NYT in a hurry to blame Israel

On July 29, there was a huge explosion in Gaza as its own power plant erupted in massive fireballs and dark clouds. The explosion knocked the plant out of commission  – and with it critically needed power for electricity, sewage treatment systems, water pumps and hospitals. To residents, this meant a slew of catastrophic consequences.

An immediate question was who was responsible for this massive explosion. The New York Times was quick to point the finger at Israel. “Israel’s military on Tuesday broadened its offensive, bombing 150 sites, and one strike set ablaze the territory’s only power plant, filling the sky with smoke and cutting the electricity needed to pump water and sewage systems,” correspondent Ben Hubbard told Times readers high up in the fourth paragraph of his article (“Loss of Shelter and Electricity Worsens a Crisis for Fleeing Gazans,” July 30, page A6).

In other words, Israel unleashed 150 bombing strikes, and one of these Israeli strikes set the power plant ablaze. But what evidence did Hubbard produce to back up his flat-out accusation of Israel destroying the power plant?  None to speak of. In fact, much, much later in his article. after citing Palestinian officials blaming Israel, Hubbard finally injects in his story a couple of brief rejoinders from an Israeli source -- in the far-down 24th and 25th paragraphs. Only then are readers told that an Israeli military spokesman cautioned that Israel had not yet identified the source of the attack. “I don’t have a clear picture of what happened there,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli spokesman, declares in the 25th paragraph.

But that’s much too late for Israel to get a mention 20 paragraphs down from Hubbard’s flat, unqualified assertion that Israel was responsible for the bombing of the power plant.

To its credit, the Washington Post, unlike the Times, played it straight. The Post cites Palestinian officials blaming Israel in its third paragraph, but then immediately in the next paragraph quotes an Israeli army spokesman as declaring that Israel couldn’t confirm whether its forces had struck the power plant (“Israel bombs Hamas leader’s home: Gaza power plant disabled” by Sudarsan Raghavan, William Booth and Ruth Eglash)

The Times was too quick on the draw; the Post was more respectful of facts -- or lack thereof.

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

On July 29, there was a huge explosion in Gaza as its own power plant erupted in massive fireballs and dark clouds. The explosion knocked the plant out of commission  – and with it critically needed power for electricity, sewage treatment systems, water pumps and hospitals. To residents, this meant a slew of catastrophic consequences.

An immediate question was who was responsible for this massive explosion. The New York Times was quick to point the finger at Israel. “Israel’s military on Tuesday broadened its offensive, bombing 150 sites, and one strike set ablaze the territory’s only power plant, filling the sky with smoke and cutting the electricity needed to pump water and sewage systems,” correspondent Ben Hubbard told Times readers high up in the fourth paragraph of his article (“Loss of Shelter and Electricity Worsens a Crisis for Fleeing Gazans,” July 30, page A6).

In other words, Israel unleashed 150 bombing strikes, and one of these Israeli strikes set the power plant ablaze. But what evidence did Hubbard produce to back up his flat-out accusation of Israel destroying the power plant?  None to speak of. In fact, much, much later in his article. after citing Palestinian officials blaming Israel, Hubbard finally injects in his story a couple of brief rejoinders from an Israeli source -- in the far-down 24th and 25th paragraphs. Only then are readers told that an Israeli military spokesman cautioned that Israel had not yet identified the source of the attack. “I don’t have a clear picture of what happened there,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli spokesman, declares in the 25th paragraph.

But that’s much too late for Israel to get a mention 20 paragraphs down from Hubbard’s flat, unqualified assertion that Israel was responsible for the bombing of the power plant.

To its credit, the Washington Post, unlike the Times, played it straight. The Post cites Palestinian officials blaming Israel in its third paragraph, but then immediately in the next paragraph quotes an Israeli army spokesman as declaring that Israel couldn’t confirm whether its forces had struck the power plant (“Israel bombs Hamas leader’s home: Gaza power plant disabled” by Sudarsan Raghavan, William Booth and Ruth Eglash)

The Times was too quick on the draw; the Post was more respectful of facts -- or lack thereof.

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

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