Questions for the New York Times After Its Latest Blood Libel of Israel
by Hugh Fitzgerald
The New York Times recently carried on its front page photographs of 67 children, Arab and Jewish, who died during the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, over the caption “They Were Just Children.” Under each child’s photo, the Times had provided the name of the party responsible for the child’s death; for 64 of the photos, “Israel” was declared responsible. More on this atrocious story is here: “‘The New York Times’ Repackages a Classic Blood Libel,” by James Sinkinson, JNS.org, June 16, 2021:
Though most New York Times readers would not likely have realized it, the dramatic, front-page, full-color photo collage of children killed in the recent Hamas-Israel war was a crudely repackaged version of a classic blood libel against the Jewish people.
On May 28, after Israel ceased its defensive operations to stop Hamas rocket fire and ensure security for Israel’s citizens, The New York Time plastered on its front page a collage of 67 faces of children killed in the conflict, under the title, “They Were Only [sic] Children.”
A caption under each photo in the associated article described how each child died. The captions under 64 of the children perversely named Israel as the cause of death. The truth, of course, is quite the contrary.
Gaza’s terrorist-designated Hamas dictatorship, which started the fighting unprovoked by attacking Israeli citizens with thousands of rockets, determined the pace and intensity of the war, as well as the targets of Israeli retaliation.
While the Times insinuated that Israel chose to kill these children—and that Israel’s actions were unjustified at best and malicious at worst—in fact, every one of those 67 children died at Hamas’s hands.
Hamas was responsible for the deaths of Palestinian children whom the terror group deliberately put in harm’s way by placing its rockets, and launching them, from inside or near civilian structures – kindergartens, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other places where children would naturally be found. Hamas wanted Palestinian children to die; they would then serve usefully for propaganda purposes – as they did when the photographs of dead Arab children appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Israel, of course, tries as hard as it can to avoid civilian casualties, including children, by telephoning, leafletting, emailing warnings about an impending attack on a target, practicing its “knock-on-the-roof” technique, all in order to get everyone in those buildings to flee. Israel has no desire to kill children or other civilians.
Ever since the Middle Ages, Jews and Jewish communities around the world have been regularly accused of killing innocent non-Jewish children, in bloodlust or in the service of fantastical religious services. Over hundreds of years, such false accusations of murder have come to be known as “blood libel.”…
Despite the Times’ almost daily criticism of the Jewish state—and its decades-long tradition of siding with Israel’s enemies—the front-page photo collage reinvigorated an antisemitic canard, and clearly crossed a line….
There is a straight line from the medieval blood libel of Jews killing Christian children to use their blood in making Passover wafers, and the New York Times blaming “Jews” (Zionists) for the presumably deliberate killing of more than 60 Palestinian children.
Fair-minded people need to ask why, of all the bloody conflicts raging around the world, only the operation involving self-defense for the national homeland of the Jewish people was singled out for this graphically disturbing treatment.
Hundreds of thousands of people die in violent conflict and war around the world every year — 19,444 died in Afghanistan and 19,044 in Yemen in 2020, to say nothing of tens of thousands more in Syria, Somalia and Iraq. Not one of these conflicts was deserving of a front-page photo collage in the Times.
There were many more children who were killed in the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Iraq, and, Ethiopia than in the recent Hamas-Israel war. Why was it that the Times has never seen fit to print a similar front-page collage of the dead children in any of those conflicts? Were those children less important than the Palestinian Arab children? Or were the Palestinian Arab children worthy of heightened attention only because Israel could be, and was, blamed by the Times for their deaths?
Moreover, the Times collage project deceptively hid the context of the children’s deaths. It did not mention the [real] reason these children died.
According to HonestReporting, the context was buried: “Just minutes after the war between Israel and Hamas broke out, a 5-year-old boy named Baraa al-Gharabli was killed in Jabaliya, Gaza,” the opening sentence of “They Were Only Children” dramatically asserts. Only 20 paragraphs later do readers find out that al-Gharabli’s tragic death “may have been” caused by a Hamas rocket that fell short.
Israel Defense Forces’ radar images show that some 15 percent of all rockets launched by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fell inside Gaza, unquestionably killing and injuring many Palestinians. Initial research indicates that failed Palestinian rocket launches killed at least nine of the children pictured in the Times piece. Still, the Times absolves Hamas of the responsibility for their deaths.
The IDF had made public radar images that showed nearly 680 Hamas rockets that had been launched against Israel, but fell instead inside Gaza, where they injured and killed Palestinians, including children. It appears that at least nine of the children who died in Gaza had been hit by Hamas’ own rockets. There is no mention of this under their photos, which attributes their deaths to Israel alone. Nor did the Times mention in the body of its article that accompanied the photos that 680 Hamas rockets fell short in Gaza itself, injuring and killing children and other civilians. Why not? Who at the Times decided that information should be left out?
Furthermore, in an embarrassment to those who put the collage together, some of the photos were of children alive and well, while others were of those who Hamas claimed as members, even if they were only 17 years old. One of them, Khaled Qanou, was a member of the Mujahideen Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement. This vital information was not mentioned anywhere in the Times’ disingenuous diatribe.
Of the 67 Palestinian children who were reported as killed by Israel, we know of at least nine who die from Hamas rockets, not because Hamas admitted it, but because Israeli photos show where a Hamas rocket fell short in Gaza exactly where those children were then reported to have died. Other Palestinian “children” turn out to have been in their late teens, and members of terrorist groups, including the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, and Hamas itself. But that information was kept from its readers by the New York Times; it would only muddy the tear-jerking message that “They Were Only Children.”
Finally, the images provide no clarification as to the remarkably low ratio of civilian deaths in Israel’s wars with Hamas. Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, notes that a United Nations study showed “that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was by far the lowest in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare.”
Kemp states that this ratio was less than 1:1 and compared it favorably to the estimated ratios of NATO operations in Afghanistan (3:1), western campaigns in Iraq and Kosovo (believed to be 4:1), and the conflicts in Chechnya and Serbia (much higher than 4:1).
Kemp argues that the low ratio was achieved through unprecedented measures taken by the IDF to minimize civilian casualties, including warnings to the population via telephone calls, radio broadcasts and leaflets, as well as granting pilots the discretion to abort a strike if they perceived too great a risk of civilian casualties.
And as we know, Israel invented the “knock-on-the-roof” technique, the practice of dropping non-explosive or low-yield devices on the roofs of targeted civilian homes as a prior warning of imminent bombing attacks to give the inhabitants time to flee the attack. The practice was first employed by the Israelis in the 2008-2009 Gaza war, and along with telephoning, radio broadcasts, and leafletting, was used again in this latest war with Hamas. We have also learned of Israeli pilots aborting a mission when they detected the presence of children at a targeted site. Here is one example.
The astonishingly low ratio – 1:3 — of civilian-to-fighter casualties in Gaza is based on figures from the IDF, which believes it killed 225 Hamas fighters, with about 75 civilians killed. That is an amazing figure; in modern warfare the ratio of civilians-to-fighters killed is ordinarily at least 3:1. But because of the enormous efforts Israel makes to warn civilians away from its targets, sometimes giving them as much as two hours warning to flee, civilian casualties were kept very low, despite Hamas’ deliberate efforts to increase them. That two-hours warning was what Israel provided to the residents of the media tower, the Al-Jalaa Building, that received so much attention because the AP offices were located there, along with the actual target of the IAF, Hamas weapons development and intelligence facilities.
He [Colonel Richard Kemp] also states that the civilian casualties that did occur could be seen in light of Hamas’s tactical use of Gazan civilians “as human shields, to hide behind, to stand between Israeli forces and their own fighters,” and strategic exploitation of their deaths in the media….
Questions for the Grey Lady:
Why have you never published a front-page collage, or even one on an inside page, of children killed in any of two dozen recent conflicts, such continuing wars as those in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Ethiopia?
Why, in your coverage of the children who died in the latest Gaza war, did you make no mention of Hamas’ deliberate use of human shields, including children, by hiding its rockets in, and launching them from, civilian buildings such as kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings?
Why, in your coverage of the children who died in the Gaza war, did you make no mention of the fact that some were known to have been killed by the 680 Hamas rockets aimed at Israel but fell short, and struck people inside Gaza?
Why, in your coverage of the children killed in Gaza, did you not subsequently let your readers know that several of those “children” whose photographs appeared were in their late teens, and were members of Hamas and the Palestinian Muhajideen Movement?
Why did The New York Times publish in its “They Were Only Children” collage a 2015 stock photo of a young girl, claiming Israeli forces killed her during the May 2021 war with Hamas? Why did it never apologize for that error?
Why did you not make any mention in the text that accompanies the photos of 67 dead children that Israeli pilots aborted missions when they detected children too close to the target?
Why do you nowhere mention, in the text accompanying the collage of photos of children killed in the war, Israel’s various methods to minimize civilian casualties? These include warning the inhabitants of impending targets through phone calls, leafletting, emails, and the “knock-on-the-roof technique,” giving them time – sometimes as much as two hours — to flee. Wasn’t all that worth mentioning?
Why do you trust the figures released by Hamas of “67 children” killed when, from the three previous Hamas-Israel wars, the numbers put out by Hamas proved, upon further investigation, to have been grossly inflated? Given that history, shouldn’t we be skeptical of Hamas this time?
Do we have any reason, on the other hand, to think that the figures about casualties provided by the IDF are to be trusted? Doesn’t the IDF have a long track record of putting out reliable figures?
That’s enough questions for now. I’m sure your continued skewed coverage of the Hamas-Israel conflict will prompt still others.
First published in Jihad Watch.