My friend Dina Kraft, a former Northeastern colleague who now lives with her husband and two children in Tel Aviv, has written a harrowing first-person essay for the Los Angeles Times about life amid the violence that has broken out between Israel and Hamas. She writes:
I hadn’t prepared anything to take with us, such as pillows or even water. At first I (naively) thought we’d be back upstairs again within a few minutes after the Iron Dome missile-defense shield knocked down any rocket that might be overhead. This was Tel Aviv, in central Israel, considered far from the reach of projectiles from Gaza….
Someone took out a Monopoly game and some of the kids started playing. The adults tried to keep things light with nervous jokes. Neighbors swapped news from updates on Twitter and news apps. I thought about all the previous wars and tense times during which I had interviewed families in shelters on the northern border with Lebanon or along the southern border with Gaza, spoken to kids playing cards and other games, and how here I was, becoming part of that scene I had once covered.
The BBC is reporting that the fighting continues to intensify, with 119 people in Gaza and eight in Israel being killed since Monday.
I’m disappointed that editors at the Boston Globe decided they needed to balance Jeff Jacoby’s column on Richard Goldstone’s remarkable mea culpa regarding Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war with a piece arguing, in essence, that Goldstone didn’t really mean it.
Goldstone, a South African judge and diplomat, headed a U.N. investigation into the Gaza war several years ago, and concluded that Israel had committed war crimes against the civilian population. The so-called Goldstone Report has been a cudgel wielded by Israel’s enemies ever since.
So it was (or, rather, should have been) big news when the Washington Post published an op-ed by Goldstone last Friday in which he says that he and his fellow investigators were way too hard on Israel and not nearly hard enough on Hamas. And he credits Israel for investigating the report’s findings while criticizing Hamas for doing nothing. Goldstone writes:
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
Other than a brief Associated Press story that ran on Monday, today is the first time the Globe has addressed Goldstone’s turnaround. Jacoby characterizes the original Goldstone Report — hyperbolically, though not without cause — as a “blood libel,” and writes, “The Goldstone report did incalculable damage to Israel’s good name. Breathlessly hyped in the media, it accelerated the already frenzied international campaign to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.”
The importance of Goldstone’s turnaround can’t be exaggerated. Yet running along with Jacoby’s column today is a piece by Nimer Sultany, described as “a civil rights lawyer in Israel and a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School,” accusing Goldstone of giving in to pressure from fellow Jews and of making another Israeli incursion into Gaza more likely.
“The lingering question,” Sultany writes, “is whether Goldstone can look hundreds of Palestinian civilian victims in the eye and say he stood up for them in the face of severe Israeli and American criticism.”
Goldstone’s turnaround, of course, is not above questioning. As Sultany suggests, there have been reports that Goldstone had been ostracized by the South African Jewish community — although be sure to check out the correction at the bottom of this New York Times story. (The Times also reportedly rejected Goldstone’s op-ed before he shopped it to the Post, though Ben Smith of Politico says otherwise.)
Nevertheless, what Goldstone is saying now hasn’t received nearly enough attention from the media in general or from the Globe specifically. By running Sultany’s rebuttal on the same page as Jacoby’s column, the Globe opens itself up to criticism by those who have long believed the Globe is guilty of anti-Israeli bias.
The New York Times has a great story today on U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who is presiding over repugnant hearings into the loyalty of Muslim-Americans. Reporter Scott Shane reminds us that King made his reputation as a staunch supporter of the Irish Republican Army, which for years fought for independence from Britain in attacks that included the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians.
Yet I was struck by Shane’s lede, which frankly describes the IRA as “a terror group.” I don’t have any quarrel with that. But I was surprised, given the Times’ well-known squeamishness over using the T-word to describe Islamist organizations such as Hamas, which has engaged in suicide bombings against civilian targets in its war against Israel.
As the Times’ then-public editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote in 2008, “To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel.” It’s a policy that has put the Times in an awkward position previously, as in 2010, when the paper reported on criticism of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, for failing to label Hamas a terrorist group.
The United States, Canada, Israel, Japan and the European Union have all classified Hamas as a terrorist organization.
King’s response to being called out as a hypocrite is truly rancid, as he reveals that he couldn’t care less about the lives of British civilians who were killed in IRA attacks. “I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel,” he tells the Times. “The fact is, the IRA never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”
And in the 1980s, King had this to say: “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it.”
Shane attempts to make comparisons between the IRA and Al Qaeda, and concludes — correctly — that Al Qaeda is considerably worse. But the parallels between the IRA and Hamas seem pretty obvious.
The IRA engaged in terrorist attacks, but gradually moved toward a renunciation of such attacks as it uneasily groped its way toward a peace settlement with Britain and participation in government.
Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, may or may not be capable of moving toward a peace settlement with Israel. But certainly it was unclear at a similar stage as to whether the IRA was capable of making such a transition.
It’s pretty simple. Either the IRA and Hamas are/were terrorist organizations, or neither is. I hope public editor Arthur Brisbane will explain why it’s all right for the Times to call the IRA a “terror group” when it refuses to do the same with respect to Hamas.
Boston Globe alumnus Anne Barnard reports on Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, in today’s New York Times. It’s an excellent piece of work, and provides further evidence that hatemongers like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have it all wrong.
But an editor should have flagged one section near the end as needing a disclosure on the part of the Times. Barnard reports that Abdul Rauf has come under fire in some quarters for refusing to refer to Hamas as a “terrorist organization.”
Referring to a radio interview, Barnard writes that Adbul Rauf “clumsily tries to say that people around the globe define terrorism differently and labeling any group would sap his ability to build bridges. He also says: ‘Targeting civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion,’ and, ‘I am a supporter of the state of Israel.'”
It seems to me that someone should have inserted a parenthetical noting that the Times, too, declines to use the T-word when describing Hamas. Here’s what then-public editor Clark Hoyt wrote in 2008:
To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. Corbett said: “You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic — is that person a terrorist? We don’t want to go there.” I think that is right.
Whether you think the Times’ policy is right or wrong, it would have been useful to point out that Abdul Rauf’s reluctance is shared by our leading newspaper.
Steven Erlanger of the New York Times weighs in with a must-read piece on the ethical and logistical challenges Israel faces in avoiding civilian casualties in Gaza.
The depth and nuance are striking, but what I like best about Erlanger’s analysis is his unblinking assertion that the cause of this war is Hamas’ years-long terrorist bombing strikes against Israel — something that may be obvious, but that tends to be obscured by protests against Israel’s “disproportionate” response.