An important journalistic pattern is beginning right now that must be countered by people who care about human rights: The New York Times is trying to rewrite the history of the Gaza conflict to treat it as a cycle of violence set off by Hamas in June by allegedly orchestrating the teen kidnappings on the West Bank– rather than as a war begun by Israel against Hamas. The Times whites out Israel’s interest: to destroy the unity government between Hamas and Fatah that was announced in May, a government the U.S. was prepared to work with, thereby defying Israel.
And as for the seven-year siege of Gaza that has put 1.8 million people in an open-air prison, the Times has nothing to say.
The pattern is evident in Steven Erlanger’s piece in the New York Times two days ago: “Arrest by Israel in Abduction of 3 Youths Is Made Public.” Erlanger said that Hamas abducted and killed the three Israeli teens June 12, and that this abduction set off the Gaza onslaught.
The abduction set off the most recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza…
According to the court documents, [Hussam] Qawasmeh told the police during an interrogation that he had helped organize the kidnappings and had gotten money for the task from Hamas.
Not till the end of the piece are we given a muttered disclaimer of Hamas’s responsibility:
Critics argued that the local Qawasmeh clan might have acted on its own and that it was not clear that Hamas as an organization was behind the kidnapping.
A second piece in the Times that day, “Israel Exits Gaza as Truce Begins,” treats the Palestinian Authority as the only Palestinian party worth dealing with and rewrites the story of Hamas’s rise in Palestine:
[Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud] Abbas is 79 and has health problems, raising questions about who will succeed him. One possible candidate, Mohammed Dahlan, 52, who was born in Gaza, is favored by some Egyptian officials. But he is disliked by Mr. Abbas and hated by Hamas, which Mr. Dahlan tried to suppress when he effectively ran Gaza for the Palestinian Authority.
As Wikipedia reminds us, Dahlan was part of a U.S. plot to undo a democratically-elected government in Gaza.
In the April 2008 edition of Vanity Fair it was revealed that after the 2006 elections Dahlan had been central in a US plot to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. The Americans provided money and arms to Dahlan, trained his men and ordered him to carry out a military coup against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, the elected Hamas government forestalled the move and itself carried out an armed counter-coup.
And then Israel imposed a siege on Gaza. Shouldn’t the Times be giving us some of that history now?
Nope. Tom Friedman’s column yesterday described Hamas as Islamic jihadists who are trying to plunge not just Israel but an entire region into fire. He visited a tunnel near an Israeli kibbutz and says that Hamas was using them to try and murder Israeli civilians (when it has used them to kill Israeli combatants):
This tunnel had one purpose, and it was not fruit exports. It was to shuttle fighters into the kibbutz. And there were many of these.
I must say I was awed by the sheer dedication it took to dig this tunnel, but sickened by what fueled that dedication: an apocalyptic jihadist agenda. The religious nationalist-forces have the real energy in this region today. More and more, this is becoming a religious conflict….
Jihadists are now sweeping across Iraq and Syria, wiping out Christians and other minorities.
Ilene Cohen says that Friedman has got it all wrong:
Friedman’s piece simply echoes the latest Israeli talking point, which is being reiterated across the Israeli press: Hamas made Israel do it; it laid a trap for Israel and Israel took the bait. It’s the old “dog ate my homework” —don’t blame me—excuse, but with the addition of slaughter and devastation. Israel, that is, has no agency but is controlled by the great, all-powerful puppeteer, Hamas…
In the world according to Thomas Friedman, the siege of Gaza doesn’t exist, and forty-seven years of colonial occupation that has placed more than half a million settlers on stolen land in occupied Palestine—the West Bank and East Jerusalem—is reduced to a “reckless Jewish settlement project in the West Bank” (NB: not even a mention of East Jerusalem). What—is the occupation a “boys will be boys” reckless teenage driver who cracks up the family car? Further, the issue for Friedman is how to weaken Hamas, not how to achieve long overdue justice for the Palestinian people and end the occupation.
Finally, today The New York Times editorial on the war blames Hamas for the 1000+ Palestinian civilians killed by Israel, saying Hamas undertook “a deliberate effort to draw Israeli fire on innocents.”
And the Times says that Hamas is simply beyond the pale in any political resolution of the conflict:
It may be necessary to have Hamas in Cairo, but the group offers Palestinians nothing except nihilism and endless suffering.
Donald Johnson says that the Times is writing a brave new history of the Gaza onslaught:
Gazans have lived in prison, 1.8 million of them, and you said nothing until the “nihilistic” Hamas made it a front page issue with their rocket fire. Hamas is a terrorist organization, but pseudo-liberals like you have taught them that Palestinian suffering is a mere trifle, hardly worth noticing, until there is a war in which Israelis are threatened.
Israel also shoots regularly at Gazan civilians during those ceasefires, in order to enforce the blockade, and your editorial page said nothing.
The US supplied the weapons that Israel used to bombard civilians, and you said nothing.
Why you think you are in any position to lecture a terrorist organization on morality escapes me, unless it is simply the privilege of being citizens of a superpower that can trample others underfoot without so much as a glancing look.
Imagine if somehow the Palestinians had been able to place Israelis in a comparable situation–unable to trade with the outside world without Palestinian permission, unable to enter or leave Israel without Palestinian permission, the blockade to be kept in place until the occupation ends. Somehow I suspect the NYT editors would not have waited for a war to speak out about that.