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New York Times Reporting From Gaza Should Carry a Warning Label: ‘Restricted by Hamas’

Palestinian fighters from the armed wing of Hamas take part in a military parade to mark the anniversary of the 2014 war with Israel, near the border in the central Gaza Strip, July 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The New York Times appears to be yielding to immense outside pressure to tilt its Gaza war coverage even further against Israel.

Last week “more than 100” anti-Israel protesters were arrested after protests at the Times‘ printing plant and Times Square headquarters, according to an account on the website, which is sympathetic to the protesters. The group Writers Against the War in Gaza, which includes former New York Times “staff writers” who left to protest what they saw as the paper’s pro-Israel tilt, went so far as to publish a parody newspaper, designed like the Times, called the New York War Crimes. It advised readers concerned about the “current Zionist genocide against Gaza” that “if you still subscribe to The Times, unsubscribe. If you read The Times, stop.”

As that pressure was building, the Times swung to emphasize the “starving Gazans” story that seems to be replacing the “hospitals” story as the narrative that Hamas and its allies want to highlight. After a long span without much of its own firsthand reporting from inside Gaza (aside from brief visits by reporters accompanied by Israeli military spokespeople), the New York Times published a piece that appeared in print under the headline, “In Rafah, Survival Is a Daily Grind: ‘Everything Is Difficult.’”

Online, it carries the byline of Bilal Shbair and the explanation, “Bilal Shbair reported from Rafah, Gaza.”

If the Times has its own reporter operating in Rafah, you might think the editors would assign him to try to ask and answer readers-want-to-know sort of questions such as, “How much of the aid is Hamas stealing?” or “Where are the kidnapped Israelis?” or “Who would the people there like to run the place after Israel destroys Hamas?” or “Does Hamas still control the place enough that it would kill anyone who wrote anything negative about them?”

Instead, the Times coverage emphasizes hunger, hunger, hunger, which seems to be the new Hamas-approved line. Back in November, the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, publicly acknowledged, “Hamas restricts journalists in Gaza.” Israel says Hamas still has four battalions of fighters in Rafah. Is Bilal Shbair’s work subject to the Hamas restrictions that Kingsley mentions? If so, how? What is he allowed to write about, what isn’t he allowed to write about, and what would be the punishment to him if he wrote about what Hamas doesn’t want him to write about or if he deviates from writing what Hamas does want him to write about?

The text of this particular piece, alas, doesn’t inspire much confidence in Shbair’s freedom to tell the truth. For example, he writes, “Israel has accused Hamas of using civilian buildings like schools and mosques for terrorist activities, a charge Hamas denies.” Why frame that as “accused” and “denies” when Israel has provided vast amounts of video and photographic proof, along with tours for Times journalists, demonstrating that it is true, as Gazans would have to be willfully blind not to know.

Another passage in the Times article reports, “On Wednesday, Israeli forces hit an aid warehouse in Rafah that killed a UN worker, according to UNRWA, the largest aid group on the ground in Gaza.”

If you look at another Times story, it says that strike killed a Hamas commander, identified as Muhammad Abu Hasna. But this story says nothing about that — it just mentions the UN worker who was killed.

The Times hasn’t totally abandoned the “hospitals” story for the “hunger” story. Shbair’s account from Rafah says, “In an interview, Marwan al-Hams, the director of Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital, Rafah’s largest, listed the services it could no longer provide: intensive care, complex surgeries, CT scans or MRIs, and cancer treatments. The doctors lack painkillers and medicines for diabetes and high blood pressure. Their ability to provide dialysis is so reduced that patients with kidney diseases have died.”

A natural question might be” “Is Hamas using the hospital as a base like it did many of the other hospitals in Gaza?” Yet that question goes unasked by the Times.

Basically, Hamas doesn’t permit genuinely independent reporting from any Hamas-controlled area, which is part of why the Times has been reluctant to publish such coverage up till now. Yet this latest article suggests that the Times seems to have decided the dateline and the hunger details are somehow worth the tradeoff of independence.

Other coverage from within Gaza by the Times misleads readers about how much aid is going in.

For example, one article claims, “An average of just six commercial trucks carrying food and other supplies have been allowed to enter Gaza each day since early December.”

Earlier the Times said it was 96 trucks a day.

Perhaps there is some distinction between “commercial” and UN or nonprofit relief organizations trucks, but without clarifying that distinction or providing the larger number alongside, the number is misleading. I’m not saying Gazans aren’t hungry, especially in the north where people did not follow Israeli warnings to leave. But the remaining Hamas fighters in their tunnels in Rafah almost certainly are eating pretty well, especially in comparison to the non-fighters not in the tunnels. Any coverage from Gaza that fails to illuminate that contrast falls short of telling readers the full truth of what is happening there. Perhaps Kingsley’s statement that “Hamas restricts journalists in Gaza” should be attached as a warning in large red letters before and after anything the Times prints from a journalist operating in any part of Gaza that is, like Rafah, still under Hamas control.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

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Israel’s Kafkaesque Ordeal at the ICC

Proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, February 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI/Handout via Reuters.

Israel is facing unprecedented and bizarre proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), crescendoing with a request by Prosecutor Karim Khan for arrest warrants against its sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

These events are the result of a multi-faceted and long-developing campaign by anti-Israel activists that has largely advanced under the radar.

Firstly, Israel is not a member of the Court and does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over its actions. In the late 1990s, Israel was initially a strong backer of the ICC, but during the drafting of the Court’s governing Rome Statute, the Arab League blocked efforts to include terrorism as an international crime and helped invent a new crime that would specifically target Israeli activity across the 1949 armistice lines. For these reasons, Israel refused to ratify the Rome Statute and join the Court.

In any other situation, this would be the end of the matter. However, beginning in 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA), acting in collaboration with UN Rapporteurs and European-funded NGOs linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, attempted to join the Court.

Rather than dismiss the PA’s effort immediately because the PA is not a state — and ICC membership is only available to states — the ICC Prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, launched a PR campaign to ostensibly “debate” the issue. Three years later, he rejected the PA’s application, but instead provided a blueprint facilitating the Palestinians’ ability to circumvent the clear standards of the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the Palestinians succeeded in upgrading their status at the UN to “non-member observer state.” Merely on the basis of this semantic, rather than substantive change, ICC officials allowed the Palestinians to game the system and join the Court.

Despite these machinations and exploitation of the Court, the next Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, filed a request with the Court’s Pre-Trial chamber (PTC) in December 2019 seeking authorization to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the “State of Palestine,” despite the fact that this state does not exist and has no defined territory. Moreover, she argued that the Court could proceed against Israelis, regardless of whether it was a member of the Court.

This action, endorsed by the PTC in February 2021 in a controversial 2-1 opinion, essentially eviscerated the Oslo Accords, the agreement mutually agreed to between Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s, which lays out governance of the West Bank and Gaza.

A key provision of the Accords is that the PA would not have any authority to exercise or delegate any criminal jurisdiction over Israelis to the Court. The Prosecutor and the Court completely ignored this issue.

In yet another unbelievable move, the Court next also allowed the Palestinians to retroactively assign temporal jurisdiction going back to June 13, 2014, precisely the day after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, which triggered the war that summer. This meant that Hamas’ brutal murder and kidnapping of Jews, a preview of what Israel would experience on a larger scale on October 7, would get a free pass from the Court.

Fast-forward to Khan’s move to file for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant. Here, too, the Prosecutor’s office engaged in highly questionable conduct. Khan could have already issued indictments against Hamas leaders on October 7 itself, when their flagrant crimes were broadcast around the world. Instead, he chose to wait until after manufactured allegations of “starvation” could be crafted against Israeli officials. He also inexplicably ignored thousands of other war crimes, including each rocket attack on Israel, committed by Palestinians since 2014.

In yet another outrageous move, at the time of the announcement, Khan’s team had been scheduled to attend meetings in Israel. However, the planned trip appears to have been a bad faith ruse. Instead of the team boarding the plane, Khan went on CNN to tell Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview about the arrest warrant requests. It doesn’t take an expert in communications to know that such a step would generate a storm of PR almost solely focused on Israel, meaning attention on the Hamas atrocities and real crimes committed on October 7 would be virtually ignored.

One also wonders if any mind was paid to what this action might mean for any hope of a ceasefire to secure the release of the hostages.

Egregiously, Khan’s actions offended another cornerstone of the Rome Statute, that of complementarity. The ICC is only supposed to act as a court of last resort in situations where a judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate international crimes. As he himself acknowledged on a visit to Israel in early December, Israel has robust investigatory mechanisms and judiciary — one that has never shied away from intervening in military matters, nor in going after the most senior officials, including prime ministers.

Instead of giving the Israeli system a reasonable time to proceed, however, the Prosecutor disregarded the complementarity requirement and decided to bulldoze forward. In contrast, although Khan has had for years the jurisdiction to act against President Maduro in Venezuela, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and military junta in Myanmar — authoritarian governments responsible for horrific atrocities — no cases have been filed.

Multiple procedural irregularities and political maneuverings of the Office of Prosecutor have been well-documented, and there are several other disturbing aspects to the “Situation in Palestine” not mentioned here. For years, the ICC has been under intense criticism for its lack of accomplishments in its more than 20 years of operation. Khan was brought in to serve as a sober and responsible actor to right the ship. The actions of his office the past few months now call this assessment into question.

In an interview published with the Times of London a few days after his inexplicable actions, Khan stated, “if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto.” The Prosecutor would be wise to reflect on his Office’s history and follow his own advice.

Anne Herzberg is the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research organization.

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The Truth About Casualties: Comparing Gaza to the Iraq War

An Israeli police officer stands next to the remains of a rocket after rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian Islamist terrorist group Hamas, in Herzliya, Israel May 26 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Nir Elias

Last December, The Wall Street Journal contrasted the number of munitions dropped in the Gaza war with numbers from the US war in Iraq. In the roughly two months that had elapsed since the Oct. 7 massacre, Israel dropped 29,000 weapons in Gaza, the Journal explained, whereas the US military dropped just 3,678 munitions on Iraq from 2004 to 2010. The clear takeaway was that Israel was uniquely trigger-happy.

If history started in 2004, those statistics might faithfully tell the story. But the invasion of Iraq began — and ended — in 2003. That was the year Iraq’s cities fell to US forces, the year the regime was overthrown, and the year Saddam Hussein was captured.

If the Journal were interested in comparing what is comparable, readers would have learned that while Israel dropped 29,000 weapons in two months in 2023, the US in 2003 dropped that same number in half that time.

This example is one of many media manipulations, which have bent and stretched statistics from the Iraq war and others. And it has frequently been on the basis of such tampered evidence that the media has argued Israel’s fight against Hamas dramatically stands out compared to other wars throughout history.

To help make its case that the Gaza war “is different,” for example, The New York Times contrasted casualties over two months of fighting in Gaza to “the entire first year of the invasion of Iraq.”

In fact, the 2003 invasion lasted about one month, during which most of the Iraqi casualties mentioned by the newspaper were killed. (Never mind that in the Gaza war, the Times has also relied on undependable Hamas casualty breakdowns.)

If the Iraq comparison is important enough to cover, then it’s important enough to cover without downplaying the casualty rate in Iraq.

So let’s look at what The New York Times conceals. How different was Gaza than Iraq, really?

Over the 22 days from March 19, 2003, when invasion of Iraq began, and April 9, when the Saddam Hussein regime is understood to have collapsed, the US invasion led to the death of civilians at a higher rate than the best, albeit rough, estimates over that same time span in Gaza.

Our graph plots the number of Iraqi civilian deaths that have been verified by Iraq Body Count alongside estimates based on Hamas figures for total deaths in Gaza. (Hamas updates hide the number of combatants killed.)

We call our highest estimate of civilian casualties the “Hamas extrapolation,” since it takes Hamas’s overall numbers and assumes 80 percent of them are civilians, as a Hamas official cited by Reuters once charged.

Our lowest estimate, the “Israel extrapolation,” assumes 60 percent of Hamas’s stated casualties are civilians, in line with Israeli estimates (but ignoring a lower estimate used by Benjamin Netanyahu). The “Egypt extrapolation” in the middle assumes 70 percent of the deaths were civilians, in line with a projection by Egyptian intelligence officials who said the number falls between the belligerents’ estimates.

And what about the numbers after the first 22 days of fighting in Iraq and Gaza?

For the remainder of the year, the rate of deaths in Iraq fell to a trickle, as might be expected after the fall of the regime. In Gaza, fighting raged on, so the casualty totals quickly surpassed those in Iraq.

Still, the casualty rate in Gaza steadily declined, a fact that seems to have been lost in the media’s coverage of the fighting. The graph below, which also relies on Hamas’ casualty totals, shows how every month that has passed, the rate of casualties fell further below the rate during the invasion of Iraq.

This continuous decline in casualties as Hamas lost ground in Gaza is unsurprising, since Israel’s stated objective is to beat back Hamas and end its control over the territory.

Those who insist Israel’s intent is to destroy the Palestinian people — in other words, those throwing around the “genocide” slur — might have a harder time explaining the decline.

To note that the rates of munitions and casualties during the fight to unseat the Iraqi regime exceeded the rates in Gaza serves as a corrective to media misrepresentations. It doesn’t diminish the real suffering in Gaza, any more than a tallying of Hamas and Hezbollah rockets diminishes the hardship of thousands of Israeli families forced from their homes by those rockets, or the pain of Israelis whose children were murdered or kidnapped during Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

If war is hell, then urban war merits a worse description. In Gaza, we have an urban war in which Hamas terrorists dig themselves under the densely packed civilians they rule, a literal inversion of the humane arrangement.

If civilian casualties mean so little to Hamas, of course it refuses to surrender itself and its hostages. And in light of Hamas’s promises to repeat the Oct. 7 slaughter again and again, Israel’s obligation to its citizens is to do everything it reasonably can, politically and certainly militarily, to eliminate the threat.

To understand how the Gaza war is different, the press should start there — and stop manipulating the numbers.

Gilead Ini is a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, the foremost media watchdog organization focused on coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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