By SHERWIN POMERANTZ
Once again, the New York Times has come to the defense of the Palestinian population of Gaza by writing a one-sided editorial (on April 11) and conveniently omitting any facts that might disprove its basic premise that Israel has acted irresponsibly in protecting its southern border from attack.
The Times claims that “in general, the protests have been peaceful, with many demonstrators staying far back from the heavily fortified fence to picnic and hold a tent camp sit-in. There has been no apparent reason for Israel to use live ammunition.”
But all one needs to do is look at the films of the demonstrations over the last two weeks to see that the demonstrations have been anything but peaceful. More than a few hundred demonstrators were armed with weapons from Molotov cocktails to high powered rifles to handheld grenade launchers, and they did not hesitate to use them. What would the United States do if this were the case on its border with Canada or Mexico? Would American troops not respond with live fire if they felt their lives threatened?
The Times also writes “The government claims that the protests are a cover for a more violent Hamas agenda, including encouraging Gazans to penetrate the fence and push into Israel.” Does The Times dispute this? This is, in fact, the stated purpose of the Hamas leadership with sufficient film evidence showing some of the leadership even urging their followers to kill all the Jews. This week Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day and seared into our collective memory are the same chants from a time we, as Jews, could not defend ourselves. Does the paper want us to accept such rhetoric and turn the other cheek in the face of our own history?
The paper also writes “Israel has a right to defend its border, but in the face of unarmed civilians it could do so with nonlethal tactics common to law enforcement, such as the use of high-powered fire hoses.” Looking at the videos it is clear that the protestors could hardly be described as unarmed. In addition, the Hamas leadership knows enough to keep most of their people far enough back from the border so that water from high-pressure hoses would not reach them. They also knew last weekend to set thousands of tires afire so that the thick black smoke would make it impossible for our defense forces to see them. In addition, they had large mirrors in place to reflect the blinding sun back into the eyes of Israel’s defenders. As such, live ammunition is really the only alternative to repel the aggressors, and even then, a number made it to the fence and into Israel where they were later apprehended.
Sure, it would probably be better for Israeli sharpshooters to aim for the legs of those who are attacking rather than killing them. However, that also becomes a formidable challenge when the line of sight is obstructed.
Everyone here is pained by the fact that a member of press covering the events in Gaza was killed last Friday. Whether or not he was an active member of Hamas, as some claim, is not important. In general, the press should not be attacked in such situations. But war, and this is war, creates collateral damage. The U.S. has its own list of members of the press who have given their lives covering combat situations and when one puts himself or herself in harm’s way there is, prima facie, a risk to life and limb.
But all of this was not enough, the paper then goes ahead attempting to justify the activities of Hamas over the last two weeks by saying that Gaza is “the enclave of nearly two million Palestinians ruled by ruthless Hamas militants that has been devastated by an 11-year blockade by Israel and Egypt and three wars between Israel and Hamas that have killed thousands of Palestinians and about 100 Israelis.”
Yes, there has been an 11-year blockade and three wars, but all of that can be laid at the feet of the Palestinian leadership in the earlier years, and Hamas leadership of late, refusing to sit down and talk face-to-face with Israel to achieve a more normal life. The paper, of course, fails to make mention of that small but critical fact of life here.
Finally, The Times states: “Since the protests began, Israeli forces have killed at least 29 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,000. On the day Mr. Murtaja died, eight other Palestinians were killed and five other journalists were among a thousand injured. There have been no known Israeli casualties.”
One of these days the world will understand that there is no validity to these types of comparisons which are drawn when it is convenient for the author to do so. In World War II, 5.53 million German soldiers were killed while 416,800 U.S. soldiers died. Did anyone then or does anyone now make these kinds of comparisons with any country other than Israel? Did anyone every say that the U.S. response to the German war effort was “disproportionate” which is the word you hear about Israel all the time when it comes to fighting? Would the world be happier and less critical of Israel if at least 29 Israeli soldiers had died over the last two weeks on the Gaza border? Of course not. That is a comparison that can only be made by people who are, at their core, anti-Israel (however fancy their vocabulary and sentence structure).
No country is ever 100% right. Israel, like any other nation, makes mistakes on every level. But when a news outlet like the New York Times, which thinks of itself as one of the world’s great newspapers, continually slants their material to favor their political position and twists the facts to do so, at some point they lose credibility.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks has said: “Journalism should be more like science. As far as possible, facts should be verifiable. If journalists want long-term credibility for their profession, they have to go in that direction. Have more respect for readers.” It is a lesson that The Times needs to internalize.
(Sherwin Pomerantz is a 34-year resident of Jerusalem, president of Atid EDI Ltd., an Israel-based business development consultancy and past national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.)