Michael Berenhaus

Fareed Zakaria’s reckless charges against Israel

In The Washington Post editorial  “Israel’s war isn’t genocide, but is it proportionate?” (1/14/23), Fareed Zakaria exhibits a lack of knowledge at best or severe bias at worse. His attacks on Israel are boundless and without merit. He repeated the same screed on his Sunday CNN show Fareed Zakaria GPS.

His question of Israel’s proportionate defense comes in the midst of Hamas firing 50 rockets in a single day this week in the Israeli town Netivot. Zakaria clearly does not know the definition of “proportionality” as he asks if Israel’s response “has been proportional to the damage that Hamas inflicted on Israel.” In Zakaria’s understanding, all wars would continue indefinitely, as both sides would be firing the same number of bullets and other weapons. WW1 and WW2 would still be going on! If anything, Israel’s response is arguably not strong enough as the rockets keep flying at Israeli civilians.

He asks if Israel has “been careful to avoid civilian casualties”?  Has he asked this question in any other war? No. Why hasn’t he? It’s startling to hear this question since Israel is the first army in history to send literally millions of texts, calls, and pings on roofs, not to mention providing a civilian corridor with ample warnings for civilians to get out of the way. Israel notifies the Gazans where they would be attacking next knowing full well that it would enable Hamas combatants to escape and counter this humanitarian measure strategically, so they could fight another day.

Zakaria says the death toll of 23,000 Gazans is “staggeringly high.” He does admit that the figures are from the “Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza,” but he doesn’t add that the numbers have little credibility since they are monitored by a terrorist organization. Further, there is no breakdown of how many of the killed are combatants or those killed by Hamas – up to a fourth of their rockets fired at Israel fall short and land inside Gaza. Hamas has also shot at Gazan’s trying to vacate their homes for safety.

Yes, sadly many of the 36 hospitals in Gaza have been damaged in the fighting. However, it has been proven by even the most anti-Israel news outlets that Hamas uses hospitals as command-and-control centers. Schools as well have been used cynically by Hamas as storage-sites for weapons and rockets. Hamas purposely uses hospitals and schools knowing their enemy has historically avoided hitting those sites in previous conflicts.

Zakaria seems to love analogies in his comparison to the destruction and casualties in Gaza to previous military conflicts. But he doesn’t note that this is the rare kind of war where one side doesn’t seem to care whether its own civilians are killed. Why else would the combatants hide underneath their civilians in tunnels leaving them in harm’s way rather than the other way around?   Even the Nazis had air-raid shelters for their civilian populations. With their vast underground tunnel structure, there is no indication that any of their civilian population had the ability to run for cover. It seemed Israel was the only side that cared about protecting Gazans with the warnings, escape corridors, texts and calls.

Zakaria quotes CNN which reported “that US intelligence estimated that 40-45% of the 29,000 bomb Israel had dropped were unguided, prone to cause greater collateral damage.” But what he doesn’t say, from the same article,  is that Israel’s unique air force – considered by many to be the world’s best – has a technique of dive bombing ensuring accuracy and actually limiting the collateral damage that their bombing incurs.

The case that Zakaria brings against Israel includes many personal interpretations. He says that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “invoked the biblical story of Amalek” to indicate that Israel should kill everyone “in retaliation for a surprise attack.” Clearly that hasn’t happened and wasn’t the reason for the reference.  As Zakaria stated earlier in his editorial, “given the vast disparity in power, Israel surely [could] have killed more.” Zakaria certainly heard this false reference at The Hague used as a charge against Israel accusing Israel of genocide.  It is especially off-base as Netanyahu is secular – not a fundamentalist – and ironic as it’s Hamas that is a fundamentalist organization that espouses the murder of all Jews, according to Islamic texts.

Be that as it may, the response from Netanyahu’s office debunked The Hague (and Zakaria).  It said, “this false and preposterous charge reflects a deep historical ignorance” followed by, “The Amalekites mercilessly attacked the Children of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt. The comparison to Amalek has been used throughout the ages to designate those who seek to eradicate the Jewish people, most recently the Nazis. That is why the words on a banner in a permanent exhibit at Yad Vashem, Israel’s famed Holocaust Museum, urge visitors to ‘Remember what Amalek did to you.’ This same phrase appears in The Hague at the memorial for Dutch Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Obviously, neither reference is an incitement to genocide of the German people.” Likewise, Netanyahu’s remark about Amalek was aimed at Hamas, not the Palestinian people.

Zakaria shoots more arrows by pointing out the large number of Gazan journalists killed in the first 100 days of the Gaza War. But he neglects to mention that Gazan journalists on October 7 were caught on camera going along with Hamas in the initial slaughter and others were part of the terrorist structure.  Perhaps not all the Gazan journalists were members of Hamas, but how would Zakaria explain how “neutral, objective” reporters would remain in their jobs – or even alive – if not writing effusively favorable reports about Hamas or against Israel? Hamas is well-known to murder those they call “collaborators,” and a neutral reporter would fit that bill.

Lastly, Zakaria assumes he has the journalistic clairvoyance to get inside someone’s head – in this case the head of the Israeli Prime Minister. Zakaria says that “Netanyahu has every incentive to keep the military campaign going in the hope that his day of reckoning can be postponed, if not put off indefinitely.”  The reference is to Israel being caught off guard by the Oct. 7 attack.  Zakaria is once again mistaken. The Israelis formed a unity government after October 7 and not everything that Netanyahu might say, goes.

Zakaria asks how Israel could be right while all these various sources – the world – be wrong. My answer to Zakaria is – welcome to the story of the Jewish people. The Jewish people have been right many times before while the whole world was wrong.

About the Author
Dr. Berenhaus has worked tirelessly as a watchdog for anti-Israel bias in the media. His efforts monitoring and responding to false media reports on Israel have compelled several news organizations to retract inaccuracies and publish letters clarifying the truth about Israel. He has been published widely in highly distributed newspapers and online publications including The Washington Post, The NY Times, The Economist, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Jewish Week, and The American Thinker. He is a crusader in online/social media working to educate the general public as an advocate of Israel and against anti-Semitism. Dr. Berenhaus is a co-founder of ‘Boycott The Post’ and of ‘Eye on the Post’ - two non-profit organizations that monitor media coverage to ensure accuracy, fairness and truth as it relates to Israel. He is also a founder of The Pakistan Israel Peace Forum, an organization dedicated to creating peace between Muslims and Jews. Although many people in the Washington Jewish community know Dr. Berenhaus for his work in journalism, most don't know how generous he is to the Jewish community with both his time and money. Dr. Berenhaus has spent countless hours throughout the years volunteering for Israel and Jewish organizations. He went to Ethiopia and worked with the last remaining Ethiopian Jews. He has lectured to Interns and community groups providing direction and techniques for Israel Advocacy in the media. Currently, Dr. Berenhaus is working with JSSA to coordinate and donate eye glasses to the entire Washington DC region of needy Holocaust Survivors. That effort has now been expanded nationally.
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