Let's start with a short quiz. Which of the following does the New York Times suggest is a "war crime"?

  1. Palestinians tearing down the border fence to infiltrate Israel, carrying knives and axes.
  2. Palestinians in Gaza setting firing to kibbutz wheat fields via flaming kites.
  3. Hamas terror tunnels intended for kidnappings and mass casualty attacks.

Answer: none of the above.

Amazingly, the front page of this Sunday's New York Times raises the question of "war crimes" in connection with a June 2018 Palestinian border riot. As thousands of Palestinians targeted IDF troops with burning tires and Molotov cocktails, a bullet bounced off the sand and tragically killed 20-year-old Palestinian medic Rouzan al-Najjar.

A selection of the Times’ biased reporting:

[1] Guilt by Innuendo

“The shooting appears to have been reckless at best, and possibly a war crime,” states the Times, which devoted an entire team of journalists, nearly 5,000 words, and an elaborate video recreation of the incident to (unsuccessfully) prove its case against the IDF. In the end, the Times simply lets the innuendo stand.

Media critic Ira Stoll writes:

But strip away the attempt at a dignified presentation, and the message is effectively the same as a sign scrawled by some ignorant far-left or far-right Israel-hater at some extremist Christmas-season rally – Jews, this libel goes, are guilty, blood-drenched killers…

As a reader, I want the Times to report on what happened, not on what “possibly” happened. Otherwise, there’d be no end to speculative Times articles. If ten Times journalists can’t find a genuine war crime, just “possibly” a war crime, possibly they should find something else to write about.

We mourn the death of this innocent person on the front lines of a war zone. Yet we call out the New York Times for suggesting that a bounced bullet by IDF soldiers trying their best to control violent crowds is morally equivalent to humanity’s most heinous crimes.

[2] Cycle of Violence

The Times says these Hamas-led protests are motivated by “Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip” and by Gazans’ desire to “return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

This is a gross lack of context, as nowhere does the Times’ article mention that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization whose entire raison d'etre is to destroy Israel and the Jews living there. (The video accompanying the article mentions that "breaching the fence amounted to an imminent threat to rural communities.")

No matter how frustrated Palestinians may be, promoting “Palestinian victimhood” is difficult when Hamas terrorists are deliberately targeting of innocent civilians – a “war crime” under all definitions.

“Each side is locked into a seemingly unending and insolvable cycle of violence,” is how the Times attempts to uphold the perception of Palestinian victimhood. With no moral distinction, both the Palestinians planning murderous cross-border raids, and Israeli kibbutzniks planting wheat, are thrown together into one big “cycle of violence” – two peoples locked in a dog fight, neither side right or wrong, but both leaving behind a pile of body bags.

This circular model, however, clearly belies the reality on the ground. This conflict is not between two morally equivalent forces, and there’s a simple way to prove it: If you took away all the weapons from the Palestinians, the violence would stop. If you took away all of Israel’s weapons, Israel would almost certainly cease to exist.

Instead of blindly giving equal weight to all sides, the Times should heed the words Churchill: “I refuse to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”

[3] Body Count

The Times emphasizes that in border violence “one Israeli soldier has been killed by sniper fire. The Palestinian death toll has reached 185.”

Such reporting perpetuates the infamous “body count” predilection for reporting casualties as if it were a football scorecard.

Screenshot from New York Times video report

By what absurd logic is justice and legitimacy measured by which side suffers the most casualties? Using this yardstick, the U.S. should be regarded as “immoral” for its role in the 1990 Gulf War when 100,000 Iraqis died compared to American losses of 225. And during World War II, we should have seen headlines painting the Germans – who suffered 7 million casualties – as “victims of American aggressors” who lost 6 percent of that number.

Hamas draws the IDF into confrontation, knowing that any casualties can be used to generate malicious front-page New York Times articles suggesting IDF war crimes. Even if these contemptuous labels don’t stick, the Times hands the Palestinians a PR victory by presenting a demonized image of Israel in acceptable public discourse.

[4] Women & Children

The Times reports:

With imams urging people to attend and Hamas chartering buses, crowds grew quickly. The protests became a kind of nationalist circus. Mothers brought children, vendors hawked falafel and families slept in tents.

Sorry, New York Times, this is no circus event. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar admitted that the idea of peaceful protest is a fraud. “This is not peaceful resistance,” he told Al Jazeera. “Has the option [of armed struggle] diminished? No. On the contrary, it is growing and developing. That’s clear. So when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force..."

Yet this begs the question: What are mothers and children doing in this violent fight zone in the first place?

For starters, Hamas wants them there so that terrorists can mix into the “civilian” crowd as cover for launching attacks against Israel.

Screenshot from New York Times video report

Yet there is a far more sinister purpose as well, as Sam Kiley once wrote in the London Times: “Palestinian authorities have done nothing to stop children playing with their lives. It’s the Palestinian PR strategy, and they welcome the casualties… Let's face it, dead kids make great telly.

And as Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has observed: Palestinians “put children out there on the front lines, and therefore reap a lot of sympathy when these horrible casualties take place.”

Yet the Times article entirely ignores this issue, and Palestinians rest secure in the mantle of victimhood – all the while boasting of recruiting women and children into the war effort – as one Palestinian leader explained, “Our ability to die is greater than the Israelis’ ability to go on killing us.” They then cry “victimhood” when taken at their word – a devious trick that the New York Times helps perpetuate.

For media monitors, this is not surprising. The New York Times’ shocking lack of Holocaust coverage earned the ignoble designation as the 20th century's greatest journalistic failure. And for decades, the Times has remained one of Israel’s fiercest critics. For the newspaper of record, this latest lopsided report is just another reckless arrow in the quiver.