Today the New York Times published a story about the Israeli strike on a United Nations school in Jabaliya, Gaza, that killed 21 last week — “Questions of Weapons and Warnings in Past Barrage on a Gaza Shelter“– that suggests that Israel just maybe committed a war crime for failing to discriminate between a military target and civilians.
Inspection of the damage, a preliminary United Nations review that collected 30 pieces of shrapnel, and interviews with two dozen witnesses indicate that the predawn strikes on Wednesday, July 30, that killed 21 people at the school, in the crowded Jabaliya refugee camp, were likely to have come from heavy artillery not designed for precision use.
The front page article today is decent, though way way overdue and of course the Times gives the Israelis plenty of space to reply–
“In any war, there are malfunctions and mistakes,” General [Gadi] Shamni said. Hamas militants “usually do things in order to attract” Israeli fire, he added, “and hope that some mistake will cause a disaster in order to delegitimize Israel.”
–and pretend like they are going to do a thorough investigation of each incident, when, surely, the Israelis will whitewash the attacks, and their supporters will later claim that the initial reports of Israeli brutality fell apart under scrutiny some months or years later. It’s fatuous: does anyone really need to be told that you don’t use heavy artillery in urban areas unless you don’t care about civilians, or actually want some to die as a form of pressure?
Still, this article was necessary, because of the strange nature of US coverage of this war, especially in the New York Times.
Will the NYT ever print a piece allowing Hamas and its supporters to argue that its tactics are morally justified? Not likely. As political scientist Daniel Hallin once wrote about Vietnam (“The Uncensored War”), the Western press treats some people as part of a legitimate conversation while others are beyond the pale. So for the NYT, Israelis are part of civilized society and get the chance to explain why their tactics are morally justified. Hamas does not.
Not that one should support Hamas rocket fire, but this is obvious journalistic bias. It’s a form of shooting and crying: At least we care, as opposed to those evil Hamas guys who fire rockets intending genocide with each shot.
There is something insane about the claim that Hamas is obviously committing war crimes by firing ineffective rockets while Israel may or may not be, depending on what a careful investigation shows. Look at the death toll. Look at the children being killed.
And suppose some Hamas militant was in the house. Well, that is considered extenuating evidence.
But if Hamas had accurate missiles, could they send a rocket to kill Netanyahu or some Israeli general, or for that matter an Israeli corporal sitting in a house, and kill 20 civilians who live in that home including children? Would that be okay? Would everyone be happier with Hamas if the situation were reversed and if Hamas killed 1000 civilians using the methods of Israel?
Or would it then become unclear whether Hamas was committing war crimes?
If people want to deal in the hypothetical and claim that Hamas really does want to kill as many as possible, then they should assume it had better weapons and play out the scenario in their heads. What would Israel do if the rockets were killing dozens of Israeli civilians a day? Or 100, as Nabil Shaath said had died in the last 24 hours in Rafah? Would Hamas risk its own total destruction if it had the capability to kill more civilians? People who accuse Hamas of wanting to commit genocide and who rightly condemn Assad’s tactic of using heavy weaponry in urban areas never ask what Israel would do if Hamas posed the same level of threat to Israel and its citizens as the jihadis do to the Syrian government.
Let Hamas have the capability and willingness to do to Israel what Israel has done to Gaza and– Israel might well level Gaza.
And some of its supporters in the US would justify every single bomb they dropped.