An Unbalanced Article in NYT

In its July 30 edition, the New York Times runs an article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about a report by Amnesty International that accuses the IDF of using excessive force during last year’s Gaza War (“Signs of War Crimes Seen In Israeli Hunt for Soldiers” Page A9)

The report zeroes in on an attempt to rescue an IDF lieutenant caught in gunfire near Rafah in southern Gaza. “His capture set off one of the deadliest and most debated episode of last summer’s 50-day war in the Gaza Strip,” Kershner writes.  “At least 135 Palestinianswere said to have been killed, mostly in the first hours after Lieutenant Goldin was abducted, as Israeli forces unleashed a barrage of artillery and air strikes meant to prevent the militants from taking him deeper into Palestinian coastal territory. That assault struck heavily populated parts of Rafah. There, the streets were filled with Palestinian residents.”

Kershner goes on to write that Amnesty International, in its Gaza report, states that there was “strong evidence” that Israel had carried out war crimes -- possibly crimes against humanity -- in Rafah. She quotes Philip Luther, Middle East director of Amnesty International, as accusing Israel of “relentless and massive bombardment of residential areas of Rafah in order to foil the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin, displaying a “shocking disregard for civilian lives.”

As it turned out, Goldin was killed in a tunnel and Hamas so far has refused to return his body to Israel.

But while giving maximum exposure to Amnesty International, a self-described human rights group with an anti-Israel agenda, the IDF gets minimal and miniscule repartee from Kershner.

Missing from Kershner’s piece is the fact that there need not have been a Gaza War had Palestinian terrorists not blanketed southern Israel with thousands of rockets. Relentless Palestinian rocket barrages preceded and triggered the Gaza War. 

Did Kershner write about this direct causal link between the rocket barrages and the Gaza War? Well, sort of, but not quite, in her typical kvetchy, muted way. 

“People forget that our soldiers went to defend the country,” she quotes Leah Goldin, an engineer, “referring to the thousands of rockets that Hamas fired at Israel.”

Note that mention of “thousands of rockets” fired at Israel as the cause of the war doesn’t come straightforwardly from Kershner. It comes from someone else, Leah Goldin. Kershner is keeping her distance from the most historically critical point about the genesis of the Gaza War -- the thousands of Palestinian rockets aimed and fired at Israel. Had the rockets remained silent, there would have been no casualties on either side.

And even when there’s finally a tiny mention of it, where do you think it appears in Kershner’s dispatch?

In a 29-paragraph article, it appears in Paragraph No. 28.

So much for balanced journalism at the New York Times.

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

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