by Shiko Behar
The otherwise simple, straightforward question raised at 3QD (“who ended the cease-fire in Gaza?”) has now also been explored by mainstream global venues, such as CNN, which no sane person can deem unfriendly to Israel. While this development perhaps merits few additional thoughts on the issue, it is important to keep sight of the whole situation at stake: the question raised vis-à-vis the NYT is certainly intriguing – and might even help some to better understand tendencies in Israel/Palestine news coverage; yet its importance significantly pales amid Gaza’s more recent developments. Of these, foremost are the horrific civilian deaths. Bearing this in mind, I still feel some urge to verbalize the one main issue that a week ago transformed me into an irksome-nerd unearthing the sequence of events producing the breakup of the short-lived Israel/Hamas cease-fire: this issue was, and remains, the arrogance and pompousness of the NYT editors who – in what appears to be a rather majestic sloppiness – have propagated what was supposed to be an informed and important editorial into one devoid of the most basic properties it should (and must) have embodied: critical skepticism, and modesty and humbleness, on the on hand, and minimal journalistic balance, on the other.
It is difficult to tolerate any individual who pompously presents fallacies as facts, and does so without even a symbolic blinking or sober awareness of the gravity and magnitude of the deadly issues at stake. More troubling in this respect are individuals who are unwilling to recognize an error and correct it, let alone a fundamental one. Such immature, stubborn refusals become all the more annoying in cases where the error is nothing more than countless other errors that all humans occasionally commit. That, unfortunately, does not seem to be the case with the recent error by the NYT editors: they seem needlessly chauvinist, arrogant machos who apparently prefer not to budge from what after only five days looks like a pathetic text commencing with the (by now) immortal phrase “Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month cease-fire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory.” George Orwell wouldn’t have been able to put this better.
It is precisely the absence of a simple correction that prompted me to waste even more time than I already have on this nonsense. Upon further research I was able to find for the NYT one additional view that can perhaps shed brighter light on the “who-ended-the-cease-fire” question. The single most supreme and authoritative Israeli body that deals with issues of terror and security is the Israeli Security Agency (ISA); it is also known in Hebrew (and colloquial English) as the Shabak (or the Shin Bet). Like deadly punctual state organs in every country, the Shabak too publishes every single week an update called “Terror Data and Trends.” Here is what the Shabak’s November 6, 2008 report had to say about that month’s first week (and, by proxy, perhaps also about the NYT/cease-fire question):
This week there was a sharp increase in the number of high trajectory weapon attacks (rockets/mortars) from the Gaza Strip into Israel, including towards Ashkelon. This was preceded by an ISA-IDF operation on the evening between November 4th and 5th, which exposed a tunnel ready for use, which was intended for the purpose of a large terror attack within Israel. This Israeli activity was undertaken in order to deal with an impending and urgent threat, and thus was not a rupture of the “Lull.”
Understandably, this specific weekly report by the Shabak does not find it necessary to mention that the organization’s joint operation with the Israeli army took place inside the (still Israeli occupied) Gaza strip, nor that the deliberate, planned incursion resulted in at least six Palestinians killed and at least four other wounded, civilians included.
[A side-note: in this weekly report the Shabak, rather predictably, does not explore the built-in tautology of justifying deadly invading acts now based on a real or imagined scenario in the unknown, speculative future. This generally seems like a rather slippery slope method that could have been principally used by the Hamas as well (and one might wonder what would have then been the NYT report on such act). Likewise, the Shabak report chose to avoid exploring whether there were countless alternative – and possibly better – ways/practical-means to address its security concerns. Interesting as these two issues may or may not be, they remain exogenous to the single one highlighted here].
Unlike the above-cited HTML version of the Shabak’s weekly report – its PDF version is considerably more substantial and also includes tables that graphically document and illustrate the events that took place during every week – including their frequency and effects. Careful, dispassionate scrutiny of these Shabak tables (that any reader can do herself) demonstrates that the June-to-November Gaza cease-fire (i) was stringently kept by Hamas and that (ii) civilians in Southern Israel during these (all-too-brief) months enjoyed the peaceful calm they have always craved-for. For better or worse, nothing that can be remotely described as “calm” took place during these very same months within the internationally-boycotted as well as Israeli-occupied Gaza. Note in addition that 16 Israeli civilians were killed during the past 8 years by the unlawful, reckless Kasam rockets and that during the same period (for example) some 3000 Israelis were killed in car accidents; Israelis are yet to witness a comprehensive state-level plan to courageously combat car accidents.
Lastly, the Shabak weekly report from early November mysteriously did not leave a single dent on its Annual Report for 2008 (released this week) that can be found in Hebrew here. Possibly inspired by the journalistic standards of the NYT’s editorial board – the Shabak’s annual report rather calculatedly circumvents (hence downplays/conceals) the early November sequence of events that led to the present deadly outcome. While the English version of this 2008 annual report is regrettably unavailable – when (and if) it will be available readers shouldbe able to locate it here.
To sum up, if the NYT editors wish to investigate more rigorously than before how the cease-fire ended, then they can consider consulting the online weekly reports by the Israeli Shabak. (But then again perhaps the Shabak too is anti-Israel).
Shiko Behar is a friend of 3QD and presently a melancholic Israeli citizen.