Here is something that was utterly predictible: the allegations, aired so solemnly over the past couple of weeks, first in Haaretz and then in above-the-fold stories in the New York Times, that IDF soldiers in Gaza killed civilians in cold blood turn out to be…well, of course, fabrications. Or as they’re now being called, “hearsay” — a standard of evidence rather dubious for front-page treatment.
The JPost has a report on a soon-to-be released IDF investigation that could find no evidence to support the allegations. The controversy originates with someone named Danny Zamir, an Israeli who claimed that soldiers who had served in Gaza said in a meeting at his pre-military academy that intentional civilian killings had been perpetrated. Haaretz, acting true to form as Israel’s New York Times, promptly gave the story top billing on numerous occasions. Who is Danny Zamir? He was imprisoned by the IDF in 1990 “for refusing to guard a ceremony involving religious Jews visiting the West Bank city of Nablus.” Zamir is not a dispassionate or objective source of information — he is a political activist. That is fine, but the fact should prejudice anyone’s willingness to rely on him for sensational stories about the IDF’s conduct in war.
No matter. His claims were promptly given top billing and have had the desired effect, which is to advance the project of convincing the world that the IDF, Israel’s highest-profile institution, is composed of thugs who enjoy killing Arab women and children. There is scarcely a more effective means of encouraging a degenerate moral equivalence between Israel and its foes. Which is exactly why the allegations were made.
The JPost report quotes an unnamed IDF official’s lament:
“Unfortunately, due to competition, sections of the press picked up this story and ran with it. It is a shame the media promoted this sort of spin all over the world,” he added. … “Look at the allegation that we killed 48 civilians in a UN school in Gaza. In reality, seven people were killed, and four to five of them were terrorists. The UN apologized, but the damage is done,” the source said.
It is naive to declare astonishment at the promotion of rank hearsay in publications such as the Times. The real scandal unfortunately is the attitude of the IDF official. If he actually believes that newspapers run stories such as this one because they are in “competition” with one another, he is deluding himself. This is a problem of ideology, not journalistic rivalry.