Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper on Thursday slammed the Huffington Post and reporter Sophie Jones, its Middle East correspondent, for the sensationalist headline, “‘They Just Wanted to Kill as Many People as Possible.”’ Cooper said the headline, accusing Israel of targeting civilians in its current war against Hamas in Gaza, and Jones’s reporting, “takes the art of lying and self-delusion to new depths.”
The Huffington Post article quoted Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the IDF’s official spokesman, describing Israel’s policy and procedure to warn civilians before striking Gaza targets, but then accused Israel of targeting civilians as collective punishment.
In an email, Lerner told Jones: “The IDF has no intention to harm civilians. Any instance in which non-involved Gaza residents are harmed is a tragic byproduct of Hamas attempts to maximize local casualties.”
“When arms depots or military targets are deployed within residential areas, the IDF calls residents with a warning minutes before the strike, in order to provide residents time to evacuate,” Lerner said.
“If residents fail to comply, a small non-explosive munition is used to convey the seriousness of the warning, prior to the strike,” he told Jones. “Finally, only after visual confirmation that civilians have exited the premises does the IDF approve the strike.”
Then Jones wrote: “But in dozens of interviews, survivors from Israeli strikes mocked and criticized Israel’s insistence that it actively tries to avoid killing civilians. Instead, they said, civilians are being targeted as a form of collective punishment.”
On Thursday, Cooper told The Algemeiner, “This takes the art of lying and self-delusion to new depths. The people of Gaza know the truth.”
“Israel made a commitment unmatched by any other country in wartime to use technology to minimize civilian casualties,” he said. “Is it perfect, of course not. But Gazans know the truth – Hamas, who they voted into power, has turned them into human shields, their enemy Israel has tried to help them survive.”
Jones’s own reporting contradicted the article’s headline, as several of her “dozens of interviews” described how they and their families safely left their homes after the IDF warned as many as people as possible in their neighborhood.
In the article, Jones wrote: “Civilians living in homes that have been targeted say Israel often gives warnings to their neighbors, nearby relatives or friends. If those people are sleeping, can’t reach the residents by phone, or just can’t run fast enough, families often have no idea they need to evacuate.”
Jones quoted Dr. Nasser al-Tattar, head of Al Shifa Hospital, which has become an unofficial and illegal, according to intentional laws of war, headquarters for Hamas.
Al-Tatter told Jones he had “received a warning earlier this month about an imminent strike from his nephew, Mohammed, who lives in a house nearby.”
They said, ‘We are going to bomb Dr. Nasser’s house, tell the neighbors to evacuate,’ Mohammed recalled, standing next to his uncle’s destroyed home, the first floor cardio clinic now just rubble. ‘You have 10 minutes,’ they said. So I ran and told everyone.
Thanks to Mohammed’s ability to get to the house quickly, no one was injured or killed.
Rabbi Cooper said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that their neighbors won’t acknowledge it, let alone say thank you.”
“Israel made these efforts because its the right thing to do,” he said. “For now, that choice will have to serve as its own reward.”