As Israeli forces kill more than 300 people in the Gaza Strip, The New York Times has placed itself firmly on the side of the perpetrators of this massacre. In a July 19 editorial titled “Israel’s War in Gaza,” the newspaper buys into all the major talking points of Israel’s attempt to spin the operation it calls “Protective Edge.”
The one-sided assault, the editorial states, is “to keep Hamas from pummeling Israeli cities with rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks via underground tunnels.” It insists that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no choice but to respond to the rockets with the assault on Gaza.
Let’s take a look at the events leading up to this latest attack on the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza. We can start with on November 2012, when Hamas and Israel reached a ceasefire that ended eight days of attacks. Times readers are unlikely to know that, according to the Israeli government, Hamas kept to the agreement for some about 19 months. Any rockets sent from the strip during that time were the work of other, more militant groups.
The present escalation began, not after the abduction of three teenagers in the West Bank, but the day before, June 11, according to Israeli analysts and a United Nations agency that closely monitors events in Gaza and the West Bank. On that day a UN report states, “Israeli forces targeted and killed an alleged member of an armed group [in Gaza], along with a child accompanying him, and Palestinian factions responded by shooting rockets at southern Israel.”
Note that Israel made the first move and the “Palestinian factions” responded. In the Times narrative, it is invariably Israel that “responds” to aggression by Palestinians.
The UN report goes on to state that Israel then bombarded Gaza and “overall, in the period leading to the start of the current operation, a total of 15 Palestinians, including one civilian, were killed, and another 58 others, mostly civilians, injured, as a result of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.”
Even then Hamas did not retaliate with rocket fire. It was not until July 6 when Israel bombed and killed about nine Hamas men in a Gaza tunnel that Hamas finally launched its own rockets and, on July 7, took credit for the attacks. A week earlier, on June 30, Netanyahu had accused them of breaking the truce at that point. In spite of the discrepancy over dates, this means that both Hamas and Netanyahu stated that Hamas kept to the ceasefire for at least a year and a half.
As Larry Derfner writes in the Israeli magazine 972, “Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing.” He did not have to rampage through the West Bank after the abduction of the three teens; nor did he have to blame Hamas, without evidence, for the crime, arresting dozens of Hamas members and bombing Gaza.
Derfner concludes that Netanyanhu has “always been at war with Palestinians,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well as with Hamas, “and this is what has guided his actions, and this is what provoked Hamas into going to war against Israel.”
The evidence Derfner cites is available to the Times editors, but they choose to ignore the provocations by Israel and obfuscate the timeline leading up to this latest attack.
Their editorial also misrepresents the ceasefire efforts and the spirit among the civilians in Gaza, saying that the best outcome to the present war would be an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The editorial gives no justification for excluding Hamas from this agreement, nor does it recognize the efforts Hamas has made to present its own conditions for a truce. (See TimesWarp, “Hamas in Its Own Words.” and the Electronic Intifada, “Hamas Did Not Reject a Ceasefire.”)
Times editors further err by claiming that it is Hamas who has placed the citizens of Gaza in harm’s way by rejecting a ceasefire offer put forward by Egypt and Israel, an agreement which was crafted without consulting Hamas and which perpetuates the state of siege on Gaza.
A Times story by Anne Barnard that ran on July 17 the Times reveals that the citizens of Gaza, even those who oppose Hamas’s policies in other ways, support its effort to secure real concessions from Israel. The residents want “deep change,” the article states, real relief from the crippling blockade that keeps them imprisoned and impoverished and subject to Israeli attacks from drones above and the tanks and bulldozers along the border.
She writes, “Even Hamas’s many opponents here generally support its demands that Israel release prisoners, and along with Egypt, lift border restrictions that have gutted a weak economy.”
The editorial, however, would have us believe that Hamas is forcing the situation on the people of Gaza. It states, “But Hamas leaders have rejected one proposed in the past week by Egypt and are demanding better terms. Meanwhile, Palestinian civilians suffer the consequences.”
Times editors cannot plead ignorance in their misleading editorial. The staff in their Jerusalem bureau know the details of the lead-up to the latest operation. Their own reporter has told us that Gazans support Hamas’ rejection of the bogus ceasefire that came out of Egypt. In spite of the evidence, the newspaper prefers to stand on the side of the perpetrators of this latest crime.