The Times Shields Hamas from Responsibility for Gaza War

The New York Times, in its Oct. 7 editions, runs a lengthy piece by Fares Akram, its Gaza correspondent, about miserable conditions left by the 50-day war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group that rules Gaza. The Times devotes more than a half page to Akram’s coverage, along with two color photographs -- one of a rubble-strewn Gaza village and the other of a temporary shelter that substitutes for the loss of more adequate quarters destroyed in the war (“In Gaza’s Rubble, Shelters Symbolize The Challenge Ahead” page A8).

Notwithstanding Akram’s lengthy tour of Gaza devastation, there is a big piece of the real story missing from his article

Akram provides ample up-close-and-personal vignettes of Gazans bemoaning their fate and confronted by dire prospects that rebuilding will take many years. But Akram never bothers to ask them if Hamas aggression is responsible for their sorry lot. His article reads like the heart-tugging depiction of a tornado’s aftermath -- as if the Gaza war had been an act of God, not the result of thousands of rockets fired by Hamas and other terrorist groups against civilian populations in Israel. Nor is there any mention of Hamas’ pre-war role in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

While Akram briefly acknowledges that “Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel,” he prefaces it with a depiction of “Israeli artillery shells and bulldozers,” that flattened parts of a village.

Akram isn’t taking sides. And because of this, he fails to connect the dots and thus avoids putting any blame on Hamas’s persistent rocket barrages and its network of tunnels dug into Israel from Gaza.

In his interviews, Akram never asks Gazans whether they still might have a roof over their heads had Hamas not provoked Israel. Instead, he spends considerable time on the travails of a Gaza family forced to live in tiny, two-room trailers.

“More than a month after the end of the war, Khuzaa, once a village of spacious villas and neat houses set amid acres of farmland, is struggling to recover,” Akram writes. “Only the rubble blocking the main street has been removed. Drinking water is trucked in and stored in plastic tanks donated by Oxfam and other aid organizations.

“Electricity is irregular. Women spend their days cooking on wood fires and hand-washing clothes near their damaged homes.”

Widening his lens, Akram tells Times readers that Gaza recovery and reconstruction will cost $4 billion -- with more than $400 million needed to respond to immediate needs, with 110,000 residents of Gaza still displaced out of a population of some 1.8 million.

Akram does a good job documenting the extent of Gaza’s plight. But he lets Hamas, the culprit of all this devastation, off the hook.

As the Times man in Gaza, one wonders whether Akram perhaps may be filing reports under Hamas intimidation lest he be booted out of Gaza -- or worse. Some of his journalistic colleagues have run this gauntlet.

But whatever accounts for Akram’s conspicuous silence about Hamas’ responsibility for Gaza’s miseries, the fact remains that, in its coverage of Gaza, the Times completely ignores its front-page motto that it gives readers “all the news that’s fit to print.”

In this instance, not by a long shot.

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

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