From Great Man to Great Screwup: Behind the McChrystal Uproar By Norman Solomon

23 June, 2010 — Norman Solomon

When the wheels are coming off, it doesn’t do much good to change the driver.

Whatever the name of the commanding general in Afghanistan, the U.S. war effort will continue its carnage and futility.

Between the lines, some news accounts are implying as much. Hours before Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s meeting with President Obama on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that “the firestorm was fueled by increasing doubts — even in the military — that Afghanistan can be won and by crumbling public support for the nine-year war as American casualties rise.”

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Israel: A History of Impunity By Yousef Munayyer

22 June, 2010 — Jerusalem Fund – Palestine Center

Palestine Center Brief No. 205 (22 June 2010)

Policy Brief

Last week the government of Israel announced the launch of an investigation into the events surrounding the deadly Memorial Day flotilla raid which left nine activists dead. Many international bodies including the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), as well as human rights groups like Amnesty International, are calling for an independent and impartial, international investigation into the incident. In fact, The UN Human Rights Council has already called for an investigation and chosen a principle investigator. Turkey too has decided to launch its own investigation. The Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, which can in no way be construed as a pro-Hamas entity, also slammed the Israeli investigation.

There are obvious questions that arise when an alleged perpetrator, in this case the government of Israel, is left in charge of investigating themselves. To mitigate such concerns, Israel has allowed two international observers to participate. One of them, David Trimble, raises questions on his own. He has a Nobel Peace Prize on his resume, but he is also known for having antipathy towards human rights groups whom he has accused of aiding terrorists, and was recently part of an initiative to launch a pro-Israel campaign in his native land. The other observer, Ken Watkin, is the former head of Canada’s military judiciary.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the international observers can keep any biases they may have out of their deliberations. Will they be able to come up with an accurate assessment of the events? It’s not likely, since any information “almost certain to cause substantial harm to [Israel’s] national security or to the State’s foreign relations”[1] will not be made available to the international observers. Basically, the international observers, hand-picked by the state of Israel, are only permitted to observe what the state of Israel wants them to observe. A farce, if there ever was one.

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Action Alert – NYT, WaPo Misremember Gaza War

21 June, 2010 — FAIR

Blaming Hamas rockets bolsters Israeli PR

In the aftermath of Israel’s May 31 raid on the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla that killed nine activists, the Washington Post and New York Times have propagated an inaccurate historical context that serves to bolster Israeli claims.

The conventional rendition is that Israel invaded Gaza at the end of 2008 in order to stop a near-constant stream of rockets fired by Hamas. This history signals to readers that Israel was merely reacting to intolerable and persistent acts of violence. But that is wildly misleading. For much of the second half of that year, a truce between Hamas and Israel largely eliminated rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel; the remaining handful of rockets were launched by rival Palestinian groups. That cease-fire was essentially shattered on November 4, when an Israeli incursion killed several Hamas members (Guardian, 11/5/08). Efforts to renew the cease-fire failed, and the ensuing violence culminated in the full-scale Israeli invasion (FAIR Media Advisory, 1/6/09).

But the papers’ revisionist history has been common throughout the flotilla coverage:

“…Israel’s three-week military campaign in Gaza, which began in late December 2008, after years of rocket fire against southern Israel.”
(New York Times, 6/18/10)

“Hamas and other groups fired rockets from the territory toward Israeli towns until Israel launched a large-scale offensive against the strip in December 2008, an operation that killed more than 1,000.”
(Washington Post, 6/16/10)

“Israel…invaded in late 2008 to stop a flow of rockets and destroyed thousands of buildings.”
(New York Times, 6/11/10)

“With Hamas unable to send bombers into Israeli cities with the tightening of the blockade in 2007, rockets became the main form of violence until the war in Gaza. Since the three-week war ended in January 2009, there has been a lull in rocket fire, leading some to suspect that Hamas is rebuilding its arsenal.”
(Washington Post, 6/7/10)

“The crisis is the latest in a series of Israeli decisions devised to secure the nation…. Those actions included…invading Gaza in response to Hamas rocket fire.”
(New York Times, 6/3/10)

“The shift came after Israel invaded Gaza in December 2008, saying it needed to retaliate after thousands of rockets had been fired into civilian neighborhoods.”
(New York Times, 6/2/10)

What’s most interesting is the fact that their current reporting contradicts the papers’ coverage of the rockets just before Israel’s assault on Gaza. On December 19, 2008, the Times’ Ethan Bronner reported that Hamas had been “largely successful” in seriously curtailing rocket fire from Gaza, adding that “Hamas imposed its will and even imprisoned some of those who were firing rockets.” And the Washington Post editorialized on November 2, 2008, that thanks in part to “a cease-fire deal with Hamas, Israel has been more peaceful in recent months than it has been in years.”

So why do outlets that have previously reported these facts accurately no longer recall them? Part of Israel’s strategy of defending its attack on the humanitarian flotilla has been to stress the dangers posed by Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip; those PR efforts should not persuade news outlets to rewrite relevant history.

ACTION: Ask the New York Times and the Washington Post to correct their inaccurate reporting on the cause of the Gaza War.

New York Times Public Editor

Andrew Alexander
Ombud, Washington Post