Israel’s NY consulate attacked me for reporting on its flagrant violation of Gaza ceasefire
Israel’s consulate in New York repeatedly attacked me through its official social media account, after I reported accurately on its flagrant violation of the ceasefire in Gaza.
This Israeli government body insultingly challenged my credentials as a professional journalist and told me aggressively, “Get it right.”
It then trolled me by childishly posting emojis and misrepresenting my words.
The Israeli government is notorious for heavily censoring journalists in its own country. From 2011 to 2016, Israel’s military censor banned the publication of 1,936 articles and redacted information from 14,196 more.
The Israeli government also works with corporate social media giants like Facebook to remove undesirable posts and delete entire accounts, primarily targeting Palestinians.
But Israel is not content with tightly controlling its own press alone; it also heavily pressures foreign journalists to slant their reporting in its favor — and finds a very receptive audience at outlets like the BBC and New York Times.
I myself have been targeted.
On November 13, I tweeted a graphic from a bot account that tracks changes in New York Times articles. @NYT_Diff documented how the US newspaper of record completely rewrote a passage, obscuring how Israel initiated an escalation of violence in Gaza on November 11 and 12.
The New York Times had originally written, “A covert operation that apparently went awry on Sunday has been followed by retaliatory escalation, with rocket launches from Gaza and airstrikes from Israel.”
This description made the order of events too clear, in the eyes of Israel’s supporters. Thus the newspaper later erased the fact that Gaza’s response was retaliatory, and changed the line to the much more muddled, “Gaza militants launched a sustained rocket and mortar attack on southern Israel, and Israeli aircraft struck back, after a covert Israeli operation killed seven Palestinians.”
On Twitter, I drew attention to this ridiculous whitewashing of the events, emphasizing how it obscured the chronology and implied the Palestinians were the aggressor, when they were in fact retaliating.
Israel’s consulate in New York replied three hours later, distorting the incident, scolding me, and ordering, “Get it right.”
I then reiterated that it was Israel that violated the ceasefire in Gaza in the first place.
In fact, Israel has violated this ceasefire hundreds of times in the past few years. According to data obtained by +972 Magazine from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Israeli army carried out at least 262 known ground incursions inside Gaza from 2015 through October 2018. (In another falsehood, the New York Times falsely reported that the IDF’s November 11 raid was its first since 2014.)
Israel’s New York consulate decided to respond to me in one of the most infantile ways imaginable: with a tears of laughter emoji.
Despite the Israeli consulate’s puerile condescension, these facts are indisputable: On Sunday, November 11, Israeli commanders launched a covert raid inside Gaza. IDF special forces units killed seven Palestinians, and one Israeli officer was killed in a firefight.
During this battle inside Gazan territory, the IDF special forces units requested air cover. The Israeli military responded by launching air attacks as the remaining commandos escaped.
It was only after this botched raid and after this first round of Israeli airstrikes that Gazan fighters responded with a retaliatory rocket attack of their own.
And then the IDF subsequently launched a second series of airstrikes throughout Gaza. This bombing was brutal, hitting civilian homes, a university, a kindergarten, a pharmacy, a hotel, and a TV news station, among other civilian targets.
Even the far-right, explicitly pro-government outlet Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) acknowledged this order of events in its report on the 41-year-old Israeli lieutenant colonel who was killed in the botched raid, who was identified simply as “Lt. Col. M” (Israeli military censors banned the publication of his name).
But the Israeli consulate still tried to gaslight the world into believing otherwise.
When I pointed out how childish it was that a government that gets $3.8 billion in unconditional US military aid every year was heckling journalists with emojis, Israel’s New York consulate replied with yet another emoji.
In Israel’s two-day attack on Gaza, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that the IDF destroyed three houses and a six-story apartment building. Israel also damaged dozens of other homes.
A kindergarten was likewise severely damaged. “What is there in a kindergarten to be targeted?” said a Gazan parent in an interview with the Associated Press. “No place is safe in Gaza.”
Israel similarly destroyed the headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV, a Palestinian news outlet that is affiliated with Hamas, the political party that governs Gaza.
On Twitter I pointed out the sadistic irony that, while the Israeli government was bombing civilian targets in Gaza, it was harassing foreign journalists.
And I stressed that even Britain’s Conservative former Prime Minister David Cameron, a staunch right-wing supporter of Israel, reluctantly acknowledged that Gaza is a “prison camp” and its nearly 2 million besieged residents “are living under constant attacks and pressure in an open-air prison.”
The Israeli consulate replied by misrepresenting my words, disputing my qualifications as a journalist, and implicitly rationalizing the IDF’s attack on a TV station.
I made it clear that bombing a news outlet’s headquarters is a war crime. Even if one does not like the outlet, its journalists, or what they report, TV news broadcasters are civilian targets.
That is when Israel’s New York consulate stopped harassing me.
It was truly surreal to be trolled in such an asinine manner by a foreign government body.
All I can say is I could not imagine the political controversy that would be generated if the Twitter account of another foreign government’s consulate harassed a US journalist — especially if that government were not a US proxy like Israel, but rather a US enemy like Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China, or Cuba.
If, say, Russia’s consulate in New York had attacked US journalists and pressured us to alter our reporting, we would never see an end to the fallout.
Originally published at bennorton.com on 15 November 2018.