Thursday, February 16, 2012

adhering to much higher standards than your enemies...,



medialens | On February 6, a cry of moral outrage arose from that collection of selfless humanitarians otherwise known as The Times newspaper. Responding to fighting in the Syrian city of Homs, which has included government shelling of civilian areas variously reported to have claimed scores or hundreds of lives, a Times leading article observed:

‘Pensioners, the sick, women, children - none was spared as the military took revenge on the centre of opposition to the Assad dictatorship.’ (Leading article, ‘Moral Blindness; Russia and China acted for self-serving motives in vetoing the Security Council's condemnation of the bloodshed in Syria,’ The Times, February 6, 2012)

The leader pulled no punches in describing ‘the carnage the regime's minders have tried to hide: corpses with their eyes gouged out, their skulls crushed, their faces burnt off.’

The editors fumed:

‘Russia's moral bankruptcy and China's self-serving blindness have been denounced from the Gulf to Morocco...’

As we saw in Part 1, and as also in this case, the denunciations are mostly offered by people drowning in hypocrisy. The Times concluded that, ‘no veto can, in the end, save [the Syrian government] from the fury of a nation so humiliatingly brutalised’.

Syrian government violence is real and horrific, but not a word in the article commented on the armed fighters in Syria that are reported to have killed many hundreds of Syrian troops and police. Unable to perceive the Western interests described by former Nato chief Wesley Clark (See Part 1), The Times was able to identify cynical self-interest elsewhere:

‘Russia is determined, above all, to protect its naval presence in Syria, thwart Western interests in the region and shield a regime that now owes it an existential debt.’

Compare The Times’ response to Israel’s far more destructive Operation Cast Lead offensive in the Gaza strip between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported:

‘The magnitude of the harm to the population was unprecedented: 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of them over 350 seriously so. Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was on the verge of collapse prior to the operation. According to UN figures, Israel destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings and 20,000 people were left homeless.’

Three Israeli civilians and six Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian fire.

In a leader, The Times sternly rejected the subsequent Goldstone Report – a mission established by the UN to investigate war crimes during the crisis. Goldstone found that crimes had been committed by both sides. Understandably, the report focused heavily on the ‘disproportionate use of force’ by the Israelis in its ‘deliberate targeting’ of Palestinian civilians. Despite the casualty figures, The Times found this absurd because ‘there is no equivalence between the actions of Israel in self-defence and those of Hamas in seeking to destroy it’.

Describing the offensive as merely an ‘incursion’ (the Syrian government’s attacks in Homs are a ‘massacre’ for The Times) the editors wrote of Israel:

‘It had no choice but to respond to [Palestinian] provocations.’ (Leading article, ‘The Gaza Trap; The Goldstone report is biased and Europeans on the UN Human Rights Council should reject it rather than abstaining,’ The Times, October 16, 2009)

Despite the obvious scale of the carnage, The Times claimed: ‘Israel adheres to standards higher than those of its enemies.’