Thursday, October 29th | 11 Heshvan 5781

June 5, 2018 9:00 am

The New York Times’ ‘Tear Gas’ Suggestion Is No Solution to Gaza Riots

avatar by Ira Stoll


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

In two editorials this year, The New York Times has stated its preferred solution for Israeli soldiers confronting Palestinian rioters at the Gaza border fence.

A May 15 Times editorial said, “Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza. But officials are unconvincing when they argue that only live ammunition — rather than tear gas, water cannons, and other nonlethal measures — can protect Israel from being overrun.”

That was in line with an April 12 Times editorial that said, “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.”

The problem with the Times’ recommended “tear gas” solution is that Israel is already using tear gas against the Gaza rioters. Here is a taste of how that’s playing in the Times’ own news columns:

June 2: In an article headlined “A Woman Dedicated To Saving Lives Loses Hers In Gaza Violence,” the Times reports about “a volunteer emergency medical worker, Razan al-Najjar”:

This was the scene that Ms. Najjar dashed into in her white coat to tend to an elderly man who had been hit in the head by a tear-gas canister, according to a witness, Ibrahim al-Najjar, 30, a relative of Ms. Najjar’s. …

On Friday, she was less than 100 yards from the fence when she was bandaging the man struck by the tear gas canister, Ibrahim al-Najjar said. The man was taken away in an ambulance, and other paramedics tended to Ms. Najjar, who was suffering the effects of the tear gas.

May 16: In an article headlined “A Child of Gaza Dies. A Symbol Is Born. The Arguing Begins,” the Times reports:

Layla Ghandour, an 8-month-old girl with sparkling green eyes, was in the arms of her grandmother when a cloud of tear gas engulfed them at the protest in Gaza on Monday. The child inhaled a draft of acrid gas that set off a rasping cough and watering eyes. Hours later she was dead. …

In the late afternoon, Layla, in a tent with her aunts, started to wail. Ammar grabbed his niece for a second time and, he said, pushed forward into the protest in search of her grandmother, Heyam Omar, who was standing in a crowd under a pall of black smoke, shouting at Israeli soldiers across the fence.

Soon after Ms. Omar took the child, she said, a tear-gas canister fell nearby. She frantically wiped the child’s face with water and gave her juice to drink. But an hour later, after they reached the family home, Layla appeared to have stopped breathing.

When they arrived at a hospital at 6:34, doctors pronounced the child dead. “Her limbs were cold and blue,” reads a hospital report.

Not even the Times’ own Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed columnist, Bret Stephens, appears to buy the “nonlethal tactics” suggestion of his editorial board colleagues. Stephens wrote on May 16: “The world now demands that Jerusalem account for every bullet fired at the demonstrators, without offering a single practical alternative for dealing with the crisis.”

Indeed, tear gas, which the Israelis are already using, is not the panacea that the Times editorial writers suggest. Neither are fire hoses, for reasons I explained earlier here. The Palestinians will blame Israel for the injuries tear gas causes to children and to the “elderly.” And the Times will report on and amplify those claims, without reminding the readers of the editorials saying that the tear gas is a Times-endorsed tactic.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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