“Desperately” Spinning at The NY Times

In an analysis published in The New York Times today, Jodi Rudoren opens with the observation that Israel “desperately sought” quiet during its 50 days of conflict with Gaza this summer. Here we have a curious development: We are told that Israel, with its state-of-the-art weaponry was “desperate” as it faced impoverished Gaza armed with mainly homemade rockets and small arms

Her choice of words implies that the 2,100 deaths in Gaza—some 500 of them children and more than 1,400 civilians—all came about because Israel was desperate to restore calm and had no other choice. It attempts to say Israel was driven to destroy schools, hospitals, ambulances, power stations, greenhouses and high-rise apartment buildings because it despaired of achieving quiet any other way.

In opening the story this way, Rudoren signals that once again we have a Times effort to spin the news in Israel’s favor, and the rest of the article bears this out.

The story notes that although both sides have claimed victory since a ceasefire went into effect, Israel did manage to restore calm and Gaza only got an easing of the blockade that has created such misery since 2007.

There is more however, that could be said. Israel did not destroy the Palestinian unity government or demilitarize Gaza, and the conflict did not eradicate Hamas. To the contrary, Hamas emerged stronger than before in terms of popular support.

A former New York Times correspondent, Taghreed El-Khodary, writes in Huffington Post that Hamas fighters “have brought to the people the pride and dignity they seek as people living under siege and under cruel military occupation.” She quotes a Gaza mother who told her over a Skype interview, “After the war, we will kiss their feet. We want peace but not without Hamas.”

“If Hamas has proven something,” Khodary writes, “it is that they exist and can’t be marginalized, period.”

There is no mention of this outcome in Rudoren’s analysis. Her piece is long on the Israeli perspective and short on the Palestinian view, with most of the text devoted to commentary by Israeli and American observers.

We hear from four Israeli commentators and from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former peace process negotiator Martin Indyk. On the Palestinian side, Rudoren quotes a Gaza political consultant, a Ramallah-based analyst and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but not a single member of Hamas is given voice.

This is a serious omission in a story that purports to look at what both sides are saying, and it is compounded by another lapse, the failure to give context to what Rudoren calls “the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

This is more than a “conflict.” Palestinians live under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel is in violation of international law in its treatment of Palestinians. An occupying power is legally obliged to care for the civilian population under its control, but Israel has attacked and impoverished the residents of Gaza and the West Bank and confiscated their land and water.

Even during periods of “calm,” when no rockets have broken the peace, Israel has continued to carry out extrajudicial assassinations in Gaza, along with military incursions, demolitions, attacks on fishermen and farmers and a blockade on people and goods.

Under such circumstances Palestinians could be driven to “desperately” seek an out, but in the illogical realm of Israeli-centric spin it becomes Israel that despairs and is forced to lash out against the people under its control. As we have noted before in TimesWarp, Israel, the military power, is a master at provoking a response, even from feebly armed groups like Hamas, and did so this time around as well.

All of this should be part of any analysis of the recent fighting, but the Times avoids mention of the underlying situation. Readers are left with a vague impression that two sides are at it again, that this is unfortunate and irreconcilable and Israel is desperate for peace. Meanwhile, Times readers who know the true state of affairs, are undoubtedly becoming “desperate” for clarity in the stories about Palestine.

Barbara Erickson

Gaza Conflict Ends: No Celebrating at The NY Times

The New York Times appears almost apologetic about its Gaza ceasefire story on page 1 today. Although the accord ends seven weeks of conflict and should be big news, the headline is of modest size, the article jumps far inside the paper to page 11 and the article is difficult to find online.

There is good reason for avoiding a big display with this piece. The headline and opening paragraphs are misleading, and the story omits significant facts. Readers never learn, for instance, that many in the Israeli cabinet opposed the agreement, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thus approved the accord on his own.

In “Cease-Fire Extended, but Not on Hamas’s Terms,” Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren notes from the outset that Hamas did not get all it asked for in the agreement. It is true that Hamas asked for more, but Netanyahu failed in all of his primary political aims: the destruction of Hamas, the end of the Palestinian unity government and the demilitarization of Gaza.

Rudoren states that the agreement restores the 6 nautical-mile fishing zone off the coast (the Oslo Accords actually set this at 20 miles) and opens border crossings to humanitarian aid and construction materials. There is more she fails to say.

Although there is no text of a signed agreement to refer to, news accounts from distinct sources (see here and here) tell us that Israel agreed to stop all military operations, end extrajudicial killings of resistance leaders, expand the fishing zone to 12 miles by the end of 2014, end restrictions on money transfers to Gaza and shrink the buffer zone (a lethal no-go area patrolled by Israeli snipers along the perimeter of the border fence). The Palestinian national consensus government will be in charge of reconstruction and the border crossings.

In return, Hamas agreed to halt rocket fire.

Rudoren makes no mention of these reports, in which Israel makes almost all the concessions. We get only hints that Israel appears to have received the short end when Rudoren mention opposition to the accord toward the end of her story.

Even here she fails to give a sense of just how bitter this opposition has been. Some headlines from the Israeli press are instructive: “Israel will exchange quiet for a lie (with the subhead “Israel surely didn’t win”) and “Netanyahu saw his chance to run away and he took it.” Barak Ravid wrote  in Haaretz, “All Israel’s prime minister wanted in the end—after all the promises, and the rhetoric—was to achieve a cease-fire with Hamas at just about any price.”

Also missing from the story is the fact that Qatar was involved. The Times would have us think that this is solely an Egyptian brokered deal, but other accounts mention “extensive negotiations” in Doha, Cairo and Ramallah and have Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas thanking Qatar for its help.

Why would the Times omit Qatar’s role? Most likely because Israel objected to Qatar’s involvement in earlier talks and because it is taking aim at Qatar for supporting Gaza with extensive financial help. (See TimesWarp, Aug 25, 2014.)

The newspaper runs a photo of celebration in Gaza (a decidedly militant photo compared with others that were available) and none in Israel. There is reason for this discrepancy: There were no crowds celebrating there, even in areas most threatened by rockets out of Gaza. But Rudoren fails to explain the reasons for this difference, preferring instead to spin a losing situation into something of a victory, all on behalf of Israel.

Barbara Erickson

“Terrorist” Sound Bites Always Welcome at The NY Times  

The New York Times takes eagerly to the Israeli official line today with two headlines that shout “terrorist” and a third story that attempts to undermine evidence that the army used a Palestinian youth as a human shield.

In an opinion piece titled “Club Med for Terrorists,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations gets big play for an article stating that “Hamas has dragged [Israel] into three rounds of assaults” since 2005. The story also accuses Gaza-friendly Qatar of “unabashed support for terrorism” because it has provided financial aid to the devastated enclave.

It is not hard to poke holes in the assertions by Ambassador Ron Prosor. There is plenty of evidence, for instance, that Israel has ignored peace proposals from Hamas, broken ceasefires and provoked many of the rocket attacks out of Gaza.

Readers can find a list of Israeli breaches of truce agreements at the Institute for Middle East Understanding, and they can read a number of articles that outline how Israel refused to take the path of peace. One of these is a July 14 op-ed in the Times (“Gaza and Israel: The Road to War Paved by the West”).

Others include a recent article by author Sandy Tolan, “Blown Chances in Gaza: Israel and the U.S. Miss Many Chances to Avoid War,” and an Israeli analysis by Larry Derfner, “How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza.” There is also an academic study out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that shows Israel as a serial truce breaker.

In spite of the weight of so much evidence, the Times op-ed today states high in the article that it is Hamas that has “dragged” Israel into these conflicts. In fact, Israel could have spared the lives of its soldiers and citizens, as well as thousands of Gazans, if it had responded to Hamas overtures to peace and maintained ceasefires once they were in effect.

The Prosor op-ed goes on to say that Qatar has sent hundreds of million of dollars to Gaza and “every one of Hamas’s tunnels and rockets might as well have a sign that read ‘Made possible through a kind donation from the emir of Qatar.’” He calls on Western nations to isolate the Gulf state and force it to cut off funding for Hamas.

It is true that Qatar has sent money to Gaza, but Prosor does not mention the fact that it has focused on humanitarian relief. It has provided funds for government workers’ salaries, and it has pledged to give $1,000 for each home destroyed in the current Israeli assault. The Jerusalem Post recently reported that the Gaza government has also asked Qatar for aid in buying electrical generators and heavy equipment to clear rubble.

It is a leap, therefore, to say that Qatar funds are “unabashed support for terrorism.” It rather appears that Prosor is against efforts to help Gaza rebuild.

As for his assertion that Hamas “has vowed never to recognize Israel” and this “has long been an obstacle to reaching a peace deal,” the best response to this tired charge comes from Rabbi Henry Siegman, the former national director of the American Jewish Congress.

In a recent televised interview Siegman noted that “the state of Israel does not recognize a Palestinian state, which is to say there are parties in Netanyahu’s government—very important parties, not marginal parties—including his own, the Likud, that to this day has an official platform that does not recognize the right of Palestinians to have a state anywhere in Palestine.”

Siegman also reported that he had spoken several times with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who told him that he would be willing to join a government that recognizes Israel. This is precisely the situation in Israel in regards to recognition of a Palestinian state, and thus, Siegman says, “The hypocrisy in the discussion that is taking place publicly is just mind-boggling.”

In the Times today we also have a story about a Gaza youth who was taken captive by Israeli soldiers for five days and forced to search for tunnels. This seems to be something of a breakthrough in Times coverage, but in effect it comes off as an effort to undermine the boy’s story, which has appeared elsewhere in Israeli news.

The story ran in 972 Magazine on Aug. 21, based on a report by Defense of Children International-Palestine and the publication’s own interview with the boy, Ahmed Abu Raida. It notes that he made a sworn statement to DCI, and it adds that 972 asked for a response from the Israeli army and would include a statement from them if one were ever forthcoming.

By contrast, the Times gives us several paragraphs casting doubt on Abu Raida’s story, informing readers that Israeli authorities have challenged DCI’s reports of abuse in the past and noting that the family failed to take photographs of the boy and his clothing when he arrived home after five days.

In all, the story by Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren, devotes half of its column inches to these kinds of observations and broader discussions of Israeli policies. The boy’s own narrative comes mainly at the end of the lengthy article.

Last of all, in the trio of Gaza stories appearing in the Times today, we have one under this headline: “Israel Says Missile Strike Killed Hamas Official Handling ‘Terror Funds.’” We learn that an official was killed by a missile as he rode in a car, and the blast scattered currency on the street. Security men arrived, it goes on, and prevented anyone from taking photographs.

This was enough for the Israeli army to call up the label, “terror funds,” and the Times did not hesitate to follow suit, using the phrase in its headline. Readers have to make their way far into the story to learn about 15 other victims who died in Gaza that day. These included a mother and her three children, who died from an Israeli strike on their home.

The death toll in Gaza is well over 2,000, but rather than take a hard look at where the responsibility for this carnage lies, the Times would rather give play to Israeli charges that lack real substance, repeating official spin about “terror funds” and “Club Med for terrorists” sound bites.

It seems that readers will wait in vain for the day that Henry Siegman and other voices of reason and morality find their due in the pages of the Times.

Barbara Erickson

Believe in the Tooth Fairy? Then Read the NY Times

New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren informs us in the first sentence of a page 1 story today that Hamas “is the party that keeps extending the summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly breaking temporary truces.”

This is an amazing statement to find in a newspaper that claims to provide balance, fairness and “the complete, unvarnished truth” (as stated in its code of Standards and Ethics). In her leading statement, which is reported without any backup details, Rudoren ignores evidence of Israeli intransigence during peace talks and research that shows Israel as a serial truce breaker.

Readers should have been informed of very different news from Palestinian sources: Israel was bombing Gaza yesterday even as Hamas was offering a peace deal. The “Palestinian negotiations delegation accused Israel of failing to respond to an offer for peace,” a Ma’an news agency story states.

“A member of the Palestinian delegations team at ongoing indirect peace talks in Cairo told Ma’an that they were still waiting for a response from Israel on a truce offer they had submitted.” It was a new proposal that offered “some concessions” to Israeli demands, the story added.

None of this appears in Rudoren’s article. Instead, her lead paragraph states that Hamas has vowed “to endlessly fire rockets into Israel until its demands are met.” This fails to acknowledge the latest peace offer (and earlier offers) and also ignores the nature of the demands Hamas has made.

In fact, the demands are reasonable and aimed at relieving the suffering Gaza residents have endured under the blockade imposed by Israel. Hamas has repeatedly asked for relief from this siege and made a ten-point peace offer only last month, which went unreported in the Times.

As for truce breaking, research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty member Nancy Kanwisher showed the following systematic pattern: “It is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.”

After the last ceasefire in 2012, Israel immediately broke the agreement, killing Gaza residents and failing to honor promises to lift the siege and stop incursions into the strip. Another researcher looked at Times’ coverage of these breaches and found that “just 17 of the nearly 120 Israeli ceasefire violations over one year following the 2012 ceasefire were reported on by The New York Times.”

And now today we have the bald assertion in the first sentence of a front-page article that Hamas is to blame for extending the carnage. It is striking that Rudoren does not offer any backup details to bolster her charge nor, apparently, did Times editors ask for it.

Equally disturbing is the lack of reporting from the Palestinian view. Hamas spokespersons appear only at the end of the story and then only to comment on the deaths of three military leaders.

Here we have a Times story that has thrown all efforts at responsible journalism out the window, presenting Israeli assertions as facts, failing to provide data to support these claims and ignoring contrary evidence. Perhaps it is best to end this post with a statement by journalist Glenn Greenwald. After reading Rudoren’s story, he tweeted thus:

Barbara Erickson

Women and Children Die: No Questions Asked

Two mothers, an infant and two teenagers died under a blast of Israeli bombs in Gaza yesterday, but it was just a mistake, The New York Times tells us: The attacks were intended to eliminate the head of the Hamas military wing, and it looks like he got away.

In a page 6 story by Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram, we learn a great deal about the target of the bombs, Muhammed Deif, but mention of the dead mothers and sons seems almost incidental. The fact that they died does not appear until the fourth paragraph of the article. After another four paragraphs we learn that at least 19 Palestinians died Wednesday when Israel carried out 70 airstrikes on the densely crowded strip.

The story also states that “Eight years ago as Mr. Deif met with other top Hamas military officials on the ground floor of a three-story home in Sheikh Radwan, the Israeli Air Force struck at 3 a.m. Nine members of a family on the upper floors of the house were killed, but Mr. Deif and his comrades escaped.”

And then we read, farther into the story, that at least 14 people died in 2002 when Israel assassinated Deif’s predecessor, Salah Shehadeh, during a missile strike on his home.

Here we have a reported 28 persons killed in their homes during attempts to assassinate two Hamas leaders. The victims include women and children and family members who happened to be on the upper floor when Israel targeted men on the ground floor. You would think this would raise concerns about the cost to innocent civilians, but this appears to be a non-issue with the Times.

The story quotes not a single government official, human rights worker or international observer who has something to say about the practice of bombing homes to kill Hamas leaders. There are certainly many out there who would like to comment, but it seems that Times reporters are not interested in raising the subject.

It is only at the close of the article that we get the question that should have been posed from the start. It comes from Deif’s father-in-law, who lost his daughter and grandson in the attack: “If Israel wants to kill a fighter, why would it kill women and children beside him? Let them kill him alone.”

But this comes from a grieved father and a supposed Hamas supporter. The Times may have managed to give mention at last to the big question here, but it does so in a way that readers can write off as coming from a biased source.

At the same time that the Times has failed to question Israeli policies in Gaza, the paper has also tried to discredit statistics that show the vast majority of deaths in Gaza this past month have been civilian ( See “Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead,” in print on Aug. 6.), but its own reporting belies that effort. What the Times tells us here fully supports the reports of a high civilian tally.

Here we have more than a dozen innocents dying in the pursuit of single Hamas official, and the Times reports it all, unaware of its own dissonance and apparently unconcerned.

Barbara Erickson

The NY Times Joins Israel’s Legal Defense Team

The month-long attack on Gaza has left some 2,000 dead, hundreds of thousands of residents displaced and nearly 17,000 homes destroyed, but in The New York Times none of this takes center stage: It is the view from Israel that prevails.

Israelis think it is time to move on, reporter Isabel Kershner tells us today. “Attention has already shifted to the legal battlefield,” she writes, “as Israel gears up to defend itself against possible war crimes.” The story that follows is a full-out effort to discredit a United Nations investigation into breaches of humanitarian and international law during what Israel called Operation Protective Edge.

In her article, “Israel Braces for War Crimes Inquiries on Gaza,” Kershner tells of the Israeli reaction to a UN Human Rights Council investigation launched earlier this week. She devotes her opening paragraphs to Israeli charges that the Canadian expert heading the inquiry, Prof. William Schabas, and the rights council itself are both biased against Israel, and she gives no space at all to the Palestinian reactions to the probe.

As for the war crimes in question, these receive brief attention well into the story. Kershner comes up with a few examples of incidents that might cause problems for Israel: the damage to UN schools where residents were taking shelter, the bombing of family homes and extensive destruction in Rafah. Once these are dealt with, she devotes the rest of the article to Israeli efforts to counter the investigations to come.

Although various human rights groups have issued reports and press releases alleging war crimes, Kershner mentions only one, a recent report from the Israeli group B’Tselem on the targeting of family homes. As she tells it, the group was “calling into question the clear military nature of the targets.”

In fact, B’Tselem accused Israel in more direct terms. In its report, “A Death Foretold,” it stated, “The grave consequences lend a hollow ring to Israel’s repeated claims that it has no intention of harming civilians. The massive bombardments of civilian locations were the rule rather than the exception in the last operation, routinely killing dozens of people a day.

“Whoever authorized the strikes must have known that they would result in many civilian fatalities, yet the bombardments continued day after day and even intensified. Authorizing attacks from the air, sea and artillery fire at heavily populated civilian areas and specific homes, constitutes willfully ignoring the inevitable killing of civilians – men, women and children – who did not take part in the hostilities.”

Kershner also makes no mention of other reports, such as one by Amnesty International accusing Israel of directly targeting health workers. In a recent release, the group quoted a senior official: “‘The harrowing descriptions by ambulance drivers and other medics of the utterly impossible situation in which they have to work, with bombs and bullets killing or injuring their colleagues as they try to save lives, paint a grim reality of life in Gaza,’ said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“‘Even more alarming is the mounting evidence that the Israeli army has targeted health facilities or professionals. Such attacks are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes. They only add to the already compelling argument that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.’”

There is no mention of the Amnesty release in the Times, nor is anything said about a Human Rights Watch report that stated, “Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war.” Nor has the newspaper reported that international law experts have charged that Israel deliberately terrorized civilians in Gaza.

Instead we have a look at how Israel will cope with this threat of legal condemnation in the international community, as if this is the major news of the day. Nothing is said about the Hamas reaction to the Human Rights Council probe. (In fact, even though Hamas will also be investigated for shooting rockets into Israel, a senior official welcomed the investigation.)

Moreover, Kershner continues to follow Israel’s wishes in downplaying civilian casualties. She writes that over 1,900 were killed “a majority of them believed to be civilians.” In her article the overwhelming majority reported by the United Nations and other observers has become just possibly a mere majority.

Although the United Nations is experienced and trusted in tallying such information, the Times prefers to go with the Israeli claim that the numbers are in doubt. In giving preference to Israel (with its obvious stake in the issue) over an independent organization, this reveals a deliberate bias.

For more detailed information, Times readers can go directly to the latest UN report. (There they will find that as of Aug. 15, 1,975 had been counted dead, including 1,417 civilians, 459 children and 239 women.) Readers may also be interested in a Guardian story that lists all the UN schools hit in Gaza with the casualty numbers for each.

Much is missing from the Times, and this is no accident. The newspaper has in effect joined the Israeli legal team. Readers will have to search elsewhere if they hope to find a serious look at what Israel has done in Gaza.

Barbara Erickson

[For those of you who would like to let the Times know what you think about their coverage of Palestine and Israel, there is a perfect opportunity right now in an ongoing effort by the US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation. Click here and find out what you can do.]

In the Service of Israel, The NY Times Opts for Incoherence

It’s mainly about Hamas in today’s New York Times story out of Gaza. Even as we hear of Palestinian resilience in the face of a prolonged assault, the subtle secondary message is straight out of Israeli propaganda: These people are suffering because of Hamas.

It’s not an easy spin to make in the face of broad support for the resistance in the beleaguered territory, but Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren gives it her best. The result is an internally inconsistent story with assertions that contradict its own reporting.

High in the article she states that Gazans are angry at Israel, Arab leaders, Western officials and “even quietly at the Palestinian militants who built tunnels under their neighborhoods.” The implication here is that ordinary citizens are afraid to speak out and criticize Hamas for endangering their lives by fighting in residential areas.

This fits neatly into the Israeli claim that the civilian death toll has been high because Hamas and other militants operate in densely populated neighborhoods. It also fits into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charge that Hamas prevents the truth from coming out. (He recently told this to a group of international journalists, who firmly rejected his charge.)

Rudoren asserts in her story today that open dissent against Hamas “is seen as dangerous.” To bolster her claim, she quotes a woman who insults Hamas and is told off by a man who disagrees. We are expected to take his words as a warning for her to be careful, but in fact, it tells us that people are not afraid to speak their minds openly and in public.

This is underscored in Rudoren’s interview with a local resident, who says that “he and his neighbors ‘do not allow the resistance to strike from here.’” This makes one thing clear: that the residents themselves have the final say in whether militants are fighting in their neighborhoods. It flies against the claim that they live in fear and are afraid to express their thoughts.

Her story also makes a general statement about Gazan attitudes toward the resistance: “They were proud of the performance of militants led by the Islamist Hamas faction, who managed to kill 64 soldiers and repeatedly penetrated Israel underground and even briefly shutter the airport in Tel Aviv.”

Rudoren goes on to quote a woman who called the tunnels “brilliant” and a stroke of “genius.” She also tells of a former Hamas critic who wrote that Israel had created “thousands—no millions—of Hamas loyalists.” None of this jibes with her message that the tunnels endangered the people of Gaza and they resent Hamas for getting them into the war.

It is likely that Rudoren was fishing for quotes to use in her effort to present Hamas as the villain, not as the protector, asking residents if they resented the tunnels in their neighborhoods. She found some critics, of course—one said the idea “bothered him,” another said the cement should have been used for homes—but in quoting them she undermines her claim that dissent is “dangerous.” Neither man was afraid to give his name to a reporter nor to speak out in front of others.

The effects of Israeli spin are also evident in a story by Isabel Kershner and Merna Thomas on ceasefire talks. They report (far down in the article) that more than 1,900 Palestinians have died, “a majority of them probably civilians.”

This is a serious erosion of the facts. The United Nations, which is experienced and trusted in collecting such data, has put the civilian toll at “at least 1,395” out of a total of 1,960, including 458 children and 237 women. There is nothing probable about the fact that the vast majority of victims were civilians.

The Times, however, gives deference to Israeli efforts to deny the evidence of this terrible toll, even though the government has a clear agenda in doing so. The newspaper would rather stand with Israel, the party responsible for this massacre, than report information from an independent source.

In the ceasefire story, this Israeli-centric bias gives us a deliberate distortion of reality. In the story out of Gaza today, the same dynamic is at work, and here it creates an incoherent narrative, an attempt to undermine its own findings and more obfuscation in the service of Israel.

Barbara Erickson

[For those of you who would like to let the Times know what you think about their coverage of Palestine and Israel, there is a perfect opportunity right now in an ongoing effort by the US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation. Click here and find out what you can do.]

Gaza Voices: “I Say to the Resistance, ‘Go Ahead. We Are Behind You.’”

The New York Times has bought into Israel’s claim that Hamas is to blame for the devastation and suffering in Gaza, giving play to the accusations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporting his charge in an editorial yesterday.

In its lead editorial for Aug. 7, the Times wrote that Hamas “launched weapons from populated areas in what looks like a deliberate effort to draw Israeli fire on innocents.” It adds no confirming evidence for this, but it seems that the editors are taking Israeli army claims at face value.

The Times has made no effort to speak at length with the people of Gaza on their thoughts about resistance fighters. Since these are the “innocents” that the Times professes concern for, it would be instructive to hear from them. We should not hold our breath waiting for the Times to do this, but fortunately, Al Jazeera has stepped into the breach, reporting on the thoughts of ordinary Gaza residents interviewed during the latest ceasefire.

Reporter Mohammed Omer traversed the Strip, visiting Palestinians in the north, south and central areas of Gaza, letting them speak their minds as they would. Their comments reveal no resentment of Hamas, no hint that the fighters drew fire on innocent bystanders. On the contrary, they praise the resistance, express anger at the silence of Arab leaders and speak with pride of their own resilience and determination.

Here are the words of Umm Salam Abuelbayad, 35, a homemaker: “And I say to the resistance: Go ahead, we are behind you. I say this despite losing my home and some family members being injured. I say this despite my pain and deep wounds. If I were to describe this last month: It was a war of terror.

“This war made me believe only in the resistance, and the resistance will bring an end to this occupation. It is the resistance which defends us and our souls—the world is watching us, but they are doing nothing for us.”

It is well worth reading the other comments in Omer’s story, which is titled “Voices from Gaza: Survivors Speak Out.”

And for background on conditions in the Gaza Strip, as the ceasefire crumbles, there is the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ latest situation report, to be found here.

Barbara Erickson

Playing to Israel’s Tune, The NY Times Turns Its Back on the Suffering in Gaza

The editorial team at The New York Times has told readers what to think about the latest ceasefire in Gaza: Hamas is to blame for the devastation, it says, and Israelis are feeling psychological and social pain in the wake of the attack.

“Making the Gaza Cease-Fire Last,” acknowledges the numbers of Palestinian dead but goes on to emphasize how awful this has been for Israelis. In a list of “important but less tangible costs,” it names not a single cost on the Palestinian side. We have nothing but Israeli concerns—the fear of rockets, strains on relations with the United States and international criticism.

Even a casual reader can see what is wrong here: This is all about Israel once again. Yes, the editors say, more than 1,800 Palestinians have died, but let’s look at how Israel is hurting.

Thus, on the list of intangibles, Israeli fears of rocket attacks (which have killed a total of three people) get mention, but there is nothing about the traumatized children of Gaza, who have seen their companions killed and have often suffered crippling injuries themselves. This is most certainly an “intangible” worth noting.

Also on the editors’ list is the fact that Israel’s assault has created “bitter strains” with its allies. This is more important in their eyes than a devastated health system in Gaza, the lack of potable water and tens of thousands of displaced persons.

The editorial also provides us with a list of conditions that should come out of negotiations between the parties. Here the editors give first place to the end of rocket attacks against Israel and a halt to the smuggling of weapons. Nothing is said about Hamas’s reasonable demand to end the blockade. Last on the list is “an international donors’ conference to rebuild Gaza.”

We should note that in proposing this conference, the Times is not saying Israel should help rebuild the structures and lives it has destroyed. This, as usual, would be up to the international community, even though Israel, as the occupying power, is obliged by law to provide for the people under its control.

The Times takes it cues from Israel, not from the international organizations working to help the people of Gaza nor, of course, from the Palestinians. Thus, we have no mention of the major issues highlighted in the latest situation report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an organization experienced in tallying data and assessing needs in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This office, which draws on information from a number of groups, listed these urgent concerns:

  • “Thousands of explosive remnants of war are posing a major threat to children, farmers, [internally displaced persons] returning home and humanitarian workers.
  • “Alternative housing will be needed for the approximately 65,000 people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
  • “373,000 children require psychosocial support.
  • “87,000 people are still in [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] shelters.”

None of this appears in the editorial today. It is not even news within the pages of the newspaper. All the concern is for Israel, although it is responsible for immense suffering. Once again Times editors have turned their backs on the anguish in Gaza, doing their best to have us look elsewhere, playing to the tune of Israel’s leaders.

Barbara Erickson

Israel’s Reputation Lies in Ruins: The NY Times Puts Up a Smoke Screen

A perfect storm of protest has converged in recent days, all fueled by outrage over Israeli attacks in Gaza. It ranges from the highest levels of the British government to demonstrators on the street, but The New York Times today has turned its back on all of them.

Rather than inform readers of these developments, the paper has chosen to help Israel by muddying the waters regarding the issue of civilian casualties. Casting doubt on carefully amassed United Nations statistics that show 85 percent civilian deaths (the Times uses older data showing 72 percent), writer Jodi Rudoren gives deference to undocumented Israeli claims that half the deaths were combatants.

It seems that this is meant to distract us from the international outcry over innocent deaths in Gaza and recent accounts that show just how far Israel has managed to “delegitimize” itself in the eyes of the world. The Times runs stories about Israel’s pull-back from Gaza, Hamas politics and efforts to stifle dissent in Israel, but there is only cursory mention of international condemnation far down in the ceasefire article.

Nowhere in the Times is there any detailed look at the outcry against Israel that is coming from all levels in the international community. Readers, however, can look elsewhere, and here are some of the stories they will find in other media outlets:

Senior British cabinet member, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, resigned yesterday citing the government’s failure to condemn the attack on Gaza. She wrote, “Our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

A group of distinguished British jurists wrote to the International Criminal Court, urging it to launch an investigation into crimes committed in Gaza, including the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools. The letter was signed by the chair of the British Bar Council’s human rights committee and signed by a host of senior barristers and law professors.

Human Rights Watch issued a news release saying that Israeli forces shot and killed civilians fleeing from fighting in the town of Khuza. It cited “several incidents” from July 23 to July 25.

Amnesty International appealed to the United States government to halt a shipment of fuel to the Israeli military “as evidence of war crimes mounts.” The group has also asked for an arms embargo on Israel.

The British National Union of Students voted to boycott companies that support Israel, stating, “NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity, and to actively work to cut ties with those that do.”

A group of nine activists in the United Kingdom shut down a factory run by a subsidiary of the Israeli arms firm Elbit. The group said in a statement, “By allowing this factory to export engines for killer drones to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.”

The American group Jewish Voice for Peace, which opposes military aid to Israel as long as the occupation remains, has reported a spike in its membership and also in support on social media since the attacks on Gaza began. The number of Facebook likes has tripled, the number of Twitter followers has doubled and dues paying membership increased 20 percent in one month.

These are disastrous developments for Israel, which devotes funds and organizational effort to promote its standing in the international community, but Times readers hear none of it. Rather than report the news in whole, the newspaper has chosen once again to place Israel’s reputation above the right to know.

Barbara Erickson