Nicholas Kristof: The New York Times' Apostle of Moral Equivalence
Writing on these pages a few years ago, I called Nicholas Kristof “the worst columnist in the Sunday New York Times.” That may have been somewhat of an exaggeration, although I tried to make out a careful case for my claim. At any rate, Kristof read it, and actually tweeted my column with a sarcastic comment.
Today Mr. Kristof vies for the title once again. This time, he reveals himself to be nothing less than the Apostle of Moral Equivalence. His topic is the fighting now going on in Gaza, as the IDF is doing its best to dismantle the scores of secret tunnels by which Hamas has been hoping to get both its troops and weaponry into Israel. As for Hamas, David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel, lays out its objective in clear and precise terms:
Its overall stated objective remains the destruction of the State of Israel. Its interim objective is ensuring that its rule in Gaza is maintained and flourishes, at maximal pain to Israel, and no matter what the cost to Gazans. As the deputy head of its political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk told Mahmoud Abbas last week in Cairo, “What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?” — a reference to the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade that had so weakened the Gaza economy and thus so harmed Hamas’s standing in Gaza before this round of conflict erupted.
The fighting, then, is the result of Hamas’ decision to attack Israel on a daily basis with thousands of rockets—some of which are able to reach far into Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Bill Clinton understands this. Here reprinted in full is his candid explanation, given to an interviewer without any hesitation:
Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets into Israel. They fired one thousand and they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.
They (Israel) know when Hamas attacks them that Hamas has set up a situation which politically it can’t lose, because they (Israelis) can say ‘well if I attack them back they always hide behind civilians and I’ll kill civilians, and if I don’t we’ll look like fools letting somebody shoot a thousand rockets at us and not responding.’
In the short and medium term Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage by forcing (Israel) to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas. But it’s a crass strategy that takes all of our eyes off the real objective which is a peace that gets Israel security and recognition and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state.
Somehow, Nicholas Kristof shows his readers that he does not get it. Instead, he writes, “this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.”
Let us pause to parse this paragraph. Does Hamas (not the Palestinian citizens of Gaza forced to endure their rule) have any humanity and consideration of its citizens’ needs? This is a terrorist group that has no compunction about setting up its own people to act as human shields in the hope that when Israel hits a terrorist target, these civilians will be killed and then Hamas can show grisly videos of the innocent women and children Israel has murdered. Hamas puts its rocket launchers in hospitals and elementary schools, knowing that Israel will hesitate before aiming a rocket at them. It loads weapons into ambulances, in the hope that Israel will let them by, since medical-aid vehicles are exempted from targeting. Hamas’ tactics are inhumane and repellent on principle. Israel’s tactics are a response to Hamas’ aggression.
Israel accepted the proposed peace treaty suggested by Egypt, which is supported as well by the United States. Hamas rejected it, because it wants the fighting to continue, hoping that as time passes, its objectives will be reached or at least leave them in a better place to continue fighting for their ultimate goal -- the destruction of Israel -- at a later time of their own choosing.
What does Nicholas Kristof say? First, he confuses two issues. He writes that “Israelis are absolutely correct that they have a right not be hit with rockets by Hamas, not to be kidnapped, not to be subjected to terrorist bombings.” True. But in his very next sentence, he writes:
Palestinians are absolutely right they have a right to a state…a right to live in freedom rather than be relegated to second-class citizenship in their own land.
Does not Mr. Kristof comprehend that Hamas does not want a state, unless it is the entire area that is Israel totally under its complete control? Indeed, its first act upon being handed Gaza when Israel gave up its control of the area was to destroy the greenhouses that Israel left them, as well as water-purifying plants, that would have allowed them to build up their infrastructure and to function in a productive way. They want nothing that was developed by Israel, even though Israel gave Hamas the mechanism to start building a viable and peaceful area in Gaza. Nothing will satisfy them, except gaining ground in their war to destroy the Jewish state.
So why should anyone accept Mr. Kristof’s argument that we should “put away the good vs. evil narrative…”? Anyone looking at the situation knows that this is a case of good vs. evil, if ever there was one. Let me put it boldly: Hamas is the very personification of evil. It is not the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, even with its flaws and the PA's half-hearted policies that contradict its expressed intent to establish two states in the region.