Misremembering Gaza, Again

The New York Times shouldn’t be trusted to report on future wars if it can’t get the facts about previous wars right.

Once again, the Times misleads readers about the lead up to Israel’s invasion of Gaza in late 2008. Isabel Kershner writes (5/3/12):

Up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09, which came after years of rocket fire into southern Israel by Gaza militants.

So Israel was responding to “years of rocket fire.”

The real story is a bit different. 2008 actually saw a remarkable decline in Israel/Gaza violence, thanks to a cease fire. And this was reported in the New York Times (12/19/08) before the full-scale assault known as Operation Cast Lead began:

Hamas imposed its will and even imprisoned some of those who were firing rockets. Israeli and United Nations figures show that while more than 300 rockets were fired into Israel in May, 10 to 20 were fired in July, depending on who was counting and whether mortar rounds were included. In August, 10 to 30 were fired, and in September, 5 to 10.

This graph shows how remarkable the decline in rocket fire was for five months (June-November). That Times piece also reports that Israeli forces continued attacks in Gaza and the West Bank, and did not fulfill economic promises associated with the cease fire.

So what actually happened? Israel launched an attack in November 2008 that killed six Hamas members (Guardian headline, 11/5/08: “Gaza Truce Broken as Israeli Raid Kills Six Hamas Gunmen”). That proved to be the decisive breach of the cease fire.

The Times and Kershner have done this re-writing of history before. It’s certainly a more comforting, familiar narrative for corporate media: Palestinians attack, Israel finally retaliates. It also happens to be totally misleading.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.