By Abba Solomon and Norman Solomon
Over the weekend, theÂ New York TimesÂ sent out a clear signal: the mass slaughter of civilians is acceptable when the Israeli military is doing the killing.
Under the headline â€œIsraelâ€™s War in Gaza,â€ the most powerful newspaper in the United States editorialized that such carnage is necessary. The lead editorial in the July 19 edition flashed a bright green light — reassuring the U.S. and Israeli governments that the horrors being inflicted in Gaza were not too horrible.
From its first words, theÂ editorialÂ methodically set out to justify what Israel was doing.Benjamin Netanyah
â€œAfter 10 days of aerial bombardment,â€Â the editorial began,Â â€œIsrael sent tanks and ground troops into Gaza to keep Hamas from pummeling Israeli cities with rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks via underground tunnels.â€
Skirting Inconvenient Facts
The choice of when to date the start of the crisis was part of the methodical detour around inconvenient facts.
For instance, no mention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuâ€™s June 30Â announcementÂ that the â€œhuman animalsâ€ of Hamas would â€œpayâ€ after three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in Israeli-controlled territory in the West Bank were found dead. No mention of the absence of evidence that Hamas leadership was involved in those murders.
Likewise, absent from the editorializing sequence was Israelâ€™s June â€œcrackdownâ€ in the West Bank, with home raids, area closures, imprisonment of hundreds of Hamas party activists including legislators.
Palestinian Lives Devalued
Most of all, the vile core of theÂ TimesÂ editorial was its devaluation of Palestinian lives in sharp contrast to Israeli lives.
TheÂ TimesÂ editorial declared that Hamas leaders â€œdeserve condemnationâ€ for military actions from civilian areas in the dense Gaza enclave — but Netanyahu merited mere expressions of â€œconcernâ€ about â€œfurther escalation.â€ Absent from the editorial was any criticism of Israelâ€™s ongoing bombardment of homes, apartment blocks, hospitals, beaches and other civilian areas with U.S.-supplied ordinance.
At the time, there had been one Israeli death from the hostilities — and at least 260 deaths among Gazans as well as injuries in the thousands. The contrast illuminates a grotesque difference in theÂ Timesâ€™ willingness to truly value the humanity of IsraelisÂ andÂ Palestinians.
In the morally skewed universe that theÂ TimesÂ editorial board evidently inhabits and eagerly promulgates, Hamas intends to â€œterrorizeâ€ Israeli citizens while Israel merely intends to accomplish military objectives by droppingÂ thousands of tons of bombsÂ on Palestinian people in Gaza.
A keynote of the editorial came when it proclaimed:Â â€œThere was no way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was going to tolerate the Hamas bombardments, which are indiscriminately lobbed at Israeli population centers. Nor should he.â€
While sprinkling in a handwringing couple of phrases about dead and wounded civilians, the editorial had nothing to say in condemnation of the Israeli force killing and maiming them in large numbers.
Between the lines was a tacit message to Israel:Â Kill more. Itâ€™s OK. Kill more.
And to Israelâ€™s patrons in Washington:Â Stand behind Israelâ€™s mass killing in Gaza. Under the unfortunate circumstances, itâ€™s needed.
The Times Seal of Approval
When the editorial came off the press, the Israeli military was just getting started. And no doubt Israeli leaders, from Netanyahu on down, were heartened by the good war-making seal of approval from theÂ New York Times.
After all, the most influential media voice in the United States — where the government is the main backer of Israelâ€™s power — was proclaiming that the mass killing by the Israeli military was regrettable but not objectionable.
The night after theÂ TimesÂ editorial went to press, the killing escalated. Among the calamities: the Israeli military shelled the Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya throughout the night with nonstop tank fire that allowed no emergency services to approach. Eyewitness media reportsÂ from ShejaiyaÂ recountedÂ scenes of â€œabsolute devastationâ€ with bodies strewn in the streets and the ruins.
Two days after the editorial reachedÂ TimesÂ newsprint,Â over 150 more were counted dead in Gaza. No media enabler was more culpable than the editorializing voice of theÂ Times, which had egged on the Israeli assault at the end of a week that began with the United Nations reportingÂ 80 percent of the dead in Gaza were civilians.
TheÂ TimesÂ editorial was in step with President Obama, whoÂ saidÂ — apparently without intended irony — that â€œno country can accept rockets fired indiscriminately at citizens.â€ Later, matching Israeli rationales for a ground invasion, the presidentÂ amendedÂ his verbiage by saying: â€œNo nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders or terrorists tunneling into its territory.â€
An important caveat can be found in the phrases â€œno countryâ€ and â€œno nation.â€ The stateless people who live in Gaza –Â 70 percent of whom are from families expelled from whatâ€™s now southern IsraelÂ — are a very different matter.
By the lights of the Oval Office and theÂ New York TimesÂ editorial boardroom, lofty rhetoric aside, the proper role of Palestinian people is to be slaughtered into submission.Î¦
Abba A. Solomon is the author ofÂ The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech â€˜The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.â€™ Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.