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‘NYT’ has run nonstop defenses by its columnists of killing protesters in Gaza

US Politics

Yesterday in the New York Times, Bret Stephens characterized the shootings on the Gaza protesters as a “military quagmire.” Just a throwaway line, but the former Jerusalem Post editor turned columnist said Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking to “shore up his popularity in the face of corruption allegations and a military quagmire in the Gaza Strip.”

Stephens’s swipe is merely the latest instance in a near-constant defense of the killings of unarmed protesters by op-ed columnists of the New York Times. Israeli forces have shot more than 4000 Palestinians with live ammunition during the 4-1/2 months of protests on the Gaza border, killing at least 124.

But that violence has been echoed in a barrage of New York Times hasbara columns. Tom Friedman in May blamed Hamas for “the tragic and wasted deaths of roughly 60 Gazans by encouraging their march.” He said the Palestinian protesters were going about it it all wrong.

What if all two million Palestinians of Gaza marched to the Israeli border fence with an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other, saying, ‘Two states for two peoples: We, the Palestinian people of Gaza, want to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish people–a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed adjustments.’

Bret Stephens said three months ago that the Palestinians created the killings, with their culture of violence:

Why is nothing expected of Palestinians, and everything forgiven, while everything is expected of Israelis, and nothing forgiven?… No decent Palestinian society can emerge from the culture of victimhood, violence and fatalism symbolized by these protests.

Shmuel Rosner offered an uncompromising defense of Israeli slaughter– you have to be cruel to be kind.

Guarding the border was more important than avoiding killing, and guarding the border is what Israel did successfully.

Why so many thousands of Gazans decided to approach that fence, even though they were warned that such acts would be lethal, is beyond comprehension…

[S]ometimes there is no better choice than being clear, than being firm, than drawing a line that cannot be crossed by those wanting to harm you.

Matti Friedman also put the blame on Hamas, saying it had ordered up civilian casualties so as to hurt Israel’s image with a simple story about “villains and victims.” Many of the demonstrators are jihadists, he said, and maybe Israel should have responded more aggressively.

Israeli soldiers facing Gaza have no good choices…. Knowledgeable people can debate the best way to deal with this threat. Could a different response have reduced the death toll? Or would a more aggressive response deter further actions of this kind and save lives in the long run? What are the open-fire orders on the India-Pakistan border, for example?

To be sure, the New York Times has run several Palestinian voices during the same period. Novelist Atef Abu Seif wrote a piece right after the May 14 slaughter, more sad than angry, in sharp contrast with the arrogant smug racists on the other side.

This one, “Why I March,” was written by Fadi Abu Shammalah, before the main massacre. Again his is a quiet dignified voice.

And Rawan Yaghi wrote, “Gaza Screams for Life,” days after the protests commenced, with superb observations of the life of the protests.

A group of clowns with white face paint and red noses squeaked noisily in the rising and falling tones of Gaza’s Arabic dialect and hopped around. One of them grabbed a mic in front of a TV camera and started imitating news correspondents, quacking unintelligibly but as determined as if he were saying real words.

So yes, the Times has allowed some Palestinians to speak, and they were quiet and dignified.

And yes, one Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg, called the massacre a “massacre” (and quoted Amnesty International condemning the “excessive, illegal” use of force). And surprisingly David Brooks, though biased against Palestinians, did say that the Israelis should have had a nonviolent response ready.

But again, at least four regular or semi-regular columnists in the Times are apologists for the massacre, in characteristically smug and racist and arrogant tones.

The inevitable journalistic questions (and answers) are:

–Would the New York Times print defenses of the shooting of protesters in any other case? (No.)

–The Israeli writer Shmuel Rosner is clearly in the Times entirely to convey hasbara to an elite American audience. Does the New York Times have a regular Palestinian columnist just to keep us updated on Palestinian issues, usually churning out condemnations of Israel? (No.)

About Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson are NY writers and regular contributors to this site

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15 Responses

  1. dionissis_mitropoulos
    dionissis_mitropoulos
    August 12, 2018, 8:21 pm

    “Matti Friedman also put the blame on Hamas, saying it had ordered up civilian casualties so as to hurt Israel’s image with a simple story about “villains and victims.”

    This must be the quality journalism of Mr Matti Friedman, a self-confident (brash?) repetition of a standard Israel advocacy talking point, namely that Hamas actively pursues Palestinian civilian deaths so as to badmouth Israel. Except his point is debunked by the very Israeli defense establishment through the voice of an establishment Israeli journalists who is the voice of the defense establishment in the Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff. Here is Avi Issacharoff making clear that Hamas was trying to avoid a large number of Palestinian deaths, because a large number of Palestinian deaths could lead to war, and Hamas was trying to avoid war, hence it had to avoid a large number of Palestinian deaths (June 2018):

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-lieu-of-dialogue-hamas-is-playing-with-fire/

    “The implication is that Hamas, for the time being [June 2018], seems to be setting aside its own rocket launches and also the semi-grassroots demonstrations at the border fence. Those protests have proven to be an almost too “effective” weapon that could lead to war, considering the large number of Palestinian casualties.That is what has led to the choice of kites as, for now, the main weapon.”

    But maybe Hamas was thinking differently in May, when the return marches reached their climax? No, Hamas at that time too was trying to limit the number of Palestinian civilian casualties so as to avoid being dragged to a war with Israel:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/behind-islamic-jihads-barrage-of-attacks-on-israel-the-hand-of-iran/

    “Yet the fact remains that Hamas’s activities in recent months indicate that it is not particularly interested in an escalation, and Israel recognizes this. Hamas has put the brakes on a potential deterioration into all-out conflict more than once of late, even after its forces were hit. The most obvious recent example of this was on May 14 … when more than 60 Gazans were killed in violent clashes with Israel at the Gaza border. … Yet it [Hamas] ordered the dispersal of the protests at the border that evening, to avoid a potential descent into war.”

    If the Israeli advocacy myths that Mr Matti Friedman propagated were true, namely that Hamas wants Palestinian deaths, Hamas would have been happy both with the high number of fatalities at the return marches and with a potential war that could erupt with Israel, because this war would guarantee even more civilian deaths. And yet Hamas tries consistently to avoid such a war since August 2014, as has been declared by every single Israeli journalist alive today. Either Mr Mattie Friedman missed the news, or the New York Times must become more imaginative in its choice of Israel advocates: it’s embarrassing for the New York Times to be seen as promoting such crude Israel advocacy that is debunked by facts that are accessible in every Israeli newspaper.

    P.S. full disclosure: I once sincerely believed the very same advocacy myths that Mr Matti Friedman is deceptively using (he himself knows better, he doesn’t believe them). My excuse is that I was misinformed. What’s the New York Times’ excuse for allowing Mr Matti Friedman to dupe western audiences?

  2. JWalters
    JWalters
    August 12, 2018, 9:01 pm

    Tom Friedman is Iago, stepped straight from Shakespeare’s play Othello. Iago was a despicably deceptive, treacherous liar, pretending to be an honest man and Othello’s friend.

    Israel is an Iago to America’s Othello. And like Iago, it will perish from its own banal evil.

  3. dionissis_mitropoulos
    dionissis_mitropoulos
    August 12, 2018, 11:42 pm

    “[Bret Stephens said] Why is nothing expected of Palestinians, and everything forgiven, while everything is expected of Israelis, and nothing forgiven?

    [Shmuel Rosner said:] Why so many thousands of Gazans decided to approach that fence, even though they were warned that such acts would be lethal, is beyond comprehension…

    That so many Gazans decided to approach the fence, despite knowing the nonchalance with which the Israelis kill in order to enforce their arbitrary red lines, is not beyond comprehension. Actually it’s pretty obvious once you know about the siege: the people of Gaza are both desperate and extremely angry. Desperate because they have no future as long as the siege is not lifted, and extremely angry because they have very recently endured 3 consecutive mass scale bombings by Israel, not to mention the occupation of their holy places. This explains the Palestinian defiance in the face of death, and it also answers Mr Bret Stephens’ question: the expectations from the Israelis and the Palestinians should be proportional to the degree of their capacity to be in a constructive mood. Do their living conditions (abject poverty, poisoned water, Israeli recurrent bombings) make it any easy on the Palestinians to be in a forgiving mood for what they have endured because of the Israelis? This also answers Mr Tom Friedman’s point: the Palestinians don’t offer olive branches to the Israelis because they are very angry with the Israelis.

    The interesting thing is that these obvious points that I am making have been made very succinctly by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), so one wonders why the three New York Times contributors don’t take a page from the IDF. Here is General Yoav Mordechai (Mondoweiss readers may recognize his face because he was the IDF spokesperson), who is now COGAT chief.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoav_Mordechai

    All his quotations below are from an analysis he wrote for Israel’s leading think tank on security matters, the Institute for National Security Studies:

    http://www.inss.org.il/publication/next-gaza-gaza-strip-dead-end-glimmer-hope/?utm_source=activetrail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Strategic%20Assessment%20Vol.%2020%20No.%203

    And here is the analysis, this is the top echelon of the IDF speaking:

    “the Gaza Strip has undergone … the emergence of a new generation that is enraged, frustrated, and stripped of any personal and collective horizon”

    Here is why the Palestinians don’t offer the olive branch that Mr Tom Friedman wants:

    “The new generation in Gaza comprises a relatively young population (ages 15-30) that has no genuine knowledge of Israel, and whose familiarity with “its neighbors, the Jews” is based mainly on the rounds of fighting with the IDF that erupt every few years.”

    The humanitarian catastrophe and poverty is naturally blamed on Israel:

    “[there is] a mindset among the new generation that blames primarily Israel for the
    reality in Gaza, and even more than the past believes that Israel is responsible for the local infrastructure and poor means of subsistence”

    The hate is becoming worse:

    “Moreover, the alienation and hatred continue to fester, mainly because the acquaintance between the parties and the points of interaction are steadily diminishing.”

    By the way, which is the main causal factor leading to poverty and desperation in Gaza? It’s the siege, we are being told by the top echelon of the IDF:

    “the situation of Gaza’s population deteriorated dramatically compared to the period prior to 2007, particularly in light of the restrictions that Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip (in terms of traffic to and from the region, and in terms of economic activity);”

    The youth is frustrated:

    “This is where the new generation comes in…
    This is a frustrated generation. Many of the young people who acquired an education are hard pressed to find suitable employment, improve their standard of living, or identify any personal and collective horizon. This is a generation that is exposed to social networks, is aware of Western lifestyles, and wants to adopt these lifestyles too”

    Why are the Palestinians not offering the olive branch that Mr Tom Friedmnan wants? Why are they defying death, as Mr Rosner wonders? Because they are occupied and occupation tends to produce rage in the occupied people:

    “At the same time, the new generation in the Gaza Strip reflects the Palestinian arena as a whole, marked by the rage of a conquered people;

    Their defiance of death at the return marches, inexplicable as it seems to Mr Rosner, has much to do with their having nothing to lose anymore:

    “As far as the new generation is concerned, the situation cannot get any worse and they have nothing more to lose, and this reality provides fertile ground for a deterministic view that divides the world into “good guys and bad guys” and encourages violent confrontation as the basis for bringing about change. One could argue that this is the way that population groups that adopt a militant approach have always behaved, but in the instance of the new generation, it appears that at issue is the potential for a more violent and dangerous reality than ever existed in Gaza.”

    The top echelon of the IDF explains to Mr Tom Friedman that he should forget about a hypothetical Palestinian initiative to offer an olive branch to the Israelis, and that the IDF sees it in the interests of Israel to ease the suffering of Gaza so as to reduce the risk of wars in the future:

    the Israeli view of the Gaza Strip now focuses on the hardships suffered by two million Palestinians living in that congested strip of land, coupled with the understanding that their economic situation has direct, dramatic ramifications on the security situation in the region.
    Consequently, the more bleak the situation of Gazan residents becomes, the greater the chances of additional rounds of violence in this region in the future.”

    So, according to the top echelons of the IDF, what is the best course of action for the Israelis regarding Gaza?

    “a process should be designed in the form of a “Marshall Plan” for the Gaza Strip.

    …a process must be implemented to turn Gaza into a developing environment, with advanced industrial zones, tourist areas, innovative transportation solutions, and infrastructures that will meet the population’s needs”

    The bottom line is this, according to the top echelon of the IDF: instead of lamenting the absence of miraculous psychological transformations of an occupied people into olive-branch wielders, as Mr Tom Friedman does, instead of blaming the Gazan mindset as Mr Stephens does, instead of expressing our bewilderment at the Palestinian defiance of death while we are nonchalantly executing them, as Mr Rosner does, let’s offer the Gaza people a Marshall Plan. This Marshall Plan will avert a slide to an even more violent mindset than the the one that Mr Stephens was lamenting. The IDF is telling us:

    “without a solution for the current situation, the young generation is liable to join radical Islamic organizations and adopt a more militant approach, even compared to the Hamas government.”

    Lift the siege, that’s the bottom line.

    In conclusion I need to state that I find it very strange that the IDF sounds more moderate than 4 pro-Israel columnists of the most influential liberal western newspaper.

    And I also find it embarrassing for the New York Times that we learn more truth about the Israel/Palestine conflict from the IDF than from the New York Times’ pro-Israel columnists.

    Who knows, maybe it’s in the nature of Israel advocacy to say different things in Israel and different things to the rest of the westerners – now, where have I heard a variant of this before?

    • Donald
      Donald
      August 13, 2018, 11:10 pm

      Great comment.

    • Sibiriak
      Sibiriak
      August 14, 2018, 12:53 am

      dionissis_mitropoulos : So, according to the top echelons of the IDF, what is the best course of action for the Israelis regarding Gaza? “a process should be designed in the form of a “Marshall Plan” for the Gaza Strip……a process must be implemented to turn Gaza into a developing environment, with advanced industrial zones, tourist areas, innovative transportation solutions, and infrastructures that will meet the population’s needs”
      —————————-

      Enter Kushner and the “Deal of the Century”.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      August 14, 2018, 12:59 am

      “Why are the Palestinians not offering the olive branch that Mr Tom Friedman wants?”

      Because they know that Israel will not accept it. It was offered in the 2002 Saudi proposal, as well as at other times. No takers in Israel.

      “a process should be designed in the form of a “Marshall Plan” for the Gaza Strip.”

      Looks as though the Trump/Kushner plan has its origins in the IDF.

  4. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    August 13, 2018, 10:55 am

    @dionissis_mitropoulos and JWalters

    Well and truly stated. Thank you!!

  5. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    August 13, 2018, 12:01 pm

    RE: “Israeli forces have shot more than 4000 Palestinians with live ammunition during the 4-1/2 months of protests on the Gaza border, killing at least 124. But that violence has been echoed in a barrage of New York Times hasbara columns. . . Shmuel Rosner offered an uncompromising defense of Israeli slaughter– you have to be cruel to be kind.” ~ Weiss & Johnson

    KURT BAKER – Cruel To Be Kind
    “You gotta be, cruel to be kind, in the right measure
    Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign”

  6. Spring Renouncer
    Spring Renouncer
    August 13, 2018, 3:44 pm

    Matti Friedman’s arguments are dumb. The Gaza situation is totally unlike that at the India-Pakistan border. India and Pakistan are both sovereign states with well equipped conventional armies, air-forces and navies comprised of many hundreds of thousands of soldiers each. Each of them also has dozens to hundreds of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Comparing the oppressed, barely-armed and occupied protesting Gazans to the South Asian states is either facetious, idiotic or both.

  7. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    August 13, 2018, 4:22 pm

    It is as if Judaism did a deal with the devil over Gaza. Imagine Alabama troops killing 124 African American protestors in 5 months.
    Friedman wouldn’t dare justify it
    . Does Stephen’s support police shoot to kill in the US? Of course he doesn’t. Because the cops aren’t Jewish. This is not a bug. It’s a feature.
    Gaza brings out the thug in far too many Jews.

    • JWalters
      JWalters
      August 13, 2018, 8:03 pm

      A very apt parallel. David Brooks brushed off Israel’s Gaza killings as the result of mere “bad planning” on Israel’s part.

      The MSM’s customer base must have their blind faith in the MSM shattered. I encourage all MW commenters to pick one MSM website and engage the commenters there to educate them, including links to excellent MW articles such as this one.

  8. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    August 14, 2018, 5:46 am

    The New York Times is in way over its head. When bourgeois op ed columnists support systematic murder something is really fucked up. Otherwise introduce the policy in Cleveland.

    Judaism is a long way down a dark rabbit hole. The NYT plays Israel drunk or sober but most of its readers do not care about Israel. This tension will eventually break the NYT.
    This is such a long way from Kansas.

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