It is a rather strange piece of reporting. It is also a rather strange story to have run on what is The New York Times’ photography blog, Lens. I am seriously confused as to what the editors of both the newspaper, and this blog, were thinking they were doing when they ran this piece.
On the surface it appears to be an expose of a supposedly fake ‘killing’ of the young Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura, who was killed in a hail of Israeli gun fire, as the entire world watched in horror. And yet, as one read down this strange piece on what is a visual media, photography website, you notice the strange priority, and exclusivity, given to Israeli government sources. The list includes, in order of appearance:
- The Israeli government
- The Israeli military
- An official Israeli document
- An Israeli Government review committee (the publishers of the report)
Towards the end of the Lens piece, they actually had the gall to mention a very minor detail i.e the Israeli government review committee actually arrived at its conclusions of Israeli innocence even thought it never once…
…contacted neither France 2, the boy’s father, Jamal, nor others who were at the scene.
Interesting. So, here we have a major newspaper, running a rather odd piece of reporting, purely on the basis of a piece of government / official investigation released to the public. The same piece, towards the end, provides us with the very underlying factor that would basically discredit the entire report itself i.e it never met, spoke to, or collected any evidence or eye-witness accounts from the people who were present at the event.
The report has no credibility whatsoever. Not unless The New York Times runs it like it was an investigative expose, and gives it the veneer of a serious examination of this horrible act. And that is precisely what this Lens blog piece does by completely veiling its overt bias towards official Israeli sources and voices, and hiding towards the bottom the evidence that would negate this report as anything serious, and investigative.
Scepticism, and some element of investigative curiosity would be required to infuse this piece with a modicum of reportage or journalistic integrity. One would think that an opposing perspective, one that could easily be offered by someone at the Mezan Center for Human Rights could easily have provided. As Ali Abunimah pointed out:
…information and evidence collected by Al Mezan from the field rebut the GPO’s allegations. Al Mezan had availed its evidence to an international fact-finding mission in 2000. The mission encompassed the UN independent expert Professor John Dugard and fifteen experts. Al Mezan invited eyewitnesses and presented other evidence to the mission, which investigated the perpetration of multiple crimes by IOF in this incident. IOF also targeted an ambulance that tried to help al-Dura and his father and killed its driver, 48-year-old Fayiz Saleem al-Bilbissy.
But apparently these days, and when it comes to Israel, following even the fundamental precepts of real journalism are just not required. All it takes I suppose is to maintain a hearty sense of faith and confidence in the leaders of our 52nd state, and just run with it! It is after all, merely another dead Palestinian child, and only the barbarism of Palestinians, the very barbarism that compels Israel to kill them, could be responsible. After all, could not Golda Meir, be right when she so blissfully and angelically argued:
When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.
In fact, it was precisely this immoral and inhumane pressure that the Palestinians place on the Israelis to kill their children, that was captured by the journalist Chris Hedges in his work Gaza Diaries and also in his book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. Here is a sample:
It is still. The camp waits, as if holding its breath. And then, out of the dry furnace air, a disembodied voice crackles over a loudspeaker.
“Come on, dogs,” the voice booms in Arabic. “Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!”
I stand up. I walk outside the hut. The invective continues to spew: “Son of a bitch!” “Son of a whore!” “Your mother’s cunt!”
The boys dart in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separates the camp from the Jewish settlement. They lob rocks toward two armored jeeps parked on top of the dune and mounted with loudspeakers. Three ambulances line the road below the dunes in anticipation of what is to come.
A percussion grenade explodes. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scatter, running clumsily across the heavy sand. They descend out of sight behind a sandbank in front of me. There are no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shoot with silencers. The bullets from the M-16 rifles tumble end over end through the children’s slight bodies. Later, in the hospital, I will see the destruction: the stomachs ripped out, the gaping holes in limbs and torsos.
Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wound four more, three of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered—death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo—but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.
The entire Israeli government investigation seems to have hinged on the fact that people saw Muhammad al-Dura’s hand move in the last few seconds of the footage. And that is evidence enough to claim that he is alive and well and living in Gaza. In fact, there are dozens, if not hundreds of websites on the Internet, that argue that in fact Muhammad al-Dura was 1) not killed by Israeli gun fire, 2) alive at the end of the video footage that was seen around the world, and 3) killed by the Palestinians themselves to achieve a major public relations victory. There is even the site called al-Durah Project, entirely dedicated to absolving Israeli of its crimes.
A simple google search on Muhammad al-Durah returns pages and pages of websites, YouTube videos and much else aimed at refuting the claim that Israeli soldiers were responsible for his death, and that Muhammad al-Durah died under the gunfire that struck his body repeatedly. A shakespearean comedy indeed, though it is Hamlet comes to mind:
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
It is truly shameful that this publication uses it pages to shill for a murderous regime. It is absolutely unconscionable, irresponsible, immoral and inhumane, that the entire global weight, wealth, influence and obsequiousness of The New York Times is bought to bear to tear apart from a defeated, weak, unarmed, dispossessed, demeaned, dehumanized people any and all semblance of dignity and humanity. It is disgusting to see the editors of the newspapers, and the editors of Lens, become cowardly shills for Israeli propaganda, and do so without even an attempt at questioning the nonsense and bile spewing from their government public relations machinery.
It was enough that The New York Times was at the forefront publishing and spreading the lies and obfuscations that led this nation to the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. It was shameful enough to see their staff photographers – men and women who are otherwise constantly garlanded with awards and media attention, embed gleefully with the American military propaganda machinery, and then spend their trying to tell us that they were in fact behaving as ‘journalists’ on the front line.
But this is the lowest blow of all – a completely transparent publication of a skewed, biased government propaganda report. It is not as if the Israelis are not good at absolving themselves of their own crimes. In fact, they do it most every time – see here, here, here, here, here, here….goodness, i could just go on. Do these reports have any credibility at all? Apparently the Lens blog team things so!
And there is so much more on Breaking The Silence – a truly remarkable, courageous group of former Israeli soldiers who have risked their lives, dignity and freedom to speak out against the atrocities and cruelties regularly inflicted on the occupied Palestinian population.
You would think that The New York Times and Lens, given the penchant of the Israelis to never accept the blame for the hundreds that die each year, would exercise a slightly higher degree of caution and judgement about reports being dropped at their desks by members of the Israeli government. But then again, I guess not. For after all, this is a newspaper whose Middle East bureau chief was a man whose son became a member of Isreali Defence / Occupation Forces! And Bill Keller, editor of The New York Times insisted that there was no conflict of interest.
Indeed. We can see that now. There is no conflict of interest. Perhaps there is a confluence of interest.