Eight children died on a Gaza beach yesterday, but The New York Times has buried this news inside its pages. It has preferred to give bigger play elsewhere, in yet another story about tunnels and how these have shaken the Israeli psyche.
“Tunnels Lead Right to Heart of Israeli Fear” by Jodi Rudoren appears on page 1. This is the third article about tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel in as many weeks. Like both of the others, there is no mention of a single terrorist attack via these tunnels even though they have been in place for months and years.
Nevertheless, the Times continues to dwell on the possibility of such attacks, and Rudoren tells us that Israelis are talking of “nightmare scenarios that are the stuff of action movies.” The tunnels “have lurked in the dark spaces of Israeli imagination,” she writes, since Hamas used one to abduct an Israeli soldier in 2006.
Meanwhile, the residents of Gaza face concrete threats, not chimeras of the imagination. In one terrible moment yesterday 10 people died on a beach as they celebrated the end of Ramadan. The dead included eight children, dressed in new holiday clothes, who had been playing on the sand when a missile fell from above.
Times readers learn of this tragedy three paragraphs into a story on page 6 under the headline “New Strikes Shatter Lull in Israel and Gaza.” (Online the headline is even more off the point: “Israeli Leader Sees no Quick End to Gaza War.”) The story states that Hamas blamed Israel for the attack, but it gives more space to the army’s denial of responsibility and its claim that the missile was an errant rocket launched by Hamas.
The article by Isabel Kershner and Ben Hubbard fails to include the news that eyewitnesses said the missile came from an airstrike. We find this information in other media accounts (here and here) but not in the Times.
About the time of the beach massacre, another missile damaged the outpatient clinic of Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza. The Times duly notes the Israeli denial of responsibility for this strike also and takes pains to say that the clinic was obviously unused.
As if the play of stories in the Times today were not enough to reveal an Israeli-centric bias at work, we also have a column by David Brooks, which tells us that this is really not a war between Hamas and Israel, but a “proxy war” driven by forces beyond the borders of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
“No War Is an Island” is the title of this piece, which ignores the fact that Israel is the occupier while Hamas and all Palestinians are the occupied. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become just a stage on which the regional clashes in the Arab world are being expressed,” Brooks writes. To make such an assertion about this particular conflict is absurd to the point of no return.
But even worse is Brooks’s charge that Hamas is deliberately sacrificing the people of Gaza in order to gain points. He states, “If Arab TV screens were filled with dead Palestinian civilians, then public outrage would force Egypt to lift the blockade. Civilian casualties were part of the point.”
He ignores the Times‘s own reports revealing that even Hamas opponents in Gaza reject a ceasefire unless it eases the misery of the Israeli blockade. Brooks disregards the facts of Israeli provocation, the blockade itself, the occupation and dispossession of Palestinian land and Israel’s responsibility for the deaths of innocent civilians.
His is an unsubtle, in-your-face argument, but the Times is holding out a similar view even as it strives to give the appearance of a “balance” in its pages. In its omissions, its choice of headlines and placement of stories, the newspaper attempts to deflect our gaze from Israeli responsibility for the carnage in Gaza.