Hammer Misses the Point

Newsweek’s Joshua Hammer reported this week on the “Rising Tide of Blood” in the Palestinian-Israel war. HonestReporting found the article filled chockablock with errors. Following are some of the mistakes and biases:

(1) Hammer describes a Palestinian sniper attack that killed 10 Israelis near the Jewish town of Efrat. The attack took place at Ofra, some 40 miles away.

(2) Hammer applies sensationalist adjectives to Israeli actions. Ariel Sharon is described as “bellicose,” Israel’s house-to-house search is “bloody,” Sharon’s crackdown is “brutal,” and Sharon “responded with unprecedented violence.”

By contrast, Hammer’s rich vocabulary did not produce descriptions such as the “bloody and murderous Palestinian bombing attacks,” or the “devious Arafat,” or “the terrorist Islamic jihad.” Value-laden adjectives were applied only to Israeli subjects.

(3) In describing one day of fighting, Hammer wrote that “more than 40 Palestinians were killed” — yet failed to mention that most of these were combatants equipped with kalashnikovs, M16s and RPGs.

(4) Hammer cites unnamed American officials who thought “Israeli actions that… might verge on war crimes. These included firing on a hospital and at least five ambulances…”

The use of hospitals and churches for cover has been a Palestinian military tactic since it controlled Beirut in the 1970s and early ’80s. Hammer ignores recently documented cases of Palestinian ambulances ferrying weapons, gunmen, and even suicide bombers. Contrary to Hammer’s assertion, it could be suggested that Palestinian misuse of ambulances is the real “war crime.”

A few brave reporters, such as USA Today’s Jack Kelley, have documented the use of Palestinian ambulances in combat:

“Palestinian ambulances, their horns blaring and lights flashing, begin racing toward the front lines to pick up the wounded. But before picking up an injured youth, one ambulance can be seen dropping off two buckets of rocks and a crate of bottles to be used as Molotov cocktails. Seconds later, another ambulance races onto a nearby hill, its horn blaring and lights flashing. But there are no youths on the hill. The driver gets out and fires two shots at the tank in a vain effort to hit the Israeli soldiers before jumping back in and driving off.”

(5) Hammer repeats Palestinian propaganda without questioning their veracity: “Arafat reasserted his leadership with the mass arrests of militants.”

However, when asked about Arafat’s arrests, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said: “There have been arrests made before, where just as soon as people were arrested, they were let out through the back door of the jail cell.”

(6) Hammer also contends that Arafat’s “December 16 call for a ceasefire… brought a virtual halt to the violence for three weeks.”

Hammer’s assertion is simply untrue. IDF records show that during those three weeks, there were 100 Palestinian attacks in week one, 58 Palestinian attacks in week two, and 50 Palestinian attacks in week three. Week three ended on January 6 when a Palestinian terrorist invaded a home and shot dead a mother, her handicapped 11-year-old daughter, and a soldier. (The tally does not include rock throwing and firebomb attacks.)

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This week, The New York Times published an illustrated graph, comparing Jewish deaths and Arab deaths in the current conflict. Many HonestReporting readers wrote to complain that the graph was misleading, making no distinction between civilians and armed combatants, and implying that all the Arab dead were somehow at the hands of Israelis — when in fact scores of Arab dead were suicide bombers or suspected collaborators killed by other Arabs.

The response from The New York Times was surprisingly curt and dismissive. Bill Borders of the Times wrote: “The graphs are correct because everyone that they count as dead is in fact dead. All of them.”