Anti-Israel demonstrators hurling stones, Molotov cocktails qualify as 'unarmed' in NY Times

Leo Rennert
In its July 8 edition, the New York Times introduces a new semantic stretch, going so far as to exculpate stone-throwing, Molotov-cocktail-hurling anti-Israel protesters as non-threatening "unarmed" demonstrators. (U.N. Report Criticizes Israeli Role in Deaths at Border page A10).

Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner performs this linguistic jiu-jitsu in an article about a UN report critical of Israel for responding with live fire against about 1,000 violent demonstrators trying to breach its border with Lebanon last May 15.  The report, which asserts that Israel should have used less lethal crowd-control tactics after firing warning shots in the air, blames Israel for killing seven "civilians," although Israel points to Lebanese military forces on the other side of the fence who also used live fire that might have caused casualties.

Kershner gins up a report already highly critical of Israel by loading up her lead paragraph with an unqualified hit against Israel -- The UN report, she writes, "strongly criticizes Israel for using live fire against unarmed demonstrators."

However, she revises her lead further down in her story, acknowledging that, according to the UN report, about 1,000 of the demonstrators "broke off from the main demonstration and threw stones and two petrol bombs across the fence," while attempting "to climb it and bring it down."

What immediately jumps out at readers who still harbor illusions that words have meaning is that Kershner's "unarmed" demonstrators, followed by these same protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and lethal stones farther down in the body of the article, don't seem to convey compatible descriptions.

Certainly, any reader going no farther than her lead paragraph would be left with the impression that Israel fired on unarmed demonstrators.  Period.  But would that be an accurate impression?

This is by no means the only anti-Israel spin in Kershner's dispatch.  While the UN report directs most of its criticism against Israel, it nevertheless makes clear that it was the surging demonstrators trying to breach the border fence who were the first to initiate the trouble, the first to use violence, and the first to violate the 2006 UN cease-fire resolution between Israel and Hezbollah -- all clear findings in the report that Kershner glosses over.

To tilt the scales against Israel even more, Kershner plays down Israel's furious response because its actual author, Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, has a record of eagerness to condemn Israel -- regardless of any evidence.  After the May 15 incident, Williams immediately blamed Israel and only Israel for what happened.

Kershner writes that Israel plans to respond shortly to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to convey its displeasure, suggesting there has not yet been an official Israeli response.  What she doesn't report is that, immediately after Williams' rush to judgment against Israel last May, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed outrage at Williams'  remarks and instructed Israel's UN delegation to file a protest with Ban Ki-Moon.  Israel already conveyed its official outrage to the secretary-general nearly two months ago. 

In sum, this is an article that takes an already biased UN report against Israel and paints it even more one-sidedly against Israel, while exculpating a bunch of violent protesters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails as they tried to breach Israel's border.

That's the twisted "news" the NY Times sees fit to print these days.

In its July 8 edition, the New York Times introduces a new semantic stretch, going so far as to exculpate stone-throwing, Molotov-cocktail-hurling anti-Israel protesters as non-threatening "unarmed" demonstrators. (U.N. Report Criticizes Israeli Role in Deaths at Border page A10).

Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner performs this linguistic jiu-jitsu in an article about a UN report critical of Israel for responding with live fire against about 1,000 violent demonstrators trying to breach its border with Lebanon last May 15.  The report, which asserts that Israel should have used less lethal crowd-control tactics after firing warning shots in the air, blames Israel for killing seven "civilians," although Israel points to Lebanese military forces on the other side of the fence who also used live fire that might have caused casualties.

Kershner gins up a report already highly critical of Israel by loading up her lead paragraph with an unqualified hit against Israel -- The UN report, she writes, "strongly criticizes Israel for using live fire against unarmed demonstrators."

However, she revises her lead further down in her story, acknowledging that, according to the UN report, about 1,000 of the demonstrators "broke off from the main demonstration and threw stones and two petrol bombs across the fence," while attempting "to climb it and bring it down."

What immediately jumps out at readers who still harbor illusions that words have meaning is that Kershner's "unarmed" demonstrators, followed by these same protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and lethal stones farther down in the body of the article, don't seem to convey compatible descriptions.

Certainly, any reader going no farther than her lead paragraph would be left with the impression that Israel fired on unarmed demonstrators.  Period.  But would that be an accurate impression?

This is by no means the only anti-Israel spin in Kershner's dispatch.  While the UN report directs most of its criticism against Israel, it nevertheless makes clear that it was the surging demonstrators trying to breach the border fence who were the first to initiate the trouble, the first to use violence, and the first to violate the 2006 UN cease-fire resolution between Israel and Hezbollah -- all clear findings in the report that Kershner glosses over.

To tilt the scales against Israel even more, Kershner plays down Israel's furious response because its actual author, Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, has a record of eagerness to condemn Israel -- regardless of any evidence.  After the May 15 incident, Williams immediately blamed Israel and only Israel for what happened.

Kershner writes that Israel plans to respond shortly to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to convey its displeasure, suggesting there has not yet been an official Israeli response.  What she doesn't report is that, immediately after Williams' rush to judgment against Israel last May, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed outrage at Williams'  remarks and instructed Israel's UN delegation to file a protest with Ban Ki-Moon.  Israel already conveyed its official outrage to the secretary-general nearly two months ago. 

In sum, this is an article that takes an already biased UN report against Israel and paints it even more one-sidedly against Israel, while exculpating a bunch of violent protesters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails as they tried to breach Israel's border.

That's the twisted "news" the NY Times sees fit to print these days.