As Israel "assaulted" Hamas positions in Gaza with a ground offensive following an aerial bombardment, the New York Times's dispatches over the weekend began to slant toward pro-Palestinian sympathy, reminiscent of its biased coverage of Israel's attack on the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Ray Rivera attended a Times Square anti-Israel demonstration on Saturday that was filled with left-wing protestors. Yet no trace of that ideology made it into his Sunday story, "Rally Protests Fighting in Gaza -- Pro-Palestinian Crowd Marches to Israel Consulate." The text box claimed: "Across Seventh Avenue, others vent their anger at Hamas." As if the anti-Israeli protestors weren't showing anger toward the entire nation of Israel.
Anger over the Israeli assault on Gaza spilled into Times Square on Saturday, as hundreds of protesters condemned the attacks in a demonstration that stretched four blocks and clogged much of the city's central tourist district for several hours.
The protest came as Israeli troops began a ground incursion into the Hamas-controlled territory in what officials described as an effort to end Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel. The land campaign followed eight days of Israeli airstrikes that have killed more than 430 Palestinians, many of them civilians.
Demonstrators waved signs that read "Stop Massacres in Gaza" and "End the Siege." Speakers led the crowd in chants of "Free, free Palestine." The protest was made up predominantly of people of Middle Eastern or Arab descent, but also included Jewish groups, students and others who support an independent Palestinian state. Many, whether Palestinian or not, wore black-and-white kaffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarf, and waved Palestinian flags.
Rivera didn't comment on another kind of sign seen in the story's photo, basically calling for genocide against Israelis: "Free Palestine From the River To the Sea," or the posters featuring the logo of the International Action Center, a Maoist group. Photos posted at the Atlas Shrugs blog give a more accurate flavor of the hateful tone of the protestors.
Sunday's lead "news analysis" by Ethan Bronner from the Israel-Gaza border, "Is Real Target Hamas Rule?" was a one-sided look at the suffering of the Palestinians, accompanied by almost no questioning of the responsibility of Hamas, which continues to target Israeli citizens with rockets while putting its own citizens in danger from Israeli counterattacks.
As Israel's tanks and troops poured into Gaza on Saturday, the next phase in its fierce attempt to end rocket attacks, a question hung over the operation: can the rockets really be stopped for any length of time while Hamas remains in power in Gaza?
And if the answer is determined to be no, then is the real aim of the operation to remove Hamas entirely, no matter the cost?
Any potential truce deal would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which is Hamas's central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing. To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas, Israeli leaders say, would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair.
Yet in its campaign so far, which has killed scores of children and other bystanders, Israel has not spared the trappings of Hamas sovereignty or limited itself to military targets. It says that the mosques it has destroyed were weapons storehouses and that the Islamic University, which it has hit repeatedly, housed explosives factories. But it has also reduced many government buildings to rubble without any claim that they were military in nature.
"The government buildings are a place where financial, logistical and human resources serve to support terror," said Capt. Benjamin Rutland, a spokesman for the Israeli military. "Much of the government is involved in the active support and planning of terror."
Taken together, it suggests that even if Israel intends to hold back from completely overthrowing Hamas, its choice of assault tactics could head that way anyway. And the Israelis may already be facing a kind of mission creep: after all, if enough of Hamas's infrastructure is destroyed, the prospect of governing Gaza, a densely populated, refugee-filled area whose weak economy has been devastated by the Israeli-led boycott, will be exceedingly difficult.
In the background, too, is broad international criticism of this war on Gaza, not only because of the unspeakable suffering seen on television screens but also because of a feeling that Israel has tried such tactics in the past and never succeeded.
And Monday's lead story by Taghreed El-Khodary from Gaza tightened the focus on the victims of Israel's "air assault," "Hospital Fills Up, Mainly with Civilians." From the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, El-Khodary claimed:
The scene on Sunday at the hospital, a singular and grisly reflection of the violence around it, was both harrowing and puzzling. A week ago, when Israel began its air assault, hundreds of Hamas militants were taken to the hospital. Yet on Sunday, the day Israeli troops flooded Gaza and ground battles with Hamas began, there appeared not to be a single one.
Not a single militant? Really? The Camera blog "Snapshots" begged to differ. Contributor "TS" found an Associated Press photo with this caption:
Palestinians carry a militant, injured during an Israeli army operation in Gaza, into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009. Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early Sunday, bisecting the coastal territory and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas gained momentum.