New York Times Article on War Crimes Allegations Reveals Bias

A New York Times article discussing Palestinian attempts to bring charges against Israeli commanders at the International Court in the Hague offers a revealing glimpse of the bias that finds expression at the paper. The paper equivocates on clear-cut criminality on the part of Hamas, while relying upon a biased source to comment on allegations of Israeli war crimes.

In “Palestinians Press for Wartime Inquiry on Gaza” (Feb. 10, 2008), Marlise Simons writes, “Hamas’s practice of sending rockets into southern Israel, which often landed in civilian areas, might be viewedas a violation” (emphasis added). Simons’ wording suggests that Hamas’ attacks against civilian areas (Israeli towns and cities) could be unintentional, a by-product of inaccurate rockets. If the rocketing of towns and cities “might be viewed as a violation,” then by implication, it might also be seen as a legitimate act.

Later she reports that “critics of Israel’s recent conduct” have “also said (emphasis added) that Hamas has violated the rules of war and committed war crimes with indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and the use of its own civilians as human shields.”  It is unclear why the Times chooses not to state unequivocally that intentionally targeting the civilian population of Israeli towns is a war crime.

Contrast the hesitant language Simons uses to discuss Hamas’s war crimes with the allegations against Israel. Simons goes to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a group that reflexively labels Israeli actions to protect itself from terrorists as collective punishment or war crimes. Joe Stork, the deputy director of HRW’s Middle East section,  justifies the intervention of the international court because of “Israel’s poor record of investigating and prosecuting serious violations by its forces and the absence of any such effort by Hamas or other Palestinian groups.” Stork is hardly an objective observer. He is a veteran anti-Israel activist who has denied Israel’s legitimacy and called for its destruction.
If the Times is going to quote such a biased source, it should at least disclose his longstanding anti-Israel bias. In reporting actual and alleged war crimes, the paper’s language also needs to be clear and accurate.

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