Brenda Yablon

How distortions morph into the truth step by step

When Nicolas Kristof wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times on March 2 entitled “Israel, Gaza and Double Standards, Including Our Own,” I was cautiously optimistic that there might be an attempt to acknowledge the lack of balance in the coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has essentially become the main spectator sport of wars, with the New York Times alone devoting an average of three articles per day to it, most of them devoted to showing the devastation in Gaza and the sufferings of its people. Kristof has won two Pulitzer Prizes and he is widely acknowledged as a journalist who gives a voice to people who cannot speak for themselves – he rose to fame with his coverage of Darfur – and is a self described progressive.

He states early on in the piece that “it is undeniably true that the world applies more scrutiny to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians than to many other horrors.” A more neutral way of framing  that would have been to refer to the ongoing strife  as the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” since the Palestinians are more than just passive innocent victims. To his credit he does state that the conflicts in Sudan, Syria and Yemen clearly demonstrate that the worst mistreatment of the people is by the Arab rulers themselves. He also informs us of the abysmal record of the UN towards Israel where in 2023 alone, the UN General Assembly adopted 15 resolutions critical of Israel, more than twice as many as resolutions critical of all other countries in the world combined.

The “but” however does not follow far behind. Today, he says, we need to focus on Gaza, because in the judgment of Unicef, “it is the world’s most dangerous place to be a child.” These were actually the words of Catherine Russell, the Executive Director of UNICEF, speaking before the UN Security Council on Nov. 22, 2023. She had been briefed the week before by health authorities in Gaza, which is completely controlled by Hamas who told her that more than 5,300 children had been killed by Israel in the period from Oct. 7 – Nov. 15. In a report to the UN Human Rights Commission Russell repeated this information.

Building on these figures, Kristof informs us that according to UN figures for 2022, about 3,000 children were killed in all wars worldwide. In contrast, in less than five months of Israel’s current war in Gaza, the health authorities there report more than 12,500 children killed, among them 250 infants less than one year old. “I can’t think of any conflict in this century that has killed babies at such a pace,” says Kristof.

These comments are stunningly disturbing on several levels, not only at the implausibility of these figures, but that they would be accepted by an experienced and respected journalist who should at least have been sceptical of his information, given the known unreliability of Hamas’ information and the lack of opportunity for independent verification. Hamas’ modus operandi is to make themselves appear as victimized as possible so that Israel can appear as brutal as possible. It’s a strategy that works, judging from the huge numbers of people protesting Israel’s actions, especially when it comes to killing babies, the most vulnerable members of humanity. Never mind that Hamas in some instances distributed photos of dead babies which were proven to have been taken in Syria in 2013, after a chemical weapons attack. Never mind the highly implausible claim that Israel killed more than four and a half  times as many children in four months than were killed in one year in the whole world.  Nothing tugs at the heartstrings more than dead children.

Astonishingly, Kristof actually doubles down on his claims by assuring us that “some of the most incisive critics of Israel’s actions are from the very UN agencies and human rights groups whose staff are risking their lives in the field.” It is difficult to believe that Kristof is gullible enough to accept without question the findings of UN agencies operating in Gaza, since it has been well documented that they have been supportive of Hamas and complicit in their activities. Chief among them is UNRWA whose mission is to oversee the health, education and general welfare of Palestine refugees.

UN Watch is an NGO whose mandate is to monitor the UN and hold it accountable to the principles of its own charter. They recently proved that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the massacre of Oct. 7 and actually used UN jeeps to abduct hostages to Gaza. 1,200 UNWRA employees are part of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and 3000 UNRWA teachers cheered the massacre online on Telegram, replete with photos and videos. Hillel Neuer is the executive director of UN Watch. Speaking of UNRWA he says, “It’s not a problem of a few bad apples. It’s rotten to the core.” He places the blame for the Oct. 7 massacre squarely on them for what they teach about Israel in schools and for their constant “incitement to hate, involvement in terrorism, their praise of Hitler, and the perpetuation of war.” Neuer is now spearheading a movement to dissolve UNRWA. It’s already gained much traction from major donor countries that have withdrawn funding. Kristof doesn’t even mention UNRWA.

On the strength of his findings, Kristof believes that “because of America’s support for Israel’s invasion and diplomatic protection for it at the UN, this blood is on our hands.”

Through his willingness to accept Hamas propaganda at face value, and his willful neglect to look more deeply into Hamas’ power and reach, he has proven himself to be just another useful idiot.

About the Author
I was born in Montreal and educated at McGill University (BA 1966) and the Université de Montréal (MA 1969) I was a journalist in radio, television, newspapers and magazines, as well as a screenwriter. I made Aliyah 8 years ago and divide my time between Tel Aviv and Vancouver.