Donald Johnson sent a version of the following letter to the New York Times’s public editor. He gave us permission to publish it. –Editor
The NYT has from time to time done fact checking on various claims made by the candidates. I want to point to a rather glaring instance where it hasn’t done this.
On Thursday, Bernie Sanders criticized the Israeli war in Gaza as disproportionate. Every mainstream human rights organization that I know about agrees that Israel’s actions in Gaza were either illegal or appear to have been so– and human rights groups tend to be cautious when condemning Western governments. They are also critical of Hamas. Hillary Clinton used the standard excuse employed by Israel that the problem was that Hamas hides among civilians. This simply doesn’t explain why Israel targeted homes, killing hundreds of civilians this way, including children. It doesn’t explain the killings at Rafah described in the Amnesty International report below.
From Clinton’s remarks:
I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.
So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself….
It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians… the rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years.
Clinton is frequently praised for her command of detail, yet the details she puts forward regarding Israel-Palestine are hotly contested (including her claims about the Camp David talks) by mainstream commenters and her claims about Gaza flatly contradict what human rights organizations have found. And so far you haven’t reported on this.
I would bet every dollar I have that if Sanders had given a pro-Palestinian slant on Gaza that contradicted what human rights groups said there would have been a storm of outrage and the NYT would have gone into some detail about the differences between what this imaginary Sanders had said and what the human rights organizations have said. But Secretary of State Clinton, wonkish master of detail, makes claims that side with Israeli apologists against the work of HRW, Amnesty International, and B’Tselem and absolutely nothing is said about it. Reporting on the conflict within the Jewish community regarding Sanders’s comments is fine (“Criticizing Israel, Bernie Sanders highlights split among Jewish Democrats“), but not adequate. If Clinton is supposed to be the better candidate because of her mastery of facts, then the claims she puts forward as facts should be checked.
Relevant Human Rights Reports
- ‘Black Friday’: Carnage in Rafah During 2014 Israel/Gaza Conflict, Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture
- Black Flag: The Legal and Moral Implications of the Policy of Attacking Residential Buildings in the Gaza Strip, Summer 2014 (PDF), B’Tselem
- In-Depth Look at Gaza School Attacks, Human Rights Watch
- Post Mortem on Gaza, Human Rights Watch