Jacob's Voice

New Year’s Greetings From Hamas

The Algemeiner (September 19, 2014)

In the narrative of inversion that distorted media coverage of the recent Gaza war, the plight of Israeli civilians targeted by Hamas rockets, missiles and tunnel attacks was all but ignored. The conventional media wisdom featured innocent Gazans whose homes and lives were destroyed by cruelly disproportionate Israeli responses. Little wonder that during seven weeks when thousands of Israeli civilians fled from their homes and communities to safety with family, friends, or in makeshift accommodations elsewhere, the media remained fixated on Gaza victims of Hamas aggression.

 New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren finally roused herself to check the fate of bombarded Israeli civilians in Sderot, who have endured Hamas rocket attacks ever since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza nearly a decade earlier. She fixated on a group of middle-aged men, comfortably seated on a sofa and beach chairs on Koby Hill, who happily munched snacks while they cheered the Israeli rocket “show.” So much for the plight of Israeli civilians under attack. The death of 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman from a rocket attack on his family’s home in a border kibbutz, which immersed the entire country in sorrowful mourning, was virtually ignored.

During the seven-week war, Israeli security sources revealed that a massive surprise attack had been planned by Hamas for Rosh Hashanah. Two hundred Hamas fighters, wearing Israeli uniforms, would emerge from dozens of tunnels to kidnap and kill Israeli civilians, effectively holding the entire country hostage. It is little wonder that despite the current cease-fire Israeli residents of communities adjacent to Gaza remain apprehensive about spending the approaching High Holy Days in their homes. “People are very afraid,” revealed Silvia Orshovsky of Ein Hashlosha, owner of a market that was hit during a rocket attack. “I want to be secure,” she told an Israeli reporter. “I’m going to hold the holidays elsewhere with friends.”

She is not alone. In Kibbutz Nahal Oz, where the Tragerman boy was killed, seventeen families, including his, have announced that they were leaving their homes – either for a year or permanently. In nearby Nirim, a resident told a reporter “we will hold the holiday far away … if it won’t be quiet we’ll stay there.” The sense of abandonment by their government was palpable. But the toll exacted on Israeli civilians by incessant Hamas attacks was not a story deemed fit to print in The New York Times.

The narrative of Palestinian victimization remains too compelling to relinquish. With a Palestinian truck driver as her tour guide, Jodi Rudoren reported (September 17) on the recent upsurge in violence by young Jerusalem Arabs. Just as she had relied almost exclusively upon Gaza resident Fares Akram (the Times stringer who also reports for Al Jazeera) as her primary source of access to beleaguered Gazans, so she was guided through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya to whitewash the violence inflicted by rock-throwing Arab boys and men, hundreds of whom have been arrested by Israeli police.

Rudoren’s bias, whether or not to her credit, is always blatant. The source of the violent upsurge, she wrote, was “the abductions and murders of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the gruesome abduction and murder” of a Palestinian teenager. Revealingly, only the abduction and murder of the Palestinian boy was “gruesome.” She noted that “Palestinians report attempted kidnappings, aggression and racist taunts by Jews.” She did not disclose what Israelis report, nor reveal the response of the Israeli owner of the gas station that was assaulted and looted by unidentified “masked youths” throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

Ms. Rudoren’s Palestinian contacts, not surprisingly, offered variations on a familiar trope. The father of a 10-year-old, who runs a children’s center, revealed: “I’m not trying to convince them not to throw stones. I’m not going to tell them not to burn the gas station.” (Perish the thought.) A “community leader” in Issawaya, whose claim that his family has lived there for “800 years” is reported by Rudoren as though officially documented, blamed the recent outburst on “the settlers’ violence.” What violence – surely not the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers - Rudoren did not document. But she carefully quoted a mother of five who revealed “I hate all Jews… . I even tell my children to go and throw stones. It is normal. It is a reaction to what the army is doing.”

As she did from her visit to Kerry Hill in Sderot, Rudoren embraced the narrative that she never tires of recounting: the evil Israeli, indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians whose violent retaliation is unquestionably justified. For the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the Times, that is the news that’s fit to print.

 

  

 

 

 

 

A Familiar Plague Infests Israel

The Algemeiner (September 15, 2014)

Last week 43 Israeli soldiers from Unit 8200 of the IDF Intelligence Corps sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Grantz that has gone viral. Claiming that “during the course of our service we learned that the Intelligence Corps is an inseparable part of the military control over the territories,” they declared: “We refuse to take part in activity against Palestinians and refuse to be tools to deepen the military control in the occupied territories.”

Their proclamation of refusal, so soon after the havoc of Operation Defensive Shield, elicited a prompt and furious response signed by more than 200 members of their Unit, decrying as an act of “political insubordination” the protesters’ “cynical and politically motivated use of their legal and moral duty to serve.”  Nor were they alone. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon condemned the letter as a contribution to “the unfounded and undeserved delegitimization efforts against the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF.” Knesset member Yariv Levin, chairman of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee, declared: “Anyone who refuses to help protect the country essentially crosses the line from being a supporter of democracy to being a supporter of Palestinian terrorism.”

So the battle lines were drawn between Israeli soldiers and their nation – not for the first time. The struggle between conscience and country is hardly new. Five years after independence, 18-year-old Amnon Zichroni, claiming that he was a pacifist, refused to carry weapons. Israel’s first public conscientious objector, he was sentenced by a military tribunal to seven months in prison. In 1970, one hundred graduating high-school students issued a “declaration of intent” to Prime Minister Golda Meir: “We are wondering why we should fight in a repeated war which holds no future.”

Seven years later another student cohort asked Prime Minister Menachem Begin: “How do you expect us to go to war when we are not sure that the road that leads to war is just?” In a letter to Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, twenty-seven high-school students, inspired by “opposition to the occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people,” indicated their intention to refuse to serve in Judea and Samaria. Gad Elgazi, one of the signees, kept his word and was court-martialed and sentenced to one year in prison. Rejecting his appeal, the Supreme Court ruled: “No military organization can tolerate the existence of a general principle according to which individual soldiers can dictate their place of service, be it for economic or social reasons, or for reasons of conscience.”

During the first Lebanon war, which provoked unprecedented military disobedience (not coincidentally because Israel had its first right-wing prime minister), Colonel Eli Geva notoriously refused to lead his tank brigade in an attack on West Beirut. An organization named Yesh Gvul (“There is a Limit”) broadened its focus from the “occupied territory” in the West Bank to include Lebanon. Co-founder and reserve major Ishai Menuchin proclaimed: “It never occurred to me that I might be used as a tool of occupation or be asked to fight in wars of choice, as opposed to wars of defense.” Other soldiers cited Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. (revealing sources for Israeli refuseniks) and employed Holocaust and Nazi analogies to justify their disobedience.

The eruption of the Palestinian intifada in 1987 multiplied the number of dissenting reservists and soldiers, most of whom had already been active in leftist political and protest groups. In a letter to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Adi Ophir insisted that “occupation” was “a far greater menace to Israeli democracy and to the rule of law” than refusal to serve. A demographically identifiable segment of the population belonged to the refusenik movement, and still does: secular, Ashkenazi, highly educated, from elite sectors of Israeli society. Their political affiliation prompted a prescient warning from Haaretz lest left-wing disobedience become a precedent for future resistance from those on the political right.

Indeed, left-wing disobedience in the 1980s became the model for right-wing religious Zionists a decade later. The regional council of Jewish settlers declared that any government prepared to relinquish territory was “an illegal government” whose orders should be disobeyed. Former Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira, reiterating the supremacy of the biblical command to settle the land, cited Maimonides: “even if the King gives an order to transgress the words of the Torah, we do not listen to him.”

The Israeli Supreme Court has summarily rejected the principle “whereby soldiers can dictate … where they will serve,whether for economic or social reasons, or for reasons of conscience.” But the fundamental question remains: among competing sources of authority – the State, military orders, halakha, individual conscience, God – what will Israelis honor? The question is as old as Jewish history. The Biblical renegade Korah and his followers were swiftly punished by death for challenging the divine authority claimed by Moses and Aaron. For Josephus, who deserted his soldiers and surrendered to Vespasian, the source of legitimate authority was Roman power.

In contemporary Israel the ultimate source of legitimate authority may remain contentious. But the current challenge from several dozen disaffected reservists, now lacerated across the Israeli political spectrum, has deservedly undermined the left-wing political agenda they so avidly embrace.

When is an Islamic State not Islamic?

The Algemeiner (September 12, 2014)

In his nationally televised speech on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, President Obama pointedly declared: “The Islamic State [ISIL] is not Islamic.” If the President’s verbal acrobatics sounded familiar they were. And not only because he was echoing Humpty Dumpty’s familiar aphorism: “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”

In his memorable Cairo speech in June 2009, the new president referred to “a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world.” Citing 9/11 he identified “violent extremists … in a small but potent minority of Muslims” who have “exploited these tensions.” That horrific attack “has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to American and Western countries, but also to human rights.” Indeed it had, quite justifiably so.

But, President Obama insisted in his quest for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” America and Islam “share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” It was, he asserted, “part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

Now, as the Islamic State rampages through Syria and Iraq, with ambitions for an caliphate stretching far beyond those borders, even The New York Times noted that “its brutal interpretation of Islamic law” guided its path. One may plausibly argue that ISIL/ISIS is hardly representative of the history or culture of Islam – indeed, that it is a monstrous perversion of Islam by committing appalling acts in its name. But to assert, as President Obama recently did, that “ISIL is not Islamic” is not only false but, in the wake of the recent televised beheading of American journalists James Foley and Stephen Satloff by ISIL jihadi murderers, surreal.

Barely a week after 9/11 President George W. Bush, addressing Congress, identified Al Qaeda as “a fringe form of Islamic extremism.” His precision stands in sharp contrast to President Obama’s evasion of the obvious relationship between ISIS and Islam, however perverse its inflammatory words and horrific actions may be. As Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who served in the Defense Department between 2002-4, has written (Commentary 9/11): “National security should never be sacrificed upon the alter of political correctness… . To pretend that the enemy – ISIS in this case – does not root itself in an interpretation of Islam is simply wrong.”

Yet President Obama persists in wishing away ISIL’s self-proclaimed roots in Islam. “No religion,” he declared in his attempt at exoneration, “condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.” But as Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of best-selling books about Muhammad and Islam, asks: “If the Islamic State were really so obviously un-Islamic, how is it that it came to call itself ‘the Islamic State’”? And why have hundreds of Western Muslims – including, evidently, the ISIS jihadist who beheaded two American journalists – journeyed to the Middle East to join its ranks?

Why, one might wonder, does President Obama either fail to grasp, or decline to assert, the obvious derivation of the Islamic State from Islam? According to the most recent CIA estimate, it now has between 20,000-30,000 fighters on the ground in Syria and Iraq, its growth prompted by stronger recruitment (including hundreds of Western Muslims) and “the declaration of a caliphate.”

Historically, “caliphate” refers to the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion following the death of Muhammad. ISIS still has a way to go. But for an American president to avert his eyes from the religious (Islamic) roots of ISIS is a form of political myopia with potentially ominous consequences for Americans who have just commemorated the Al Qaeda-inflicted catastrophe now forever known as 9/11.

To Settle or Not to Settle? That is the Question

The Algemeiner (September 5, 2014)

Not long after the recent Gaza war finally subsided, a familiar contentious issue reemerged. Following an investigation lasting several years Israel’s Civil Administration declared nearly one thousand acres south of Jerusalem, within the cluster of communities known as Gush Etzion, to be state land. This meant that new homes could be built for Jews. Or, in the reflexive common parlance: Israel was planning another illegal “settlement” on “Palestinian” land.

To the contrary. The Etzion bloc, located between Jerusalem and Hebron, currently comprises 18 communities with nearly 40,000 residents. Its modern origins are traceable to 1927, when Yemenite immigrants and ultra-Orthodox Jews established “Migdal Eder,” named after the biblical site (mentioned in Genesis 35:21) where Jacob pitched his tent after burying Rachel. Destroyed during the violent Arab riots of 1929, when the ancient Jewish community in nearby Hebron was also decimated, it was rebuilt between 1943 and 1947, only to be demolished yet again by marauding Arabs on the eve of Israel’s independence. More than 200 Jewish residents, who fought valiantly to the bitter end, were massacred. By Knesset decree, the day Gush Etzion fell became – and remains – the day of remembrance for Israeli soldiers killed in military action.

Following the Six-Day War, Hanan Porat, a child survivor of the Gush Etzion carnage, was determined to restore his vanquished community. Impelled by the politics of memory, he joined Rabbi Moshe Levinger and lawyer Elyakim Haetzni in urging “a Jewish vengeance of building, rebirth and return” in Hebron and Gush Etzion. Their resolute efforts were crowned with success. But in the eyes of the world (including myopic secular Israelis), the current Jewish inhabitants of these ancient Jewish communities are “settlers,” illegally occupying “Palestinian” land. In fact, like their ardent Zionist predecessors ever since the 19th century, they have returned to the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.

Predictable public furor erupted, outside and inside Israel, following the Civil Administration announcement. A State Department official declared “We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity.” Al-Jazeera condemned “the latest and largest in a series of land grabs.” Peace Now warned that it could “dramatically change the reality” in the area. “Most countries,” noted The New York Times in a familiar trope, “consider Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law.” Times of Israel blogger Marc Goldberg, accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of a land grab propelled by ulterior political motives, urged: “Forget the 1,000 acres, leave them for the Palestinians and enter into a new peace process with Mahmoud Abbas.”

The canard of settlement “illegality” should finally be put to rest. Despite the incessant claims of settlement critics, international law fails to support them. Article 80 of the United Nations Charter (known as the “Palestine clause”) preserved the right of the Jewish people to “close settlement” west of the Jordan River. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), frequently cited by settlement critics, declared that an “occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Promulgated in the wake of forced Nazi population transfers during World War II, it hardly applied to the decisions of individual Jews (“settlers”) to return to their ancient homeland. Nor did the government of Israel “deport” Palestinians from, nor “transfer” Israelis to, biblical Judea and Samaria (Jordan’s “West Bank”) after the Six-Day War.

Following that war, the carefully framed language of UN Security Council Resolution 242 only required Israel to withdraw from “territories” – not from “the territories” or “all the territories” – that it gained during the Arab war to destroy the Jewish state. The absence of “the” was not an oversight; it was meant to assure Israel that the 1949 “Green Line” boundaries had been obliterated. As Undersecretary of State Eugene V. Rostow subsequently wrote: “The right of Jewish settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing [Palestinian] population to live there.”

If that provides insufficient legal support for the recent Israeli Civil Administration ruling, it might be noticed that the Oslo II Accord, signed by Rabin and Arafat at the White House in 1995, divided the West Bank into three zones. In Area A, Palestinians have full control; in Area B, there is mixed Palestinian and Israeli security control (and exclusive Palestinian civil control); and in Area C, Israel retains full military and civil control (including the power to zone and plan for development).

 The territory generating the current international bruhaha is entirely within Area C, where Israel possesses every right under international law to develop, and – to use that despised word – “settle.” If not in the land between Hebron and Jerusalem, the capitals of ancient Israel, then where?

On Wednesday the Jerusalem Local Building and Planning Committee approved a large construction proposal for an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem with 2,200 homes. Israel’s settlement critics remain silent. Might there be a double-standard?

Exposing The New York Times’ Top Man in Gaza

New York Times readers have reason to wonder how Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren, its primary Gaza war reporter, has gained access to the Palestinian civilians whose tragic plight she has so incessantly recorded. Ms. Rudoren has acknowledged that she cannot speak Arabic, which inevitably raises questions about her access to the sources she cites.

The answers are entwined in the identity of the Times’ primary Gaza journalist, who only recently shared a by-line. Until then he was invariably described as having “contributed reporting” from Gaza. He is Fares Akram, described by Rudoren as “brave, committed, talented … indefatigable.” He may be all of these, but there is more to his story, and to Times coverage, than that. Indeed, living in north Gaza City, Akram’s life among Gazans, within the framework of his own family history in Gaza, have decisively molded – and distorted – Times coverage.

Akram is the grandson of Fares al-Ghoul, a Palestinian refugee from Ashkelon in 1948, whose son Akrem (Fares’s father), became a lawyer and judge employed by the Palestinian Authority. Fares Akram’s 48-year-old father was killed on his farm near the northern Gaza border during an Israeli air strike at the beginning of the 2009 Gaza war, launched to destroy Hamas rocket sites that were firing missiles into Israel.

His father, Fares Akram wrote mournfully five years ago, “hated what Hamas was doing to Gaza’s legal system, introducing Islamist justice, and he completely opposed violence.” Had he lived, “he would have worked hard for a just settlement with Israel and a better future for Palestinians.” But as “a grieving son,” Fares wrote, “I am finding it hard to distinguish between what the Israelis call terrorists and the Israeli pilots and tank crews who are invading Gaza.” He asked: “What is the difference between the pilot who blew my father to pieces and the militant who fires a small rocket?” The difference  was – and remains – that Hamas launched war against Israel. The distinction between attacker and responder still eludes Fares Akram.

His own political identity was expressed, and likely deepened, by his work as a research consultant, which began in 2007, with Human Rights Watch. He contributed to its sharp indictments of Israel for alleged war crimes during the Gaza war that resulted in his father’s death. His relationship with the organization continues. But Human Rights Watch is hardly a neutral observer or reporter. Financially sustained by the George Soros Open Society Foundation (Soros gained notoriety a decade ago for blaming anti-Semitism on Israel and the United States), it was sharply criticized for its delegitimization of Israel during Operation Cast Lead. Then as now, Israel was pilloried for retaliating against Hamas attacks from behind civilian shields.

The Times is not Akram’s only journalistic employer; he also reports for Al Jazeera. As Richard Behar wrote in his comprehensive Forbes article on “The Media Intifada” against Israel (August 21), Akram’s recent writings “show a stark blood-soaked landscape of burned Palestinian corpses and suffering Palestinian civilians – with not a single Hamas fighter to be found.” Reporting the devastation in Shujayea, with its intricate web of Hamas tunnels and underground command centers, Akram refrained from assigning any responsibility to the Gaza terrorists who instigated and perpetuate the current carnage from their concealed hiding places.

The problem, Akram revealed in a Times interview (August 6), is that “the story of Gaza is my story too.” He believes that he can set aside his own feelings “when necessary to maintain my fairness and rigor as a reporter.” But he acknowledges that “because of security concerns,” Hamas officials have “disappeared,” remaining unavailable “to respond to questions about whether their tactics are appropriate, effective or enjoy popular support.” Furthermore, Hamas militants “are Israel’s declared targets, so trying to get close to them endangers us.” To stay alive, he must keep his distance, focused exclusively on the plight of Gaza civilians amid Israeli responses to Hamas aggression. That is the only narrative its leaders permit.

The Times evidently believes that “all the news that’s fit to print” about Gaza can be provided by a partisan Gazan stringer who is handcuffed by Hamas. Akram’s tendentious lamentations should encourage reconsideration of its heavy reliance upon his reporting. It is otherwise impossible to understand why the death toll among Gazans (now just over 2000, including many hundreds of Hamas fighters) is endlessly reiterated in the Times while the mounting civilian death toll in Syria, approaching 200,000, is virtually ignored.

Postscript: On August 23, one week after the Times published a front-page interview with a Holocaust hero who now lacerates Israel for its racism at home and war crimes in Gaza, it printed a half-page ad signed by scores of Holocaust survivors and descendants. Expressing alarm at “the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society” and “the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people” in Gaza, they advocated “the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.”

In a twist of historical irony to which they were evidently oblivious the signers selected the most appropriate forum for their appalling anti-Zionist jeremiad. Had The New York Times not buried the Holocaust in its inner pages, whenever it even deigned to notice the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews, many victims whose memory these morally obtuse relatives claim to honor might have found safe refuge  in the nascent State of Israel that their misguided descendants now calumny so viciously.

Scanning the names of signers I felt a stab of shame by association to discover an Auerbach among them. Thankfully, there is no known family connection with this betrayer of his people and desecrator of our shared family name.

All the News That’s Fit to Castigate Israel

Jewish Press (August 13, 2014)

Arthur Hays Sulzberger, who succeeded his father-in-law Adolph S. Ochs as publisher of The New York Times in 1935, embraced Ochs’s determination that the Times would never appear to be a “Jewish newspaper.” It would publish “all the news that’s fit to print.” A month before Israel declared independence Sulzberger lamented: “JEW is to be the common denominator for everything we do. God help us!”

The Times remains faithful to Ochs-Sulzberger dogma. The unrelenting Hamas missile assault against Israel, punctuated by deadly tunnel invasions of Israeli territory, provoked a fierce – and eminently justified – Israeli air and ground response. It also triggered the repetitive Times story line of moral equivalency that equates Israeli retaliation with Hamas provocation.

The Gaza war afforded the Times a perfect opportunity to highlight Palestinian suffering from Israeli responses to Hamas assaults. The benefit to Hamas from using human shields to protect its command centers and rocket storage sites was evident: Israel would be blamed. As Prime Minister Netanyahu declared: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles.” The Times carefully ignored that distinction.

Israel received little credit for warning Gaza civilians to evacuate neighborhoods where Hamas fighters sought refuge and rocket launchers were stored, often adjacent to – or inside – hospitals, mosques and schools. While a bevy of Times journalists reported from Gaza not one was posted in Sderot or kibbutzim in southern Israel, the constant target of Hamas rockets long before the current attacks began.

Neither combatant, the Times inaccurately reported (7/14), was prepared to “signal interest in international appeals for a cease-fire as they continued their barrages.”

In fact, Israel accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Hamas instantly rejected. Times reporter Anne Barnard reported (7/15) that Israel was to blame (so her Palestinian sources asserted) for its continued “occupation” of Gaza – which, Barnard failed to note, ended nearly a decade ago.

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof demonstrated his mastery of moral equivalency. It is “hard-liners on each side,” he wrote (7/16), “who are driving events.” To be sure, he conceded to Israel “a right to respond” to Gaza rockets – but only “with some proportionality” that he did not demand from Hamas, which launched rocket attacks unprovoked by anything other than Israel’s existence. Only a “minimalist response” from Israel to Hamas rocket attacks could end the conflict. He imposed no such constraints on Hamas.

The Times became so transfixed by Gaza suffering that even its photographers became partisan journalists. Tyler Hicks’s self-proclaimed responsibility “to document… the news” expanded to include editorial commentary. After photographing the tragedy of four young boys killed by an Israeli missile, he wrote (7/17): “Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes … don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters.”

The Times refrained from exploring in any depth the location of Hamas missiles in civilian neighborhoods, in or near schools, hospitals and mosques, the better to trigger wrath against Israel for the civilian casualties that inevitably resulted from its retaliatory strikes. Indeed, it was revealed that United Nations Relief and Works Administration representatives discovered rockets stored in a Gaza school, only to turn them over to Hamas.

After enduring nearly two weeks of constant rocket assaults, the Israel Defense Forces spotted armed Hamas terrorists exiting a tunnel inside Israel to attack a nearby kibbutz. Israel then launched a ground assault into Gaza to destroy the tunnels. The Times response, co-written by Jerusalem Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren (7/18), predictably focused on the toll exacted on Palestinian civilians by Israeli retaliation for the Hamas invasion. Hamas responsibility for the suffering of its own people was ignored.

In a Times opinion column (7/17) Nathan Thrall claimed that Israel’s refusal to ease its “suffocating border closures” in Gaza, and its attempts to isolate the Hamas government internationally, forced Hamas into “seeking through violence” what it could not obtain otherwise. Two days later the lead Times editorial approvingly cited Thrall’s blame-Israel approach. Conceding that Israel could not be expected to tolerate bombardment, for which “Hamas leaders deserve condemnation,” it nonetheless emphasized that “innocent Palestinians are being killed and brutalized” – largely, to be sure, because Hamas aggression exposed them to danger. But military action, it advised, “is not a long-term solution.” Jodi Rudoren, evidently enthralled by Thrall, insisted that it was “somewhat dangerous” for Netanyahu to emphasize demilitarization of Hamas as the Israeli objective.

The Times continued to provide variations on the theme of moral equivalency. Asking “Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East,” Nicholas Kristof (7/20) began with “Israeli troops again invading Gaza” before moving to “cross-demonization” by “two peoples who each have plenty of right.” In the end, for Kristof, it is “a conflict between right and right.” Rejecting “equivalence,” he prefers “symmetry” – between Hamas terrorism and Israeli democracy.

In an opinion column (7/31) Timothy Egan blamed “extremists on both sides” for the war Hamas initiated. The Israeli response, not Hamas aggression, remained the centerpiece of moral equivalency in Times reporting, commentary and editorializing – and the difficulty a reader might encounter trying to distinguish one from the other.

As the Gaza war reached a crescendo of violence, moral equivalency shaded inexorably into palpable anti-Israel bias. In one lead story (7/21), Anne Barnard and Isabel Kershner skimmed quickly past the tunnels that transported Hamas fighters into Israeli territory in search of civilian and military targets. Barnard wrote poignantly about the plight of Gaza civilians without mentioning Hamas responsibility for launching the rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel that caused their hardship.

With the increasingly heavy toll of Hamas aggression on Gazans, civilian suffering – but not the Hamas rockets and terror tunnels that provoked it – became the virtually exclusive focus of Times coverage. It focused on the morgue in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, not the Hamas command center below where its leaders took refuge. Its endlessly reiterated update on Gaza “civilian” deaths, provided by UNRWA, did not disclose how many were combatant-age males.

The Times’s barrage against Israel was encapsulated in an opinion essay by Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer (7/22). He succinctly described Gaza, where “nowhere is safe. Not a mosque. Not a church. Not a school, or even a hospital.” He did not say why: because Hamas rocket attacks from those locations provoked and sustained the conflict. Mentioning damaged and destroyed homes, he noted the impossibility of rebuilding because cement is “severely rationed” by Israel, which “suspects” that it is used to build tunnels for Hamas attacks. Only “suspects”?

Rudoren finally reported from Sderot (7/22), one mile west of Gaza, whose residents have been targeted by rockets ever since the total Israeli withdrawal nearly a decade ago. There she discovered Koby Hill, where middle-aged men (occasionally joined by women and children), seated on a sofa and beach chairs, contentedly munched watermelon and cheered the spectacle of the Israeli rocket “show.” (To be fair, that was a journalistic improvement over the CNN reporter whose Twitter post described the hilltop Israeli spectators as “scum.”)

Defending its Gaza coverage, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy responded to a sharp critique in The New York Observer (which I authored) by asserting that it “was written by someone with a particular point of view on the subject of Israel” – as though the Times itself has none. She airily dismissed critics “because they’re not interested in fair reporting” – disregarding the palpably slanted reporting in the Times.

Ms. Murphy ignored the glaring reality, documented by Noah Pollak in The Weekly Standard, that Times coverage all but ignored pictures of Hamas fighters, tunnels, rockets, and human shields. Virtually its only photos exposed the civilian casualties caused by Israeli retaliation for Hamas attacks. These are “balanced” by photos of Israeli tanks and soldiers. It is not difficult to discern who, according to the Times,are the aggressors.

Even its front-page headline “Israel Says Hamas is Using Civilians as Shields” (7/24) implied doubt about what could not be more obvious. Although Israel “says” so, Barnard and Rudoren wrote: “Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare.” The Times reporters claimed “There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law.” False. The Geneva Conventions assert: “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”

“At the root of the dueling allegations,” they wrote, “are the two sides’ very different views.” The retreat to moral equivalency was blatant. It ignored the reality that justified the Israeli bombing of Al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City, which housed a Hamas military command-and-control center and access shafts to its tunnel network. The Israeli attack triggered damaging secondary explosions, suggesting a substantial arms cache beneath the hospital.

The death of Sergeant Max Steinberg, the Golani Brigade “lone soldier” who made aliyah from Los Angeles and was killed in battle fighting for his adopted homeland, reverberated throughout Israel, and in media outlets worldwide. In a remarkable outpouring of sorrow and respect, 30,000 Israelis attended his funeral at the Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. The Times, however, mentioned his name (7/24) only in the caption of a photograph taken far from the burial site showing nothing more than two dozen spectators and an Israeli flag. Given the Sulzberger legacy,an American Jew fighting and dying for Israel could only arouse primal anxiety at the Times over allegations of divided loyalty.

It took three weeks of rocket attacks before Times coverage displayed any sign of moderating the paper’s prevailing narrative of blaming Israel for responding to Hamas aggression. There was a discernible shift in its coverage (7/25) of terrible explosions at a UN school killing 16 Gaza civilians who had gathered there for safety. The page 1 story by Ben Hubbard, its young Cairo-based reporter, was distinctive for its refusal to fault Israel, noting “the source of the blasts was unclear.” Even the lead Times editorial conceded that Israel “has reason” to respond with “strong military action” against rocket attacks while Hamas deserved “the strongest possible condemnation” for locating weapons in densely populated areas.

But the Times quickly recovered its equilibrium. Editorial board member Serge Schmemann, hewing to Times dogma, proposed (7/27) the creation of “two separate states” as the “only solution,”with the United States as “the only viable mediator.” Rudoren, who had returned to Jerusalem, glibly described her underground tunnel “tour” as “part of the propaganda push” conducted by the IDF (7/29).

Only displaced Gaza civilian victims of Hamas warfare were deemed worthy of Times attention. Nearly four weeks into the fighting the Times still ignored the mass exodus from border kibbutzim as thousands of Israelis fled Hamas rockets for safety elsewhere. Nor had it mentioned Hamas responsibility for the deaths of scores of Gaza children who had died in “workplace accidents” while building its tunnels. It also ignored the rocket fired from the parking lot of Al-Shifa hospital, a war crime reported by a Finnish TV journalist despite Hamas warnings of retribution for such revelations. The booby-trapped UNRWA clinic whose explosion killed three Israeli soldiers was not mentioned. Similarly, only near the end of a lengthy Page 1 article (8/3) did Times reporters refer to five mosques concealing Hamas weapons attacked by Israel.

Barely one hour into the cease-fire announced by Secretary of State Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 31, Hamas suicide fighters killed three Israeli soldiers including 2d Lt. Hadar Goldin, initially believed to have been kidnapped. President Obama and Secretary Kerry – but not the Times – denounced that “outrageous” cease-fire violation. Rudoren and Kershner merely noted that “neither side” is ready to end the conflict until its goals are met (8/2). Columnist Roger Cohen (8/3) preposterously blamed “the open-air prison of Gaza” on Israel’s “failing to reach out to Palestinian moderates and extending settlements in the West Bank.” After all, “millions of Palestinians are oppressed” under “Israeli domination.” About Hamas oppression and domination in Gaza he remained silent.

One month after Hamas launched its war against Israel the Times spearheaded the media chorus of denunciation of the Jewish state. Two lengthy front-page articles (8/4) were devoted to Israeli damage to Gaza civilian sites and harm to their inhabitants. Buried near the end of one came the brief, but hardly irrelevant, aside: “Israel said that 55 rockets were fired from Gaza” the day before. But that was not a story line the Times cared to pursue.

On the first day of the first August cease-fire, the Times ran a poignant article about a traumatized Gaza psychologist and lengthy wartime diary extracts by a Gaza writer. By then, however, even the pretense of moral equivalency had vanished. There was no mention of Israelis, traumatized by incoming rockets and underground tunnels, who had fled their homes for safety. No interviews with Israeli psychologists treating terrified children were included.

But two weeks earlier, in its Sunday Travel Section (7/20), readers were invited to participate in a forthcoming “Times Journey through “the geographical, cultural, historical and political landscapes of Israel and the West Bank.” Its leader was identified as a “featured expert” – none other than Hanan Ashwari, a member of the PLO Executive Committee. So much for Times objectivity.

No careful reader of the Times could be surprised by the anti-Israel tilt of its reporting and editorializing. The newspaper that buried the Holocaust on its inside pages, whose publisher resolutely opposed Jewish statehood, and whose editors, reporters, columnists and op-ed contributors routinely engage in Israel-bashing, undermines Adolph Ochs’s commitment to “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Its current translation means all the news that fits its unrelenting castigation of Israel.

The Algemeiner (August 6, 2014)

The Gaza ceasefire is prompting an array of assessments, in Israel and worldwide, of the costs and potential benefits to Hamas and the Jewish state from their month of bitter conflict. A quick glance at the morning-after New York Times (August 6), featuring reports by present and past Jerusalem bureau chiefs, provides an illuminating glimpse of its unrelenting message of moral equivalency.

During the month-long conflict Jodi Rudoren focused on the toll exacted from Palestinian civilians by Israeli retaliation for the Hamas rocket assault and tunnel invasion. She all but dismissed Hamas’s strategy of using Gazans as civilian shields, writing (with Anne Barnard): “Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare.” Insisting that it was “somewhat dangerous” for Netanyahu to emphasize demilitarization of Hamas as the Israeli objective, she glibly described her underground tunnel “tour” as “part of the propaganda push” conducted by the IDF.

In her morning-after “Memo From Jerusalem,” Rudoren concluded that “open discourse and dissent appear to be among the casualties of the month long war in Gaza” – at least “according to stalwarts of … the Zionist left” with whom Rudoren is clearly aligned. Even Facebook users were defriended (gasp!) for posting photos of death and devastation in Gaza. Audience members at the Jerusalem Cinematheque were berated for standing for a moment of silence in memory of four Palestinian boys killed on a Gaza beach – but not for the scores of Israeli soldiers killed protecting their country from Hamas invasion.

Rudoren’s primary source of lamentation was Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, founder of the ultra-liberal Reform congregation Kol Haneshema. There, she noted (acknowledging her occasional attendance), the traditional Jewish prayer for peace had been modified to include a line from a Muslim prayer. In a statement of moral equivalence confirming Rudoren’s approach to the conflict, Rabbi Weiman-Kelman bemoaned the absence of “a nuanced position that recognizes the suffering on both sides.” But there is hardly nuance in the unrelenting war  that Hamas has waged ever since Israel departed from Gaza nearly a decade ago.

Lamenting the “war casualties” of “open discourse and dissent” in war-torn Israel, Rudoren nonetheless managed to cite examples of their survival: an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv; a Haaretz editorial warning against Israeli “McCarthyism”; the claim by leftist Naomi Chazan in that newspaper that “intolerance runs rampant”; and a Tel Aviv protester who freely asserted that Israeli media covered soldiers’ funerals but rarely showed videos from Gaza. That omission offset the daily deluge of Gaza civilian photos in the New York Times, which did not cover the funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg, the “lone soldier” from the United States who was killed in battle.

A belated entry from Thomas Friedman, elsewhere during most of the Gaza war, appeared the same day. His focus on the decline and inevitable fall of immoral Israel dates back to his coverage of the first Lebanon war in 1982. Then, “boiling with anger” and determined too “nail Begin and Sharon,” he “buried” the Israeli commanding officer on page one and “along with him every illusion I ever held about the Jewish state.” As Jerusalem bureau chief between 1984-88, Friedman proudly claimed (erroneously) that he broke the “old unwritten rule” at the Times never permitting a Jew to report from Jerusalem. (He overlooked Joseph Levy, who was posted there between 1928-35 and provided criticism of Zionism no less incessant than Friedman’s.) One of Friedman’s valued Jerusalem mentors was liberal Orthodox Rabbi David Hartman who, like Rudoren’s Rabbi Weiman-Kelman, believed that “something had gone terribly wrong” in the Jewish state.

Friedman still reiterates his familiar litany of complaints about Israel. It was “not deterred by the prospect of substantial collateral civilian casualties” (because Hamas protected its leaders and rockets with civilian shields). Hamas scored “a huge victory” because it focused attention (really?) on Israel’s “reckless Jewish settlement project,”  which constitutes “colonial occupation.”  To stabilize Gaza, Friedman hallucinates, Israel must make “territorial concessions in the West Bank,” relinquishing the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. His Gaza tunnel inspired “awe” over the “craftsmanship” and “sheer dedication” required to build them. He barely noted the “apocalyptic jihadist agenda” that inspired them. In Gaza and Israel alike, according to his vision of moral equivalency, “the religious-nationalist forces have the real energy.”

From Friedman (indeed from Joseph Levy) to Rudoren and back, the more its Jerusalem reporters change the more things stay the same at The New York Times.

May His Memory be A Blessing

 Algemeiner (July 23, 2014)

There is no more touching – and revealing – story to emerge from the Gaza war than the life and death of Sergeant Max Steinberg, the American “lone soldier” who was killed fighting for the State of Israel, his adopted country. He made his decision for aliyah during a Birthright visit in 2012. At the Har Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem he found the grave of a soldier who had come from the United States to fight for the Jewish state. Inspired by his example, twenty-two year-old Steinberg left Los Angeles for Israel to become a sharpshooter in the elite Golani Brigade. Now he, too, is buried in the Har Herzl cemetery.

In a remarkable outpouring of sorrow and respect, 30,000 Israelis attended Max Steinberg’s funeral. Lest he be buried in solitude, without due honor for his heroism, they came to demonstrate their respect for someone they did not know who made the ultimate sacrifice for the Jewish State. In his eulogy, MK Dov Lipman (who also emigrated from the United States) recounted the words of Moses in last week’s Torah portion: “Will your brothers go to war while you remain here?” Max Steinberg knew the answer to that question.

At the memorial service in Los Angeles his father described Max as “a free spirit.” The pleasures of Los Angeles life – surfboarding, skateboarding and football – proved insufficient. He “fell in love” with Israel, a friend remembered, after his Birthright experience. “He wanted to get his life straight. He thought it would get him away from dangers here.” It did so, while exposing him to far greater dangers. His IDF unit was assigned  the destruction of Hamas’s underground maze of tunnels, its source of unrelenting missile and cross-border terrorist attacks against Israel.

In his final telephone conversation with his mother at 4 a.m. last Saturday morning he told her: “Mom, I’m not scared at all for me, I’m scared for you. I’m fine, I’m going back in.” A friend recalled Max’s enthusiasm for Israel: “He loved it. He loved the people. He loved his unit. He felt like he belonged.” Another friend posted on Facebook: “You are our hero, our inspiration, our savior. Thank you for protecting us.” As Knesset member Lipman told his parents at the funeral: “your son is a Jewish and Israeli hero.” Bidding farewell to Max Steinberg, he offered thanks on behalf of Israeli citizens and Jews worldwide, “for protecting our children, … our state, … the Jewish people, and …  for showing us that a regular American boy from California can raise himself to the level of Jewish and Israeli hero.”

The predictable counterpoint to expressions of sorrow and gratitude for Jewish heroism in the face of Hamas terror came from The New York Times. Its ongoing barrage against Israel was encapsulated in an Opinion essay by Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer (7/23). He succinctly described Gaza, where “nowhere is safe. Not a mosque. Not a church. Not a school, or even a hospital.” He did not indicate that Hamas rocket attacks on Israel provoked and sustain the conflict. Mentioning damaged and destroyed homes, he notes the impossibility of rebuilding - because cement is “severely rationed” by Israel, which “suspects” that it is used to build tunnels to facilitate Hamas attacks. Suspects?

On an inside page Jerusalem Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren reported from Sderot, one mile east of Gaza, whose residents have been targeted by rockets ever since the Israeli departure nearly a decade ago. There she discovered Koby Hill, where middle-aged men, comfortably seated on a sofa and beach chairs, contentedly munched watermelon and cheered the spectacle of the Israeli rocket “show.” To be fair to Rudoren, who is rarely fair to Israel, she did better than the CNN reporter who (in a Twitter post) recently described Koby Hill Israelis as “scum”.

In its coverage of the Gaza war the Times exemplifies moral equivalence at Israel’s expense. But Max Steinberg – the brave “Hayal Boded” (Lone Soldier) who sacrificed his life for his people and his adopted homeland – represents what Israel alone can provide: inspiration and courage to confront unrelenting enemies who seek to annihilate the Jewish State.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moral Equivalency in The New York Times

(NY Observer, July 23, 2014)

When Adolph S. Ochs purchased The New York Times in 1896 he pledged “intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.” He bolstered his commitment with a new motto for the newspaper, promising: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But Ochs was also determined that the Times would never appear to be a “Jewish newspaper.” His pledges have competed for ascendancy ever since.

Arthur Hays Sulzberger, who succeeded his father-in-law as publisher in 1935, feared that Zionism would “exacerbate doubts about every Jew’s ultimate loyalty.” Editors were instructed not to refer to “the Jewish people” but to “the Jewish faith.” There was, he insisted, “no more reason to reconstitute the Jews as a nation than the Angles, the Celts or the Saxons.” A month before Israel declared independence Sulzberger lamented: “JEW is to be the common denominator for everything we do. God help us!”

The Times remains faithful to the Ochs-Sulzberger dogma. An unrelenting three-week Hamas missile assault against the Jewish State has recently been punctuated by tunnel invasions of Israeli territory, provoking a fierce Israeli air and ground response. But the Times has relentlessly pursued a story line of moral equivalency that equates Israeli retaliation with Hamas provocation.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren led the way. Initially preoccupied with the Israeli “crackdown” in its desperate search for the likely Hamas murderers of three hitchhiking Israeli teenagers, which “raised questions about the asymmetry of the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” Rudoren was oblivious to the asymmetrical bias in her own reporting. After all, she wrote (6/30), Palestinians “see the act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation.” It was Palestinian suffering, not the horrific murder of innocent Jews, that offended her moral sensibility – and compromised her journalistic objectivity.

So it was that the ghastly retaliatory kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen-ager provided the Times with a perfect opportunity for false moral equivalence. Times editors erroneously accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of “days of near silence” in response to the killing of the Palestinian boy. Even its printed “Correction” for that glaring misstatement failed to note that Netanyahu had labeled the murder “reprehensible” on the day it occurred. The noxious Times editorial also erroneously converted Netanyahu’s quotation from a poem denouncing vengeance and vigilantism into a statement of approval.(7/7) For that egregious error it offered no correction.

Three days later the Times lead Opinion column was entitled “A Palestinian Mother’s Fear in East Jerusalem.” Rula Salameh was understandably frightened by loud crashes and explosions outside her home: “We assumed these were rockets from Gaza.” Indeed they were. Rather than criticize, no less condemn, Hamas rocket attacks against civilian targets (including, ironically, Palestinian neighborhoods), she sadly pondered the fate of Gaza civilians who would “pay a heavy price for their leaders’ attempt to hit the Israeli seat of government” in Jerusalem.

Salameh recited the familiar litany that the Times finds so appealing that it cannot miss an opportunity to reiterate it in editorials, columns and news coverage: “The world must hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions,” most of all for “the entire occupation, whose violence and cruelty is the dark context for so much of what has happened over the past few weeks.”

But who will hold Hamas accountable for its actions, from kidnapping to murder to indiscriminate shelling of Israeli cities and towns? That question is of no interest – either to Rula Salemeh or, evidently, to The New York Times. It has yet to provide similar prominence for the expression of a Jewish mother’s fear as Hamas rockets explode nearby.

The Gaza war has provided the Times with a perfect opportunity, eagerly seized, to highlight Palestinian suffering. But Hamas cruelty to its own people is rarely noted. Recruits for martyrdom in the holy war against Israel are urged to gather on rooftops, instructed by their leaders to serve as human shields against Israeli retribution for two thousand rockets that have been fired into the Jewish state during the past weeks. Beneath the rooftops are Hamas command centers and tunnels, where leaders take refuge and weapons are stored and fired. The benefit to Hamas from Palestinian civilian deaths is evident: Israel will be blamed. That seems obvious to everyone but Times editors and reporters.

It is no small irony that the Times blames Israel for what is a source of pride to Hamas. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, ignored by the Times, declared: “This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.” As Jeffrey Goldberg observed (Bloomberg, July 11), “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.” Prime Minister Netanyahu told Fox News: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles.” The Times has carefully ignored that distinction.

Israel receives little credit for warning Gaza civilians to evacuate neighborhoods where Hamas fighters take refuge and rocket launchers are stored, often adjacent to – or inside - hospitals, mosques and schools. Reporting from Gaza City, Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kirshner interviewed fleeing Palestinians, gathered in a school building, who were eager to identify the current Hamas war against Israel as another Palestinian Nakba like the catastrophe of 1948 (when five Arab nations and Palestinian fighters waged a war to exterminate the fledgling Jewish state). No Times reporters were posted in Sderot in southern Israel, the constant target of Hamas rockets long before the current attacks began.

Neither combatant, reported the Times (7/14), was prepared to “signal interest in international appeals for a cease-fire as they continued their barrages.” In fact, Israel accepted the cease-fire that Hamas instantly rejected. Times reporter Anne Barnard reported (7/15) on Gaza families who are “financially and psychologically depleted” by the endless fighting. Israel is to blame, her Palestinian sources assert, for its continued “occupation” of Gaza – which ended nearly a decade ago.

Ms. Barnard devoted most of her article to the plight of a Palestinian woman whose family has been in flight whenever Hamas attacks Israel. But only Israeli “bombardments” and “assaults” receive attention. No reasons for the Israeli response – and it is always a response to Hamas attacks – are provided. Included, however, are the concluding words of praise from her Palestinian source for the “mujahedeen,” the holy warriors who “defend our people, ourselves, our land.”

The following evening Barnard joined three Arab men chatting under a date palm at a Gaza City café. “We have the right to defend ourselves against occupation,” one claimed. Another Gazan joined in the popular chant for Hamas rocket brigades: “Strike, strike Tel Aviv.” How this might play out in Tel Aviv went unrecorded. No Times journalist found it nearly as enticing a posting as Gaza City.

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is the master of moral equivalency. His coverage of poverty, illness, and abuse in the underdeveloped world makes Gaza – like genocide in Darfur – a magnetic attraction. It is “hard-liners on each side,” he writes (7/16), “who are driving events.” To be sure, he concedes to Israel “a right to respond” to Gaza rockets – but only “with some proportionality” that he does not demand from Hamas.

Kristof hold Israel accountable for the current hostilities: after all, it “helped nurture Hamas.” Urging “a two-state peace agreement,” repeatedly rejected by Palestinians ever since 1937, his preferred model is Secretary of State Kerry’s recent “admirable” peace initiative, which failed dismally. But Israel must impose a “halt to settlements” (during the last decade Israel has abandoned more settlements than it has built); cooperate with moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (who recently decided to partner with Hamas); and strengthen business development in Gaza (although the rocket import and tunnel construction businesses have flourished). Only a “minimalist response” from Israel to unrelenting Hamas rocket attacks, defined by “tough-minded conciliation and restraint,” can end the conflict. He recommends no such constraints on Hamas.

The Times became so transfixed by Gaza suffering that even its photographer emerged as a partisan journalist. Tyler Hicks photographed the tragedy of four young boys killed by an Israeli missile (7/17). To Hicks, “children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes … don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters.” His self-proclaimed responsibility – “to document … the news” – now seems to include editorial commentary. So it was that Hicks joined fellow Times staffers in blaming Israel for the unprovoked Hamas attack against it.

The Times has yet to explore in any depth the location of Hamas missiles in civilian neighborhoods, in or near schools, hospitals and mosques, the better to call down wrath upon Israel for the civilian casualties that inevitably result from its retaliatory strikes. (Indeed, it has been revealed – not by the Times – that the United Nations Relief and Works Administration discovered rockets stored in a Gaza school and, according to Israeli officials, turned them over to Hamas.) Where is the moral equivalency between providing shelters for civilians (Israel) and willfully using them as human shields (Hamas)?

After nearly two weeks of waves of rocket assaults, the Israel Defense Forces spotted armed Hamas terrorists exiting a tunnel inside Israel to attack a nearby kibbutz. Israel then launched a limited ground assault into Gaza to destroy the weapons sites. The Times response, co-written by Rudoren (7/18), predictably focused on the toll exacted on Palestinian civilians by Israeli retaliation. Conspicuously illustrating her account were mournful photos of Palestinians leaving their homes after Israeli tanks entered Gaza and injured Palestinian children being carried to a hospital. Hamas responsibility for the suffering of its people, except for a quote from Prime Minister Netanyahu, was ignored.

In a Times Opinion column (7/17) written just after the Israeli incursion into Gaza began, Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group claimed that the source of the current conflict was Israeli obstruction of the Palestinian consensus government, formed in early June, between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s refusal to ease its “suffering border closures” in Gaza, and its attempts to isolate the new government internationally, forced Hamas into “seeking through violence” what it could not obtain otherwise.

Two days later the lead Times editorial approvingly cited Thrall’s analysis. Conceding that Israel could not be expected to tolerate bombardment, for which “Hamas leaders deserve condemnation,” it emphasized that “innocent Palestinians are being killed and brutalized” – largely, to be sure, because Hamas aggression exposed them to danger. But military action, it advised, “is not a long-term solution.” Instead, Israel should pursue a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority – which now partners with Hamas.

In a nearby Opinion column entitled “Faith-Based Fanatics,” Timothy Egan equated “the rage that moved Hamas to lob rockets on birthday parties in Tel Aviv, and Israelis to kill children playing soccer on the beach in Gaza.” In a disgraceful display of moral equivalence he blamed “extremists on both sides” for what Hamas intended and Israel did not.

In its Sunday Review section (7/20) the Times provided further variations on that theme. Thomas Friedman, introducing a column on an entirely different subject, gratuitously bracketed “bad actors” – Hamas, Vladimir Putin and Israeli settlers – who are “trying to bury the future with the past and divide people.” Asking “Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East,” Nicholas Kristof began with “Israeli troops again invading Gaza,” moving to “cross-demonization” by “two peoples who each have plenty of right.”

Kristof, who demonstrates his startling lack of knowledge about Israel whenever he writes about it, preposterously assigned special blame to “the Israeli right” for undermining the (non-existent) peace process. Israeli settlements, which have absolutely nothing to do with the current conflict except for providing three innocent teen-agers who were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas agents, “are a gift to Palestinian extremism.” Kristof seems never to have learned that Palestinians have fought to destroy Israel since 1948, twenty years before the first settlement was built. In the end, for Kristof, it is “a conflict between right and right.” Rejecting “equivalence,” he prefers “symmetry” - between Hamas tyranny and Israeli democracy.

As the Gaza war reached a crescendo of violence on Sunday, the Times responded with its own surge of moral equivalency, shading inexorably into palpable anti-Israel bias. “Both Sides Engage in a Battle of Words,” headlined a report by Jodi Rudoren. But after a brief account of reciprocal insults in text messages and videos, she relied on “analysts” who conveniently turned out to be leftist Israeli writers David Grossman, Etgar Keret and Amos Elon, for whom Ha’aretz is the newest edition of the Hebrew Bible.

In its lead story Anne Barnard and Isabel Kershner skimmed quickly past the tunnels that transport Hamas fighters into Israeli territory in search of civilian and military targets. (The Times of Israel, not The New York Times, reported that 10 Hamas gunmen emerged from a tunnel opening inside a mosque.) Barnard wrote poignantly about the plight of Gaza civilians without mentioning Hamas responsibility for launching the rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel that are the cause of their hardship. The Israeli response, not the Hamas declaration of war, remains the centerpiece of moral equivalency in Times reporting, commentary and editorializing – and the difficulty a reader may encounter trying to distinguish one from the other.

Anyone with doubts about the veracity of Times coverage was invited in its Sunday Travel Section to participate in a “Times Journey through “the geographical, cultural, historical and political landscapes of Israel and the West Bank,” to be led by a “featured expert.” That will be none other than Hanan Ashwari, who happens to be a member of the PLO Executive Committee. How likely is it that she will identify “the West Bank” as Judea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people?

In its Page 1 sub-headline on July 22 the Times proclaimed: “World Seeks Cease-Fire.” How would it know; did it poll the world? And whose interests would be served by a cease-fire before Israel can destroy every Hamas tunnel? Surely not Israel’s.

Adolph Ochs and Arthur Hays Sulzberger would be pleased that unrelenting criticism of the Jewish state dominates all the news that’s fit to print. But entrenched moral equivalence at the Times has become indistinguishable from moral blindness. Its editors and journalists might want to glance at the Hamas Charter, whose Preamble reads: “Israel will exist … until Islam will obliterate it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Makes Hamas Happier Than Dead Palestinians

The Algemeiner (July 16, 2014)

Nothing plays better in the mainstream media these days than wailing Gazans, mourning their dead from Israeli missile strikes responding to the unprovoked deluge of Hamas rockets on the Jewish state. As Ben Wedeman (CNN) recently reported from Jabalia, “There is no Iron Dome in Gaza to protect civilians.” But Gaza civilians most need protection from Hamas. Its leaders intentionally jeopardize their lives by embedding rocket-launching and ammunition storage sites in schools, mosques and hospitals located in civilian neighborhoods.

In Gaza recruits for martyrdom in the holy war against Israel are urged to gather on rooftops. They are instructed by their demented leaders to serve as a human shield against Israeli retribution for thousands of rockets that have been fired into the Jewish state during the past week. The designated locations for martyrdom are not random. Beneath the rooftops are Hamas command centers and tunnels, where leaders take refuge and weapons are stored.

According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: “This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.” He proudly cited the exemplary “martyr” Nizar Riyan, the senior Hamas leader during the 2009 Gaza war. Receiving a warning phone call from the IDF to evacuate his house, he chose to remain in place, thereby consigning his four wives, ten children and himself to martyrdom from the Israeli air strike that he knew was imminent.

Last Sunday, following rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area, the IDF dropped leaflets in northern Gaza urging residents to evacuate their homes in advance of a retaliatory military strike to destroy embedded rocket launchers. After 4000 residents heeded the Israeli warning the Hamas Interior Ministry urged them to disregard “random messages to instill panic” and return “immediately” to their homes, the better to become human shields and gain world attention.

As Jeffrey Goldberg observed (Bloomberg, July 11), “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.” Why not? Dead Palestinians “represent a crucial propaganda victory” for an inhumane regime that has abjectly failed to provide its own people with even the most minimal amenities of civilized life: safety, food, employment, education, medical care. (It is an irony seldom noted that Gazans are still admitted for treatment in Israeli hospitals.)  But Hamas leaders do not hesitate to protect themselves. They take refuge in a vast web of underground tunnels and shelters reserved for their exclusive use.  Gaza civilians are expendable. Urged to become targets, their dead bodies are garishly paraded in public to stoke the Hamas cause.

As rockets fall on Israel the world grants Hamas immunity for its war crimes. Blaming the Jewish targets of Palestinian terrorism has long been a popular international trope. As the commissioner general of UNRWA, which invents Palestinian “refugees” by the millions to stay in business, recently declared: “I urgently call on the Israeli Security Forces to put an end to attacks against, or endangering, civilians … which are contrary to international humanitarian law.” About Hamas rockets targeting Israeli civilians he had nothing to say.

Palestinian suffering inflicted by cruel Israelis is the preferred worldwide narrative. Where better than Frankfurt, as a recent protest demonstrated, for Israel to be equated with Nazi Germany? With the cease-fire proposed by Egypt evidently crumbling, and Israeli retaliation for Hamas attacks resuming, the number of Palestinian martyrs is likely to increase. Nothing could make Hamas happier. Indeed, today’s death of four soccer-playing Palestinian boys in Gaza, struck by an Israeli missile, is certain to ratchet up rampage against Israeli retaliation for Hamas rockets.

Nobody summed up the situation more succinctly, and accurately, than Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who told Fox News: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles.”