Commentary Magazine


The Times’ Flotilla of Moral Equivalence

In today’s Sunday New York Times, Jerusalem Bureau chief Ethan Bronner attempts to unravel what he considers a sea of spin about the Gaza flotilla being organized in Greece. Following the model of moral equivalence that has guided virtually all coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict in recent decades, the conceit of his piece in the paper’s Sunday Review is that both Israel and the flotilla organizers are attempting to manipulate the narrative of the dispute through spin.

Bronner takes a plague on both your houses approach to both sides. Arabs claim Gaza is starving and the flotilla is analogous to Jewish refugee ships that tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in the 1940s. Israelis claim the flotilla is a plot to destroy their country when all it is is a bunch of middle-aged pacifists trying to do good. According to Bronner’s version of events, all are equally wrong and therefore equally responsible not only for the standoff over Gaza but for the worsening of the conflict.

Such a stance allows the Times to assume a pose of Olympian detachment about the war on Israel–something Bronner and the paper clearly thinks is more important than actually telling the truth about the situation.

Gaza needs no humanitarian aid. It doesn’t now, as Bronner concedes, and it didn’t a year ago before the fatal clashes on a similar flotilla led to further easing of restrictions on goods allowed into Hamas-ruled Gaza. The only purpose of the flotilla is political. Breaking the blockade means breaking the international isolation of the Hamas government of Gaza. Doing this strengthens a tyrannical Islamist terrorist movement that governs Gaza with an iron fist. Anyone who aids Hamas in this matter is taking a stand on that group’s ongoing war on Israel via murder and kidnapping. If, as Bronner asserts, Gaza is a “sad and deprived place,” the blame should be laid at the feet of its rulers, not Israel.

Bronner concludes by saying Israelis are misinterpreting the flotilla as “an attack on its essence” rather than mere criticism of government policies. But this charge, in which, unbelievably, besieged democratic Israel is compared to the Soviet Union, is an absurd distortion of the truth.

The Arab analogies to the 1947 Jewish refugee ship Exodus are a specious attempt to steal and distort history. Bronner quotes a leftist Israeli as saying the flotilla is trying to make the same point as those who were trying to thwart British attempts to stifle Zionism. But this is a lie. In 1947, the Jews were fighting for survival, not trying to destroy the Arabs. Hamas, aided by its foreign cheerleaders, is waging war on the one Jewish state in the world in order to replace it with one more Arab majority country. How can anyone view an attempt to aid Hamas as mere political criticism rather than support for that war?

Efforts aimed at delegitimizing Israel through deceitful exercises such as the “aid” flotilla for Gaza are part of this war. The only way to describe reporting that treats Israel’s attempts to defend itself against Hamas and its propaganda as morally equivalent to the assault on the country is exactly the same word Bronner uses to describe the back and forth between the antagonists: mendacity.

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