Israeli War Crimes: Too Much Even for the NY Times

The New York Times has at last come out with two good front-page stories about Israeli atrocities in Gaza. After weeks of blatant and subtle efforts to obscure the reality of war crimes, it seems that Israel’s bloodbath has finally become too much even for the Times.

We have a breaking news account of an Israeli missile strike that killed 10 people lined up for food rations at a United Nations school in Rafah, and we have a look at a past shelter attack in Jabaliya. Both stories finger Israel as the culprit.

The article about the Jabaliya attack tells of vain efforts to get detailed information from the Israeli army and throws doubt on an army video purported to show that no one was present when one of their shells struck the compound.

Such reports are refreshing when we consider the usual deference Times reporters show to Israeli security forces pronouncements. But today’s approach does not extend to Israeli officials’ claims about the number of combatants killed. Rather than accept the carefully acquired and documented data supplied by the United Nations, the Rafah story gives equal weight to  unnamed Israeli officials who throw out their own claims about the combatant toll.

Thus, we do not read that more than 80 percent of the dead have been civilians, as UN research has shown, but that estimates “varied widely, with some Israeli officials suggesting that the number [of combatants killed] was more than 700 [out of a total of 1,822].”

Nevertheless, we can be grateful for the stories today and perhaps note that the two stories fall into line with the reaction of U.S. officials. The White House and state department also finally broke their silence on Israeli war crimes and expressed outrage at the latest killings. Thus we find the Times in its usual posture of supporting the official American stance.

The big question now is whether the Times will continue to question Israeli spin and begin to place the latest assault in the context of the seven-year siege of Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian land.

We should hope that Times readers will soon receive a comprehensive look at what the present attacks have done to agricultural land, utilities, water resources, schools, homes, hospitals and other necessities of life. And we should hope that the Times would do this in the context of international law, taking a hard look at Israel’s intentions in inflicting such grievous damage on an already impoverished population.

We can express these hopes, encouraged by today’s change of tone, but based on past experience, we cannot do so with any confidence.

Barbara Erickson

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