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NYT fails to report that Netanyahu started air war over Syria as corruption probes close in on him

on 13 Comments

Once again, the New York Times has failed in its duty to its readers to tell the full truth about Israel. This latest example of Times journalistic malpractice is on display in today’s report about Israel’s dangerous escalation of air attacks against Syria, during which an Israeli F-16 warplane was shot down, amid fears that Iran and even Russia might be drawn into the conflict.

First, and most important, the article, by Isabel Kershner, nowhere explains that many Israelis and others believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting regional armed conflict to distract attention from the corruption probes that are zeroing in on him and his wife, Sara. This site back in December quoted respected Haaretz opinion writer Bradley Burston’s view, that Netanyahu “needs a war with Iran,” that he is “desperate because police detectives and investigative journalists are closing in on him.”

Since then, the investigative heat on the Netanyahus has only increased. Haaretz reports that the police this week will publish their recommendations in two separate cases against the couple. In Case 1000, an Israeli businessman allegedly bribed the Netanyahus with cigars, champagne and jewelry. Case 2000 contends that a media tycoon offered to report on Netanyahu favorably if the Israeli prime minister would push legislation that curbed a rival publication. And meantime, Netanyahu lashed out at the Israeli police chief on Facebook last week.

How could the Times have left this important background out of its lengthy article on the aerial warfare over Syria?

Second, the Times report leaves the false impression that the fighting started only yesterday, when an unmanned Iranian drone allegedly crossed from Syria into Israeli airspace, prompting Israel to ‘defend itself’ by striking back at an Iranian base in Syria. The outstanding Israeli online publication, +972, exposes this distortion in a persuasive article by Haggai Matar that points out that “Israel has been bombing inside Syria for months.” He goes on:

“Make no mistake: the dramatic escalation of violence on the Israeli-Syrian border Saturday morning was initiated by Israel, and it is Israel’s responsibility to end it.”

Larry Derfner, the distinguished veteran Israeli journalist, was even more blunt on his Facebook page. Derfner, who last year published an impressive memoir explaining why he has abandoned liberal Zionism, had this to say right after yesterday’s aerial clashes:

. . . Israel has been bombing the crap out of Lebanon and Syria and occasionally killing Iranians, too, prior to today’s “Act of Iranian aggression.” No, sorry, ISRAEL IS THE AGGRESSOR IN THIS CONFLICT AND HAS BEEN FOR YEARS. The injuries to one of the Israeli pilots is on ISRAEL’s head. And in the next war, every drop of spilled JEWISH BLOOD, not to mention Arab blood, will be on Israel’s head too.

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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13 Responses

  1. John O on February 11, 2018, 11:52 am

    It’s not looking good for Netanyahu. The downing of the F-16 shows that the technological gap between Israel and its foes has narrowed considerably.

    • on February 12, 2018, 9:49 am

      You are absolutely correct. The F-16 is aging technology and no matter what you do to the avionics, the air-frame can take only so much adjustments to squeeze out more efficiency.

      Also, Israel, to continue receiving US aid has to by equipment from US weapons manufacturers, which are currently producing nothing more than “junk” hardware and software. Again, Israeli engineers can only do so much to advance the basic foundations.

      The other side of the coin is that Syria and Russia have been very restrained in their responses to Israeli incursions as neither wants a wider conflict. However, Israel should be very careful in pushing President Putin too far. At some point he will retaliate with a very calculated reaction, which will put a damper on Israeli dreams of a war with Iran.

  2. Brewer on February 11, 2018, 3:46 pm

    The NYT piece is almost laughable in its clumsy attempt to whitewash Israel’s actions. The language is a real hoot:
    ” Israel intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace from Syria. The Israeli military then attacked what it called the command-and-control center from which Iran had launched the drone”
    “one of Israel’s F-16 fighter jets crashed in northern Israel after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire.”

    The drone (origin unknown) was over the Golan, occupied Syrian territory. Official Israeli sources declared that they had possession of it while, at the same time, showing a video of a drone being blown to bits in the sky! Most likely it was a cheap Israeli drone or archival footage , retrospectively used as justification of an air attack on Syria that went wrong.
    One (possibly two) of their of their ships was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles (most likely S-200s that Russia finally gave permission to deploy after their plane was taken down a few days ago). The Pilot ejected but, according to some usually reliable sources, died in hospital last night.
    The Israeli spin is mind-numbing but their reaction may have surprised some. About six weeks ago I predicted both the event and the reaction. It was only a matter of time before Syria got the green light from Russia to retaliate against Israel’s air attacks which have been numerous and carried out with impunity:
    Netanyahu offered up a load of bluster but appears to be abiding by Putin’s advice “avoid any steps that could lead to a new round of confrontation.”
    It is good advice. The Syrian War has not worked out as planned and the re-vitalized and re-armed forces on Israel’s border are capable of doing much damage within Israel. Classic blow-back. Despite Netanyahu’s desperate need for a distraction right now, I don’t think even he is foolish enough to chance it.

    • Sibiriak on February 12, 2018, 3:40 am

      Brewer: Most likely it was a cheap Israeli drone or archival footage , retrospectively used as justification of an air attack on Syria that went wrong.


      Some discussion of the event here:

      One prominent theory in the commentary is that the drone was sent up to lure the Israel plane into an ambush.

      • Brewer on February 12, 2018, 12:55 pm

        Thanks for that Sibiriak. Always good to get the military perspective. Mine is from a political/Historical point of view and my knowledge of missile systems fairly minimal. That being said, I think both are necessary when we try to analyze the “why” of these actions.

        Events in the Middle East have greater direct impact on Russia than they do on the U.S. and Putin appears to be playing a long game along these lines:

        I have been puzzled as to why Israel seems to have enjoyed a free hand to try and tip the balance against the Syrian government (which has Russia’s support for many reasons of its own, not to do with the traditional conflicts in the region). Putin is reputedly a good chess player. I suspect he has lulled Netanyahu into a false sense of security while slowly getting his pieces in place. My prediction of an IAF craft going down was based on the idea that nothing would happen until the cost of escalation was too high for the Israelis. In my view we have now, with a re-vitalized SAA and Hezbollah and with Syrian air defenses in place, reached the point at which Russia can reveal its hand and force some long-term resolution. I think Nasrallah’s (a man not known to issue idle threats) recent speech is part of it. The cost to Israel is now too high. Interestingly, “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Israel to dismantle its nuclear reactor in Dimona on Thursday, warning that it poses a threat to Israel’s existence should it be hit by one of Hezbollah’s missiles.
        Nasrallah made a similar threat against Haifa’s ammonia tank last year, saying that a missile hitting the facility could have the affect of a nuclear bomb. Last week, a Haifa court ordered the tank closed, citing the security threat.”
        Putin has had to tread a fine line so as not to come into direct confrontation with America. I think he has been largely successful and, incidentally, I see “Russia-gate” as part of the neo-con push to bring the U.S. in. Neo-con ideology, being “top-down”, authoritarian, needs to be pro-active, ahead of the game and this is where they have a slight problem with Trump. He has shown a propensity only to react.
        All too complex for one small post but I hope you see where I am headed. In my view, I think Israel just blinked.

      • Brewer on February 12, 2018, 6:08 pm

        I see I left this out“One prominent theory in the commentary is that the drone was sent up to lure the Israel plane into an ambush.”

        I think you can discount this entirely – it wouldn’t make military sense to send an F16 against a drone. The Israeli footage shows the drone taken out by a helicopter.

  3. pabelmont on February 11, 2018, 5:48 pm

    It appears that Israel is treading very close to Russian toes, and complaints and warnings are being made. Iran and Russia (and Syria) as allies in Syria?

    And the USA and Turkey and whoever else feel perfectly free to inject themselves into the fray. What a wonderful free-for-all; what a wonderful world!

  4. Rob Roy on February 12, 2018, 9:17 am

    Iran was one of the original seven countries on the US hit list drawn up some years ago. The first three were to be Iran, Iraq and Syria. Israel and idiots in the US Congress/war machine have wanted a “false flag” to get into another brutal and illegal war. The US wants the war for its ongoing hegemonic and new world order goals; Israel to remain the controlling power in the area.
    Don’t forget the Brookings Institute’s 170 page paper from 2009, “Which Path to Persia” that lays out the plan’s exact progression. It’s sickening. Iran has never attacked anyone and the black cloud of its eight year war with Iraq still lingers.
    I believe the coming war with Iran is a far bigger endeavour than just Netanyahu’s excuse to distract from his corruption.

    • on February 12, 2018, 10:50 am

      Rob Roy – I completely agree – moving on Iran has been part of the plan for years now (I think everyone has seen the Army Gen. Wesley Clark’s recounting of his discussion with the Pentagon – ). That’s not to say that Bibi wouldn’t like the West/Saudis to attack Iran soon given his current domestic woes. I have to believe he is lobbying harder now than ever. If bombing Iran is not currently available as a distraction there’s always the Palestinians.

      It’s anyone’s guess on whether the drone strike was staged by the Israeli’s as a false flag to attack Syrian targets or whether it was a Russian drone used to draw out Israeli jets for a ground to air attack with Russian missiles. One thing is for sure, things will heat up in the area now that a new axis of evil has been formed under tRUMP’s control – US, Israel, Saudi – all hostile towards Iran.

      • Brewer on February 12, 2018, 1:16 pm

        “moving on Iran has been part of the plan for years now”
        I think that train left the station empty some time back.
        Iran is now part of an alliance stretching in a broad curve from Beijing to Moscow and possibly beyond. Their military is now spread throughout the region, an attack on the homeland would come at too great a cost to Israel.
        “a new axis of evil has been formed under tRUMP’s control – US, Israel, Saudi “
        Hmmmmm. Saudis broke and bogged down in Yemen, Israel unwilling to risk domestic damage, the U.S. broke and bleeding everywhere? Possibly dangerous but not particularly potent. Furthermore, I think the other side has better “rock, paper and scissors” skill.

  5. on February 12, 2018, 5:20 pm

    Brewer – I’ve enjoyed reading through your comments to this article. There’s a lot there that I didn’t know. I hope you are right that the US Saudi Israel coalition is more bark than bite and that Iran will not be attacked.

    People here in the West talk about an attack on Iran in terms of when not if it will happen. I’m sure there’s a lot of posturing going on along with ample amounts of misinformation. I never pretend to know what is actually happening behind the scenes but im always interested in what others have uncovered or believe is transpiring or planned.

  6. Bandolero on February 12, 2018, 7:42 pm

    I think the headline of this MW article is a very bad choice.

    The NYT did an amazing propaganda job to whitewash Israeli aggression, but not mentioning corruption probes against Netanyahu I don’t see as a major problem with the NYT here.

    Just see what happened:

    Israel bombs Syria routinely whenever Israel wants to. Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said half a year ago Israel bombed Syria about almost a 100 times in the last five years.

    And that’s what Israel did on Saturday: Israel just routinely bombed Syria, because Israel sees it as Israel’s right to bomb any country in the region whenever Israel wants to bomb that country. The only major difference with previous Israeli aggressions on Saturday was that an Israeli attack jet was downed, so Israel routinely committed the crime of aggression and got a little bit of a bloody nose, though Israel did not suffer casualties in that routine act of aggression.

    The whole rest of the Israeli and NYT story is story telling, from fiction to fairy tales, just to somehow justify routine Israeli aggressions against Syria and other countries, eg Lebanon. An Iranian drone violated Israels air space, Israel and the NYT claimed. The NYT failed to say how ridiculous that is as a pretext for bombing runs. And really, was it Iranian? Where is the proof? There is no proof. New reports say Israel recognised the drone as a copy of a US recon drone that the US used to intrude into Iranian air space.

    And after that the US complained that Iran downed it and wanted the drone back, because, as the US argued back then, mistakes of drones flying accidentally into other countries can just happen, and should be no cause for military escalation.

    And still, no one in Israel died due to that Israeli aggression, because Syria put up a very limited response, without any retaliatory strikes. But, according to Israel, Israel hit hard, and it’s likely people in Syria were killed in this Israeli aggression. And still, the NYT put up a story making Iran the aggressor, though there is absolutely no proof that Iran had anything to do with that clash. The NYT will likely see that propaganda piece as example of laudable chutzpah, when indeed it’s just another ridiculous example of “Israel, my country, right or wrong.”

    Israel routinely committing the crime of aggression is the far bigger and more important story behind that incident than just Netanyahu doing war for domestic reasons.

  7. Kathleen on February 14, 2018, 5:08 pm

    On NPR’s Morning Edition the other morning Rachel Martin and Aaron David Miller spun the whole story as Israel defending themselves.

    As Norman Finkelstein has often pointed out Israel has a long history of quietly (media goes along) provoking first and then responding with a massively disproportionate and violent response.

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