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April 2, 2018 1:01 pm

New York Times Describes Israel’s Gaza Border Defense as ‘Harsh’; Popular Comment Calls Israel ‘Bloodthirsty’

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli soldiers near the border fence east of Gaza City. Photo: Wissam Nassar / Flash90.

Hamas terrorists roll burning tires at the Israeli border, throw Molotov cocktails, and shoot at Israeli troops in a pre-planned violent riot.

The New York Times reacts by portraying the Israeli response as “harsh.”

Here’s the key passage from an account of the clashes by the Times’ Isabel Kershner. First she frames two opposing views of the events:

Palestinians, supported by human rights groups, view the events as a legitimate protest that was met with disproportionate force by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.

Israel says it acted judiciously to prevent a dangerous breach of its borders and sovereignty led by Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, and to protect nearby communities.

This formulation already puts its finger on the scales, throwing a derogatory modifier at Israeli soldiers (“trigger-happy”) but a reverential one at Hamas (“Islamic”). Why stop at “trigger-happy”? Why not go all the way with an Easter blood-libel and just call the Jews “bloodthirsty”?

Actually, the Times did go so far as to permit this in one of its reader comments. Ed Watters of San Francisco describes what he calls “the fact that Israel is a bloodthirsty warden of Gaza.” The comment drew an astonishing 494 “thumbs-up” votes from Times readers.

The Times really lets readers know where it is coming from, though, with this sentence: “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey described the harsh Israeli response as ‘an inhumane attack.’”

The Times dispatch was dated April 1, so it might be easy to dismiss as some sort of April Fool’s joke. It sure sounds like it is the Times, not Erdogan, who is describing the Israeli response as “harsh.” If the Times‘ defense is that it is merely paraphrasing Erdogan, that’s inaccurate. Erdogan’s spokesman did use the word “harsh,” but he used it to describe Turkey’s response to Israel, not Israel’s response to the terrorists. As the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet put it, “‘We harshly condemn Israel’s attack on defenseless Palestinian civilians who attended the peaceful demonstrations in Gaza today,’ Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said in a written statement.”

The Times editorializing in its news reports is sadly typical for its coverage of Gaza.

A front-page Times article on March 31, written by Kershner and Iyad Abuheweila, claims that the border clash was “ignited by isolation and economic deprivation,” and concludes by repeating that in Gaza “most of the population lives in poverty.” This crudely Marxist deterministic idea that poverty causes violence ignores that plenty of poor people around the world respond to poverty not by engaging in violent rioting but rather by improving their own conditions. It also ignores that many of Israel’s and America’s recent violent Islamist enemies — Iran, Osama Bin Laden — aren’t impoverished at all, but very wealthy.

Some of the poverty in Gaza is the result of humanitarian aid being diverted to military uses by Hamas terrorists. Alas, you don’t see the modifier-happy Times journalists really scrutinizing why the impoverished Gazans are rolling burning tires at the Israeli border fence instead of at the bomb-happy and greedy Hamas military leaders.

Ira Stoll is the author of JFK, Conservative, published on October 15 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critiques, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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