As this is written, the NYT continues to trumpet Israel's claims that the UNWRA school massacre today might have come from misfired Hamas rockets. And an editorial tonight follows suite, citing "competing claims"--as if they are equally likely. On the news pages, the latest revision--now, inevitably, bearing the stamp and byline of chief stenographer Jodi Rudoren--adds yet another explanation from Israeli officials: maybe there were "errant" shells fired in a Hamas-Israel exchange nearby. After all, they say, Israel does not target UN schools so it couldn't have been them, or at least, not on purpose.
One problem with this claim: Israel hit three other UN schools earlier this week.
The Times adds to the "who knows" character of the story by staring that the UN itself has not IDed who fired the fatal rounds. As if that's something the UN normally does, or at least would do in the hours after responding to this catastrophe. But this gives the paper the wiggle room to blame all sides, or none. As they put it, "The source of the blasts was unclear, setting off recriminations between Israelis and Palestinians over which side was responsible." You know, it equally could be either.
The one reporter who has visited the site and with some experience in these matters, Peter Beaumont of The Guardian, hours ago declared that it was clearly Israel's work and more. NBC's Richard Engel on Twitter tonight pointed out that about five separate shells hit the UN school--meaning that Hamas would have had to misfire five separate times. "Likely?" he asked. This was the same point made by Chris Guinness, the UNWRA spokesman, today, on Democracy Now!
Well, Qassam rockets are notoriously inaccurate. So the idea that within a few minutes a group of Qassam rockets could hit roughly the same area seems beyond miraculous. But if that’s what the Israeli army and military spokesman and others, like Mr. Regev, were saying, that’s fine. But, you know, it’s perhaps useful to ask them why it is that weapons, when they fly into Israel, it’s said that they’re completely inaccurate; apparently they can all land in roughly the same space within a matter of minutes yesterday in Beit Hanoun. I think that needs some kind of unpacking.NBC clearly IDed Israel as the culprit all day. Yet most other top U.S. media sites, including the usually open-eyed McClatchy, have followed the NYT lead in pointing a finger away from Israel--based only on Israel's say-so. School "caught in crossfire" was a popular headline. (Some crossfire.) All of this has allowed U.S. officials to decry deaths at the school--without criticizing Israel.
Earlier, Israeli spokesmen, while denying guilt, at the same time claimed Hamas fighters were near the school, and firing came from around there, suggesting they had to return fire. They also claimed they had warned school officials to evacuate ASAP--and why would they do it if a strike was not coming?
Then you have Kristen Chick of the Christian Science Monitor reporting, "Multiple witnesses described multiple explosions in the attack on the shelter and said they appeared to be shelling from Israeli tanks positioned within range of the school." She also tweeted, "After implying school strike was Hamas rocket, IDF now says militants shooting nearby, IDF 'responded with fire toward origins of shooting.'"
Many in U.S. media claimed that Guinness, the spokesman for UNWRA, had tweeted that Hamas rockets had landed near school. I had read his tweet and knew he was only citing claims by others. Today he makes this clear in a tweet: "It is being reported that I confirmed there were Hamas rockets being fired near the school in Beit Hanoun yesterday. I did not."
Yet all of this logic and evidence is missing in the world of Rudoren and the Jerusalem bureau (some reporting by Anne Barnard from Gaza this week was fine). In fact, the day began with a disgraceful top NYT story--also co-authored by Rudoren--that flat-out took Israel off the hook for previous killings. Minutes after it appeared...the school was bombed.