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April 12, 2018 3:39 pm

New York Times Editorial Suggests Israel Use Fire Hoses on Palestinian Protesters

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A New York Times editorial recommends that Israel use water cannon instead of live ammunition against Hamas rioters in Gaza.

The Times editorial, headlined, “Israel’s Violent Response To Nonviolent Protests,” includes this sentence: “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.”

There are so many serious problems with the Times editorial that it’s difficult to decide where to begin dismantling it, but the “high-powered fire hoses” suggestion is probably a good place.

Here are six reasons that is a bad idea.

  1. If the protesters are as peaceful and nonviolent as the Times claims they are, they don’t deserve to be attacked with high-powered fire hoses. In other words, all the arguments that the Times marshals against shooting live ammunition at the protesters — “victims posed no threat to Israeli troops,” “people have a right to demonstrate peacefully” — are also arguments against using high-powered fire hoses to disperse them. If people have “a right to demonstrate peacefully,” they also have a right to demonstrate without being doused with high-pressure fire hoses. If, on the other hand, Israel is facing a deadly terrorist enemy committed to destroying the Jewish state and its inhabitants, then no fire hoses, no matter how powerful, will be a sufficient defense.
  2. Israel and Gaza are deserts where water is costly and scarce, and high-powered fire hoses would be a waste of a resource that is better conserved for drinking, sanitation, and irrigation.
  3. Water cannon, as the high-powered hoses are known, are dangerous. A German man, Dietrich Wagner, was blinded by one that was used by authorities against an environmental protest in Stuttgart. A South Korean farmer, Baek Nam-gi, reportedly died in 2016 after being knocked to the ground by a stream of water used against protesters by authorities in Seoul.
  4. British authorities recently decided not to deploy them, describing them as potentially “counterproductive” and “indiscriminate.”
  5. Using fire hoses on protesters would be a public relations disaster for Israel, because it would play into the Palestinian Arab terrorists organizations’ desire to portray themselves as the heirs to the black civil rights movement, with the Israelis in the role of Apartheid-era South African whites or Southern segregationists.
  6. Anyone imagining that the Times would cheer the use of fire hoses by Israelis against protesters if the use were actual rather than merely hypothetical is invited to read the Times’ Sunday May 5, 1963, editorial, “Outrage in Alabama.” It began, “No American schooled in respect for human dignity can read without shame of the barbarities committed by Alabama police authorities against Negro and white demonstrators for civil rights. The use of police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses to subdue schoolchildren in Birmingham is a national disgrace… Every one of us is diminished by the shocking violation of human rights in Alabama.” More recently, a 2016 Times editorial decried the use of water cannons on a crowd in Turkey as part of a “turn toward authoritarianism” there and as a sign of “Democracy’s Disintegration in Turkey.”

I’ve got no objection to Israel using the least lethal methods possible to defend its borders and its population. But the Times second-guessing Israeli tactics from the relative safety of its Times Square headquarters is silly. We’re still awaiting The New York Times editorial suggesting taking away the guns from New York City police officers and requiring them instead to protect New Yorkers with water balloons.

Nor is the “high-powered fire hoses” suggestion the only ridiculous part of the Times editorial. The editorial claims, “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.”

That uses an arbitrary start time for the beginning of the “protests.” Arabs have been engaging in violent riots and warfare against Jews in the land of Israel since at least the Hebron and Safed massacres of 1929, with tens of thousands of Israelis killed or wounded. Would the Times feel better about the most recent series of clashes if, rather than “no known Israeli casualties,” there had been more Jews killed or wounded?

The Times explains that the unsigned editorial “represents the opinion” of the Times editorial board, the editor of the editorial page, and the Times publisher. It’s the institutional voice of the newspaper.

Maybe next time around, the Times could consider editorializing with a suggestion that the Hamas terrorists equip themselves with garden hoses rather than with their standard Molotov cocktails, suicide bombs, burning tires, and rockets. Until then, the whole thing is enough to make a reader wish some editor had directed a high-powered fire hose at the computer used to draft the Times editorial, or at whatever soggy-headed individual is to blame for having typed the draft of it.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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