A New York Times article published Thursday about the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli military contractors’ efforts to devise a cure for the novel coronavirus attracted criticism on social media for pointing out that many of their prior developments had deadly capabilities.
“The Israeli Defense Ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up, with stealth tanks and sniper drones among its more lethal recent projects,” the article began. The quote was also used by the Times’ Twitter account to promote the article, which led to outrage from some pro-Israel advocates.
The Israeli Defense Ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up. Now it is turning to saving lives. https://t.co/uxIvDLf4nB— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 8, 2020
“What a vile @nytimes statement! And on 75th anniv. of end of WW2 & Holocaust, no less,” wrote American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “Should read: Israeli Defense Ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to defend #Israel since 1948 from annihilation by state/non-state actors.”
“Disappointed in the @nytimes for their shameful twisting of reality,” added Almog Elijis, the spokeswoman for Israel’s consulate in New York. “Saving lives is at the core of what Israel stands for, has always stood for, and will always stand for.”
But some current and former Israeli defense officials pointed out that the article, which went into detail about the various ways Israel’s military-industrial complex is fighting COVID, had a more nuanced view of the situation than its lead sentence indicated. Former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner said it was a “great story” marred by its opening. David Halbfinger, the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief, responded by arguing that pointing out the IDF’s mission to eliminate threats was not inherently a criticism.
Enemies are people, too. You’d have to be predisposed to think Israel kills indiscriminately — or weary of such accusations — to read it that way. All armies are trained and equipped to kill, not just Israel’s. The point here is to contrast with the mission of saving lives.— David Halbfinger (@halbfinger) May 7, 2020
NYT criticized for noting that the IDF kills people