On August 28, the New York Times published an article called: “Heavy Use of Banned Cluster Bombs Reported in Syria”, which – one would imagine – was about Syria’s use of cluster bombs. A careful reader could come away with some information about Syria’s use of bombs; but any reader would be led to conclude that Israel is the worst offender on the planet.
The tone of the article (about Syria) moves quickly against Israel from the opening paragraph:
- Cluster bombs, outlawed munitions that kill and maim indiscriminately, have caused more casualties in the Syrian civil war than in the 2006 Lebanon conflict, when Israel’s heavy use of the weapons hastened the treaty banning them two years later, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
It is true that some countries adopted a treaty on the weapons about two years after the Israel-Lebanon war. In case Israel’s usage of bombs wasn’t clear, the article elaborated on this same point a few paragraphs later:
- The [Human Rights] group’s statement said, “Already, casualties in Syria are higher than those attributed to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict that triggered global outrage and contributed to the establishment of the ban convention.”
I guess the Times wasn’t sure if people read the point at the start of the article, so it added a line about “global outrage” to underscore the world’s opinion about Israel. The Times continued:
- Israel’s military was widely criticized at home and abroad for its heavy cluster-bomb use in Lebanon, dropping HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS [CAPS ADDED]of them, containing more than 1.2 million bomblets, particularly in the final days of the 34-day conflict with Hezbollah. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a commander of the Israel Defense Forces as saying, “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.”
By this point, the Times was really rolling. It repeated the anger at Israel two more times with “widely criticized” and “we [were] monstrous”. The attribution was given not only to the general global community, but also to Israelis criticizing themselves. The negative portrayal of Israel went on:
- Jan Egeland, a Norwegian statesman and diplomat who at the time of the Lebanon conflict was the top humanitarian aid official at the United Nations, described Israel’s use of the weapons as “completely immoral.” Mr. Egeland’s criticism was widely credited with helping to galvanize the efforts to achieve a treaty two years later known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
To cap off the review of Israel, a fourth phrase “completely immoral” was given to “the top humanitarian aid official at the UN”. That totaled four attacks on Israel in an article about Syria’s use of cluster bombs. And how many negative comments were there against Syria – which was the subject of the story, and had more injuries than Israel? ZERO.
Further, the article was written in a manner that made it nearly impossible for a reader to clearly see that Israel used the weapons LEGALLY BEFORE THERE WAS ANY TREATY IN EXISTENCE. It inverted this point by repeatedly saying that Israel’s actions caused the treaty to come into existence.
The singular focus on Israel and phraseology were just the beginning of the Times’ crime creation. Crime inflation was to come.
Gross omissions from the report gave the incorrect impression that Israel was the only country that used such weapons. In fact, according to the Cluster Munitions Monitor, 22 governments used the weapons in 38 countries since World War II. Today, over 90 countries hold stockpiles of the munitions. None of those points made it into the Times’ article.
On top of the obsession, wording and lies of omission, were complete falsehoods. The “hundreds of thousands” of bombs figure attributed to Israel was over-stated by about 250 times. It took three days for the Times to post a correction noting that the correct figure “was about 1,800 bombs”.
But wait, there’s more.
- Megan Burke, another editor of the “Cluster Munition Monitor” report, said the widely accepted data for the Israel-Lebanon conflict showed 249 cluster munition casualties between July 12, 2006, and April 12, 2007. The time period goes beyond the conflict’s end to reflect the effects of the unexploded Israeli bomblets. The United Nations has said that many of the Israeli cluster bomblets in Lebanon did not explode, essentially turning them into booby traps that required an extensive cleanup operation.
A nice usage of “Israeli bomblets” twice in a single paragraph. By this point, “bomblet” is almost synonymous with Israel in the article as no other country in the article is married to the munitions in this way.
More egregious, the casualty figure is only compared to the 264 deaths in Syria until the very end of the article. If one were to read and report on the study, one would learn that the number of casualties from “Israeli bomblets” totaled 0.5% of the total casualties inflicted by cluster bombs – or roughly 1 in 200.
The article finally mentions some other countries at the end of the article – in a passive way. It notes that the number of casualties in Laos, Vietnam and Iraq was higher than in Syria today, but it does not state who the perpetrators dropping the bombs were. Maybe bombs just happen when other countries are involved; only Israel actively drops “Israeli bomblets”.
If the Times had cared to educate a reader, or if it cared to comment on a country other than Israel, it might have noted that the only country which continues to produce, export and use cluster munitions is the United States. But the goal of the Times is clearly not to educate or report facts that disrupt its Israel-bashing narrative.
It is a sad but reliable continuation of Israeli coverage by the New York Times: it creates and inflates crimes attributed to Israel. Now, it is even featured in articles about other countries, in case you missed their point elsewhere in their “news” coverage.
An article about Syria using cluster bombs in the New York Times – August 27