Sunday, December 27, 2015

Half-Truths from the NY Times: Should We Be Grateful?

I’ve written many times about the obscurantism in most NY Times news stories and editorials about Israel, so for awhile I swore off any more, especially since it’s endless and Sisyphyean.  However,

in this case some seriously critical commentators on Israel and the usual  Times coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were impressed by the paper's  recent  story on Breaking the Silence.   My take on it is different.  I read the story as classic NY Times obscurantism: just informative enough to pass for a fair and unbiased piece, when in fact it is grievously misleading in a number of  ways.

First, it’s the usual he-says, but she-says story, reporting “perspectives” when there is not the slightest doubt that one of the perspectives is clearly true and other is clearly false.  Yes, it’s a good thing that the Times is discussing the growing prominence of Breaking the Silence, and its support by some retired generals and Shin Bet directors--but then such statements are “balanced” by criticism from the attackers of BTS.  What’s missing is a discussion of the incontrovertible facts.  For example, in Friday's Haaretz, Zeev Sternhell, Israel’s most eminent political philosopher and commentator, says that “In not one case have reports and testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence have been proved wrong.”

Actually, Sternhell’s rebuttal of the critics of BTS could have gone much further: over many years  dozens of impartial investigations and reports by human rights and international organizations, hundreds of news stories (even in the NY Times),  and many long articles by journalists and academic specialists have made it absolutely incontrovertible that Israel repeatedly commits war crimes and acts of state terrorism.  If anything, Breaking the Silence doesn’t go nearly far enough, though of course one can fully understand and sympathize with why it doesn’t.

Second, the Times story reports that BTS opponents "question" why it's not enough for the military to investigate itself, and quotes the Israeli defense minister as saying that it tries to, but has been  "unsuccessful."   The Times reports this with a straight face.  Surely it knows that no serious observer thinks that  Israel’s own “military investigations” of the kind of war crimes examined by BTS are anything but blatant white washes.  When it comes to its methods, the “most moral army in the world” routinely lies about its behavior, and every serious, informed, and unbiased observer knows it.  And of course it lies, what else can it do--the actions it purports to "investigate" are the consequences, and usually the intended consequences, of its own attitudes and policies.  Not a hint of these facts in the Times' story.

Third, the Times story says that “critics [of BTS] emphasize that the group is partly funded by donations from European governments, which they say amounts to meddling in Israel’s internal affairs.”    Well, what else can you expect from those nasty liberal Western democracies?  They’re all just a bunch of anti-Semites, including the Jews.

Not only does the Times fail to note the irony of the light unto the nations’ contempt for western  democracies, it also neglects to note that the U.S. government provides far larger and unconditional funding to the Israeli government and armed forces, despite the ongoing occupation and repression of the Palestinians,  or that wealthy  American right wing extremists, like Sheldon Adelson, provide far more funds to extremist Israeli groups than European governments give to BTS.

And I could add more.  In the end, should we be grateful for some half-truths from the NY Times?  Perhaps so, but  that’s not how I see it.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Typo?

It's been pointed out to me that in my last post I listed the date of my article on Israeli terrorism as Fall 1915.   Of course it should have been Fall 2015.  On the other hand, it did feel like it took a hundred years before I could get a professional journal to publish an article that argued that Israeli state terrorism has been morally much worse than Palestinian terrorism.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Europe's Responsibility, Not Ours

For those interested, I have a commentary up at National Interest, arguing that there should be no US military intervention--including no air or Special Forces--in the battle against ISIS.   If it should prove necessary and justifiable--and it might--any major military action should be the responsibility of Western Europe, which does not need any U.S. military assistance. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

More on the New York Times and the Attack on Samir Kuntar

The story in yesterday’s news story in the Times on the killing of Samir Kuntar left scarcely any doubt that the attack was almost certainly carried out by Israel.   For example, the story quoted the ever-so-coy, boastful, and smug comment  by a retired Israeli general: “There is no doubt that whoever did it — this is a capability that is limited to a very small number of powers, states that can get to such capabilities, which begin with the level of very, very exact intelligence…When asked if Israel had those capabilities, he responded: “Israel is one of the leaders. And that is an understatement.”  Even more directly, the Times story said that “Saturday’s attack, according to military analysts, was probably a so-called standoff strike, with four or five rockets fired by Israeli warplanes that did not cross into Syrian airspace.”

Of course, Kuntar wasn’t the only one killed in the attack, which leveled a five-story residential building in Damascus. As reported in yesterday’s story:“Footage on Syrian television showed a blackened, smashed building, with men furiously digging through the rubble with their hands….Residents interviewed on Syrian state television said that they had seen the bodies of women and children, and Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, told Al Manar, the official government channel, that the building had been home to families. The claims could not be independently verified, but the neighborhood is extremely crowded; its population has more than doubled by people displaced from other parts of Syria.”

In short, many civilians were also killed.  Surely, one would think, there would be a follow-up story in today’s Times, on the matter.  Not a word.   Worse, the Times didn’t think it worthy of mention that Israel has a long record of assassinating its enemies by tracking them to apartment houses and then destroying the entire buildings, over the years killing hundreds—perhaps thousands-- of innocent Palestinian and other Arab civilians, especially in Egypt in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and in Lebanon, repeatedly, since 1978.   

There is not the slightest doubt about these facts—not that facts matter all that much when it comes to the long history of Israeli war crimes and state terrorism.  I’ve summarized these facts, and their unmistakable implications, in a number of my writings, most recently in an article entitled “Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” published in the Fall 1915 issue of Middle East Policy.  Accessed:

I’d like to believe that some day the New York Times will be held to account for the myriad ways it has obscured the long history of Israeli criminality.  Of course, I’d also like to have believed the guy that sold me the Brooklyn Bridge.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Bad Joke at the New York Times

Connoisseurs of the NY Times’ unending travesties in its treatment of Israeli matters may enjoy--sort of--the latest one, concerning Israel’s assassination of the Hezbollah leader Samir Juntar, by means of long-range rocket attacks that destroyed a five-story residential building in Syria, obviously also killing many innocent civilians.  Nothing new there: as always, the Israeli way of war.

However, the headline on the morning edition of the Times read:   “Commander of Hezbollah Freed by Israel Dies in Syria”--died peacefully in his sleep, perhaps of old age?

Apparently that ludicrous headline was too much, even for the NY Times, which evidently had second thoughts—the headline on the evening online edition story was changed:  “Commander of Hezbollah Freed by Israel Is Killed in Syria.”