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Media Analyses





Nicholas Kristof Does it Again


New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, whose previous column (Leading Through Great Loss, July 16, 2014) on the conflict between Hamas and Israel was wildly off target, misfires again in his current column, Who's Right and Wrong in the Middle East?

While the conceit of Kristof's column is that he is "correct[ing] a few common misconceptions among the salvos flying back and forth," he is in fact compounding his own misconceptions and those of his readers.

The first "misconception" Kristof aims to correct is:
This is a struggle between good and evil, right and wrong. We can't relax, can't compromise, and we had no choice but to act.

His refutation is:

On the contrary, this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.

Cross-demonization? Really? It is, in fact, remarkable that New York Times writers seem to mention demonization by Arabs only when they want to claim that both sides are equally guilty of it. The fact – actively ignored by the Times – is that there is no comparison between the two sides when it comes to hate speech, incitement to genocide and demonization.

Even a cursory knowledge of Israeli society, and a cursory visit to the sites Palestinian Media watch and MEMRI, demonstrates that beyond dispute.

Indeed, Times reporter Scott Shane, questioned on the subject by Prof. Jeffrey Herf at a public event, explained the paper's failure to cover Arab demonization of Jews and Israel, and Arab anti-Semitism, with the assertion that such demonization happens so often and is so well-known that it's not news. Here's that segment of the video:

 
Here is an excerpted transcript (see also here) of the segment, which is from an event hosted by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, or FDD: 
Prof. Jeffrey Herf: ... Daily, weekly there are vituperative, hateful things said about the Jews by Islamist leaders. None of that is reported in the New York Times. The New York Times does report about moderate Islamists, and David Kirkpatrick was attempting to reassure us about the elections in Egypt before they took place.

Is there an editorial decision taken at the New York Times not to report on anti-Semitism when it comes from Islamists?

Scott Shane: ... You make a great point ... part of that is that anti-Semitism from Islamists becomes kind of 'not news' ... it's very much 'dog-bites-man' after a while ... editors say what's new here?

So the Times doesn't cover it because it's not news and everybody knows it, with the result that most people don't know it, including apparently the Times' own Nicholas Kristof!

In fact, the Times double standard, so starkly on display here, is what's not new, because we've seen it before. For example, in 1997 the Times wrote an extensive but thinly-sourced story of alleged Israeli torture of Palestinian prisoners, while ignoring far more substantive reports of Palestinian torture of Palestinian prisoners.

Questioned on this by CAMERA members, news editor William Borders replied:
The whole point is that torture by Israel, a democratic ally of the United States, which gets huge support from this country, is news. Torture by Palestinians seems less surprising. Surely you don't consider the two authorities morally equivalent.

So at the Times it's expected that Palestinians will torture their own and demonize Jews, therefore it's not news. But then the paper's own journalists, along with many readers, will infer that since it's not covered, it must not be happening, and the vicious circle continues.

Kristof also offers as a misconception that:
The other side understands only force. What else can we do but fight back when we are attacked?
His refutation begins:
Israeli leaders, starting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, think that the way to protect their citizens is to invade Gaza and blow up tunnels — and, if Gazan civilians and children die, that's sad but inevitable. And some Gazans think that they're already in an open-air prison, suffocating under the Israeli embargo, and the only way to achieve change is fire rockets — and if some Israeli children die, that's too bad, but 100 times as many Palestinian children are dying already.

So the only way for the Palestinians to end the "suffocating ... Israeli embargo" (to use Kristof''s term) is to fire missiles.

But what Kristof ignores – or simply doesn't know – is that before there was a missile assault and other terror attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza, there was no "embargo," just as there is no embargo on the West Bank.

So missiles are not the answer for the embargo, they are the cause for the embargo.

Indeed, according to the Washington Post (Sept. 20, 2007), reporting on the embargo:

JERUSALEM, Sept. 19 -- Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity" and said it would begin cutting electricity and fuel to the Hamas-run territory in an effort to stop near-daily rocket fire into Israel.

Besides electricity and fuel, Israel also restricts the amount of concrete allowed into Gaza, because, they allege, much of it is taken by Hamas to build tunnels and other fortifications, all intended to facilitate attacks on Israel. And, as it happens, this was just verified by the New York Times itself:

Israeli troops have uncovered and taken control of 13 tunnels so far, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the military spokesman, said, running as much as 30 yards underground and sturdily built with what the military estimates is 600,000 tons of concrete. Concrete is a precious resource in Gaza, with most imports banned except for international projects, so it appeared that the material came through tunnels from Egypt or was diverted from its intended purpose. The lack of concrete for building has left many Gazans unable to rebuild homes and without work.

So the lack of concrete hurts the Gaza economy, and leaves Palestinians without work, but it's caused by Hamas taking the concrete for itself, to further its terrorist ambitions.

This is something that, for some reason, Mr. Kristof just doesn't seem to get.

Kristof also suggests a return to diplomacy, and a deal whereby Israel would withdraw its forces from Gaza, in return for which Hamas would stop firing missiles:

That's why we need to de-escalate, starting with a cease-fire that includes an end to Hamas rocket attacks and a withdrawal from Gaza by Israel.

Does Kristof really not know that before Israeli forces entered Gaza, the Egyptians offered just such a cease fire deal, which Israel accepted and Hamas rejected? Does he really not know that Israel's decision to send its forces into Gaza largely sprung from the rejection by Hamas of the deal?

If Kristof can't write fairly and knowledgeably about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, maybe he shouldn't write about it at all.


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