NY Times exculpates Hamas from Gaza rocket barrages against Israeli towns

Leo Rennert
Palestinian terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza broke a relative two-month calm on Oct. 26 and fired an advanced rocket deep into Israel.  While there were no physical casualties, tens of thousands of Israeli civilians endured the agony of blaring warning sirens that gave them only a few seconds to find shelter.  Children especially are traumatized by lingering psychological after-effects from such attacks.

Israel, exercising its right to self-defense, retaliated with a precision drone strike on Oct. 29 against a terrorist cell responsible for the earlier missile attack on Israel and preparing to fire another round.  Five members of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad were killed, including a rocket commander.

Gaza terrorists in turn unleashed a barrage of more than 20 rockets and mortar shells aimed at civilian populations in southern Israel, including Ashdod and Ashkelon.  An Israeli father was killed, a school was damaged and several Israelis were injured as hundreds of thousands of Israelis darted into shelters.

Two more Islamic Jihad terrorists subsequently were killed by Israeli retaliatory strikes.  The Israeli government issued a statement declaring that it was not interested in ratcheting up exchanges of cross-border fire, but would not countenance further attacks from Gaza.  The statement also made  clear that Israel was holding Hamas solely responsible for the Gaza-originated attacks on Israel.

So how did the New York Times report these events in its Sunday, Oct. 30, edition?  By toning down the full extent and impact of terrorist cross-border fire on Israeli civilians and by absolving Hamas from any blame for the rocket barrages fired from Gaza.

Times readers, over their Sunday morning coffee, were treated on page 12 to a huge photograph spread across four columns which showed Palestinians at a Gaza morgue with "the bodies of militants killed in an airstrike," according to the caption.  There was no parallel photo of relatives of the Israeli father killed by rocket fire, of injured Israelis, or of damage to an Israeli schoolhouse.  Readers had to turn to the second sentence of the caption under the Gaza morgue photo to discover that "rocket attacks on Israel killed a man in Ashkelon."  No mention that this "man" was a father of four children.

Palestinian terrorist fatalities count for more than Israeli civilian casualties when it comes to photo selection by Times editors.

The headline similarly tilts toward emphasis of Palestinian losses rather than Israeli ones.  In large type, it declares:  "Israeli Drone Strike Kills Militants in Gaza."   For readers who didn't go any further, their clear, but false, impression would be that Israel provoked renewed cross-border fire by killing "militants" -- not terrorists -- in Gaza.

A sub-head, in much smaller type, reads:  "Retaliation for a Rocket Attack on Wednesday That Ended a Few Weeks of Calm"

As with the photo selection, the Times puts a greater priority on Palestinian terrorist casualties than on Israeli civilians killed or hurt by Gaza rocket fire.  There is no mention, in either the main or secondary head, of the Israeli fatality.

As far as the article goes, Times correspondents Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner also assign top billing to Israel killing seven members of "Islamic Jihad's armed wing" (a strained avoidance of calling them terrorists.)  To complete their lead paragraph, they also mention that Gaza "militants" (another euphemism to mask Palestinian terrorism) fired salvos of rockets that killed an Israeli man (no further identification) and wounded at least two others "in a sudden escalation" of cross-border violence.  No mention, either, in their lead paragraph of the earlier Palestinian rocket attack that started all this cross-border violence.  Readers were not told until the end of the next paragraph that the "sudden escalation" was traceable to the Palestinian cease-fire breach three days earlier.

The most glaring bias in the article, however, pops up when Akram and Kershner go to great lengths to exculpate Hamas, the iron-fisted ruler of Gaza, from responsibility for the renewed cross-border fire.  Drawing a dubious distinction between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they assert that "Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has made efforts to enforce a cease-fire since the last round of cross-border air strikes and rocket attacks."

In their view, Hamas emerges unblemished; it's just the fault of Islamic Jihad.  Or as they put it: 

"Hamas is largely committed to the fragile cease-fire that first came into effect after Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza that ended in January 2009.   Smaller groups like Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees are not."

Which is absurd on its face.  For one thing, there is scant evidence for the notion that small terrorist splinter groups are allowed by Hamas to decide when to break a cease-fire and renew attacks on Israel's civilian population.   It doesn't apparently occur to Akram and Kershner that Hamas and Islamic Jihad may be playing a good-cop-bad-cop game, with Hamas outsourcing terrorist fire against Israel to the likes of Islamic Jihad so as to fool the New York Times into believing that Hamas somehow has remained above the fray.

Alternatively, if Akram and Keshner are correct in their surmise that Hamas is blameless, what does this say about the Times' agenda to coax Israel to negotiate directly with Hamas.  What good would that accomplish if Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee could veto any deal struck between Israel and Hamas?  If Hamas is that feeble a ruler of Gaza, as they depict it, why  rely on its ability to deliver the goods in any rapprochement between Israel and Hamas?

Either way, the Akram-Kershner thesis of a good-cop Hamas, bad-cop Islamic Jihad doesn't stand up to real scrutiny.  It's just one more mirage spawned by the Times to sell a phony "peace process."

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

Palestinian terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza broke a relative two-month calm on Oct. 26 and fired an advanced rocket deep into Israel.  While there were no physical casualties, tens of thousands of Israeli civilians endured the agony of blaring warning sirens that gave them only a few seconds to find shelter.  Children especially are traumatized by lingering psychological after-effects from such attacks.

Israel, exercising its right to self-defense, retaliated with a precision drone strike on Oct. 29 against a terrorist cell responsible for the earlier missile attack on Israel and preparing to fire another round.  Five members of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad were killed, including a rocket commander.

Gaza terrorists in turn unleashed a barrage of more than 20 rockets and mortar shells aimed at civilian populations in southern Israel, including Ashdod and Ashkelon.  An Israeli father was killed, a school was damaged and several Israelis were injured as hundreds of thousands of Israelis darted into shelters.

Two more Islamic Jihad terrorists subsequently were killed by Israeli retaliatory strikes.  The Israeli government issued a statement declaring that it was not interested in ratcheting up exchanges of cross-border fire, but would not countenance further attacks from Gaza.  The statement also made  clear that Israel was holding Hamas solely responsible for the Gaza-originated attacks on Israel.

So how did the New York Times report these events in its Sunday, Oct. 30, edition?  By toning down the full extent and impact of terrorist cross-border fire on Israeli civilians and by absolving Hamas from any blame for the rocket barrages fired from Gaza.

Times readers, over their Sunday morning coffee, were treated on page 12 to a huge photograph spread across four columns which showed Palestinians at a Gaza morgue with "the bodies of militants killed in an airstrike," according to the caption.  There was no parallel photo of relatives of the Israeli father killed by rocket fire, of injured Israelis, or of damage to an Israeli schoolhouse.  Readers had to turn to the second sentence of the caption under the Gaza morgue photo to discover that "rocket attacks on Israel killed a man in Ashkelon."  No mention that this "man" was a father of four children.

Palestinian terrorist fatalities count for more than Israeli civilian casualties when it comes to photo selection by Times editors.

The headline similarly tilts toward emphasis of Palestinian losses rather than Israeli ones.  In large type, it declares:  "Israeli Drone Strike Kills Militants in Gaza."   For readers who didn't go any further, their clear, but false, impression would be that Israel provoked renewed cross-border fire by killing "militants" -- not terrorists -- in Gaza.

A sub-head, in much smaller type, reads:  "Retaliation for a Rocket Attack on Wednesday That Ended a Few Weeks of Calm"

As with the photo selection, the Times puts a greater priority on Palestinian terrorist casualties than on Israeli civilians killed or hurt by Gaza rocket fire.  There is no mention, in either the main or secondary head, of the Israeli fatality.

As far as the article goes, Times correspondents Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner also assign top billing to Israel killing seven members of "Islamic Jihad's armed wing" (a strained avoidance of calling them terrorists.)  To complete their lead paragraph, they also mention that Gaza "militants" (another euphemism to mask Palestinian terrorism) fired salvos of rockets that killed an Israeli man (no further identification) and wounded at least two others "in a sudden escalation" of cross-border violence.  No mention, either, in their lead paragraph of the earlier Palestinian rocket attack that started all this cross-border violence.  Readers were not told until the end of the next paragraph that the "sudden escalation" was traceable to the Palestinian cease-fire breach three days earlier.

The most glaring bias in the article, however, pops up when Akram and Kershner go to great lengths to exculpate Hamas, the iron-fisted ruler of Gaza, from responsibility for the renewed cross-border fire.  Drawing a dubious distinction between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they assert that "Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has made efforts to enforce a cease-fire since the last round of cross-border air strikes and rocket attacks."

In their view, Hamas emerges unblemished; it's just the fault of Islamic Jihad.  Or as they put it: 

"Hamas is largely committed to the fragile cease-fire that first came into effect after Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza that ended in January 2009.   Smaller groups like Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees are not."

Which is absurd on its face.  For one thing, there is scant evidence for the notion that small terrorist splinter groups are allowed by Hamas to decide when to break a cease-fire and renew attacks on Israel's civilian population.   It doesn't apparently occur to Akram and Kershner that Hamas and Islamic Jihad may be playing a good-cop-bad-cop game, with Hamas outsourcing terrorist fire against Israel to the likes of Islamic Jihad so as to fool the New York Times into believing that Hamas somehow has remained above the fray.

Alternatively, if Akram and Keshner are correct in their surmise that Hamas is blameless, what does this say about the Times' agenda to coax Israel to negotiate directly with Hamas.  What good would that accomplish if Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee could veto any deal struck between Israel and Hamas?  If Hamas is that feeble a ruler of Gaza, as they depict it, why  rely on its ability to deliver the goods in any rapprochement between Israel and Hamas?

Either way, the Akram-Kershner thesis of a good-cop Hamas, bad-cop Islamic Jihad doesn't stand up to real scrutiny.  It's just one more mirage spawned by the Times to sell a phony "peace process."

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers