Correspondents of the New Times could do with a refresher history course about Middle East wars.
All too often, when the fighting is between Arabs and Israel, the paper engages in semantic camouflaging to hide the fact that such wars were precipitated by Arab/Palestinian aggression - with Israel on the defensive, often fighting for its very survival. Readers instead are left with false impressions of Israeli aggression or some sort of equivalence between the parties in generating the fighting.
The latest examples of such sloppy and/or tendentious reporting can be found in the April 15 edition, in an otherwise moving obituary of Cairo's Jewish community leader, Carmen Weinstein, who died at 82 ( New York Times: "Carmen Weinstein, 82, Led the Jews of Cairo" by David Kirkpatrick, page B9).
EXHIBIT A - Writing about Weinstein's dogged perseverance in trying to save Jewish artifacts, Kirkpatrick quotes her as keeping her head down and having avoided discussion of politics "during Israel's 2009 war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip." That, of course, stands history on its head. Israel did NOT wage war against Palestinians. Israel was forced into taking defensive measures against thousands of rockets fired by terrorists from Gaza against civilian populations in southern Israel. Palestinian terrorists, led by Hamas, were the aggressor and it was against Hamas and other like terrorist group that Israel waged a defensive war. Israel fought against a persistent enemy - not against the Palestinian population at large. In fact, the IDF took great pains to avoid civilian casualties among the general Palestinian population.
EXHIBIT B - Going back a few generations, Kirkpatrick recalls the forced exodus of most Jews from Egypt "starting in large numbers during the Arab war with Israel in 1948," at the start of Israel's statehood. To write that this was an "Arab war WITH Israel" fails to make clear that this really was far more than a war WITH Israel; it was a war AGAINST Israel as Egyptian and half a dozen other Arab armies sought to throw the nascent state into the sea. Israel didn't join Arabs in waging war - or vice versa. There was one clear aggressor - the Arab world - and one single target, the State of Israel, which had to fight to survive.
In each instance, there need not have been any war at all had there not been deliberate Palestinian/Arab aggression against the Jewish state.
That's real history.
So why substitute a bogus history that lets Arabs and their leaders off the hook?
There's a special irony in the timing of the New York Times publishing Kirkpatrick piece with its lack of precise historical facts - its failure to distinguish aggressor from victim, thus expunging Arab culpability. The article appears on the 65th anniversary of Israel's founding when David Ben-Gurion read a declaration of independence that made an all-out appeal to Arabs - both inside and outside of Israel - to live, build and prosper together in peace. From its inception, Israel's agenda was peace. It never sought or initiated war. Just the opposite: From Israel's inception, it was Arabs who waged war AGAINST the Jewish state.
Time for the New York Times to pass on this historical truth to its readers.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers