How The NY Times Whitewashes the Scandal of Israel’s Child Prisoners

Dima al Wawi, 12, was released from an Israeli prison last week, and according to The New York Times, her experience there was not all that bad. She played shuffle ball and went to classes, and when she came home after more than two months, she remained her spunky self.

This is the tenor of a piece by Diaa Hadid that ran on page one recently under the headline, “As Attacks Surge, Boys and Girls Fill Israeli Jails.” The tone here is in stark contrast to other accounts. The Daily Mail, for instance, ran the story with this title: “Haunted face of a 12-year-old girl broken by jail.”

A YouTube video of Dima’s reunion with her family also reveals a stony-faced child with dull eyes, and her mother speaks of her dismay at seeing her like that: “It seems like she is living in another world, in shock, not aware of what is happening.” She adds, “It feels like our suffering has increased.”

But Hadid gives us nothing like this. Her piece opens with a description of a benign Israeli prison experience and ends with Dima talking back to her mother like a normal, spirited pre-teen. Only far into the story do readers learn that Dima was not allowed to have either her parents or a lawyer present when she was interrogated and that she was shackled when she appeared in court.

Also missing from Hadid’s article is a full account of Israel’s scandalous treatment of Palestinian children and its apartheid court system. She describes these euphemistically as “a debate over how Israel’s military justice system, which prosecutes Palestinians from the West Bank, differs from the courts that cover Israeli citizens…and especially how it handles very young offenders.”

In fact, this is more than a debate. It is an atrocity that monitoring organizations have been documenting and publicizing for years: Israel routinely abuses Palestinian children in custody, deprives them of access to their parents and lawyers and coerces them into confessions. (See list of sources below.)

In addition, Israel is the only country in the world that systematically tries children (but only Palestinian children) in military courts, and it has two distinct systems for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank. The former are tried in civil court while Palestinians face military trials.

In the Times story, however, this scandalous state of affairs becomes little more than a bureaucratic matter, a problem that calls for bringing two separate justice systems “more in line with one another.”

Hadid writes that Israel is trying to correct this deficiency, and she lists some policy changes made since a 2013 UNICEF report outlined abuses, but she fails to clarify either the extent of these abuses or the consistent and widespread condemnations of Israeli practices.

It is not only UNICEF that has raised alarm over the scandal: Human Rights Watch, Defence for Children International, the Israeli monitoring group B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Military Court Watch, several members of the U.S. Congress, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child, Breaking the Silence (a group of former Israeli soldiers) and the U.S. State Department have done the same over several years.

It should also be noted that Israel, even as it claims it is correcting the problems, recently denied a delegation from the UK the right to witness child detainees in court. Additionally,  the DCI report, cited in Hadid’s article, states, “Despite repeated calls to end night arrests and ill treatment and torture of Palestinian children, Israel has persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against child detainees.”

Missing from the Times story is a major abuse cited in the above quote: the arrest of young Palestinians during night raids. Israeli soldiers routinely invade Palestinian homes after midnight—terrorizing families and neighborhoods in the process—and haul away teenagers and children accused of throwing stones or other offenses.

After a drumbeat of criticism from rights groups, the military announced that it would try a pilot program to cut down on night raids by delivering summonses to suspects, demanding that they turn themselves to the authorities.

But as the online magazine 972 reported, little has changed. The program has affected only 5 percent of these arrests, the documents are often handwritten in Hebrew without translation and soldiers are delivering the summonses during night raids.

DCI noted in its report that Israel has an obvious interest in continuing the raids: “Arresting children from their homes in the middle of the night, ill-treating them during arrest and interrogation, and prosecuting them in military courts that lack basic fair trial guarantees, works to stifle dissent and control an occupied population.”

Hadid’s story makes no mention of the night raids nor of the possible Israeli strategic interest mentioned by DCI. We get glimpses of the hardships Dima’s family has faced, but overall the effect is to minimize the trauma Israel inflicts on Palestinian children.

As the Times tells it, the treatment of these young detainees is simply “different” from that of young Israelis who run afoul of the law. It’s a matter of making a few adjustments, not a matter of ingrained racism and a brutal occupation.

Online readers can get a more complete story by clicking on the links to the DCI and UNICEF reports, but in the Times itself only fragments of the truth are allowed into print. The result is to obscure the cruel reality of routine abuse in the cells and interrogation rooms of Israel’s crowded prisons.

Barbara Erickson

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What Is Israel Trying to Hide?

A delegation of seven lawmakers from the European Parliament arrived in Israel last month to visit Gaza, but one day before they were due to enter the enclave, Israeli authorities refused to give them access. Officials gave no reason for this ban, and The New York Times was equally silent, making no mention of the event in its pages.

This past week a group of six Belgian members of parliament, representing a range of political parties, also traveled to Israel, planning to meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations in Gaza. Israeli authorities blocked their entry to the coastal strip, sparking an outraged reaction from the MPs. Once again, the Times had nothing to say.

Three days later, however, the Times ran a story on page 3, informing us that India has denied visas to a group monitoring religious conflicts. The story, “India Denies Visas to Group Monitoring Religious Freedom,” appears online and in print, and it tells us that the delegates had hoped to assess the state of religious liberties in India and were “deeply disappointed” in the outcome.

This isn’t the only time the newspaper has found such state actions newsworthy. When China refused entry to a delegation from the United Kingdom, for instance, the Times ran a story under the headline “China Says It Will Deny British Parliament Members Entry to Hong Kong.”

And then there was Iran and the matter of inspecting its nuclear facilities, all very much part of the lengthy negotiations that led to an historic agreement and the lifting of sanctions. The concern over inspections took up many column inches in the Times. Would Iran allow access? How much and when?

Meanwhile, the newspaper had nothing to say about Israel’s nuclear weapons program and its refusal to allow entry to inspectors. (See TimesWarp 6-2-15.)

With the India visa story last week, the newspaper reveals once again that such affairs are fit to print—if the offending state is not Israel—and that the Times continues to maintain a double standard. This policy has left its readers ignorant of Israel’s lengthy record of denying entry to monitoring groups and international officials.

Less than two weeks ago, Israeli officials refused to allow Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to visit Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The request was made too late, the officials said. Kenyatta was on a three-day state visit, the first from a Kenyan president since 1994. No mention was made in the Times.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, also on a three-day visit to Israel in December of 2014, did manage to meet with Abbas, but he was denied entry to Gaza. Adams, who had been instrumental in reaching a peace agreement in Ireland, said the refusal to allow him access ran “contrary to the needs of the peace process.” Israel (and the Times) made no comment.

During and after the attacks on Gaza in the summer of 2014 Israel denied repeated requests from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter the enclave and investigate charges of war crimes against both sides. Two months later Israeli officials also denied representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Council the right to enter Gaza for the same purpose.

The Times failed to run stories on either of these occasions, but it was forced to reveal the fact that the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, resigned over just this issue, saying that despite repeated requests, Israel denied him entry to the West Bank and Gaza.

The story, however, was relegated to the World Briefing section and the author, Isabel Kershner, took care to give the Israeli pretext for its refusal: that the UN Human Rights Council is “biased” and “hostile” to Israel’s interests.

The Times would rather not take up such stories, it seems. To do so might create doubts in the minds of readers, upsetting the carefully cultivated impression that Israel and Palestine are two equal parties at the negotiating table and on the ground.

Such news would make it uncomfortably clear that Israel is in full charge of the borders and that there is nothing equal about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It also raises the question, which an Irish delegate raised in reacting to the recent ban on EU parliament members travel to Gaza: “What does the Israeli government aim to hide?”

The Times is willing to raise this question—even if by implication—in regards to India or China or Iran, but it has no interest in prompting such doubts when it comes to Israel. Readers, therefore, might want to ask the Times a similar question: In censoring numerous stories of Israeli bans on travel to the occupied territories, just what is the newspaper trying to conceal?

Barbara Erickson

Five Palestinians Die Within 12 Hours: The NY Times Goes Mum

Within the span of 12 hours yesterday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinians, one of them in Gaza and the rest in the West Bank. Two of the dead were teenagers, and although the army claims some of them were shot during stabbing attempts, witnesses have given different accounts.

None of this, however, has appeared in The New York Times. Searches using the names of the dead in various spellings turn up blank, without even a fleeting appearance in wire service accounts.

Contrast this response to the Times headline of just one week ago: “Attacks by Palestinians Kill 3 Israelis and Wound More Than 20.” This title ran across the top of page A8 last Wednesday, and the story that followed never reported the number of wounded Palestinians, which by that point had reached nearly 2,000 since the beginning of the month.

Now we have five Palestinians dead and not even a paragraph in World Briefing to inform readers of this latest carnage by Israeli troops. If five Israelis had been among the dead, we can be sure the Times would have found this news fit to print.

Those who died yesterday included Oday Hesham al Masalma, 24, of Beit Awwa, southwest of Hebron; Hamza Mousa al Alma, 25, of Beit Oula, west of Hebron; Bashar Nizam al Ja’abari, 15, and Hussam Isma’il al Ja’abari, 17, both of Hebron; and Ahmed Sharif al Sarahi, 30, of Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that al Masalma had tried to stab a soldier but was disabled and helpless when he was killed. It added that soldiers refused to let an ambulance approach him for half an hour.

Al Alma was shot in his car near Gush Etzion settlement near Bethlehem, PCHR stated, and the military claimed that he had run into two settlers.

PCHR reports that the teenagers died during a settler protest in the streets of Hebron, when the two had been prevented from making their way home. The boys had asked a soldier for help in crossing through a gate when army snipers shot them, the release states.

“When the two children heading towards the gate were only two meters away from the soldier,” the report says, “other Israeli soldiers fortified in a military watchtower in the area opened fire at the children and killed them immediately. The Israeli forces detained the children’s corpses and denied the Palestinian civilians and ambulances access to the area‫.”

Media outlets reported the army version of events: that one of the boys tried to stab a soldier and both were shot.

PCHR reported that al Sarahi died after being hit by three bullets to the chest when he was with a group in an agricultural field about 350 meters from the border fence. Two others were wounded. The Israeli army claimed that it had killed a “sniper,” even though the group was in the open.

The deaths on Tuesday brought the total of Palestinians killed this month to 47 as of yesterday, PCHR said.

Times articles have managed to obscure the tally of Palestinian dead during this latest uprising, breaking the data into narrow categories or providing imprecise amounts. Thus, in a story yesterday we find, “Eight Israelis have been killed this month and at least 18 suspected attackers have been fatally shot at the scene by Israeli security forces and civilians.” By that date the total of Palestinian dead was over 40.

The newspaper has also failed to report the evidence that Israel is carrying out extrajudicial killings in shooting protesters and others who posed no threat. Times readers are unlikely to know that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a group of nine human rights groups in Israel have charged Israel with killing without provocation.

A release by the rights group Adalah, signed by the nine organizations, notes, “In instances when Jews have been suspected of attacks, none of the suspects has been shot.”

The organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor also released a video with eight cases that reveal Israeli brutality and trigger-happy security forces. Its press release, “Euro-Med Monitor Calls on International Community to Halt Israel’s Extrajudicial Executions,” states that “Israel is escalating its use of extrajudicial execution” and notes that video footage has disproven some claims that victims were shot during stabbing attempts.

The Times has ignored all of these reports, relying heavily on the official word from Israel security forces. Often the claims of stabbing attempts are reported without the usual journalistic addition of “alleged” to the claims. Police and army statements are taken at face value as fact in many instances in the Times (see here and here), and the countervailing reports by eyewitnesses go unmentioned.

In today’s edition, the newspaper has gone one farther. It has turned its back entirely on the latest round of killings, omitting any mention of five tragic Palestinian deaths from its pages. The contrast with coverage of Israeli fatalities could not be more stark than it is in this instance. The effort to shield Israel at all costs could not be more obvious.

Barbara Erickson

Defending the Indefensible: How The NY Times Spins for Israel

It’s a topsy-turvy world in The New York Times. Palestinians are dying, but it is Israelis who are fearful. Unarmed Palestinians face the threat of heavily armed settlers and security forces, but it is not Palestine that has a security problem; it is Israel.

This is the scenario we find today in a story by Isabel Kershner titled “Stabbings, and Deadly Responses, Add to Israel’s Security Challenge.” Here we learn that Israelis have a “shattered sense of personal security” after a series of lone-wolf stabbing attempts.

Kershner takes all the stabbing allegations as fact, rejecting any evidence to the contrary, and nowhere in this lengthy story do we find any concern for how Palestinians are feeling even though more than two dozen have been killed since Oct. 1 and more than 1,300 wounded (compared with four Israelis killed and some 28 wounded in the same time period).

Neither Kershner nor her editors find Palestinian vulnerability at all newsworthy. It is only Israeli sentiments that matter here.

Likewise, it is not the death of so many Palestinians that concerns the Times but the effect on Israel’s reputation. As Israel “resorts to live fire,” Kershner writes, the number of Palestinian deaths is mounting, and this fact “is increasingly opening Israel up to criticism, placing the government in a quandary.”

From then on her article is an attempt to defuse that criticism without giving readers a clear sense of what accusations have been made. She writes, for instance, that Amnesty International “has accused Israel of using excessive force,” as if this refers to past reports by the monitoring group but failing to mention a recent release about the current attacks.

In fact, Amnesty is one of three human rights organizations to speak out against trigger-happy Israeli forces in the past week. Human Rights Watch and Al Haq, a Palestinian group, also raised the alarm about the increasing violence against Palestinian civilians.

Amnesty’s report was titled, “No justification for deliberate attacks on civilians, unlawful killings by Israeli forces, or collective punishment of Palestinians.”

Kershner ignores the findings of all these reports and at the same time attempts to explain away the shocking brutality displayed by Israeli settlers and troops in several videos appearing on social media in recent days. “Some of the videos of police shootings have had the added effect of turning the Israelis, in the eyes of some people, from the victims of terrorism into aggressors,” she writes.

These videos (see here and here) show helpless and unarmed Palestinians surrounded by armed troops or angry mobs. In one of them a boy lies crumpled and bleeding on the pavement as Israelis shout at him, “Die, you son of a whore!” All of the Palestinians are either injured or killed, but once again Kershner’s concern is not for the victims in the videos but for Israel’s reputation.

Kershner concedes that Israelis may have gone too far in a couple of these cases, but she is quick to excuse their aggression as “panic” by traumatized individuals.

After trying to neutralize the effects of the videos and the human rights groups’ reports, Kershner turns her attention to alternative media. The accounts by these outlets have often contradicted the stabbing attempt allegations made by Israeli security forces.

Rather than reporting the contradictions, Kershner states that alternative news media have been “feeding the anger” of Palestinians by often denying that any attack took place. She is implying that these media are not to be trusted and that their reports are inciting Palestinian hostility.

As usual, the Times makes no effort to place the attacks in context, ignoring the ugly realities of the occupation and the enormous disparity in power between Palestinians and Israelis. Thus she implies that the attacks on Israelis arise out of hatred and lack any valid motive. Her reference to “feeding the anger” fits well into that narrative.

Missing from her article are the frequent settler mobs who march through Jerusalem and other cities chanting “Death to Arabs” while police and soldiers stand by to protect them. Kershner ignores this kind of incitement, preferring to stay with the Israelis-as-victims story line.

Israel is a nuclear power with sophisticated weapons and a standing army. Palestine has no army and not a single tank or aircraft, and its unarmed populace has suffered appallingly at the hands of the occupiers. The numbers show Palestinian casualties outnumbering those of Israelis by a ratio of more than 100 to 1 in the first week of this month.

Given all this, it takes some effort to convince readers that Israel—not Palestine—faces a “security challenge.” Kershner, with the blessing of the Times editors, has made that effort, providing us with a story that distorts the reality on the ground, ignoring journalistic standards and the ethical demands of compassion.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Snubs David Carr’s Gaza Expose

In all its many tributes to media critic David Carr, who died last week, The New York Times has praised his style, honesty and courage and held to light the dramatic arc of his life, but the paper has failed to mention one of his finest moments as a newsman: the day he called out the Israeli military for targeting and killing journalists.

Carr’s column, “Using War as Cover to Target Journalists,” appeared on Nov. 25, 2012, five days after Israeli missiles killed three newsmen traveling in marked cars in Gaza. Carr wrote, “Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, ‘The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.’”

He followed this with a terse comment: “So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”

Carr also noted that Israel had earlier struck two buildings housing “journalists and production personnel from a variety of local and international news media outlets,” and he reported the outraged protests from Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders over the killings.

All of this should have appeared in the Times news section, but Jodi Rudoren’s article the day of the strikes obscured the reality of what took place. She summed up one of the strikes in these words: “Just before 6 p.m., two camera operators for Hamas’s Al Aqsa Television network were burned to death when a bomb exploded their car on Al Shifa Street at the edge of the Beach Refuge Camp.”

Rudoren introduces this fact far into her story and she omits the death of a third journalist, also killed in a targeted strike that day. In her telling, Israeli forces had no responsibility for their deaths: It was simply that “a bomb exploded their car.”

It was not until Carr’s column appeared days later that readers were fully informed of Israel’s culpability. The difference was obvious to those members of the Israel lobby who monitor the news. They were silent following Rudoren’s story, but immediately after Carr’s column appeared the lobby responded—with letters to the editor and attacks in Zionist media, all of them saying the victims were terrorists, not really journalists.

The contrast is telling. Rudoren’s story shielded Israel; Carr’s column brought Israeli breaches of international law to public notice, and so he took the heat.

David Carr was doing the work that the Jerusalem bureau should have done, and his truth telling undermined the Times’ claim of neutrality, especially in regards to Israeli actions in Palestine. Along with his many other achievements, he should be remembered for this.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Neutralizes Report on Gaza Atrocities

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.

Barbara Erickson

Israel and the PA Join in Repression: All For the Good, Says The NY Times

A Palestinian Authority minister died Wednesday after Israeli forces roughed him up in the West Bank; Palestinian officials reacted with outrage, and now, according to The New York Times, the episode threatens a “crucial” relationship between the PA and Israel.

In stories yesterday and today the Times reports that the death of Ziad Abu Ein during a tree planting protest has prompted calls to end “security coordination” with Israel. It describes this policy as “the foundation of relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” but both stories add, almost as an aside, that this arrangement is “unpopular with many Palestinians.”

We have several problems here: The foundational relationship between the two entities is that of occupier and occupied, and the security link is that of collaboration with the oppressor. Moreover, the casual use of “many” obscures the fact that the vast majority (80 percent) of Palestinians in the occupied territories oppose the security arrangement.

It is telling that in the face of Palestinian opposition, the Times states outright that this is a “crucial” relationship, in other words, it is necessary. This is the Israeli view, and thus it is becomes a fact in the Times.

There is a huge back-story missing here. As the think tank Al Shabaka puts it, security coordination between the PA and Israel was intended to “criminalize resistance against the occupation and leave Israel—and its trusted minions—in sole possession of the use of arms against a defenceless population,” and it has succeeded to a significant degree.

Under this program, PA security forces in the West Bank cooperate with their Israeli counterparts to prevent “terrorist” activities (virtually any form of resistance to the occupation), arrest suspects and squelch demonstrations. It is an unholy alliance that came into being during peace talks, above all, the negotiations that produced the Road Map for Peace after 2002.

In the course of these talks, the Palestinian Authority came to believe it could hope for an independent state only if it clamped down on “terrorist activities.” The Palestinian police began to answer to Israeli demands, arresting West Bank residents on Israeli intelligence service blacklists and getting out of sight when Israeli forces invaded areas that are nominally under total Palestinian control.

After a decade of doing the bidding of Israel, PA security services have become a repressive force that has been cited by human rights groups (here and here) for torture, arbitrary arrest, assaulting nonviolent demonstrators and arresting journalists.

Nothing is said about this in the Times articles, which describe the PA as “Western-backed” (code for “moderate” or “reasonable”), while they avoid mention of PA abuses. In fact, Western backing has perpetuated a program that is creating a police state overlaying an occupation.

Although the recent Times articles gloss over these details, a November op-ed appearing online and in the international edition of the paper lays out the facts. The article is titled “Subcontracting Repression in the West Bank and Gaza,” and it calls on donors providing funds for the security program to reconsider their support.

The op-ed also states, “The behavior of the Palestinian Authority security sector has also helped to reinforce popular support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because they are seen as carrying the banner of Palestinian resistance.”

This attitude is evident in the different terms used for the Israeli-Palestinian security program: The PA calls it coordination, while the residents of the West Bank call it collaboration, in the negative sense.

It is all for the sake of Israel. One Western diplomat described the security agreement this way: “The main criterion of success is Israeli satisfaction. If the Israelis tell us this is working well, we consider it a success.”

Thus Al Shabaka calls the policy a “donor-supported creation of Palestinian security forces that primarily serve Israel’s colonial ambitions.” It adds that the arrangement has “served as an instrument of control and pacification of the Palestinian population in the area directly under Palestinian control as well as the area controlled jointly with Israel.”

The scandal is plain to see and widely acknowledged, but the Times provides no sense of it in its articles. Instead the paper sides with the oppressor, finding Israeli needs as “crucial” and the Palestinian experience unworthy of mention. Readers are left in ignorance, unaware of the true state of affairs and denied the essential context of this painful narrative.

Barbara Erickson

Israel Cashes in on Gaza Reconstruction

In a story notable for what it fails to say, The New York Times today tells us that donor nations have pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild Gaza. Although we get some numbers here, the article avoids the big question: Why are other nations asked to pay for Israel’s destruction in the strip this summer?

This is not a new concern. International organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International have called on Israel to make reparations after past attacks, and even the U.S. State Department recently said that Israel should make a material contribution to the rebuilding effort. This year Human Rights Watch has already made a strong statement in support of Israeli reparations.

None of this, however, appears in the Times story by Michael Gordon. In fact, the article avoids mention of Israeli culpability in the massive destruction of Gaza and the deaths of more than 2,000 people, the vast majority of them civilian. It is a “cycle of violence” that is to blame, not Israeli and U.S. bombs.

The Times cannot say the obvious: that Israel was responsible for the carnage and destruction in Gaza, that the residents of the strip live under a state of siege imposed by Israel and that this situation violates international and humanitarian law.

Human Rights Watch, however, cited international law in a recent release calling for donor nations and organizations to insist that Israel lift the blockade and make reparations. When parties to a conflict violate the laws of war, it said, they may be forced to pay compensation.

“Donor-funded projects were among those destroyed or damaged,” HRW wrote. “Donors should assess the damage caused by unlawful attacks” and press for remedies. “Such reparations could assist in the funding of new projects and deter future unlawful attacks.” In other words, demanding accountability from Israel might put a halt to its recurrent assaults.

Finally, HRW said, donors “should require Israel to pay compensation and reconstruction costs for civilian property, including internationally funded projects, that Israeli forces destroyed or damaged in unlawful attacks.”

The UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International also said after the assaults of 2008–2009 that the victims of unlawful attacks should be compensated. Amnesty made its appeal to the UN, saying that the world body should “make clear to the government of Israel that it has an obligation to ensure that victims of violations by Israeli forces that occurred during the conflict have immediate access to an effective remedy, including full and effective reparations.”

But to the contrary, far from paying for its destructive rampage against Gaza, Israel is expected to cash in. Israeli materials will be used in the rebuilding effort, and Israeli currency is needed to fund the projects.

Although the Times avoids any mention of this, other news outlets have taken notice. EurActiv, an online media outlet on the European Union, recently published a report on Israeli manipulations of aid money. It states that “a row is brewing over claims that Israel is earning millions of euros from a de facto policy of preventing non-Israeli reconstruction aid from entering the Gaza Strip.” (See TimesWarp “Israel Will Help Rebuild Gaza, for a Price.”)

The Guardian quotes an expert who claims that “60-65% of the money donated will return to Israel as they will supply the materials to allow the construction.” Alaa Tartir and Jeremy Wildeman of the think tank Al-Shabaka, writing in The WorldPost, set this at 45 percent, noting that “all investment is made in [Israeli] currency, often through Israeli suppliers or imported through Israeli-controlled borders.”

Julie Webb-Pullman in Middle East Monitor writes, “It is difficult to imagine a clearer incentive to continue the cycle of ‘destroy and rebuild’ than to reward the criminal by paying them to repair the destruction they have wreaked, rather than make them pay for it.”

Her article, “Donors or Enablers? ‘Gaza Reconstruction Conference,’” would never make it into the Times. It calls Israel a criminal; it notes that Egypt, the conference host, is preventing materials from entering Gaza and denying entry to medical patients in need of care; it calls the United States the “funder and arms supplier extraordinaire to the Israeli serial killers” and it also attacks Ban Ki-Moon.

Webb-Pullman is venting in print, but she makes some points that others make in more formal terms. She also asks why the conference is not held in Gaza itself and she writes that unless the donor countries insist on an end to the blockade and prevent Israel from profiting from their money, “The international community will merely be enabling ongoing Israeli abuse in the best traditions of the dysfunctional incestuous family.”

Yes, this is something of a rant, and this is not sober journalism with all the evidence at hand, but it is driven by the absurd situation in evidence. After the egregious omissions of the Times story today, her piece is nothing but refreshing.

Barbara Erickson

At the NY Times Silence is the Default Mode for Israeli War Crimes

When Human Rights Watch released a statement this week pointing to cluster bomb use in Syria, The New York Times was quick to pick it up. Under the headline, “Militants Add Cluster Bombing to Tactics, Rights Group Says,” the newspaper informed readers of these latest accusations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Here we have an interesting contrast: HRW released a similar report sounding the alarm about Israeli army actions in Gaza this summer, and the Times remained silent. The Aug. 4 release opened with these words:

“Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza’a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25, 2014. Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes.”

Although its ISIS story shows deference to HRW, referring to the report often and citing a “rights group” in the headline, the Times ignored the charges of war crimes in Gaza, even in the midst of intense coverage of the conflict.

It was not only the HRW report that failed to make the Times when the suspect in question was Israel. Amnesty International likewise received no mention when the group released a statement on Aug. 7 alleging other atrocities.

The news release states, “An immediate investigation is needed into mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza, which have left six medics dead, said Amnesty International as it released disturbing testimonies from doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel working in the area.”

The Times has never informed readers of this statement, nor has it reported more recent news concerning both AI and HRW: Israel has refused to let staff from either group enter Gaza to investigate possible war crimes.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this, saying outright that Israel was “using various bureaucratic excuses” to ban the groups from Gaza. The Institute for Middle East Understanding, AI and HRW have all issued statements and reports on Israel’s denial of access, but the Times has ignored them.

In an interview with IMEU, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said, “Obviously, Israel doesn’t want us investigating alleged war crimes in Gaza, even though we would look, as we always do, at the conduct of both sides.”

Israel has denied HRW entry to Gaza since 2006 and AI since the summer of 2012. It now tells them they have to register with the foreign affairs or the social welfare ministry. Both ministries set conditions that are “virtually impossible” for international human rights groups to meet, the groups claim.

None of this has appeared in the Times, nor has anything been said about charges that Israel used an experimental weapon, dense inert metal explosive (DIME) this summer in Gaza. DIME releases tungsten microshrapnel, which is carcinogenic and can slice through soft tissue and bone. Victims who manage to survive often lose their limbs and remain with wounds that do not respond to treatment.

DIME has not yet been banned under international law, but evidence of its use is disturbing and most decidedly newsworthy. It should find equal billing with Times reports of cluster bombs in Syria.

It may happen that one day the Times will run a headline saying that ISIS or the Syrian army or Al Qaeda is using DIME, but Israel is another matter, as HRW and other rights groups have found. When it comes to Israeli crimes, silence is the default mode at the Times.

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.]