In first mention of destruction of Gaza’s flour mill, NYT’s Bronner serves up Israeli claims

on 20 Comments

Here is a story by New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner in yesterday’s paper, anticipating the Israeli defense forces’ official response to the Goldstone Report. Bronner’s story is 99-44/100ths hasbara. He quotes an Israeli general, he quotes Moshe Halbertal. He even gets B’tselem to chime in against the Goldstone report. There is no effort, in the New York Times no less, to have anyone stand up for the Goldstone report, one of the most astonishing moral documents of human rights atrocities that has ever been compiled.

[Close your eyes. Imagine the Times submarining Seymour Hersh by quoting lots of people defending the My Lai massacre.]

Let me give you one example of the bias in this piece. Bronner writes:


The rebuttal will be given to United Nations officials in the coming weeks and its contents will remain under wraps until then. But officers involved in writing the report [i.e., I am serving as a conduit for hasbara] gave some details.

One concerned the destruction of Gaza’s sole flour mill. The Goldstone report asserts that the Bader flour mill “was hit by an airstrike, possibly by an F-16.” The Israeli investigators say they have photographic proof that this is false, that the mill was accidentally hit by artillery in the course of a firefight with Hamas militiamen.

The dispute is significant since the United Nations report asserts that “the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population,” an explicit war crime.

Now let’s go over a few facts. First, I did a search; and it appears that this is the first reference to the el-Bader flour mill destruction in the New York Times. That is to say, despite the fact that Goldstone devoted a whole chapter to the flour mill’s destruction last September, this is the first time Bronner has thought to lift his pen to tell American readers about it. To repeat: the only source of flour inside Gaza is destroyed by the Israeli military, it is cited by an unimpeachable judge who investigated Bosnia and Rwanda as a war crime, and the New York Times correspondent only sees fit to mention it when Israeli officials confidentially tell him the real story.

Second, read Goldstone’s own narrative on the el-Bader flour mill, beginning on paragraph 913 of the report. Goldstone says that after two warnings (12/30/2008 and 1/4/2009) caused the flour mill’s 45 employees to have to evacuate, the mill was struck on Jan. 9 at 3 in the morning by an F-16. And that Apaches then struck it several more times with "missiles" that rendered it inoperative. Then for the next four days, Israeli soldiers occupied the plant–which is in the northwest of Gaza–and evidently used it as a base/machine gun nest. They left "100s" of spent 40 mm shells on the roof.

Goldstone got his information from the Hamada brothers, who own the plant and were interviewed four times, and from visits to the plant. "The Hamada brothers rejected any suggestion that the building was at any time used for any purpose by Palestinian armed groups," Goldstone wrote. There was a high wall around the plant, and it was guarded 24/7. The brothers were issued "Businessman" cards by the Israeli gov’t so as to be able to travel to and fro from Israel, and were in touch with Israeli business associates during the war in an effort to protect their plant. They would never have gotten such cards, the Hamadas said adamantly, if the Israeli gov’t regarded them as a security risk.

Why doesn’t the Times print the Hamada brothers’ story? Why does it believe unnamed gov’t officials? Shouldn’t American readers be given both sides?

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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20 Responses

  1. Oscar
    January 24, 2010, 12:00 pm

    Ethan Bronner’s reporting on Gaza has been atrocious, and “the newspaper of record” has been completely infiltrated by the hasbarists. How does he sleep at night?

    I haven’t purchased a New York Times in five years, and none of my friends read the old gray lady any longer. Wait until the Wall Street Journal launches its Manhattan edition . . . the NYT will go the way of Newsday.

    PS – Not that the WSJ is any better on I/P, I know, but the Times has become a pathetic joke since Judith Miller hasbara’ed us with fictitious reports of WMD in Iraq. The paper has learned nothing from that scandal, and if anything, is even worse.

  2. Richard Witty
    January 24, 2010, 1:28 pm

    Phil,
    Why not wait yourself until the Israeli response is published?

    Perhaps there are some facts included that you are not aware of, maybe not. Maybe you know everything that is relevant to know.

    My sense of the Haaretz and Bronner articles on the same subject, include questions whether the form of Israeli response is sufficient, whether it meets the standards of the Goldstone reports recommendations for independant inquiry (and other official and needed standards).

    And, that the focus of their objection is to question the Goldstone reported conclusion of intentional use of force for the purpose of terrorizing civilians, or primarily for other logistical purposes.

    One paints the IDF and Israel and demonic, another as periodically negligent, another as perfect.

    Which do you subscribe to, from what you’ve read and seen?

    • Donald
      January 24, 2010, 2:16 pm

      “One paints the IDF and Israel and demonic”

      By “demonic” you mean Arabic, don’t you? After all, some Arab groups target civilians and you tell us this all the time. You’re saying that to conclude from the evidence (going back to 1948) that Israel also targets civilians is to “demonize” them–i.e., to put them on the same moral level as the people you regard as demons.

      • Richard Witty
        January 24, 2010, 3:39 pm

        “as demonic” (sorry for the typo). Its how Israel is portrayed by many.

        Boy, did you go on a roll there, imagining what I think? Are you sure you got what I was saying?

      • Donald
        January 24, 2010, 6:41 pm

        Just pointing out the logical implications,Richard. You have no problem with people accusing Arabs of terrorism, but it’s “demonizing” when people accuse Israelis of the same. So apparently it’s “demonizing” to look at Israel’s more brutal actions and see them the same way one sees Arab actions which are similar.

      • Richard Witty
        January 24, 2010, 10:26 pm

        Israel contests that it deliberately terrorized the population. Discussion will occur about it.

      • Donald
        January 25, 2010, 11:59 am

        “Israel contests that it deliberately terrorized the population.”

        That’s typical of them–the facts speak for themselves. And for that matter, Israeli officials in their more candid moments have said that they wanted to punish the entire population.

        In general, Western governments employ a sort of schizoid mentality in discussing their attacks on civilians. The US did this too, with Iraq during the Gulf War and with the sanctions–blow up civilian infrastructure, prevent its repair with sanctions and then piously disclaim any bad intent. Only an idiot would believe them.

  3. VR
    January 24, 2010, 2:14 pm

    Apparently terrorists were hiding in flour sacks. Just like they were assembling bombs under UN school desks –

    MAKING BOMBS UNDER THE SCHOOL DESKS

  4. Donald
    January 24, 2010, 2:26 pm

    What Israel (with Bronner’s help) appears to be doing is a form of divide and conquer. In this case they’re making a distinction between the Goldstone Report and the other human rights groups (including Amnesty International and HRW), though they all paint the same general picture of the IDF on a rampage and everyone (even B’tselem, which appears to be somewhat cowardly on this issue) agrees that the blockade is aimed at causing civilian suffering. It’s illogical to think that Israel targets civilian infrastructure in peace, but not in war. Plus we have the statements made by Israeli officials before the war about how they planned to fight it.

    Also, Israel appears to be singling out a couple of incidents where they either have real evidence or evidence they can fake that contradicts the Goldstone Report’s claims. By putting all the attention on a handful of reports they can distract attention from the rest of the evidence–they can, with the help of people like Bronner, turn this into a “he said, she said” debate about one or two claims, talk about “bad apples”, and they’ve provided all the smokescreen they need to make racist liberal Zionists feel good about themselves.

    • jimby
      January 24, 2010, 3:37 pm

      It’s easy to see why this is Witty’s favorite rag.

    • Richard Witty
      January 24, 2010, 3:42 pm

      Its a problem with the scope of evidence that Goldstone collected, reviewing only 40+ incidents.

      If Israel can confidently dispel his accusations at to even a dozen, then the report’s credibility is shot, and certainly the general conclusions are shot.

      Its the reason that auditors bow out of audits if they don’t have full scope to investigate, their own product is then tainted.

      • Avi
        January 24, 2010, 6:03 pm

        Let’s slice through the knee deep dung in your posts; when suicide attacks were taking place, did you attribute those attacks to a select number of rogue individuals or did you ascribe that policy to Hamas as a whole? Explain why.

      • Donald
        January 24, 2010, 6:50 pm

        You were who I had in mind, Richard. The Goldstone Report gives the same general impression of Israel’s conduct as everyone else–HRW, Amnesty International, even B’Tselem–the reason Goldstone has had more impact is because it’s UN related and therefore official, whereas HRW and Amnesty and others are NGO’s. So if the Israelis can cast doubt on a few incidents (legitimately or not), it shouldn’t change anyone’s overall impression of the Gaza War. However, logic isn’t really the issue here–all they really have to do is persuade the MSM and Israel-idolators like yourself that there is some question of doubt about a few incidents and Israel is off the hook. You were willing to accept this about HRW based on literally zero evidence (just the word of that hack Berman) and it’s people like you plus the MSM who are the real targets here. You can go back to telling yourself that Israel is civilized, unlike those barbaric Arabs. I note how eager you are to believe that the report is “discredited”, though you’ve shown zero interest in any discussion of the evidence at this blog.

      • Richard Witty
        January 24, 2010, 10:27 pm

        I’m willing to accept observations of damage, and public documentation of actions.

        Assertions about intent are interpretations, prejudicial usually.

      • Donald
        January 25, 2010, 12:03 pm

        War criminals usually disclaim any bad intent. When a country has wreaked death and destruction on a scale far beyond any legitimate military purpose and when they have employed a blockade targeting the entire population (not simply keeping out weapons) and when they have a long history of lying about their atrocities, only an ideologue would believe in their good intentions.

        This isn’t just true of Israel–most countries fighting unjust wars (and sometimes just ones) are like this, including the US. Bush supporters insist the Administration had good intentions when it practiced torture.

  5. Citizen
    January 24, 2010, 3:48 pm

    While reading this, I’m listening to C-SPAN repeat from last Thursday: Sen Lieberman’s conducting a review of the Ft Hood shootings; he’s demanding the US military and Homeland Security be more specific
    and hard-nosed by spelling out in indoctrination to our troops and civilian government arms that it is “white supremacists” and “Islamic extremists” who are the threat; we want to ferret them out and tattle on, etc. What are they reading? What do they say? Also that their favorite web sites have to be taken out. Now Togo West is saying white supremacists have no constitutional protection, but we have to act more cautiously when handling
    Islamic extremists because of the Religion factor. Not PC to harass all Muslims, etc. Now Vernon Clark says our training indoctrination must be more specific on how to monitor and catch self-made American radicals.

    Sen Carl Levin says US troops should not call anybody a towelhead. Clark says obvious
    anti-Arab hate speech is already prohibited officially by the US Army.

    • Avi
      January 24, 2010, 6:06 pm

      Joe Lieberman thinks he’s helping Israel by repeatedly linking terrorism with Arabs and Islam and keeping the topic in the national discourse.

      What he doesn’t seem to comprehend is the fact that he’s politically irrelevant.

    • DICKERSON3870
      January 24, 2010, 9:53 pm

      I predict that in the not too distant future, the Liebermans (Joe and Avigdor) will become full-fledged ‘darlings’ of the “white supremacists”. It’s already happening with the BNP in the U.K.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    January 24, 2010, 10:29 pm

    Ethan Bronner = calculated mediocrity

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