In the Guise of a Tribute to Dead Children, the “New York Times” Offers a Mixture of Half-Truths, Distortions, and Propaganda

Last week, the New York Times published a graphic on its front page, titled “They Were Only Children,” made up of thumbnail portraits of children killed in the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. This was accompanied by a lengthy feature about the 69 children who had lost their lives—67 Gazans and two Israelis. Shortly thereafter, the Times issued a correction: one of the pictures was misidentified; it was not of Rahaf al-Masri, but of a random photo of an Arab child that had been circulating the Internet for years. In a separate story, published on Sunday, the Times noted that among those included in the list was a seventeen-year-old Hamas fighter—technically a child, but not a civilian. Yet these corrections do little to fix the fact that the report, masquerading as a neutral memorial to war’s most horrific effects, was little more than carefully crafted propaganda. Robert Satloff writes:

[First], readers have a right to know if the blandly referenced “Palestinian officials” cited as sources for the “identities of the children killed, their photographs and the circumstances of their deaths” were, in fact, Hamas officials, members, or sympathizers. Readers have a right to know if the reporters traveled to Gaza and interviewed family members face-to-face, inspected sites where children reportedly died, and assessed claims and counterclaims about the precision of Israeli bombing that allowed the story repeatedly to ascribe responsibility to Israel and what role, if any, Hamas minders played in this effort.

In “They Were Only Children,” Israel is characterized as the aggressor and initiator of the entire Gaza conflict, as the article states “An average fifteen-year-old [in Gaza] would have lived through four major Israeli offensives.” Whatever one’s view of the 2021 Gaza conflict, it was certainly not “an Israeli offensive,” as Israel’s May 10 airstrikes were a response to Hamas rockets fired on Jerusalem and there was no attempt to retake territory.

To these Satloff adds many other examples of how the report was misleading or mendacious. But the heart of the problem, he suggests, is the use of a format normally reserved for “singular events for which the cause is clear and the perpetrator is readily identifiable,” such as natural disasters or mass shooting, for something very different:

As tragic as the deaths of the Gaza children certainly are, . . . “They Were Only Children” brought together images for what was not a singular event but eleven days of fighting; it provided no substantive, independent accounting for the cause of individual deaths, and offered an implicit free pass to the terrorist groups that, at least in some cases, were responsible for placing children in harm’s way and, in all cases, chose to provide no basic defense for civilians (e.g., bomb shelters) as they launched their own attacks from heavily populated areas. By applying a format normally reserved for the black-and-white of terrorist attacks or natural disasters to the gray, unknowing reality of Gaza, New York Times editors debased its use.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Guardian of the Walls, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New York Times

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy