Physicians for Human Rights-Israel came out with a damning report yesterday, citing Israel’s use of human shields during its campaign against Gaza last summer and calling for investigations into possible violations of human rights and international law.
How does The New York Times treat this news? It buries the story inside a report that the Israeli state comptroller, in an effort to head off an International Criminal Court inquiry, will investigate military action in Gaza last summer.
In her page 8 story, Isabel Kershner notes that the comptroller’s announcement coincided with the PHR report, and she goes on to summarize the document, saying that PHR:
“Published a report criticizing what it said were failures of the Israeli military’s system for warning Gaza’s citizens of impending strikes during the fighting last summer. It also faulted the military for a lack of safe evacuation routes and for strikes against rescue teams.”
In other words, Kershner would have us believe that there is no breach of international law here, nothing but a system failure. The early warning mechanism was “inefficient,” Kershner states later in the story, leaving the impression that the army meant well but failed to carry out its plan with due diligence.
In fact, the report says much more. It states that the army appeared to violate “human rights and international humanitarian law, stemming from actions and decisions by multiple levels of the chain of military command.” It cites “the heavy bombardment of civilian neighbourhoods,” the “shooting of civilians at short and medium range by individual soldiers using light arms” and “abuse and ill-treatment during occupation of residential buildings, including the use of civilians as human shields.”
The document calls on the international community to “take steps to ensure” that Israel and Egypt allow investigators who are expert in international law and in the use of weapons to enter Gaza. “This has not been done, months after the offensive,” the report notes.
None of this appears in Kershner’s story. She writes that the report was “researched and written by eight international medical experts who were given access to Gaza,” but she fails to say that Israel has refused entry to other investigative groups, such as Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.
She likewise says nothing of case studies included in the report: the six-year-old who died after being denied medical care, the “apparently deliberate attack” on Shuhada’ Al Aqsa Hospital which left “several people killed and injured” and the use of human shields in which soldiers forced Gaza residents to stand at open windows while soldiers aimed their rifles from behind.
Kershner omits the title of the report (It is named “No Safe Place.”), which means that persistent readers will have search for it on the PHR-I website. The majority however, will come away with just what the Times intended: a sense that the Israeli army was guilty of little more than inefficiency and poor planning.
In fact, the report turns Israeli propaganda on its head, undermining its claims to have “the most moral army in the world” and its accusations that it was Hamas who used human shields in Gaza. The Times fails to report this, opting instead to neutralize and undercut the work of a courageous group of physicians and other experts rather than reveal the truth about Israel.