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War of the Words
Two fairly remarkable pieces of journalism appeared recently in back-to-back issues of The New York Times Magazine, remarkable because of the things that were written in both -- certain words and phrases that I would never have expected to see in the Times in any form.
The first of these was a lengthy piece by French writer Bernard Henri-Levy, titled "Pondering, Discussing, Traveling Amid and Defending the Inevitable War." It appeared in the Aug. 6 issue. If you recall, that was in the thick of Israel's recent war.
Henri-Levy, a Jew, writes in the second paragraph of his article: "Before I went to the northern front, near the border with Lebanon, I traveled to Sderot -- the martyred city of Sderot -- to the south, on the border with Gaza. Yes, the martyred city. Because the images that reach us from Lebanon are so terrible and because the suffering of Lebanese civilian victims is so unbearable to the conscience and the heart, it is hard to imagine, I know, that an Israeli city could also be a martyred city. And yet ... these empty streets ... these gutted houses, riddled by shrapnel ... this mountain of exploded rockets piled up in the courtyard of the police headquarters, all of which fell in the last few weeks ... Even that day (it was July 18), a rain of new bombs fell on the center of town and forced the few people who wanted to take advantage of the summer breeze to scurry back down into their basements. ...
"And then, finally, piously pinned on a black-cloth-covered board in the office of Mayor Eli Moyal, these photos of young people, some of them children, who have died under fire from Palestinian artillery. One thing obviously doesn't erase the other. And I'm not one to play the dirty little game of counting corpses. But why shouldn't what is due to some also be due to others? How come we hear so little, at least in the European press, of those Jewish victims who have died since Israel pulled out of Gaza? I have spent my life fighting against the idea that there are good deaths and bad deaths, deserving victims and privileged bombs. I have always agitated for the Jewish state to leave the occupied territories and, in exchange, win security and peace. For me, then, there is a question here of integrity and fairness: devastation, death, life in bomb shelters, existences broken by the death of a child, these are also the lot of Israel."
The other piece appeared the following week, and was laid out exactly like the other (even the typeset was the same). It was headlined "Hezbollah's Other War," and was the work of Michael Young, a Beirut journalist.
The subtitle of the piece said it all: "Israel may eventually stop Hezbollah from firing missiles across its border. But the radical Shi'ites are well on their way to destroying the creation of a new Lebanon, which may have been the point all along."
Who would have imagined that the Times would have let two writers say such things, and say them so clearly and prominently?