Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Keep it truthful

You really hate to nitpick about these kinds of things, because the destruction and suffering in both Lebanon and Israel are serious and real. But if it really wants to be honest, the NYT either has to avoid this claim or substantiate it:

In Srifa, a neighborhood was wiped out — 15 houses flattened; 21 people killed and 30 wounded — in an Israeli airstrike. The town’s mayor, Afif Najdi, called it a massacre.
Ok, I understand the massacre claim. It's a statement made by the mayor of a town that has experienced an aerial attack. Now, I don't think it was a "massacre," and many (if not most) fair-minded people would agree that it was not a massacre. But the question of what constitutes a massacre is subjective and tricky, and the paper isn't making the claim - it's simply reporting the claim made by someone who witnessed the attack.

But the contention of the first sentence seems to be almost self-contradictory. A neighborhood was supposedly "wiped out." Wiped out. That's pretty bad. Sounds like everything in the neighborhood was destroyed, right? Well, not unless it's a really small neighborhood; as the sentence continues, "15 houses flattened; 21 people killed and 30 wounded." I suppose it's theoretically possible that there were only 15 houses and 51 people in the neighborhood prior to the Israeli assault, but if that's the case, the paper is dutybound to report this fact. What seems more likely is that there were scores, (probably hundreds, if not thousands,) of homes and people in Srifa and the claim is exaggerated - Srifa was not "wiped out" The problem is that, this time, it is the NYT itself that makes the claim.

Yeah, I know, it's still bad, and for the people who lost their homes, there is little solace that only a small percentage of the town (rather than the whole) has been destroyed. But the Times and the media are supposed to report facts, not exaggerate them. Words have meaning, and "wiped out" means something far more serious than damage of fifteen homes and fifty people. Merriam Webster Online, for instance, defines it, "to destroy completely" or "annihilate."

I'm not alleging any sort of anti-Semitic conspiracy, but it is interesting to note that the same sort of exaggerated claims were popularized by Palestinian spokesmen back in 2002, when Israel struck the Jenin refugee camp:

A. Jenin – what was destroyed?
One of the false contentions repeated by Palestinian spokesmen between March 29 and April 21, 2002, concerned the extent of the damage to the Jenin refugee camp that resulted from the battle in the camp between Israeli soldiers and armed Palestinian forces. During and immediately following the battle at Jenin, Palestinian spokesmen stated, again and again – falsely, each time – that Israel was about to destroy or had already destroyed the entire refugee camp:
a. At a meeting of the Arab League, Nabil Sha'ath declared that Israeli “soldiers had received orders from the Israeli army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz for the complete destruction of Jenin…”(Deutsche Presse-Agentur, April 6)
b. Also on April 6, Hassan Abdel Rahman told CNN that Israel was performing “blanket bombing today of the cities of Nablus and Jenin, and it is on television.” [The U.S. Department of Defense defines “carpet bombing” (synonymous with “blanket bombing”) as “The progressive distribution of a mass bomb load upon an area defined by designated boundaries, in such manner as to inflict damage to all portions thereof.”]
c. A few days later, Saeb Erekat told CNN’s Jim Clancy, “You know, the Jenin refugee camp is no longer in existence…”
d. Erekat repeated the charge one week later to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, stating: “There is no longer a refugee camp there. And maybe the [Israeli] defense minister and the prime minister of Israel want to deny what CNN is showing, that the camp was totally destroyed.” (April 17)

In response to these Palestinian allegations, Israeli officials contended that only a small percentage of the Jenin refugee camp had been destroyed. The Israelis later backed up their claim with a set of “before-and-after” satellite photographs of Jenin, which clearly demonstrated that only about ten percent of the refugee camp had been destroyed during Operation Defensive Shield. Since that time, Palestinian spokesmen have ceased their proclamations of Jenin’s total destruction, but they have yet to publicly acknowledge the falsity of their previous statements.

2 Comments:

Blogger Danny the Manny said...

Stop it. Just stop it. You had me at "I suppose it's theoretically possible that there were only 15 houses and 51 people in the neighborhood prior to the Israeli assault."

11:59 AM  
Blogger Kraut said...

ha, thanks for the support

2:46 PM  

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