The NY Times Goldstones Israel, Doubles the Gaza Civilian Casualties

This is a cross-post of Lenny Ben-David‘s response to a story in today’s NY Times. Reporter Isabel Kershner replied to Ben-David, who updated his post.  Kershner’s response is included below.

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There in the middle of a silly article about Justin Bieber’s visit to Israel, The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner goldstones Israel. It’s relatively easy to find out just by looking at Arab sources in English. And according to Arab sources, four were in close proximity to terrorists firing missiles at Israel.

“Last Thursday, a 16-year-old Israeli boy was critically wounded by an antitank missile fired by Hamas militants at a school bus in [SIC] Gaza. That triggered days of intense exchanges of fire, during which 18 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, were killed.”

So how much is “about half” of 18? How many dead civilians? Eight? Nine? Ten?

Actually, the real number of civilians killed is five. It’s relatively easy to find out just by looking at Arab sources in English. And according to Arab sources, four were in close proximity to terrorists firing missiles at Israel.

A list of the 18 dead can be found below and on the site of Muslim News. Next to the names, I identified them as “fighters” or “civilians.” That determination is based on linked articles in the Muslim News, the Palestinian Maan News Agency or Human Rights Watch.

1. Mahmoud Al Manasra, 50, Al Shijaeyya. Civilian
2. Mohammad Al Mahmoum, 25, Rafah. Fighter
3. Mosab Al Sufi, 18, Rafah. Fighter
4. Saleh Al Tarabeen, 38, Rafah. Fighter
5. Khaled Ad-Dabary, 23, Rafah. Fighter
6. Mo’taz Abu Jame’, Khan Younis. Fighter
7. Abdullah Al Qarra, Khan Younis. Fighter
8. Nidal Qdeih, 21, Khan Younis. Civilian
9. Najah Qdeih, 48, Khan Younis. Civilian
10. Talal Abu Taha, 55, Khan Younis. Civilian
11. Raed Shihada, 27, northern Gaza. Fighter
12. Bilal Al ‘Ar’ir, 23, Al Shijaeyya. Fighter
13. Mahmoud Al Jaro, 10, Al Shijaeyya. Civilian
14. Ahmad Ghorab, northern Gaza. Fighter
15. Mohammad Awaja, Rafah. Fighter
16. Taiseer Abu Sneima, Rafah. Fighter
17. Ahmad Al Zeitouniyya, northern Gaza. Fighter
18. Zuheir Al Bir, Al Zeitoun neighborhood – Gaza. Fighter

According to Human Rights Watch, “Kamal al-Manasra, a relative of Mahmoud Al Mansara (number 1), who lives next door, and Sami Harazen, said that about 3 p.m. they heard what sounded like a small rocket being launched from somewhere in or near the neighborhood . . . .’Two minutes after the rocket, I heard a shell hit my uncle’s [Mahmoud’s] house,’ said Kamal al-Manasra. ‘My uncle and his son and brother went over to check on the house, and while they were returning another shell fell on my uncle and killed him.’ Harazen gave a similar account, though he believed the Israeli response occurred less than one minute after the rocket launch.”

In the case of Nidal (8) and Najah (9) Qdeih, Nidal’s uncle Fayez Qdeiah told Human Rights Watch that “he heard three mortars fired by Palestinian armed groups from somewhere nearby.”

Human Rights Watch also places another civilian next to a rocket-launching terrorist. “Residents of Shajaiya told Human Rights Watch that members of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad fired mortar rounds from a cemetery in the middle of the neighborhood . . . . Shortly after the mortar attack, at around 7 p.m., an Israeli strike hit the cemetery but caused no casualties, residents said. About 10 to 15 children from the area ran into the cemetery to look at the strike site. Five minutes later, residents said, a second strike hit the area, killing one of the children, Mahmoud Wael al-Jaro (13), and a member of Islamic Jihad named Bilal al-Areer (12).

View the rocket in the cemetery in this video released by the Israel Defense Forces.

I am thankful for Ms. Kirshner’s rapid response:

The school bus in Gaza was obviously an editing error, and I have asked for it to be corrected.

As for the civilian casualty figures, our reporting of the numbers has been based on the information provided by our correspondent in Gaza. I can already see a discrepancy in that your list has all the men killed in Rafah as fighters, whereas he identified three of four killed there on the first day as civilians collecting gravel near the old airport, if I remember rightly. Anyway we have asked for a thorough check and hope to have results soon.

The Times’ reliance on local Palestinian stringers and reporters is a serious problem for the western press in general. During the second Intifada, it meant that many reports and dispatches were not factual, to say the least. I responded to The New York Times correspondent:

The listing of the four Rafah men as “fighters” is based on this Maan news report. Notice the pictures of the military funerals, as well. It appears pretty conclusive.

Thursday’s Gaza dead laid to rest

Published Friday 08/04/2011 (updated) 09/04/2011 12:00

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Thousands marched in Rafah, Khan Younis and Gaza City after Friday prayers, carrying the bodies of seven men killed by Israeli fire the day before. Six of the dead were Al-Qassam fighters, and a seventh a 50-year-old civilian. In Rafah, Al-Qassam members Saleh At-Tarabeen, 38, Mus’ab As-Sufi, 18, Mohammad Al-Mahmoum, 25, and Khaled Ad-Diyari, 33, were marched from the Abu Yousef An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, toward their homes, and then to the Ash-Shuhda Cemetery for burial . . . .

We are looking forward to the Times’ “thorough check.”

UPDATE April 14: See Ben-David’s followup post.