The day after the bloody rush hour bombing of bus #14a in downtown Jerusalem, the White House stated that the obstacle to Middle East peace was the terrorist group Hamas.
“The issue is Hamas. The terrorists are Hamas,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer explained to reporters on June 12. “The issue is not Israel, the issue is not the Palestinian Authority, the issue is terrorists who are killing in an attempt to stop the [peace] process.”
The New York Times, however, had a completely different message for its readers. The “gravest political damage” according to the June 12th lead editorial was not from the Palestinian terrorists who had killed 17 and injured nearly 100 Israelis in the bloody carnage of the previous day, but from Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, “whose reflexive military responses to terror threatens to undermine the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate new prime minister.”
Blaming Israel for “undermining” and “damaging the credibility of Mr. Abbas and of the whole Bush peace plan,” the Times editorialist lauded the Palestinian prime minister for “bravely renouncing terror” and called on Israel to allow Abbas to “follow up his words with effective police action.”
The front page story of the suicide bombing described the violence as “part of a new cycle of attack and revenge since a meeting in Aqaba…” The headline (“Suicide Blast Kills 16 in Jerusalem; Israel Strikes Gaza”) and the two front page photos (one of a wounded Israeli girl being helped from the Jerusalem bus and the other of an injured Palestinian girl in Gaza city) further fostered the equating of violence by Palestinian terrorists and anti-terrorist actions by the Israeli military.
Did the Times editors have amnesia?
Only days earlier, the Times had reported that:
the militant Muslim groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad both said that for now, they were not willing to stop fighting against Israel despite Mr. Abbas’ call for an end to the ‘armed intifada’…
…Hamas has never recognized Israel and says it is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.
…the Israeli military has been on high alert in recent days, with the army saying it has dozens of warnings of possible Palestinian attacks.(Greg Myre, June 5, 2003)
Two days later, Times Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennet made clear that:
Mr. Abbas wants to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem, while Hamas wants to put an end to Israel. (James Bennet, June 7, 2003)
And Greg Myre reported that:
A senior Hamas leader, Abdul Aziz Rantissi, said the militant Islamic group would continue to carry out attacks against Israel… (Greg Myre, June 8, 2003)
The Times’ Ian Fisher also quoted Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi as saying::
Of course all factions are working together to keep up resistance to the occupation. We refuse totally the Aqaba summit. It is a waste of our existence. (Ian Fisher, June 9, 2003)
At the same time, the article made clear that Mr. Abbas would not engage in armed confrontation with the terrorists.
The Times editorial writer had apparently discounted the evidence presented by his paper’s own news correspondents as insufficient to justify Israel’s defensive actions. Neglected, as well, were the following facts:
In the time since the Aqaba summit in which Mr. Abbas was refusing to forcefully confront Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, Israeli security officials thwarted 10 would-be suicide bombers and had warnings of dozens more. According to Israeli officials, the bus attack, executed by members of a Hebron Hamas cell who had unfortunately eluded Israeli forces, was of a kind requiring considerable time to plan and implement and could not have been a direct response to Israel’s anti-terrorist attack of the previous day.
Implicated by Israeli officials in directly planning, encouraging, inciting and carrying out terrorist attacks is none other than Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi, one of the targets of Israel’s anti-terrorism actions on June 10, 2003.
The New York Times editorial has apparently chosen now to ignore all of this in the interest of fashioning its own message – blame the victims of terrorism, blame Israel and blame Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.