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Saturday, January 17, 2009


Covering for Israeli war crimes

Two days ago (I think, it's hard to keep the days straight between the non-stop atrocities and the time difference) the Israelis shelled the U.N. headquarters. As it ran, the story was accompanied by the usual Israeli excuse: the AP reported that "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Hamas militants opened fire from the U.N. compound." John Ging, the UNWRA chief who was actually in the compound at the time, denounced that claim as "nonsense." Ging's rebuttal actually did make its way into the article...a full fourteen paragraphs later, although elementary journalism would place it in the very next sentence, or even in the same one, separated by a comma.

What are the consequences of this "error"? As that article appeared in my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, it ended five paragraphs before the Ging denial, allowing Olmert's specious claim to stand unchallenged. Likewise for the TV coverage I saw, which mentioned the Israeli claim, but not the obviously more credible denial from the U.N. (not, I note for emphasis, from Hamas or Palestinians but the U.N., and in particular a senior U.N. person on the scene).

But, believe it or not, it isn't just sins of omission which we see covering for Israeli war crimes. There are even sins of commission, like this one about the Israeli shelling of a hospital.

Two days ago I wrote:

As I write this, you'll find this story from AFP and Al Jazeera. Not a word on CNN, MSNBC, AP, etc. No doubt they're waiting until they have a chance to get the official "there were Hamas militants firing at us from inside" statement from the Israeli government to accompany their article.
Did the press wait, as I predicted, until they had an Israeli "excuse"? Not quite:
Israeli officials declined to comment. In the past, the Israeli army has accused Hamas militants of putting people at risk by either firing from densely populated areas or using civilians as human shields.
No need for the Israelis to make excuses; the press will do it for them! Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, the story du jour is that of the Palestinian doctor who works in an Israeli hospital whose house in Gaza was shelled and three daughters killed. It's a big story because he was one of the few Palestinian voices being heard on Israeli TV, and his phone conversation with the on-air anchor reporting the attack led to an extraordinary intervention by Israel to send a ambulance, open the crossing, and get one of his remaining injured daughters to an Israeli hospital to be saved. How wonderful. When do the other 5000+ equally deserving injured get the same consideration?

Why do I mention this? Because the Israeli excuse in this case is that a sniper was firing at the Israeli invaders from the doctor's house. And, as far as I know, I am the only writer to call attention to the fact that this is precisely what Israelis do routinely, without ever (except here) being accused of "hiding behind civilians." The fact that Israelis hide behind civilians? As far as I know, it has yet to be noted in the Western media.

Of course, I should note in passing, Israelis hide behind Palestinian civilians, not Israeli civilians, thus ensuring that if a completely justified (according to their logic) counterattack on their sniper position occurred, it would be Palestinian civilians to die, not Israelis.

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