Israel is preparing for another war that kills masses of civilians– and it’s preparing its propaganda campaign early with the New York Times happy to help.
Today’s Times has a long piece titled, “Israel Says Hezbollah Positions Put Lebanese at Risk,” by Isabel Kershner, containing numerous warnings from Israel that it will strike Lebanese villages and kill civilians in order to get at Hezbollah forces. Some excerpts:
As Israel prepares for what it sees as an almost inevitable next battle with Hezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese organization that fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006, Israeli military officials and experts are warning that the group has done more than significantly build up its firepower since then…
[T]he Israelis are blunt about the implications: They will not hesitate to strike at those targets, so southern Lebanon will most likely be the scene of widespread destruction.
Effectively, the Israelis are warning that in the event of another conflict with Hezbollah, many Lebanese civilians will probably be killed, and that it should not be considered Israel’s fault.
“The civilians are living in a military compound,” a senior Israeli military official said at military headquarters in Tel Aviv…
Israel says the situation is similar in the Gaza Strip, where, it says, Hamas is using the same tactic of hiding its forces among civilians.
“Historically, armed forces have separated themselves from the population, in uniform,” the senior Israeli military official said. “This is not the case here or in Gaza.” He accused Hezbollah of cynically using civilians…
“At the end of the day, it means that many, many Lebanese will be killed,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser now at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
First, how can you justify running such an article without mentioning and describing the Dahiya doctrine, a war policy Israel adopted during that 2006 war in which it pulverized an entire neighborhood of Beirut with huge civilian losses because Hezbollah was based there?
The Dahiya doctrine is considered a war crime, as it targets civilian infrastructure in an effort to deter militant attacks by making militants think twice about where they set up operations. Dahiya was implemented in Gaza in 2009, according to the Goldstone Report, and last summer in Gaza, when neighborhoods of Beit Lahiya, Khuza’a, and Shuja’iyeh were obliterated because they were seen as havens for militants, resulting in the loss of hundreds of civilians’ lives.
The Times reporter (whose son entered the Israeli army last year) quotes Amos Yadlin, an Israeli military figure, approving that doctrine without any suggestion that it’s a war crime:
“We already made it clear in 2006 that people in the villages do not have immunity if we have intelligence that they intend to fire at Israel…”
Second, how can the New York Times justify its continuing blackout of the new Israeli soldiers’ report from Breaking the Silence? That report gives the blueprint on the wholesale assault on neighborhoods that Israeli military leaders approve in the Times. From the Times today:
An Israeli expert familiar with military planning said that if Israel attacked Lebanon again, it would probably do so in three phases. First, it would strike without warning at targets that pose the greatest threat, he said; then it would call for civilians to evacuate southern Lebanon. Once a critical mass of people had left, ground troops would move in.
The Breaking the Silence report documents that same procedure in Gaza last summer: Israel declares a neighborhood to be a military stronghold, it leaflets the neighborhood and tells everyone to leave, it waits a little while and then the neighborhood becomes a free-fire zone. Breaking the Silence documented war crimes by showing that this policy was effected with orders to kill anybody that moved, for instance two women talking on cellphones in an orchard– a “mad” policy, according to Breaking the Silence leaders.
The Guardian said, “Israeli soldiers cast doubt on legality of Gaza military tactics. Testimonies of Israeli combatants about last year’s war show apparent disregard for safety of civilians.”
The Times refers to “the inevitable international censure that comes with civilian casualties,” but never says such actions are criminal.
Third, why would the NYT use a Hezbollah-linked person as the main source on Israel’s bombing of civilians in the 2006 war?
A Hezbollah sympathizer in Lebanon who is familiar with the organization’s military activities said… that Israel had killed civilians in Lebanon during past conflicts. He noted cases of Israeli strikes hitting United Nations positions during hostilities, including in Qana in 1996, when more than 100 people were killed in a United Nations shelter.
These civilian attacks are a well known fact, documented and condemned by groups such as Human Rights Watch, which also wrote about the massive use of cluster munitions by Israel. Using Hezbollah as the source and contrasting their claims with those of Israeli officials is an example of “he said, she said” journalism–at best it is lazy and at worst it implies that nothing on this subject can be nailed down and so it becomes a question of which side you choose to believe. Although the NYT does not dispute what the Hezbollah spokesperson said, it also doesn’t dispute the Israeli claims. Human rights violations that have been clearly established should not be relegated to the level of competing propaganda claims by the two sides.
The NYT is in the business of blowing smoke on this subject: there is never a time in the paper when Israel is unambiguously guilty of war crimes.