There have been many critical examinations of New York Times articles on this website, and I’ve had my share of such posts to the point where it has gotten tiresome. But there is literally an endless supply of material. A particularly irksome error appears in today’s paper, in an article by Isabel Kershner on the shocking (!) finding of the Turkel Commission that Israel acted legally in killing nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara. While the Times article is worthy of more in-depth analysis, there is one whopper that stands out above all others:
Israel imposed its maritime blockade on Gaza in January 2009 during its military offensive against Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza. The commission justified the blockade on security grounds, citing a need ‘to prevent weapons, terrorists and money from entering the Gaza Strip, and the need to prevent the departure of terrorists.’
Note how the first sentence is presented as objective fact, that the blockade was imposed in January 2009 during Israel’s attack, thereby supporting the Commission’s claim in the second sentence that the purposes of the blockade were solely military. Anyone paying minimal attention to the Gaza siege knows full well that Israel had been punishing the entire civilian population by severely curtailing the availability of basic goods since at least 2006, including by land or sea. Prior to 2009, there had been several attempts to bring in such civilian goods by sea, with mixed success; some ships were allowed to pass and others were stopped, or even rammed by the Israeli Navy, like the Dignity in late December, 2008.. Where did Kershner get her starting date for the naval blockade? From the Turkel Commission Report itself, which stated in par. 5 of its Summary:
After the Hamas terrorist organization seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the Government adopted various measures. On January 3, 2009, during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Israel imposed a naval blockade on the coastline of the Gaza Strip. . . the Government of Israel imposed the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip for military-security reasons, which mainly concerned the need to prevent weapons, terrorists, and money from entering the Gaza Strip, and the need to prevent the departure of terrorists and additional threats from the Gaza Strip by sea. The naval blockade was not imposed in order to restrict the transfer of humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip or to disrupt the commercial relations of the Gaza Strip. . . .
The naval blockade was imposed on January 3, 2009? What was it called before that date? What transformed an existing “blockade” of land and sea into some other type of “naval blockade” or vice versa? How could Kershner buy the nonsense that the naval blockade was implemented as late as January, 2009, with the goal of keeping weapons out of Gaza? This is not a trivial mistake, but a truly profound one. Israel’s long-standing policy of deliberately restricting a civilian population’s access to food, water, medicines, fuel, books and toys is generally viewed by all but the most cold-hearted as sadistic and cruel, not to mention illegal. There is a vast difference in public perception between keeping out arms and keeping out such basic necessities. In the wake of the Mavi Marmara murders, there was a thoroughly dishonest but reasonably successful campaign to re-cast the blockade as one that was designed to keep out military supplies only. It’s no surprise that the Turkel Commission continued in this effort, but how could Kershner forget what had been a continuing news story for three years before Cast Lead? Of course, if Kershner’s amnesia could have been cured had she glanced at the Ha’aretz article on the Turkel Commission, which accurately records: “The Turkel Commission also determined that Israel's three-and-a-half year blockade of the Gaza Strip does not break international law.”
This is the way lies become history. This is why so many believe that there were thousands of rockets launched from Lebanon against Israel in 1982 and again in 2000-2006, prompting the two “wars”; that Arafat initiated the Second Intifada of terrorism to win with violence what he failed to win through negotiations; that Israel’s siege of Gaza was to keep out weapons. Every time these factoids are repeated in the newspaper of record and similar MSM outlets, they become more ingrained in the collective memory. Even if Kershner did not deliberately lie, she was inexcusably lazy and careless in simply repeating a critical misrepresentation by the Turkel Commission, rather than accurately reporting an undisputed fact.