NYTimes Mentions Israeli Nukes

Exclusive: The U.S. press is very tolerant of Israeli cross-border attacks inside Syria, like the latest one against a military target in Latakia. Israel’s nuclear arsenal usually goes unmentioned, too. But the New York Times surprisingly deviated from that pattern, notes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In a rare break from the selective outrage over who possesses WMDs in the Middle East, the New York Times acknowledged on Friday that, yes, Israel does have an undeclared nuclear arsenal.

Apparently the Times had little option but to include this inconvenient truth because the context was the complaint from some Syrians that their government was wrong to surrender its chemical weapons capability in an agreement with the United Nations because the CW was needed to deter a possible Israeli nuclear attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2012, drawing his own “red line” on how far he will let Iran go in refining nuclear fuel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2012, drawing his own “red line” on how far he will let Iran go in refining nuclear fuel.

The article by Anne Barnard reported, “Some government supporters, and indeed, some rebel fighters, have criticized the deal as giving up weapons that belong to the Syrian people and are needed as a deterrent against Israel, which maintains an undeclared nuclear arsenal.

“But Syrian officials said that the weapons were of little practical use and that giving them up allowed them to claim new moral standing and draw attention to the push for the elimination of Israel’s nuclear weapons.”

Amazing! References to Israeli nukes in back-to-back paragraphs. More typically, the Times and other U.S. news outlets avoid mentioning Israel’s rogue nuclear arsenal even when the context calls for it, such as when writing about Syria’s reasons for possessing chemical weapons or why Iran might actually want a nuclear bomb. By leaving out Israel’s secret nukes, the media denies the U.S. public an understanding of why these Muslim countries might legitimately fear that Israel will attack them with nukes.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal is usually even ignored in the U.S. press when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to attack other countries to punish them for their possession or their possible future possession of weapons of mass destruction. For instance, Netanyahu has threatened to bomb Iran if it crosses his “red line” in refinement of nuclear fuel, despite Iran’s repeated assurances that it wants only a peaceful nuclear program.

Israel’s use of aggressive air strikes also is not just hypothetical. Israeli jets have struck Syrian military targets, presumably to destroy what are primarily defensive weapons, i.e. Russian-made surface-to-air missiles. In those cases, the Israeli claim is that the missiles might be transferred to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese militia that fought Israel’s occupation of South Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s and was the target of an Israeli air war in 2006.

These Israeli attacks receive only cursory notice in the U.S. news media. For instance, there were a few brief references in some U.S. news outlets on Friday, describing an attack on Thursday by Israeli warplanes against the Syrian port city of Latakia.

I’m told that some U.S. intelligence analysts believe the latest strike was a show of Israeli anger over the failure of President Barack Obama to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war and to demonstrate to Israel’s new ally, Saudi Arabia, that Israel is ready to assist in efforts to tip the Syrian conflict in favor of Saudi-backed rebels.

Principles of Journalism

The lack of objectivity in mainstream U.S. reporting about the Middle East and particularly issues relating to Israel has distorted how many Americans understand the issues in that strategic region. Pro-Israeli propagandists have been particularly effective in intimidating editors and writers with accusations that they are “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic” if they don’t adopt Israel’s preferred narratives on developments in the Middle East.

Often that pro-Israel slant is reflected not just in what editors put in a story but what they choose to leave out. That is most noticeable in the endless alarm expressed on the news pages of major American newspapers over the alleged possibility that Iran might build one nuclear bomb when Israel already possesses hundreds. It’s also rarely noted that Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, accepting international observers, while Israel hasn’t.

That relevant context doesn’t even show up often when Israel threatens to bomb Iran, i.e. a nuclear-armed state announcing plans to attack a non-nuclear state. So, for the casual reader, the selective rendering of the story ignoring Israel’s actual nuclear arsenal and exaggerating the possibility that Iran might build a bomb someday creates the impression that Israel is undertaking the noble cause of trying to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons into the Middle East, when the reality is that Israel is seeking to keep its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East.

Some Americans may like that idea trusting Israel to be responsible in what they do with their nuclear bombs while fearing that a Muslim country would be reckless but journalism is not supposed to about taking sides. It’s supposed to be about providing relevant information to the reader, something that the New York Times did on Friday.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

5 comments for “NYTimes Mentions Israeli Nukes

  1. Morton Kurzweil
    November 7, 2013 at 16:28

    And another U.S. ally in the Middle East is?

  2. Yaj
    November 2, 2013 at 18:52

    Ms Bernard is the same Times reporter who mentioned in her reporting from Beirut the improvised tube launchers used in Aug 21 chemical event.

    Looks like there’s some slipping going on at the Times, or the copy editors haven’t been told what the basic program is, thereby allowing Ms Bernard to do actual reporting.

  3. John
    November 2, 2013 at 16:20

    Borat, What Israel are they to recognize, that within the ’67 line? If you think it’s broader, that is illegal and should be under discussion. Arafat thought that his deal with Rabin (Rabin paid his life for it – killed by a fanatical Zionist) was along the ’67 line, but as Palestinians found out, Israeli leadership post Rabin wanted it all. It was settler activity and new access roads that killed that peace agreement. Palestinians could see what was going on. I guess you want it all too, stick Geneva and international law concerning people on their homeland. Jordan and Egypt had peace treaties with Israel but the Egyptian one that Sadat signed also included finding a solution for the Palestinian issue. And don’t use that old clap-trap about Palestine not being a country, the law applies to a people living on their homeland.
    Israel uses all kinds of excuses to avoid a reasonable dicussion. There are two wordings of the UN 242, one leaving out a ‘the’ and that dodgy wording happens to favour Israel if you look at it from their point of view. How did that dodgy wording come about? Many others were not aware of this small ?-typo.

  4. Yaj
    November 2, 2013 at 11:16


    Iran is not an Arab country.

    “Sworn to the destruction of Israel”, um no; it aint the cold war anymore. And note the deep Israeli Saudi dealings. So it’s a big stretch to say that Syria is sworn to the destruction of Israel. And Iran has never advocated for such.

    You used the name “hitler”,now there’s another hole in what you call an argument–course Hitler didn’t swear to destroy Israel either.

    (Of course it’s Saudi state which does wander off in to antisemitic rants, but then Israel and the Saudis are pretty close.)

  5. EthanAllen1
    November 1, 2013 at 14:40

    Thank you once again Robert for shining the light of informed reason on the sycophantic corporate media narrative that presents false equivalency as reasoned information and discourse. The very idea that the government of the U.S. supports, and supplies, the proliferation of any WMD’s to any theocratic government is antithetical to our Constitution’s declarations against the conflation of matters of governance and religious dogma and beliefs.
    I think it may be reasonable to conclude that the NYT ownership, as well as many other players in corporate media,is simply engaged in some cursory attempt to attract what they percieve as a rapidly increasing Progressive element in our society. While the mere mentioning of the existance of Israel’s nukes may be somewhat remarkable, as you note herein, I do not believe that it is a signal that they are changing their historic ideological stripes.
    As Usual,

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