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The Israeli Government’s War Aims: The New York Times versus Israeli Officials’ Own Words

U.S. capitalist media, including the foremost liberal platforms, assert that Israel has been waging war in Gaza for self defense. But Israeli officials have said otherwise.

Daniel Nath

November 10, 2023
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Protesters outside the NYT headquarters in New York, holding a sign that reads "The New York Crimes."

U.S. capitalist media, led by the New York Times, unanimously assert Israel has been waging war in Gaza for self defense since October 7. They also suggest Israel is a superior humane and democratic culture and society. Meanwhile, they ignore far-reaching, blunt, and incredibly oppressive statements by Israeli officials that their government is pursuing a war of generalized revenge, conquest, and ethnic cleansing. This pretense is motivated, like their contempt for the Palestinians being massacred, by their support for use of the Zionist state as a valuable military asset of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

On October 7, Hamas forces broke through the barbed wire fence surrounding Gaza and attacked both Israeli army positions and towns, kibbutzim, houses, and other targets of the civilian population on the other side of the fence, including an outdoor rave concert. Attacking residential areas, these forces killed men, women, and children, including people inside their homes and workers in civilian occupations.

The Israeli government has counted approximately 1,400 people killed in the October 7 attack. According to the Times of Israel, approximately 300 of those Israelis killed are acknowledged to be soldiers, and more than 50 of those killed were police. Two Israeli civilians — Yasmin Porat, who was released by a Hamas soldier who surrendered, and a man named Tuval, whose partner was killed while he was away from home — have reported in the Israeli press that at Kibbutz Be’eri, where at least 112 Israeli residents were killed, Israeli troops fired overwhelmingly at Hamas fighters and civilian hostages they were holding. According to the Haaretz reporter who interviewed Tuval, this included “shelling houses with all their occupants inside.”

Joe Biden repeated the Israeli government’s claims that the Hamas forces beheaded Israeli children and that he had seen photographic proof, but the White House retracted this claim, admitting it had no evidence. 

On October 10, PBS News Hour ran a very short TV interview with Raz Cohen, a man who survived the attack on the Nova rave. Cohen said that the Hamas attackers committed mass rape of women. The conservative magazine Tablet alleged the same thing on October 8, citing an interview with an unnamed Nova survivor and photos of hostages that it said were “released online.” However, journalist Arno Rosenfeld reported, “the Israel Defense Forces told the Forward [on October 10] that it does not yet have any evidence of rape having occurred during Saturday’s attack.” Yet Joe Biden publicly alleged such crimes on October 10 based solely on a phone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since then, the Israeli military has endorsed these allegations but has not corroborated them.

The New York Times Editorial Board, in their October 14 declaration of support for the Israeli state’s war mixed with purported humanitarian concern and caution for Palestinian civilians, repeated this claim, citing directly, and solely, the Cohen PBS interview. 

But what else did this individual Nova survivor say on air that might affect his credibility? The PBS interviewer said, “You’re a soldier. You have fought. Have you ever seen anything like this?” and noted that Cohen was to be immediately called up, as a reservist, for war service. Cohen responded, “I think that I need … revenge,” and, “after this, Gaza don’t continue be on the map of Israel.” The presenter did not express surprise or condemn this call to conquer, expel, and/or kill 2.2 million Palestinians of all ages and genders and possibly annex the territory. Instead he told viewers, “Israel’s government vows that revenge will — quote — ‘reverberate for generations.’” 

The decisive liberal bourgeois U.S. news organizations have dealt in silence and evasion and open or concealed sympathy with public demands for ultra-nationalist revenge by the Israeli state against the entire population of Gaza — who the Israeli government is now physically starving of water, food, antibiotics, and anesthesia drugs. So far, they have bombed Gaza with approximately 40 million pounds of U.S. bombs in more than 12,000 locations.

The Zionist state has universal, mandatory military service for all Jewish (but not Palestinian) citizens (except for ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are exempted). At the age of 18, young men are conscripted into military service for 32 months and young women for 24 months. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are not drafted to the IDF. The Israeli state has attempted during the last decade to persuade more Arab Israelis to join voluntarily, but as the BBC reported in 2016, “Twenty percent of Israel’s population is Arab but only about 1% of them serve in the army.” The tiny proportion of Arab IDF soldiers are kept apart from Jewish IDF soldiers and used in segregated military units such as the Gadsar unit, overseen by a body named the IDF Minorities Unit. Reuters reports that after conscription as young adults, most Israeli soldiers “can be called up to reserve units until the age of 40.”

Israel is objectively the most militarized society in the world, with 169,500 active and 465,000 reserve soldiers (a majority of whom have now been mobilized) out of a population of approximately 7 million Jewish Israelis. (There are approximately 7.5 million Palestinians within Palestine, according to Haifa University geographer Arnon Soffer). It bears a strong resemblance to the pre-1870 frontier regions of the United States, where the general white male population was often organized in territorial militias directed against Native Americans and to pre-1994 South Africa with its white military and draft. Israel possesses approximately 2200 tanks and several hundred advanced U.S. fighter jets.

On October 14, the New York Times ran the headline “Israel is fighting to defend a society that values human life” on its online front page, as the title of an Opinion statement by its Editorial Board. But the article itself carries a different headline: “Israel can defend itself and uphold Its values.” The first headline is unacknowledged, although the same phrasing appears within the text. The editorial gives very mildly critical support to Israel’s order to the 1.1 million people of the northern half of the Gaza Strip to abandon their homes and transfer south. The Editors then called on the Israeli government to “take steps to ensure the safety of journalists and humanitarian workers in the conflict zone.” The online editorial appears with a picture of a Palestinian mother carrying her toddler on an empty black background, being shielded from above by a huge five-foot long blue cartoon magical hand of benevolence.

The Editorial Board’s message is profoundly ambiguous. Are the Editors asserting that Israel has not committed, does not, and will not commit war crimes, including massacring civilians? Or are they reporting that there are actual or potential conflicts happening within the Israeli state or between the Israeli government and parts of Israeli civil society over whether to use indiscriminate killing? The Editors’ answer is an intentionally indeterminate moving target. The leading U.S. newspaper revealed a policy of combining preaching, wishful thinking, and hypocritical support for the imperialist participation of the Biden administration in the Israeli war:

Israel has a responsibility to its citizens to hold accountable the perpetrators of this violence, but as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week, ‘How Israel does this matters.’ … What Israel is fighting to defend is a society that values human life and the rule of law. To do that, the means and the ends of its military response must be consistent. Israel’s goal is to destroy Hamas; in doing that, it should not lose sight of its commitment to safeguard those who have not taken up arms.

On November 3, the Times reported that it had forced staff writer Jazmine Hughes to resign from her job with the NY Times Magazine because she signed a public letter of writers who denounced the Israeli war as genocidal and called Israel an apartheid state. Hughes’ boss at the Times sent an email to the newspaper’s staff declaring she had violated “The Times’s policy on public protest” and therefore could not be “independent” in her journalism, as the Times promises to be, “and we both came to the conclusion that she should resign.”

The most important liberal newspaper in the Western world’s war reporting is based on divorcing promises and stories from physical and political reality. The stance of the Times cannot be squared at all with events — or with the statements of members of the Israeli government. Its policy is only explicable as aimed at shoring up (by whatever means necessary) support for the Israeli war and its arming by the U.S. government within the U.S. population, specifically from liberal directions.

On October 24, the Times captioned a photo of a crowd of men in T-shirts searching through rubble in the middle of multiple residential apartment towers: “Israel accelerated its bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza in the past 24 hours,” before writing on another picture of a bombed out multi-story building with men and boys in T-shirts searching the rubble: “The Hamas-run health ministry said that 704 people were killed in the attacks.”

This is not a war of self defense. Israel has blockaded the land borders and the seacoast of a native reservation three-fifths the area of Chicago for 16 years, controlling travel, visitors, and imports including food (and now medicine) for 2.2 million people. Two fifths of the ten thousand people Israel has killed by bombing are children. One quarter of the victims are women. An unknown but certainly tiny percentage of those killed by Israeli bombing are Hamas soldiers.

The Times, like most major U.S. media, has zero reporters inside Gaza. The Israeli military bombed the house where the family of Wael Dahdouh, the Palestinian lead journalist of Al Jazeera inside Gaza, was staying after fleeing their home, killing his wife, two young children, and grandson, and 21 other refugees. Four days later, Mr. Dahdouh returned to reporting, telling viewers, “I felt that it was my duty, despite the pain and the open wound, to get back in front of the camera, and to communicate with you.” 

On November 2, Palestine TV journalist Mohammed Abu Hatab and 11 members of his family were killed by the aerial bombing of their house in Khan Younis in the far south of the Gaza Strip. The Times report of this bombing simply says that they “were killed,” without saying by whom. It quotes a statement by the IDF denying that they bombed that location at that time. Israel has killed approximately 30 Palestinian journalists in Gaza. The Israeli government responded to a request by Reuters and Agence France Presse that it promise not to knowingly strike their journalists by saying, “The IDF is targeting all Hamas military activity throughout Gaza … Under these circumstances, we cannot guarantee your employees’ safety, and strongly urge you to take all necessary measures for their safety.”

The U.S. media is reporting on the war from safety — in Israel. That is their choice. But they should announce it immediately before every statement they make about who they say the Israeli government is targeting.

Lacking eyewitness war reporting, their own photojournalism, and in-person interviews with Palestinians in Gaza, U.S. media could make use of public statements from Israeli government officials as another source of information. These are most compelling when officials concede or admit to negative things their government is doing, as opposed to when they provide unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims about positive actions. Below are reproduced a series of such statements.

*

Prologue: recent years

“We need to exploit the situation of separation created between Gaza and Ramallah [the capital of the Palestinian Authority sub-administration in the occupied West Bank]. It’s an Israeli interest of the highest level, and you can’t understand the situation in Gaza without understanding this context.”

General Gershon Hacohen, May 2019 press interview, supporting Netanyahu policy

Source: Haaretz (Oct. 20)

““My right, the right of my wife and my children to move around Judea and Samaria [biblical names for the West Bank territory] is more important than freedom of movement for the Arabs …. Sorry Mohammad, but that’s the reality.”
Itamar Ben-Gvir, National Security Minister, leader of the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) political party, Israel Channel 12, selectively addressing Palestinian-Israeli news anchor Mohammad Magadli, August 2023 

Source: Haaretz (Aug. 24)

October 2023 Israeli Government sources:

“The attacks in Gaza will be executed even at the price of harming the Israeli hostages unless there’s precise intel on their location.”

Army Radio, October 9, quoted by anti-Zionist Israeli journalist Jonathon Ofir

Source: Mondoweiss (Oct. 15)

“Kidnapping, abusing and murdering children, women and elderly people is not human. There is no justification for that. Hamas has turned into ISIS, and the residents of Gaza, instead of being appalled, are celebrating. Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water, there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

Major General Ghassan Alian, head of COGAT, the Israeli military body which governs the West Bank and controls movement in and out of Gaza, October 10, video statement

Source: Times of Israel (Oct. 10)

“The emphasis is on damage, not on precision.”

Daniel Hagari, military spokesperson, October 10

Source: Haaretz (Oct. 11)

“The State of Israel has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in … Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal … Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist … The entire population of Gaza will either move to Egypt or move to the Gulf. From our perspective, every building in Gaza known to have Hamas headquarters underneath, including schools and hospitals, is considered a military target … Every vehicle in Gaza is considered a military vehicle transporting combatants … it does not matter whether it is transporting water or other critical supplies.”

Giora Eiland, retired general and 2004-2006 National Security Council head, writing in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, October 10, October 12

Sources: NY Times (Oct. 15); Ynet News (Oct. 10 and 12)

“It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat [sic. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election. Israel and the U.S. overturned the results.] … No, I didn’t say that [to journalist’s question if therefore Gaza civilians are legitimate targets] … When you have a missile in your goddamn kitchen and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself? … Of course there are many, many innocent Palestinians who don’t agree to this — but unfortunately in their homes, there are missiles shooting at us, at my children.”
Isaac Herzog, president, October 13, press conference

Source: HuffPost (Oct. 13)

“Option C: The evacuation of the civilian population from Gaza to Sinai … Option C – The option that will yield positive, long-term strategic outcomes for Israel, and is an executable option. It requires determination from the political echelon in the face of international pressure, with an emphasis on harnessing the support of the United States And additional pro-Israeli countries … tent cities will be established in the area of Sinai … A sterile zone of several kilometers should be created within Egypt …. In the first stage, operations from the air with a focus on the north of Gaza … In the second stage, a gradual ground invasion of the territory in the north and along the border until the occupation of the entire Strip … Dedicated campaign for Gaza residents themselves to motivate them to accept this plan — the messages should revolve around the loss of land, making it clear that there is no hope of returning to the territories Israel will soon occupy, whether or not that is true.”

Ministry of Intelligence, Policy Department, October 13, proposal paper

Source: +972 Magazine (Oct. 30)

“There is a need for an immediate, viable plan for the resettlement and economic rehabilitation of the entire Arab population in the Gaza Strip, which sits well with the geopolitical interests of Israel, Egypt, U.S.A. and Saudi Arabia … In 2017 it was reported that in Egypt there were 10 million available apartment units … The investment of a mere few billions of dollars (even if it is $20 or 30 billion) in order to solve this difficult issue is an innovative, cheap and viable solution … in order for this plan to be enacted, many conditions need to exist in parallel. At the moment, these conditions exist, and it is unclear when such an opportunity will arise again”

Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy, a military think tank which includes two former Defense Ministers and is headed by a former National Security Advisor, published paper, October 17

Source: Mondoweiss (Oct. 23)

“Whoever wants to be a citizen of Israel, ahlan wa sahlan [welcome]. Anyone who wants to identify with Gaza is welcome—I’ll put them on buses that will send them there”

Yaakov Shabtai, national head of police, video statement to Palestinian Israeli citizens posted via the Israeli national police Arabic language social media account, October 18, after the police banned and repressed a demonstration of solidarity with the people of Gaza in Haifa

Source: Jewish News Syndicate (Oct. 19)

“We will continue to attack the Gaza City area more vigorously, and increase the attacks … Every building we strike in Gaza is a building from which Hamas operates … [Hamas] does it on purpose so that we destroy buildings.”

Daniel Hagari, military spokesperson, press conference, October 21

Source: Haaretz (Oct. 21)

“If the international media is objective and shows both sides, it serves Hamas … I have no problem with criticism of Israel. But when you know that one side lies and one side makes every effort to verify the facts, the least we can expect is that you don’t give a never-ending platform to the lies.”

Yair Lapid, former prime minister, press conference, October 22

Source: Middle East Monitor (Oct. 25)

“I’m very puzzled by the constant concern which the world, and also Britain … is showing for the Palestinian people and is actually showing for these horrible inhuman animals who have done the worst atrocities that this century has seen … I mean, you know, when the United States reacted to 9/11, I don’t remember people shedding tears for the Taliban or Al Qaeda … When Ukrainians reacted to Russia’s invasion, I don’t remember people worrying about the poor Russian soldiers and whether they had enough food.” 

Dan Gillerman, former ambassador to the United Nations, 2003-2008, speaking on Sky News TV (Britain), October 25

Source: TV interview video, reposted, Al Arabiya News

“All Hamas activists must die … Hamas is ISIS …. Our war against Hamas is a test for all of humanity. It is a struggle between the axis of evil of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas and the axis of freedom and progress … We are the people of the light, they are the people of darkness and light shall triumph over darkness … We all will have to provide answers to what happened on Oct. 7, myself included – but only after the war … It is now a time to come together for one purpose, to storm ahead and achieve victory with joint forces in a profound belief in our justice, a profound belief in the eternity of the Jewish people, we shall realize the prophecy of Isaiah.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, speech, October 25

Source: Real Clear Politics (Oct. 25)

“…the war should end with Israeli control of Gaza … As soon as we give them humanitarian aid as we are doing now – we are failing at international advocacy and giving them more air to breathe. We need to defeat them and have them coming and begging us … why give them humanitarian aid and encourage other terrorists to see that we are not decisive enough? We need to wipe them out and I hear this from the right and the left. We must understand that the rules of the game have changed – and if we don’t understand this very soon – things will spread throughout the country … We must get out of the damned Oslo illusion [that is, the “two state solution” of 1993] and the damned Disengagement [from Gaza of 2005] … In my opinion, we should return to Gush Katif [pre-2005 settlement territory inside the Gaza Strip]. Gaza will not rise again. Because if that happens, we will encounter the same situation in Lebanon, Judea and Samaria, and among the Israeli Arabs. We must know how to eradicate the cancer of the Muslim Nazis – otherwise we are inviting more rounds of violence”

Amichai Eliyahu, Heritage Minister, October 25, TV interview

Source: Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) (Oct. 25)

“You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our holy Bible. And we do remember. And we are fighting. Our brave troops and combatants who are now in Gaza or around Gaza and in all other regions in Israel are joining this chain of Jewish heroes, a chain that has started 3,000 years ago from Joshua [ ] until the heroes of 1948, the Six Day War, the ‘73 October War, and all other wars in this country.” [In the biblical stories in the books of Deuteronomy and Samuel, the Amalekites are a tribe who fight with the biblical Israelites, and God orders King Saul to carry out complete genocide of their entire population.]
Benjamin Netanyahu, speech, October 28

Source: Middle East Monitor (Oct. 29)

“We are not taking any chances. When our soldiers are maneuvering we are doing this with massive artillery, with 50 airplanes overhead destroying anything that moves.”

Amir Avivi, former deputy commander, Israeli army Gaza Division, reported October 29

Source: Financial Times (Oct. 29)

“Essentially today there is a northern Gaza and a southern Gaza.”

Daniel Hagari, military spokesperson, November 5

Source: New York Times (Nov. 6)

“So if Gaza is full of refugees, let’s disperse them around the world. Let’s spread them across the globe. There are 2.5 million people there. If each country takes in 20,000 individuals, that would involve 100 countries. It’s a humane and reasonable proposition, considering they are refugees.”

Ram Ben Barak, former deputy director of Mossad and current Knesset member, TV interview on Israel Channel 12, November 4

Source: Middle East Monitor (Nov. 6)

Post-Script: statements by President Joe Biden and V.P. Kamala Harris

“If we look at the Middle East, I think it’s about time we stop … apologizing for our support for Israel. There’s no apology to be made! None! It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region.”

Joe Biden, 1986, U.S. Senate, during debate over arming Saudi Arabia

Source: C-Span video

“…I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war …. [The] Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that (are) propagating this war against Israel. And it’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen. But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”

Joe Biden, October 25, White House press conference

Source: Reuters (Oct. 25)

“We are not going to create any conditions on the support that we are giving Israel to defend itself. We are going to continue to stand with Israel’s right to defend itself and, let’s be clear and never forget what happened on October 7, where hundreds, thousands, 1,400 innocent people were killed, slaughtered.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, at the A.I. Safety Summit in Britain, November 2

Source: Reuters (Nov. 2)

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Daniel Nath

Daniel is a political writer, lives in the Midwest, and is forklift certified. He has covered topics including police crimes, borders, and why unions can't be apolitical

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