NOTE: In reading Ami Eden’s blog post about the IDF Gaza war crimes story, I mistook a quotation from Isi Liebler writing in the Jerusalem Post for a statement of Eden’s own opinion on the matter. Partly because of the graphically confusing way the JTA blog formats quotations, I mistook Liebler’s statement for Eden’s. So the criticism below should largely be directed at Liebler and others attempting to debunk the war crimes story. The only criticism of Eden below that still holds validity is his title, A Jewish Blood Libel?, which suggests the possibility the war crimes charges are a blood libel. Otherwise, all other criticism should be directed toward Liebler and CAMERA, not Eden.
Ami Eden, the editor of JTA, has once again proven his journalistic “mettle” by accepting at face value stories in the Jerusalem Post and CAMERA as definitively debunking the Gaza war crimes story reported originally by Haaretz, Channel 10 and other world media. In a blog post provocatively entitled A Jewish Blood Libel? he makes the entirely specious claim:
Even if these stories [of Gaza war crimes] contained an element of truth (and there are no grounds to assume that), to depict them as the norm is like using Jack the Ripper to besmirch the British as a nation of cutthroat barbarians.
At best, we can call this lazy journalism. At worst, we can call it wicked bad journalism. First, there certainly ARE grounds to assume the stories are true. The soldiers themselves reported what they experienced in Gaza. Second, even the commander who allegedly lets the IDF off the hook did his own “personal investigation” (as Maariv calls it), which has no official standing whatsoever. No one knows who precisely he spoke to and what criteria he used to judge what he heard. Third, as a commander of troops alleged to have committed war crimes he certainly has a vested interest in “clearing” himself and his men of these charges. Fourth, no mention from Eden or Liebler that the commander’s claims are reported in Maariv, Israel’s leading right-wing daily.
In reading the Maariv report, I’m struck by the shallowness of the commander’s investigation. He questions a sniper who is alleged to have killed a Palestinian woman and her two children, accepting the former’s claim that he didn’t shoot them, but rather fired warning shots at them. That’s the extent of the refutation.
Regarding the second incident, in which an elderly Palestinian woman was killed by a sniper, the “investigation” found that the incident actually never happened and was the result of “competition” among units to see which could be the most gung-ho. By which, I presume they mean that a unit made this story up in order to attest to its cold-blooded combat skills. The claim whether true or not is beyond pathetic.
Further proof of the veracity of the Zamir-Oranim charges are the multiplicity of sources, both Gazan and Israeli confirming these and other crimes. Amira Hass’ story about IDF orders found in a Gaza home ordering soldiers to shoot unarmed Palestinian medics attempting to tend to the dead and wounded. The Guardian’s brilliant expose of multiple Israeli war crimes based on three weeks of eyewitness on the ground investigation. Reports by Israeli and international human rights groups documenting Israeli behavior, including a recent Human Rights Watch claim that IDF use of white phosphorus constituted a war crime. Not to mention the stories in the media based on eyewitness testimony during the war which confirm horrific Israeli behavior. I’ve documented here many of these stories and links to them.
But the absolute worst sin of Eden’s meretricious report is for him to accept as definitive sources two highly partisan reports, one at an out and out pro-Israel propagandistic site (CAMERA) and the other from an out and out pro-Israel ideologue published at a right-wing Israeli media site (Isi Liebler at the Jerusalem Post). These sources in turn base themselves on another dubious story published in Maariv.
The quotation that Eden cites from Liebler’s column is itself fraught with lies and misinformation:
…Unsubstantiated accusations against religious soldiers and chaplains were headlined and given front page prominence by Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper whose editorial policy and columnists like Gidon Levy and Amira Hass have continuously been demonizing their own country.
The reports of the Israeli military chief rabbi propagandizing amongst the troops is not only supported by soldiers who heard the rabbis speeches, Haaretz actually received the materials the chief rabbi was distributing to the troops and quoted from it. So much for “unsubstantiated accusations.”
Few would deny that over the past years Haaretz, notably its English Internet edition — has more effectively damaged Israel’s image in the West than all the Arab anti-Israeli propaganda combined.
What utter narischkeit–and for Eden to accept the word of someone who could utter such banalities beggars belief.
Depicting our soldiers as religious fanatics brainwashed by rabbis has chilling parallels to the anti-Semitic incitement of the Middle Ages promoted by converts who turned on their own people.
More histrionics, only these misuse Jewish history to make their alleged point. Soldiers merely reported what pro-settler rabbis did. To compare such reports to the behavior of converts during the Middle Ages is not only idiotic, but a perversion of our history. Not to mention that Liebler insults the soldiers doubly by comparing them to medieval Jewish “turncoats” who did great damage to their community. Additionally, I find it rather astonishing that Liebler himself has never served in the IDF (according to this bio), yet this gibor of the pro-Israel crowd is all too willing to smear the good name of those who do.
Such libels emanating from Israel during the anti-Semitic tsunami now enveloping the world fall on receptive ears. The entire global media — including even those who occasionally try to be more evenhanded — carried blazing front page headlines highlighting these unsubstantiated accusations as evidence of war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict.
From Liebler and Eden, you wouldn’t even guess that what Haaretz and Channel 10 did in exposing these stories is PRECISELY what good journalists are SUPPOSED to do. In fact, such stories are what win Pulitzer Prizes here in the U.S. I do hope they’ll keep Isi Liebler as far from the Pulitzer Prize judges as possible lest he instill his distorted interpretation of “good journalism” into our system.
There is a Holocaust story called Lies My Father Told Me. Ami Eden and Isi Liebler’s astonishing performance brought the title to mind for me. Few of us ever credited JTA with being a balanced source when it comes to Israel news. This should forever put that notion to rest if there was ever any question.