The NY Times’ mixed message on Gaza

Editorials that pay mere lip service to Israel's right to security

It has been frustrating lately, as an ardent supporter of Israel, to read the editorials in The New York Times. At a time when Israel was at war with Hamas and confronted with serious security challenges on several fronts – Hezbollah, Syria, Iran – the stakes should have been all too clear.

And yet even with American and Israeli public support for the war to stop the Hamas rockets at an all-time high, The Times’ editorial page sent mixed signals and mixed messages.

Take, for example, the recent editorial “Hamas’s Illegitimacy” (November 19). This started off in the right place but then veered terribly off-course.

At first, the editorial presented the stark reality of the Hamas leadership’s utter disregard for the lives of the Palestinian people. It noted their hate-driven anti-Jewish ideology toward Israel, as expressed through a policy of indiscriminate rocket attacks on innocent Israelis.

Then the editorial seemed to lose its bearings, suggesting that although Israel has the right to defend itself, it shouldn’t.

Why? The argument went that Israel’s actions would undermine the Palestinian Authority, would cause greater international disapproval of Israel, and would undermine the goal of a negotiated agreement to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Then came the clincher: The casualties in Gaza far outnumber those in Israel because Israel’s military capability is so superior to that of the terrorists in Gaza. And since the Israel Defense Forces had done enough damage to their rocket launching capabilities, no further military action was needed.

So Hamas does the opposite of protecting its people and once again Israel must forego its most basic obligation to protect its citizens because the future of every other conflict in the region – from the bloodbath of the civil war in Syria, to the instability of the recent Arab uprisings, to the global threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability – depends on ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

How did The Times get from condemning Hamas’s disregard for the lives of its own people, to Israel must stop defending its own people and is responsible for saving the entire region?

Surely, after placing the onus for the current hostilities squarely on Hamas and underscoring the direct responsibility of Hamas for the loss of life, injury and damage suffered by the people of Gaza, The Times could have stuck to the main challenge facing Israel today.

Throughout this year, in the face of constant rocket fire from Gaza targeting Israeli civilians, and attacks on its military personnel patrolling the Gaza border, Israel showed remarkable restraint. Before it embarked on the latest military effort to protect and defend ordinary Israelis who live in the range of the rockets launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, Israel made efforts via fliers and text messages to phones in Gaza to warn of the impending airstrikes. And it warned Hamas of the consequences of continued rocket assaults on Israeli territory.

Where was The Times’ editorial voice condemning the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians when nearly 800 rockets were being fired on Israel from January to October?

Where was their call on the Arab world and Turkey to exert pressure on Hamas to stop its terror attacks on innocent women, children and men in Southern Israel when Israel was refraining from large scale military responses?

Where was an insistence that Israel’s neighbors stop demonizing Israel and turn their attention to convincing Hamas to take real responsibility for the well-being of the people of Gaza by abandoning the hate-driven anti-Jewish aggression toward Israel that the Times and the rest of the world knows is the source of much of the suffering for the people of Gaza?

Instead we get an editorial that continues to pay lip service to the Israel people’s basic human right – the right to survive and not be violently attacked. Two days earlier, on November 15, the Times editorialized on “Another Israel-Gaza War” with the perfunctory line that no country should have to endure rocket attacks the way Israel has from Gaza, before launching into another withering critique of Israeli policy toward Hamas, toward Egypt, toward the Palestinian Authority.

Enough is enough!

Israel does have a superior military. Not because it wants it, but because it is an existential necessity. President Barack Obama said it best: “…there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens.”

When Israel can be assured the attacks have finally ended, it won’t have to take military action in Gaza to protect and defend its people. When the people of Gaza can be assured the attacks on Israel have finally ended, they won’t have to live in fear of the mortal danger their leaders put them in every day by their attacks on Israel. Until then, the focus of the world should be on the perpetrators of terror, Hamas, which bears the full responsibility for exposing the people of Gaza to the dangers that flow from its policies.

It is clear from the Times’ recent editorials that they know how bad Hamas is and that Israel is right to protect its people. Sticking with those messages would contribute to a better understanding of the recent hostilities.

The time to solve the other pressing problems is when Israelis are no longer being terrorized by Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza.

About the Author
Abraham Foxman was national director of the Anti-Defamation League for 28 years. He is a Holocaust survivor.