New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger was shocked, shocked by pro-Israel bias from the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in “Israel is on the Side of God,’ Declares U.S. Ambassador.” The text box to Wednesday’s story: “Many are left slack-jawed by a brazen show of bias.”
Speaking of being left slack-jawed by bias...has Halbfinger read his own material lately? As Hamas rockets rain down on Israeli civilians in May, Halbfinger devoted his reporting to shielding Hamas from criticism and excusing their violence as “impatience” with Israel.
HIs Wednesday story opened with shock and alarm (click “expand”):
The United States ambassador to Israel, a driving force in crafting the Trump administration’s long-awaited proposal to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declared Tuesday that Israel was “on the side of God.”
Speaking at a celebration sponsored by an American evangelical group to mark the anniversary of the move of the United States embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Ambassador David M. Friedman said that Israel was gaining strength for two reasons.
First, he said, the relationship between the two countries was growing “stronger and stronger and stronger.”
“And the second is that Israel has one secret weapon that not too many countries have,” Mr. Friedman added. “Israel is on the side of God, and we don’t underestimate that.”
The remark reflected a common belief among evangelical Christians, but was also the latest sign of an anything but evenhanded approach to the conflict by the Trump administration.
In addition to moving the embassy to Jerusalem, a move seen as partial to Israel in the dispute over the city’s sovereignty, the administration has made deep cuts in aid to the Palestinians and stopped referring to the West Bank as “occupied.”
Still, the remark set off new howls of criticism, with Palestinians complaining that Mr. Friedman was representing the interests of Israel’s right-wing government more than those of the United States. Even one of Mr. Friedman’s predecessors called the statement out of bounds.
Palestinians were slack-jawed.
No one has accused Mr. Friedman, who was Mr. Trump’s longtime bankruptcy lawyer, of impartiality in his post, or even of the studied neutrality of career diplomats. Before being appointed he was a prominent supporter of and major donor to the Israeli settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal under international law.
Halbfinger characterized Israeli soldiers as killers for defending its border during the May 2018 “demonstrations” (that included explosives, flaming kites and rushing the border fence in an attempt at mass invasion):
He acknowledged that “there was violence that day in Gaza” -- where Israeli soldiers killed about 60 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence -- but said it had “nothing to do with the opening of the embassy.”
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) pointed out Halbfinger’s consistently anti-Israel narrative in his reports on the recent Palestinian-instigated violence, as in this May 7 story:
Hamas, which sought and apparently received renewed assurances of a loosening of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, gets to show skeptical, impoverished Gaza residents that its strategy of armed resistance is working....The relationship between Hamas and Israel is adversarial, to be sure: always bumpy, frequently deadly and fraught with risk that it could spiral into a protracted ground conflict, whether from a stray rocket that kills too many innocents or a shift in the political calculus on either side.
How many innocents is too many for Halbfinger?
Next, he deployed the mother of all euphemisms to describe the war crimes of Hamas:
But at other times, it can express its impatience with weapons. The weekend’s violence may have been fueled by a delay in the arrival of millions of dollars in Qatari cash to help pay the salaries of Gaza workers and by a perception that Israel was not following through quickly enough on other promises.
A day before, Halbfinger had teamed with Isabel Kershner in “After Intense Fighting in Gaza, Israel and Palestinians Observe Ceasefire,” and made startling excuses for Hamas terrorism:
Fighting between Israel and Gaza escalated rapidly....with Palestinian rocket and missile attacks killing four Israeli civilians and Israeli forces taking aim at individual Gaza militants.....The outbreak of violence appears to have begun on Friday, when a sniper wounded two Israeli soldiers, a violent but localized expression of Palestinian impatience with Israel’s failure to alleviate dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza.