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New York Times Sleepwalks Through Chiah Story, Worst Civilian Massacre of War So Far

funeral for victims of Chiah massacreFuneral for victims of Chiah massacre (Sharim Karim /Reuters)

Other than a single dramatic image on its front page yesterday picturing a survivor hanging precariously by one hand from an upper story, the NY Times has carried almost nothing about an IAF attack on Monday which caused the single highest civilian death toll of any attack during the war. The image didn’t even refer to where the attack took place. Instead it referred vaguely to “a Beirut suburb.”

Today, was the first reference in the body of a story to the incident. Finally, the Times has given the massacre location a name:

Israeli ships also fired missiles into the suburbs of southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, on Wednesday, a mile from where a funeral was taking place for some of the 41 victims of an Israeli airstrike on Monday on a large building in the suburb of Chiyah. Israel said it was trying to hit Hezbollah leaders; workers continued to pull bodies out of the rubble there.

Only in the last hour or so has the NYT website posted this image of the funeral.

The Times has made no reference to the enormity of the death toll and its distinction as the worst civilian attack of the war. Why is the Times asleep at the switch?

At least AP has been giving the story proper coverage. In its story it profiles a survivor who lost three of his four children, both his parents, and a total of 15 family members:

Ali Rmeity lies broken and bandaged on a hospital bed, wincing in pain. Three of his children and his parents are dead–but he doesn’t know all that yet. Doctors fear telling the 45-year-old now would be a bigger blow than he can sustain.

Rmeity was at home with his wife and four children shortly after nightfall Monday when Israeli missiles slammed into their apartment building in the predominantly Shiite southern Beirut suburb of Chiah.

At least 41 people were killed _ including 15 from Rmeity’s family _ making it the deadliest single strike of the four-week-old Israeli offensive in Lebanon. Workers continued to retrieve bodies from under the slabs of concrete Wednesday.

“I had been feeling tired, so I went into the bedroom and lay down on the bed. Five minutes later the bombs fell and I found myself crying for help under the rubble,” Rmeity said Tuesday. “My wife, who was on the balcony, was thrown in the air. They found her somewhere, I don’t know where.”

Rmeity’s wife, Hoda, was being treated in an adjacent room at the Mount Lebanon hospital near Beirut. She has severe lung injuries and several fractures. Their 9-year-old son, Hussein, was in intensive care with head trauma and a brain contusion.

Their three other children _ Mohammed, 22, Fatima, 19, and Malak, 16 _ were killed. So were Ali Rmeity’s parents, his three brothers and two sisters. His brother’s family, who lived in the same building, also died.

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Michelle August 10, 2006, 5:54 AM

    Why hasn’t the NY Times made proper mention of almost any of the Israeli civillian casualties at all? Yet every Lebananese civilian casualty makes the front page, and every “massacre” is called a massacre – even the 40-person “massacre” which turned out to be the wholesale slaughter of 1 person.

    If you’re trying to allege media bias, you’re looking in the wrong direction.

    Every single civilian death is a major tragedy. But only Hezbollah is actively targeting civilians. Yet every Hezbollah militant dresses as a civilian, and when they are killed, who is doing the body-counting? And who is doing the reporting to the media? Every Western journalist has reported that their access to information has been entirely vetted through Hezbollah officials, who often hold their passports.

    This story was covered. In fact, it was initially filed online at the NY Times exactly the way it was reported (presumably by Hezbollah): that the funeral procession itself was hit, directly targeted by the IAF. This was then corrected. But you don’t see that in the article, either.

  • Joe Verica August 10, 2006, 7:09 AM

    The phrase “civilian attack” implies that the civilians were the intended targets of the bombing. That is not the case. It is always a tragedy when innocent civilians are killed in a war, but it would seem that Hezbollah has to share the blame for this one. They are hiding behind human shields.

  • Richard Silverstein August 10, 2006, 11:32 AM

    Joe: Your analysis is dead wrong. Israel has intelligence & reconnaisance. They had to have known civilians were in the building. There were almost 100 civilians in the building at the time. How do you not detect that when you’re monitoring every target the IAF intends to hit? You demolish a residential apartment building where civilians live & then say civilians weren’t the intended target? Come on. You’re being ridiculous.

    A war crime is not excused by the fact that civilians were not the intended target. It is judged by whether it happened & by whether there was a previous history of hitting targets previously that held civilians who were killed. Israel, I’m afraid, falls into this category in spades.

  • Richard Silverstein August 10, 2006, 12:00 PM

    Why hasn’t the NY Times made proper mention of almost any of the Israeli civillian casualties at all?

    If you want to criticize media coverage it’s a very good idea to at least read the outlet you’re criticizing. You see, I read the NYT every day & you apparently do not. A very simple site search revealed these images & stories about the deaths of Israeli civilians & soldiers:
    http://graphics10.nytimes.com/images/2006/08/06/world/07mideast.large1.jpg
    http://nytimes.feedroom.com/?fr_story=a3ad1ba052d041f1858429823f0c82cc16b4edf5
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/07/world/middleeast/07mideast.html?ex=1312603200&en=8f12e87e61c74f9e&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/07/world/middleeast/07scene.html/partner/rssnyt

    And this:

    Hizbollah also fired nearly 70 rockets into Israel, killing a woman and a toddler in an Israeli Arab village, medics said.

    I spent all of 10 minutes doing this research and I didn’t even find half of the ariticles I’ve read in the NYT highlighting Israel’s suffering.

    Every single civilian death is a major tragedy

    Listen to yourself. You claim that every single civilian death is a major tragedy yet you complain when the Lebanese tragedies are featured on the Times’ front pg. What you really meant to say was that every Israeli civilian death is a major tragedy. Lebanese civilians deaths well, they’re something less than that. Or would you have the Times create a quota system: Israeli tragedy today; Lebanese tragedy tomorrow? Or should the quota system rank tragedy by the overall number of civilian deaths so that for every Israeli death featured in a front pg. image 10 Lebanese deaths would be featured (since that is the ratio of Israeli to Lebanese civilian deaths)?

    Every Western journalist has reported that their access to information has been entirely vetted through Hezbollah officials, who often hold their passports.

    EVERY western journalist? That’s patent trash & you know it. Show me a single link to a single western journalist who has complainted in the way you claim? I dare you. ANd don’t give me propaganda sites as verification. I want to see a single legitimate journalist saying what you claim in a single legitimate media site.

    Now I see where you get yr information: from Little Green Footballs & the like rather than the NYT. That little lie about passports is just that. There was a media report fr. a single western journalist which stated that Hezbollah officials retained a COPY of that reporter’s passport. And that reporter made very clear that Hezbollah has NEVER stopped him fr reporting anything he wanted to report & that he was never told what to report or how to report it.

    I’m no Hezbollah partisan because I can’t stand the group. But I do believe in facts & accuracy. You want to criticize Hezbollah–fine by me. But do so with authenticated information & not 4th hand crap.

    I love people like you who spread ignorant propaganda just to score stupid little points. Instead of engaging with the real issues that might resolve this crisis.

    This story was covered. In fact, it was initially filed online at the NY Times exactly the way it was reported (presumably by Hezbollah): that the funeral procession itself was hit, directly targeted by the IAF.

    WRONG AGAIN. Read my post. I charted how the story was covered. There was a single front pg. image which didn’t note the location of the attack. No story accompanied the image. TWO DAYS AFTER the attack there were images of the funeral. The coverage of the so-called attack on the funeral you mentioned said that the IAF bombing occured one mile fr. the funeral and not AT the funeral:

    Beirut residents chanted slogans on Wednesday during a funeral for 41 victims of an Israeli airstrike on Monday on a large building in the suburb of Chiyah. Israeli missiles struck a mile away as the funeral proceeded

    I simply won’t believe anything you say till you provide an online source for yr charge. Quote the inaccurate Times coverage & provide a link to prove it. I dare you.

  • Joe Verica August 10, 2006, 6:30 PM

    Hi Richard

    Thanks for your reply. Although I have to disagree with you.

    Personally, I find it disgusting and heart-wrenching to see dead civilians – especially little children – pulled out of the rubble. However, I think you are being too easy on Hezbollah.

    A saw an article in the NY Sun today about a Shiite who lived in southern Lebanon until 2002. He states, “After the Israelis withdrew from the area in 2000…Hezbollah moved into his town, dug rocket depots in bunkers, and then built a school and a residence over those bunkers.”

    Why?

    Its a win-win situation for them. Either the rockets will be launcehd against Israel, killing thier civilian, or Israel destroys them and in the process, killed Lebanese civilans. In the latter case, Hezb uses the civilians as propoganda to bring world condemnation on Israel. Its the human shield strategy.

    What should Israel do? Yes they have intelligence and reconnaince. And Israel does go to great lengths to limit civilian casualties. But in this kind of war, when the enemy hides behind the innocent, civilian casualties can not be avoided – unless of course Israel were to role over and allow themselves to be attacked and take no action to defend themselves or prevent future attacks.

    Under the circumstances, Israel has no real choice. Unfortunately it is a “kill or be killed” scenario.

    So rather than demonizing Israel, you should really be speaking out against the cowardly strategy being employed by Hezb.

  • Joe Verica August 10, 2006, 6:31 PM

    Here is a link to that article if you are interested.

    http://www.nysun.com/article/37636?page_no=1

  • Nawar Hage August 10, 2006, 9:43 PM

    I do not like to answer within other people’s blogs, so please excuse me for doing just that.

    Under the circumstances, Israel has no real choice. Unfortunately it is a “kill or be killed” scenario.

    well i believe the choice has always been there:

    1- go for diplomacy rather than war
    2- give enough time for civillians to get out without shooting at them while they try to get out
    3- Use land combat rather than planes
    4- Use less civillian-destructive weapons (ones that will only kill the person it touches, and not ones that will kill everyone present

    I am no war strategist, but these small items come to mind.

    Second Point:
    Its a win-win situation for them

    You see, and contrary to what the media might want you to believe, Hizbollah are in fact Lebanese men married to Lebanese women and having Lebanese children. Whenever you find a massacare like Qana with no men in it, it has to make you think who the men are?
    The Israeli army is amazed at the persistance and strength Hizbollah are showing… well, would you not show the same strength if your own children and women were killed? These are their own, their own mothers, fathers, wives and children… No they are not in a win-win situation…

  • Joe Verica August 11, 2006, 6:02 AM

    Nawar:

    I think you make a good point here, and I have been trying to make some sense of this. You state:

    You see, and contrary to what the media might want you to believe, Hizbollah are in fact Lebanese men married to Lebanese women and having Lebanese children. …These are their own, their own mothers, fathers, wives and children… No they are not in a win-win situation…

    I can certainly empathize with the Lebanese – the pain and greiving they must be going through in loosing family and friends. What I don’t understand is why Hezb is placing in weaponry and command posts in civilian areas. Near schools and residences. Surely, they must have anticipated that these facilities would be targeted during the war.

  • Richard Silverstein August 11, 2006, 10:04 AM

    A saw an article in the NY Sun today about a Shiite who lived in southern Lebanon until 2002.

    Joe: And you believe what you read in that shmatte, the Sun? The paper that used to be owned by shyster Conrad Black, owner of that other Likud mouthpiece, the Jerusalem Post? The Sun is about as reliable & accurate as the NY Post, published by Rupert Murdoch, another Likud partisan.

    I don’t mind debating issues related to Lebanon, but I won’t dignify charges based on sources fr. the Sun. They are entirely partisan & unreliable.

    Joe, you’re just dredging up propaganda that has nothing to do with the subject of my post. Deal with the subject at hand pls. & don’t drift off into generalities. Israel bombed a residential apartment building. No school, no hospital, no Hezbollah bunkers. Just an apartment building filled with those people who live there & have always lived there. Israel knew what the building was & bombed anyway. Even if I grant (& I don’t, but just for the helluvit I’ll grant) that there might’ve been a Hezbollah figure holed up there, the IAF made a calculation that it was more important to get the guy than to avoid killing over 50 civilians. WAR CRIME!! That calculation is a no go under international law.

    So rather than demonizing Israel, you should really be speaking out against the cowardly strategy being employed by Hezb.

    Pls. do NOT tell me what I should be doing. I resent it. You do what you feel you need to do & I’ll be the judge of what I need to do. I’ve denounced Hezbollah here plenty & I’ve denounced Israel as well. And that’s what I’ll continue to do. I WILL NOT denounce Hezbollah under any terms other than the ones I already have. So pls. give it a rest.

    You are spouting the propaganda of the pro-Israel partisan crowd & I don’t need to hear it. You’ve made the claim about Hezbollah hiding behind civilians at least twice. I’ve heard quite enough of it. If you wish to continue commenting by all means do so. But don’t keep repeating the same old stuff.

  • Joe Verica August 11, 2006, 12:09 PM

    Hi Richard

    I think we need to take a step back for a moment. Somehow we got off on the wrong foot. I don’t understand the reason for all the hostilities.

    I do not frequent your blog to agitate you or push your buttons. I consider myself a mature person, and I have much better things on which to spend my time.

    I find your blog interesting for several reasons which I will not get into now. The primary reason I read your blog is because your view point/opinion is not entirely, but mostly different than mine. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I may allow my personal bias to cloud my vision at times. So I try to broaden my horizons by reading diverse perspectives on the issues.

    Your blog articles appear to be well thought out and well written, and I learn something by reading them. I may not always agree, but I don’t always disagree either. At the bottom of each post, you have a place for readers to make comments. This seems like a great way to hash out differences. And as you stated above, “you do not mind debating issues”. But in reality, it seems you do. You appear to me to be very intolerant of those that see or think differently from you.

    If I make a point you disagree with, why not just explain your opinion on the issue (i.e. have a civil, level-headed discussion or debate). Who knows, maybe we will both learn something. But as it is, you immediately jump in my face when you make statements like, “You are so clueless”, “You know next to nothing about anti-Semitism”, “Your analysis is dead wrong”. Or when you consider sources that are in conflict with your opinion as rags or partisan mouthpieces. It comes across as arrogant, irrational and emotional, which diminishes the significant intellectual nature of the points you are trying to make.

    If you refuse to engage in a rational, level-headed debate, then your blog becomes nothing more than you writing for yourself or preaching to the choir, or perhaps just a way to vent.

    And no, I am not trying to tell you what to do. It is your blog! And you can do what you want with it! You can even ban me from posting if you want. (Actually, you just need to ask me not to post, and I will respect that).

    I just think you are ignoring to potential to use your blog as a way of encouraging those with other points of view to consider yours. That is a lost opportunity.

  • Richard Silverstein August 11, 2006, 5:32 PM

    Joe: I have strong opinions. I don’t deny that. I’m very angry at the injustice of the Lebanon war. I don’t suffer people who try to blame the Lebanese for what I see as essentially Israel’s fault (w. the exception of the incident that started the current war which was Hezbollah’s fault). You seem to be doing just that. I can’t help but take issue w. that pt. of view. If you feel that I’m coming on too strong all I can say is that people are dying & it bugs the shit out of me because it doesn’t have to be that way.

    You come across as someone who is somewhat open to contrary pts. of view but you also feed me in yr comments here propaganda that comes fr. what I view to be highly partisan & unreliable publications & sites. Propaganda is something that can & does kill people because those who believe it tend to become more stubborn & unwilling to compromise. That’s why I come down so hard on what I view as propaganda.

    I never once said I intended to ban you. You haven’t done or said anything here to warrant that. I won’t even tell you I don’t want you to comment. In fact, I said just the opposite in my last comment to you. Be my guest. Speak yr mind. But if you peddle stuff I don’t find credible I’m going to say so.

    And if you review what you wrote to me you’ll find that you did indeed tell me what you thought I should be writing about regarding Hezbollah:

    you should really be speaking out against the cowardly strategy being employed by Hezb.

    I don’t mind people having constructive suggestions about things I might write about but I don’t appreciate people telling me to adjust my moral perspective so I can write something that is more in accord with theirs. That’s not my job. My job is to express my own moral perspective. Yours is to express your own at your blog.

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