Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Truest statement of the week

Israeli forces killed more than a hundred Palestinians and wounded more than 700 on February 29, 2024 during a distribution of food aid in Gaza city, pushing the Palestinian death toll to 30,000 since October 7, 2023. The food aid massacre was straightforward in its deadliness as armed Israeli forces aimed weapons at desperate, hungry Palestinian civilians and killed many of them. It was also plausible within the context of who has firepower and who doesn’t, and wholly consistent with Israeli atrocities, especially those committed since October 7, 2023.

And yet, Western media headlines went out of their way to obscure and protect the perpetrators of this awful crime. CNN reported there was a “Carnage at Gaza food aid site amid Israeli gunfire,” as if the victims had little to do with the gunfire. The outlet didn’t even bother to mention Palestinians.

The Washington Post was worse, declaring that, “Chaotic aid delivery turns deadly as Israeli, Gazan officials trade blame.” The use of the word “chaotic” suggests things were out of everyone’s control. And, either Israeli or Gazan authorities could be to blame.

The New York Times took a poetic approach, listing a series of events seemingly unconnected, with its headline, “As Hungry Gazans Crowd a Convoy, a Crush of Bodies, Israeli Gunshots and a Deadly Toll.” If sentences had shoulders, this one practically shrugged in helpless ignorance at the curious mystery behind the massacre.

Some news outlets left Israelis and Palestinians out of the headline altogether to seemingly avoid placing blame. Reuters reported, “More than 100 killed while seeking aid in Gaza, overall death toll passes 30,000,” and the supposedly liberal NBC News claimed, “Dozens killed in attack on crowd waiting for aid, Gaza health officials say.” Even PBS couldn’t bring itself to identify the perpetrators or victims with its headline, “More than 100 killed in Gaza while trying to get food from aid convoy.”

The use of the passive voice, of language designed to obscure and give the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt, is a popular trick employed by major news outlets when reporting on Israeli atrocities.



--  Sonali Kolhatkar, "Tell the Truth About Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity" (COUNTERPUNCH). 

Truest statement of the week II

When my first interview came out with NBC, the responses, I mean, were mostly supportive, but the responses that weren’t were demanding who I voted for and talking about, you know, I’m from Alabama, so I deserve this mess, like I should just leave. And Alabama and the South at large does not deserve to be the redheaded stepchild of our country, because there are people like us in every other state. And like I said in the Glamour piece, there are people who believe this but, you know, might not have a Confederate flag in their neighborhood.

People in Alabama have to work twice as hard to get the same rights that the rest of the country has and that we deserve. And it’s not something we can just vote away. It doesn’t matter a lot of times who or what we vote for in this state. But that doesn’t mean — we deserve the same rights, the same standard of care as the rest of the country.


--  Abby Crain speaking to Amy Goodman, "Alabama IVF Patient’s Warning to Others Outside the State: 'You Are Not Safe'" (DEMOCRACY NOW!).

A note to our readers

Hey --


Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?



 Sonali Kolhatkar gets a truest -- first one for her this decade though she has shown up in the '00s and the '10s.

Abbey Craine gets a truest. 

Repost from THE COMMON ILLS for Gaza coverage. 

Ava and C.I. went with an entertainment show this week.  

Book conversation.

What we've read and discussed so far this year.

Passings for the year.

Paul Rudnick.

Repost of Elaine's piece on LOOK AT US,

Diana Ross celebrates her sons.

Human Rights Watch on Iraq.

What we listened to while working on this edition.

 Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.



-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.





 Reposting for Gaza coverage:

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 4, 2024.  US Vice President Kamala Harris calls for a 'cease-fire,' the US government -- as they did when Nazi Germany caused starvation -- has resorted to airdrops of food, the assault on Gaza is never ending, THE NEW YORK TIMES and CNN stand accused of biased coverage and of refusing to listen to their own employees, and much more.

US Vice President Kamala Harris is in the news for remarks made Sunday in Selma.  From the official White House transcript:

So, before I begin today, I must address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  (Applause.)  What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating.  We have seen reports of families eating leaves or animal feed, women giving birth to malnourished babies with little or no medical care, and children dying from malnutrition and dehydration.

As I have said many times, too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.  And just a few days ago, we saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks, simply trying to secure food for their families after weeks of nearly no aid reaching Northern Gaza.  And they were met with gunfire and chaos.

Our hearts break for the victims of that horrific tragedy and for all the innocent people in Gaza who are suffering from what is clearly a humanitarian catastrophe.  (Applause.)

People in Gaza are starving.  The conditions are inhumane.  And our common humanity compels us to act.

As President Joe Biden said on Friday, the United States is committed to urgently get more lifesaving assistance to innocent Palestinians in need.

Yesterday, the Department of Defense carried out its first airdrop of humanitarian assistance, and the United States will continue these airdrops.  And we will work on a new route by sea to deliver aid.

And the Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.  (Applause.)  No excuses.  They must open new border crossings.  They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid.  They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites, and convoys are not targeted.  And they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza so more food, water, and fuel can reach those in need.

As I have said repeatedly since October 7th, Israel has a right to defend itself.  And President Joe Biden and I are unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security. 

Hamas cannot control Gaza, and the threat Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated.  Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that has vowed to repeat October 7th again and again until Israel is annihilated.

Hamas has shown no regard for innocent life, including for the people of Gaza, who have suffered under its rule for almost two decades.  And Hamas still holds dozens of hostages, for nearly 150 days now — innocent men and women, including American citizens, who were brutally taken from their homes and from a concert.

I will repeat: The threat of — Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated.  And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire — (applause) — for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table.

This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in.  This would allow us to build something more enduring to ensure Israel is more secure and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom, and self-determination.  (Applause.)

Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire.  Well, there is a deal on the table.  And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal.

Let’s get a ceasefire.  Let’s reunite the hostages with their families.  And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.  (Applause.)

That's not a cease-fire.  It's a pause.  Six weeks is not a cease-fire.  A pause?  A pause could allow medicines and food in an area sorely in need of both.  But let's not pass a pause off as a cease-fire.  This was rather weak but to get the White House to this point -- even to this point, the American people had to reject blind support for the government of Israel.  Peter Guo (NBC NEWS) reports on a new Gallup poll whose findings are coming out this morning, "A total of 58% of Americans view Israel favorably, down 10% from last year, the poll found. It is the lowest rating to the U.S. ally in more than 20 years. "

Let's remember that not only is the White House refusing to call for a true cease-fire, they are continuing to supply weapons for the Israeli government to carry out killings.  Joe Queally (COMMON DREAMS) explains:

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday accused Israel of standing in clear violation of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act by creating the conditions for mass starvation within the Gaza Strip as he called on the Biden administration to halt all military aid to the country until Palestinians are granted the life-saving humanitarian relief they urgently need.

"Starvation is taking place in Gaza," Sanders said in a statement. "Israel is prohibiting aid convoys from delivering desperately needed food and water."

While the U.S. government initiated airdrops over the weekend with the aim of providing tens of thousands of meals for those starving and suffering malnutrition in the besieged territory of Gaza, relief agencies said the effort was only a drop in the bucket of what is needed to stem what the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on Sunday called a "hell on earth" situation.

Sanders on Friday was supportive of airdrops—an effort he said would "buy time and save lives"—but added that "there is no substitute for sustained ground deliveries of what is needed to sustain life in Gaza."

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Sanders, "must open the borders and allow the United Nations to deliver supplies in sufficient quantities. The United States should make clear that failure to do so immediately will lead to a fundamental break in the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the immediate halt of all military aid."

On Sunday, as Common Dreams reported, UNICEF issued a warning to the world that ten child deaths from starvation had already been documented, that others had likely occurred, and many more should be expected if conditions on the ground were not immediately addressed.

"Horrific reports confirmed that, over the last few days only, at least 10 children died of malnutrition in Gaza," the agency said. "These deaths are man-made, predictable, and entirely preventable."

Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, called the situation in Gaza an "engineered famine" created by Israel and its international allies who have stood aside or provided backing to Netanyahu.

[. . .]

As Sanders' office noted in its Sunday statement, Israel's ongoing blockade of food, water, medical supplies, and fuel as the civilian population suffers at such levels is a clear violation of Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act, which states:

No assistance shall be furnished … to any country when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.

"Today," said Sanders, "I urge President Biden to implement this law and make it clear to Israel that, if aid access is not immediately opened up, he will impose consequences under the Foreign Assistance Act and stop military assistance to Israel."

Back to Kamala's speech.

"And convoys are not targeted."

That's probably the strongest part of the remarks.  Last Thursday, over 100 people were killed by Israeli forces as they tried to get aid.  NBC NEWS explains:

  • Rescuers continue to recover bodies from Nabulsi roundabout in Gaza City, where more than 100 people were killed when Israeli forces opened fire near a crowd of Palestinians hoping to get food. The Israel Defense Forces both confirmed and denied shooting into the crowd and blamed most of the deaths on a stampede.
  • Aid agencies and health workers said “a large number” of the dead and injured from the aid convoy violence had gunshot wounds.

  • What a shocker.  We're left yet again with the truth versus what the Israeli government says happened.  A close reading of Kamala's remarks make clear that the US government has rejected the claims of the Israeli government.  Among the many others pushing back on the Israeli government's lie?  Amnesty International.

    A growing number of children in Gaza are dying from dehydration and malnutrition, the Palestinian health ministry said Sunday, amid desperate conditions due to Israel’s throttling of aid and destruction of the besieged enclave — reinforcing the urgency of this week’s ceasefire talks.

    A Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesperson said the number of children who have died of dehydration and malnutrition in northern Gaza has risen to 15.

    In the face of the starving taking place, US President Joe Biden decided to join with Jordan's King Abdullah II in providing aid to Gaza via an airdrop.  Saturday, D. Parvaz (NPR) reported:

    The U.S. military on Saturday said it began dropping food over the Gaza Strip, a war-torn enclave desperate for humanitarian aid.

    A "a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Gaza" of over 38,000 meals along the coastline using C-130 aircraft was conducted by U.S. and Jordanian air forces, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

    "We are conducting planning for potential follow-on airborne aid delivery missions," CENTCOM said.

    President Biden on Friday said the U.S. would carry out airdrops in coming days, "redouble our efforts to open a maritime corridor, and expand deliveries by land."

    Claire Parker (WASHINGTON POST) notes, "The remarkable scene of American aid bundles floating down to starving Palestinians was the starkest illustration yet of the rift that has grown between the Biden administration and the Israeli government over the Gaza war. For months, Israel has resisted pressure from Washington to allow more humanitarian aid into the enclave, even as it relies on U.S. bombs and diplomatic support to carry out its punishing military campaign there."  Airdrops are nothing new, of course.  Then a brutal regime -- the Nazis -- occupied the Netherlands, the US government resorted to airdrops to get aid in.  For a little over a week,   Operation Chowhound were carried out. Again, this was a brief operation and that was because it was seen as lacking so it was replaced with Operation Faust -- a ground operation.

    The airdrop has been criticized by some as insufficient.  Rebecca Gelpi-Ufret (ABC NEWS) reports:

     Chef and humanitarian José Andrés, whose nonprofit World Central Kitchen has been sending significant aid into Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war, on Sunday pushed back on criticism that airdrops into the Palestinian territory are wrong because they are hypocritical and insufficient compared to broader solutions.

    "We need to bring food into Gaza any way we can," Andrés told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, calling the situation there "desperate."

    According to the U.N., more than 570,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of experiencing famine levels of hunger due to the continuing conflict.

    While Andrés said the broader goal should be to simply allow a "daily, constant and massive" flow of trucks into Gaza, "I don't think we need to be criticizing that Jordan, America are doing airdrops. If anything, we should be applauding any initiative that brings food into Gaza."

    As the assault on Gaza continues, people want a cease-fire.  Again, a six week break is not a cease-fire.  ALJAZEERA reports on Sunday remarks by Pope Francis:

    Pope Francis has appealed for an end to the conflict in Gaza, urging the world to say: “Enough please! Stop.”

    Addressing believers in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the pope expressed concern over the consequences of the conflict on children and asked for the release of all the captives taken during Hamas’s raid on October 7.

    “Each day, I carry in my heart with pain the suffering of the populations in Palestine and Israel due to the ongoing hostilities, thousands of dead, injured, displaced,” Francis said.

    “Do you really think you can build a better world in this way? Do you really think you will achieve peace? Enough please! Let us all say enough please! Stop!”

    Also on Sunday, US Senator Raphael Warnock did not get a warm welcome in his home state of Georgia.  The Democrat was sworn in as a US Senator back in 2021.  The senator is also a Baptist preacher and he was delivering a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta that was also being livestreamed when people began walking out.  Doha Madani and Tavleen Tarrant (NBC NEWS) report:

    TikTok creator Erynn Chambers, whose username is @rynnstar, posted a video to her account of the group, whose members identified themselves as part of the protest. The video offers a clear angle to the back of the shirts, which say "Stop arming Israel" and "Permanent ceasefire now."

    A representative for Chambers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    An X user also posted what appeared to be the same video, saying the demonstration included various members of Atlanta's Black community, including students and alumni of the Atlanta University Consortium. The user did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The user wrote on X that they voted for Warnock because they believed he would stand for what's right but said Warnock has "failed the Palestinian people," as well as his constituents in Atlanta.

    Warnock is among more than a dozen senators who signed a letter last month addressed to President Joe Biden, urging diplomatic efforts to ensure a cease-fire as well as a hostage release. He also called for a cease-fire as recently as last week in a speech on the Senate floor.

    Gaza remains under assault. Day 150 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  NBC NEWS notes, "Gaza’s death toll has passed 30,500 , according to the enclave's Health Ministry, amid surging fears of starvation in the north of the territory."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

    And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."   

    In other news, THE NEW ARAB reports:

    Employees at CNN have expressed their discontent with the channel’s coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza during a meeting with network executives, a leaked recording obtained by The Intercept has revealed.

    The employees confronted a panel of executives during the meeting at CNN’s London Bureau on 13 February, berating the seniors and telling them they felt "devalued, embarrassed, and disgraced" by the channel's coverage of the war.

    Among the staffers who criticised CNN was renowned news anchor Christiane Amanpour, who according to The Intercept, was identified in the recording after someone said her name.

    CNN correspondents have been confronted in and outside Gaza for what Palestinians say is biased news coverage in Israel’s favour.

    This, the employees said during the February meeting according to the leaked recording, was creating a "hostile climate for Arab reporters".

    In other news of media bias, we're dropping back to Friday's DEMOCRACY NOW! where Amy Goodman, Ryan Grimm and Jeremy Scahill addressed the questionable 'reporting' of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

    AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

    The New York Times is reportedly conducting an internal investigation to identify the source behind leaked information about its coverage of Israel and Gaza. According to Vanity Fair, the internal investigation follows a report in The Intercept about the Times shelving an episode of its podcast The Daily over doubts regarding the accuracy of a highly controversial blockbuster New York Times article published at the end of December alleging Hamas members committed widespread sexual violence, weaponized it, on October 7th. Vanity Fair reports that in recent weeks management of The New York Times have questioned at least two dozen staffers, including producers of The Daily, the podcast, in an attempt to understand how internal details about the podcast’s editorial process got out.

    Democracy Now! asked The New York Times about the internal investigation. The paper’s international editor, Phil Pan, said in a statement, quote, “We aren’t going to comment on internal matters. I can tell you that the work of our newsroom requires trust and collaboration, and we expect all of our colleagues to adhere to these values,” end-quote.

    The New York Times article at the center of the controversy was published December 28th. It was headlined “'Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.” In it, the Times reported they had found evidence of systematic sexual violence orchestrated by Hamas and that their two-month investigation, quote, “uncovered painful new details, establishing that the attacks against women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7,” unquote.

    However, not long after the highly publicized article was published, major discrepancies began to emerge, including public comments from the family of a major subject of the article, contradictory claims from a key witness, and criticisms over a lack of solid evidence in the overall investigation. Then news emerged last week that one of the three authors of The New York Times piece, named Anat Schwartz, had liked multiple posts on social media advocating for violence against Palestinians, including one that called for turning Gaza into a slaughterhouse. Anat Schwartz is an Israeli filmmaker who had no prior reporting experience before she was assigned by the Times to work on the major investigation along with her relative Adam Sella and veteran Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman.

    On Wednesday, The Intercept published another in-depth investigation that further questions the Times article and the reporting process behind it. It’s headlined “'Between the Hammer and the Anvil': The Story Behind the New York Times October 7 Exposé,” and the two Intercept reporters who wrote it join us today. Jeremy Scahill is a senior reporter and correspondent at The Intercept. He’s joining us from Germany. And Ryan Grim is The Intercept’s bureau chief in Washington, D.C., where he joins us from.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jeremy, let’s begin with you. Can you lay out first the significance of the New York Times article that’s at the center of the controversy, and then talk about your latest piece, that looks into how it all came about?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Amy, in early December, you had the death toll skyrocketing in Gaza. You had a number of nations, including those that are allies with Israel, starting to speak out about the death toll among women, children, the elderly. And part of a pattern of what we’ve seen throughout the course of these five months of scorched-earth attacks against Gaza is that whenever Israel perceives itself to be losing the narrative war or when it needs to remind the public of its perception that Israel is the only victim in this story, they unload a new round of attacks against a variety of individuals or organizations that are working in Gaza or living in Gaza, human beings. We saw that with the attacks against UNRWA. We saw that with the attacks against Al-Shifa and other hospitals.

    And in early December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government really began an intense propaganda campaign to convince the world that Hamas had engaged in a systematic campaign of rape aimed at Jewish women and girls. And then they launched this fake criticism of feminist organizations, saying that they had all systematically failed to stand up and denounce this systematic rape regime that had been intentionally implemented by Hamas in the October 7th attacks. And on the day that Netanyahu made his most prominent statement about this, President Biden was at a fundraising event in Boston, and he issued — he made a statement at his speech that echoed what Netanyahu said, and said the world, you know, can’t turn away and ignore this.

    Well, what was happening at that very moment was that The New York Times, with one of its most prominent international correspondents, Jeffrey Gettleman, he had recently hit the ground in Israel, and he was working — Gettleman enlisted the help of two individuals that were going to work with him there. And Gettleman had proposed three lines of investigation, and one of them was the issue of sexual violence. And the two individuals that Gettleman was working with, one of them is a very young person who’s only recently gotten into journalism, Adam Sella, and he had mostly been like a food journalist and has a background in looking at agricultural issues, etc. He had started to write some freelance pieces that were dipping into the waters of politics and the conflict, but a quite inexperienced reporter. And then, the other was someone with no reporting experience outside of making some documentary films, and that is Anat Schwartz. It’s unclear how Anat Schwartz, in particular, got involved with this project.

    And as you mentioned, she had, early on in the Israeli attacks against Gaza, liked a tweet that actually was cited by the International Court of Justice as a potentially — a statement of potential genocidal incitement. She also liked the tweet from the Israeli government promoting the debunked allegation that 40 babies had been beheaded on October 7th, which is entirely false, as well as another tweet that said, “We must just refer to Hamas as ISIS.”

    And so, they start off on this investigation, and our understanding from sources is that the overwhelming majority of the interviews and reporting that was being done on the ground was being handled by Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella.

    And we discovered a podcast interview with Anat Schwartz in Hebrew that she gave, where she — it’s a shocking podcast in how much detail she offers about the process that they used when they were reporting it. And just to put it in a nutshell, she describes how the first thing that she did was start to call around to what she describes as all of the Israeli hospitals that have facilities that are called Room 4 facilities. These would be the intake places where people who have been victims of sexual crimes, including assault and rape, etc., where they would be examined or their cases would be referred. And she said that not a single one of them reported that they had any reports of sexual assault or rape on October 7th.

    She then started calling around to a rape crisis hotline and describes how she had this, what she described as an intense conversation with the manager of the rape crisis hotline in that part of Israel, where she was dumbfounded when he was saying he didn’t have any calls reporting sexual assault or rape. And she’s saying, “How is this possible?”

    And then she starts talking — she goes to a holistic therapeutic center that was established at a former high-end retreat center outside of Tel Aviv, where mostly people from the Nova rave, where there were attacks and where a couple of hundred people were killed — it was a place where people could do alternative medicine and yoga, relaxation therapy — I mean, people who were highly traumatized. And she goes there, and her characterization was that she sensed what she called a “conspiracy of silence” among the therapists, because none of them were telling her, “Yes, we’re treating people who were raped or had experienced sexual assault.”

    And so, when she went through all the official channels, the places where you would reach out to see, if you’re exploring if there’s a pattern here, what then happened is she starts to look at who’s been interviewed about alleged rapes during the October 7th attacks, and ends up then going and reinterviewing a handful of people who already had made assertions that they witnessed rapes. And some of these people had told varying versions of their stories — which in and of itself does not necessarily mean that they didn’t witness something. I mean, these are people that were in the midst of an incredibly violent episode. But more central to that is that some of the people that The New York Times relied on to assert that there was a systematic, intentional campaign of rape weaponized by Hamas were people that have no forensic credentials, no crime scene credentials. These were people that are not legally permitted in Israel to determine rape, that they relied on these individuals to make this claim that there was a systematic rape regime implemented.

    And some of those people, Amy, have well-documented track records of promoting very incendiary narratives about atrocities that occurred on October 7th that were flagrantly false. Just two examples. One of the most prominent or ubiquitous figures that has emerged in Israel’s narrative that Hamas committed systematic rape is an architect from New Jersey named Shari Mendes, who is living in Israel now and is a member of the Israeli Defense Forces rabbinical unit. And she was deployed to prepare women’s bodies for burial in the bases where Hamas attacked military facilities. And she’s been quoted widely saying that they saw widespread evidence of rape and that she personally saw it. She described broken pelvises, not just among, you know, soldiers, but among grandmothers and children. But Shari Mendes also was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that a pregnant woman had a fetus cut out of her body and that the fetus was beheaded and then the mother was beheaded. This is entirely false. We’ve gone through all of the official records that Israel has put out on people who died that day. There was no pregnant woman killed that day. That’s been thoroughly debunked. She also relied on Yossi Landau, a senior official at Zaka. Zaka has been — it’s an ultra-Orthodox private rescue organization. It’s been exposed by Haaretz, the newspaper in Israel, as one of the leading promoters of false information and also that they contaminated the crime scenes by moving evidence around that actual professionals could have done. They also had promoted the beheaded babies stories, etc.

    So, The New York Times, they can’t find anyone who works in the rape crisis centers, at the hospitals, among therapists, that are coming forward and saying, “Yeah, we saw this,” or “We have documentation of this,” so they go to people who already were known to have promoted false information, and then they start relying on their testimony to paint this tapestry, this notion that there was a systematic rape regime. And in the New York Times article, they do not ever disclose that their key witnesses have serious credibility problems. So, this is, at a minimum, we are looking at a New York Times piece that failed to inform its readers about severe credibility issues among some of its premier “witnesses,” quote-unquote, that it put forward in this story.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to part of a podcast interview that Anat Schwartz did on January 3rd, produced by Israel’s Channel 12. It was conducted in Hebrew. Here, Anat talks about the difficulties and pressures in reporting the story.

    ANAT SCHWARTZ: [translated] Maybe the standard that we have to meet may not be realistic. Maybe it won’t be this complete big story that is told from beginning to end and is complex and has details and nuances and characters. And maybe we are aiming too high. Then there was the U.N. woman and the silence, and there was a lot of preoccupation with it. So, I said, “We’re missing momentum.” Maybe the U.N. isn’t addressing sexual assault because no outlet will come out with a declaration about what happened there, and that it will no longer be interesting. And at some point, after one of the rewrites, we said, “OK, that’s it.” And then I already informed all the people in the Israeli police who are waiting to see what was going on. What? Was The New York Times not believing there were sexual assaults here? And I’m also in this place. I’m also an Israeli, but I also work for The New York Times. So, all the time, I’m like in this place between the hammer and the anvil.

    AMY GOODMAN: That’s Anat Schwartz, speaking on a podcast on January 3rd. She said she felt “between the hammer and the anvil,” which, Jeremy, you choose as the title of your piece. Talk about the significance of that and, again, the relationship between Anat Schwartz and other reporter, the young reporter, Adam Sella.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, another part of this story is that one of the main victims that was featured in this is referred to as “the woman in the black dress.” Gal Abdush is her name. And, in fact, her family members are the individuals in the feature photo on the piece. And another thing that we’ve learned from Israeli researchers who published this is that when Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella went to a woman that had taken photographs of Gal Abdush that day, they told this photographer that it was her duty under Israeli hasbara to cooperate with The New York Times and let them have all of her photos. And ”hasbara” is the term for public diplomacy, but what it really is is the notion that Israel should engage in externally focused propaganda in order to win over international audiences, primarily Western, the United States and powerful countries, to Israel’s point of view. So, she is using this term, going and trying to encourage someone to cooperate with The New York Times, not because The New York Times is, you know, the most important news organization in the world, but because it’s their duty under Israeli hasbara. So, when she talks about being caught between the hammer and the anvil, what she’s saying is she’s caught between her duty to be honest and a journalist and her duty to serve the agenda of the Israeli state.

    And her partner in this, Adam Sella, is the nephew of Anat Schwartz’s partner, and they’re not married. In fact, Amy, The New York Times, they requested a correction from us, because we had initially said that it was her nephew, which I think in the context of America and other countries you would say. If you’re somebody’s longtime life partner, you would say, “Oh, yeah, this is my nephew.” OK, they’re not blood relatives, and they emphasize that she’s not married. Fine, we corrected that.

    My question is: Where are the corrections in The New York Times piece? The New York Times has grave, grave mischaracterizations, sins of omission, reliance on people who have no forensic or criminology credentials to be asserting that there was a systematic rape campaign put in place here. And to publish this article at a moment when Israel was intensifying, after that brief pause where captives were exchanged — intensifying its genocidal attack against the people of Gaza, this played a very, very significant role. And the more we learn about this, the more we discover that the reporting tactics that The New York Times used are certainly not up to the standards that the newspaper claims to be promoting. They will not issue any corrections on what has already been documented to be very problematic sins of commission and omission in this piece.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this conversation. We’re talking to Jeremy Scahill, senior reporter at The Intercept. Next up, he’ll be joined by Ryan Grim, who is the Washington bureau chief of The Intercept, and we want to talk to Ryan about what’s happening in The New York Times now in response to this story, and the leak investigation that’s going on, and why a podcast based on their story, their own podcast, The Daily, didn’t air. Stay with us.


    AMY GOODMAN: “I’m from Here” by Amal Markus. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

    We’re speaking with Intercept reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim about their exposé into The New York Times article that was published at the end of December. They published another one in January.

    We asked The New York Times for a response to your article, and the international editor, Phil Pan, responded, quote, “Ms. Schwartz was part of a rigorous reporting and editing process. She made valuable contributions and we saw no evidence of bias in her work. We remain confident in the accuracy of our reporting and stand by the team’s investigation. But as we have said, her 'likes' of offensive and opinionated social media posts, predating her work with us, are unacceptable,” end-quote.

    Ryan, if you can respond to this and talk about what’s going on internally in the Times, and also talk about this leak investigation that’s going on within the paper of record?

    RYAN GRIM: [inaudible] by her own admission, in that podcast interview she had, significant violence, because there are two ways to think about what happened on October 7th. The first way is that it was a day of extraordinary mayhem and violence. The Israeli defenses melted away. Not only did you have several thousand Hamas fighters stream across the fence, but you also had hundreds of civilians, some associated with gangs, come across. And in that context, the idea that there would be no sexual assault is not taken seriously by pretty much anybody who understands kind of war and violence. That’s one way to think about October 7th.

    The other way to think about it is that Hamas intentionally and systematically designed a kind of strategy of weaponizing rape and sexual violence. That was what Anat Schwartz and The New York Times kind of believed going into the investigation. And oftentimes as journalists, we have something that we think we’re going to be able to prove, we report it out, and then we can’t quite get it. Like, it just — we just don’t land the story. But what the Times did is they wrote the story anyway.

    But that gets you then to The Daily episode. So, this article comes out at the very end of December. As The New York Times always does, its landmark pieces get turned into episodes of their flagship podcast, The Daily. But immediately after the story came out, it started coming under criticism, because, as Jeremy pointed out, a lot of the named subjects of the story have enormous credibility problems. And so this starts getting pointed out. Inside the Times, the producers of The Daily have their own kind of fact-checking process where they go over the stories. And the original script that was produced for that first episode had to be discarded, because the producers there couldn’t stand behind it, so they redrafted a second script, which had a lot of caveats and was closer to the first version that I laid out just now, which is an interesting podcast episode, and it’s something worth exploring. But if they had aired that, it would have raised questions about why they were walking away from the certainty of the original piece.

    So, we reported on the kind of machinations inside The New York Times about this, the controversy, the disputes that were going on. And since then, as Vanity Fair reported, The New York Times has — rather than reviewing the kind of journalism that went into this, they are launching a leak investigation to try to figure out who’s talking to us.

    AMY GOODMAN: In February, one of the reporters behind The New York Times investigation, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jeffrey Gettleman, spoke at a conference on conflict-related sexual violence hosted by Columbia University. He talked about the piece.

    JEFFREY GETTLEMAN: I did some stories about hostages. And pretty soon, I mean, maybe, I don’t know, within the first few days of this attack, we were hearing reports of rape and mutilations of women. We heard it right away. And I don’t — maybe people in this room remember those videos of the female soldiers being taken away and the body of that one woman, Shani Louk, in the back of a pickup truck half-naked. Right away, it just — it just — there was obviously crimes against women that happened.

    So, because, sadly, I have some experience doing this, I began looking to see what we could find out. And I worked with two other colleagues, and we interviewed almost 200 people over the course of two months. And what we found, I don’t want to even use the word “evidence,” because evidence is almost like a legal term that suggests you’re trying to prove an allegation or prove a case in court. That’s not my role. We all have our roles, and my role is to document.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to get a response to what he is saying there. He’s talking, by the way, to Sheryl Sandberg, the former COO of Meta, Facebook. Jeremy Scahill, if you can talk about what he sees his role as a reporter?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, this is an astonishing comment from Jeffrey Gettleman. I mean, what is he talking about, that it’s not the job of journalists to uncover evidence? If you’re going to have a headline that — by the way, let me just say this. The “Screams Without Words” headline comes from a source named Raz Cohen, who was at the Nova music festival, and he claims to have witnessed a rape of a woman that he said was — and he’s a special forces, Israeli special forces, veteran, and he has been very adamant that the people who he saw committing this crime were not Hamas, that they were ordinary people. And he has said that in numerous interviews. But to have, then — and he’s the one who said it was like “screams without words.” They’re using a headline from a person whose testimony undermines the thesis of their blockbuster story. So, just to put that on the table.

    But for Gettleman to say that it’s not the job of journalists to produce evidence, when you’re going to say, in the middle of a war, where civilians are being starved and killed in an operation that is under review now by the International Court of Justice for genocide — if you’re going to then make an allegation that Hamas implemented a systematic rape campaign, and you say it’s not your job to produce evidence, then what is the job of a journalist in a situation like this? Because, honestly, if you really read their piece carefully, much of it is innuendo. Much of it is based on sources who have either credibility issues or lack professional credentials to weigh in on these matters. This is a grave, grave situation. This is one of the most important pieces of journalism that has been produced during this war, and one of the most consequential. And for the lead reporter, who himself has won the Pulitzer and is an experienced war correspondent, to say that it’s not the job of The New York Times to present evidence in an article asserting that Hamas systematically raped women, it’s astonishing. It’s astonishing.

    AMY GOODMAN: And also, the prestigious Gorge Polk Award for Foreign Reporting this year was awarded to the staff of The New York Times, the citation reading, in part, quote “for unsurpassed coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas. Times reporters used firsthand accounts to demonstrate how brutal and well planned the Hamas attack was,” end-quote. And this article in question that we’re talking about, “'Screams Without Words,'” was apparently part of the package submitted by The New York Times that won the award. Ryan Grim, if you can talk about that and the dissent within the Times itself?

    RYAN GRIM: Before I answer that, I did want to add one thing to what Jeremy was saying. It is remarkable that Sheryl Sandberg was on that panel with Jeffrey Gettleman, because on December 4th — and Jeremy talked about how this campaign was rolled out — on December 4th, Sheryl Sandberg and the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations hosted an event at the U.N. that launched the campaign against these feminist organizations for not standing up and condemning, you know, Hamas’s systematic use of rape. The next day, it was Bibi Netanyahu and then Biden who piled on that campaign. That same day, on December 4th, Sheryl Sandberg penned an op-ed in CNN. She also gave interviews or was quoted in The New York Times on that same day in an article by Jeffrey Gettleman, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella. So, they were all working together on December 4th to launch this campaign.

    The December 4th article in The New York Times had a much softer headline. It said, you know, “What Do We Know About the Use of Sexual Violence” or “About Sexual Violence on October 7th?” And people can go back and read that story. They reported at the time that Israel had enormous amounts of forensic evidence that they were going through that would establish all of the claims that they were making. On December 8th or 9th, they very quietly corrected that story to say, “Correction: Israel does not have forensic evidence to back up these claims. It is relying on eyewitness testimony.” Anat Schwartz had previously reported in the Times that they had, quote, “tens of thousands of eyewitnesses” that they were going to bring forward to make these claims. So, they front-loaded this campaign with these major claims that there was forensic evidence and thousands of witnesses. Then their final article comes out at the end of the month, and, to a casual reader, you would come away from reading it, saying, “Well, they proved it. They made their case. This barbaric terrorist organization did use rape systematically against Israeli women.” And that was used to justify the continuation of the war on Gaza.

    But then, as you said, when The Daily tried to look closer at the article, they realized they couldn’t actually stand up the claims that were being made in it. And so, inside the Times, you have this extremely intense debate going on. And I think leaders at the Times have been surprised. They’re used to external criticism, but the amount of internal criticism they’re getting has them on the back foot.

    AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Jeremy, we just have 30 seconds, but even the use of the term “terrorist” within The New York Times and the stepping back of one of the leading editorial directors?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of — there’s a lot of concern right now, particularly among reporters who do work on an international level, that there has been a politicization of this war internally within the newsroom that is impacting the coverage. And I think it’s pretty clear. You can see that in some of the journalism. And now The New York TimesThe New York Times has —

    AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: — has ended up walking back the major claim that they made, and now they’re saying hedge words: It may have occurred. That’s one of the most significant things we uncovered here.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim, they are the co-authors of the piece, “'Between the Hammer and the Anvil.'”

    The following sites updated:


    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
    Poll1 { display:none; }