By: Lev Tsitrin
When I saw the title of an opinion piece by the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof, “Were My Criticisms of Israel Fair?” I did not hold my breath in expectation that his answer would be, “they were not, and I apologize.” He doubled down, yet again smearing Israel with the accusations of war crimes for forcefully responding to an attack from Gaza, in the best traditions of the New York Times.
Which is of course his right — as we well know, everyone is entitled to his opinion. The problem of course is that, as the second part of that same saying has it, no one (the New York Times, and Kristof including) is entitled to their own facts.
And predictably, the facts Kristof adduces to support his argument that the fighting was Israel’s fault are not facts at all. His main source of facts and analysis is one Sari Bashi, “an Israeli human rights lawyer.” (the organization she leads, Gisha, “whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents” is mostly funded (73.1%) by European governments and U.S. foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
Calling her an Israeli lawyer is a 73.1% lie; “foreign agent” would be far more accurate. She called Gaza a “penal colony.” and compared the Trump peace plan to apartheid South Africa. You get the idea of her reliability as a source — though her views are undoubtedly music to Kristof’s ears, reinforcing his own anti-Israel bias. Birds of the feather flock together, after all.)
So what is the Bashi/Kristof theory of the cause of the Israel-Gaza conflict? “Israeli security forces, led by a prime minister desperate to stay in power to avoid jail on corruption charges, created a provocation by using violence and the threat of violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem. They stormed a sensitive religious site, used excessive force against demonstrators, and threatened to forcibly transfer Palestinian families from their homes as part of an official policy to ‘Judaize’ occupied East Jerusalem, which is a war crime.”
The insinuations here are factually wrong: Let’s start at the end of this diatribe: given that the word “their” in “their homes” is subject to litigation (the Jewish owners of the site argue that those Palestinian families refuse to pay rent and are squatters, thus subject to eviction), what does “an official policy to ‘Judaize’ occupied East Jerusalem,” even if it existed, have to do with the dispute about the title to a property between private parties?
Is East Jerusalem really “occupied”? Where is the “war crime”? Get your facts straight, Bashi/Kristof, and cool off your outrage. As to “storming a sensitive religious site” — that was done after the police got pelted with stones, stored in that “sensitive religious site” as weapons precisely for that purpose. “A provocation by using violence and the threat of violence?” If Bashi/Kristof followed the news, they would have known that this indeed happened, though it had nothing to do with “a prime minister desperate to stay in power to avoid jail on corruption charges” — but with Palestinians drunk on Ramadan cheer who attacked several Orthodox Jews, filming their humiliation and posting it on TikTok, and causing counterdemonstrations. Facts matter, Bashi/Kristof — though apparently not to you.
But their analysis of the Gaza-Israel conflict does not stop there. After all, they are two very deep minds, working in unison, and their intellectual reach is truly profound. The above-described events may have just been a trigger; what are the deeper, root causes of the conflict?
Ah, now we’re talking! Only shallow thinkers would ask, as did the respondent quoted by Kristof, “what do you recommend that Israel do in response to rocket attacks? What would the American response be to repeated rocket attacks from Mexico or Canada on American cities?”
To profound thinkers like Bashi/Kristof, this is a false analogy. “A better question would be: ‘What would the U.S. do if it conquered and occupied British Columbia, and then Canadian armed groups, resisting the occupation, shelled Seattle?’” “Hmm. A bit more complicated” Kristof intones.
Really? To Bashi/Kristof, Gaza is a “penal colony” — and given Hamas’ brutal rule, it is hard to disagree. But this is not how Hamas sees it after Israelis completely pulled out of Gaza. It had sufficient freedom to build weapons-production facilities, to amass a vast arsenal of rockets, to train an army of thousands, to build a 300-mile underground “metro” that hides the movement of Hamas soldiers and stores their weapons. Gaza is “conquered and occupied?” Not really, for there is too much freedom to do mischief in that “open-air prison.”
As to the Bashi/Kristof solution to turn the other cheek and follow “other countries [that] have responded to attacks with more restraint and wisdom than either Israel or the United States,” I would ask, which country did you exactly have in mind? Which country had rockets rained on its population centers, and did not fight back? Your examples — UK, Spain, India — don’t begin to compare, Kristof.
Kristof concludes his attempt to open our eyes to the realities of the Middle East conflict by giving Israel this sage advice (after suggesting, in a true blood-libel, Nazi language of Der Sturmer that Israel should not “grab more land or kill more children”) — “A basic principle of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. A basic principle of peace-building is to stop committing war crimes.”
Having read Kristof’s defense of his smears of Israel, I would suggest to Kristof, and the New York Times, to look in the mirror and to do what they preach, and “stop digging.” Yes, you hope to ride the wave of hate by inflaming it. Yes, you hope to suck up to the ignoramuses and haters. But playing with fire is not a safe game. Cynically hoping to survive on subscriptions by fools and ignoramuses is, among other things, a bad business strategy. Turn to solid reporting and sound analysis, not the Nazi-style propaganda by malicious ignoramuses like Bashi and Kristof. Stop committing journalistic crimes, New York Times.