt, the stockpile is only expected to dwindle.

The Israeli side has rockets, too. In fact it has the Jericho III with nuclear capability and a range of 3,000 to 4,000 miles. According to Al Jazeera, this Israeli missile has “a potential payload of 1,000kg and [is] capable of reaching as far as South America or Oceania.”

Israel can also fire Hawk, Shafrir and Patriot missiles, among others, but it doesn’t need to stand at a distance and lob weapons at an enemy many miles away. It has fighter jets, helicopters and drones to attack from overhead. Gaza has not a single airplane or unmanned aircraft. However, drone surveillance is a constant over Gaza at all times, during ceasefires or open conflict; drone missile strikes can also come at any time, especially to carry out extrajudicial killings of suspected militants.

Gaza has not one tank or armored personnel carrier, but Israeli tanks, accompanied by ground troops and bulldozers, frequently make incursions into the strip to level land, destroying crops and buildings.

In the waters offshore, Israeli warships shoot at fishermen who venture close to the 3- to 6-mile Israeli-imposed limit, and along the border fence, snipers take shots at civilians who approach to stage protests, gather rubble for building material or tend to fields. As result of all these assaults, Gaza residents die at the hands of Israeli forces even during “periods of calm.”

In times of outright conflict, Israel sends bombs and missiles down on the Gaza Strip, and the casualties mount. So far in the attacks that began only two days ago, 88 have died, most of them civilians.  No Israeli deaths have been reported at this point.

Times readers may be told the numbers of dead and wounded on both sides, but there is no attempt to probe beyond these figures, no hard look at the terrible asymmetry of a nuclear power aiming to crush a besieged population armed with largely ineffectual rockets.

The newspaper is also shy about discussing the United States’ role in this situation. Readers are unlikely to know that Israel receives $8.5 million per day in military aid, thanks to U.S. taxpayers. Palestinians receive nothing at all. The Times avoids making this comparison; it also avoids mention of Israel’s nuclear weapon program.

Once again the aim is to protect Israel and its image. In today’s story about intensifying attacks, the Times implies that the lopsided death toll is the fault of Hamas. “Israeli troops fight armed Hamas members who often dress like civilians and live among them,” it says.

It would be a simple task to state openly that Israeli weapons are more efficient killers than the rockets in Gaza, but it appears that this is difficult for the Times to do. We will most likely wait in vain for an article that examines Israel’s high-tech and deadly arsenal and how these rain terror on the residents of Gaza.

[On another, happier, note: The Times op-ed page today has an excellent piece by a Jerusalem Palestinian woman, well worth reading. Many thanks to the editors of that section.]

Barbara Erickson

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