Corona and the IDF’s ‘Cutting-Edge Ways of Killing People’

Even when the Israel rolls up its sleeves to come up with innovative ways to fight the coronavirus pandemic, it can’t get a fair shake from the New York Times.

In a roundup of what the start-up nation’s entrepreneurs and defense industry are doing in  areas such as testing,  tracking and telemedicine, bureau chief David Halbfinger leads off with this appallingly disparaging sentence:

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 NYT describes how one company is making strides in using audio technology and artificial intelligence to analyze breathing patterns that might identify indicators of Covid-19.  Another company is developing a system to to let  infectious-disease nurses “instantly determine who else needs to be quarantined when a hospital worker tests positive.” Robots are being adapted to allow doctors to monitor and treat patients remotely, without exposing medical staff. Hopefully, these and the other efforts referred to in the story will help beat back the corona crisis.

But the Times trivializes this research and development. Halbfinger and the editors think this is a  profile of James Bond’s gadget guy, Q.

Memo to the Times: save the opinionizing for the op-ed pages.

The Meaning of IDF Tech Advancements

But there’s another insidious aspect to this lead sentence.

It reinforces the false notion of the IDF as akin to the Star Wars Death Star, bringing vast technological might to bear against ragtag bunch of Palestinians.

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At the risk of spoiling the narrative spun by the Times, Israel’s “cutting-edge ways to kill people” were actually developed to lower the risk of collateral damage to Palestinian civilians.

Regarding the sniper drones, the Times linked to an article by Discover. Most people don’t bother read those linked stories. Did Halbfinger or his editors?

By comparison, Duke Robotics’ sniper drone, called TIKAD, is designed to precisely target individual enemies in crowded city environments. It’s also meant to handle dangerous situations that might ordinarily require human soldiers to clear a sniper or nest of insurgents from a building . . .

An armed sniper drone capable of taking out a single enemy without collateral damage could prove invaluable in situations where enemies have occupied a building that may also contain civilian families.

Technology for detecting underground tunnels, the low-yield bombs the Air Force uses for “roof-knocking” to scare Palestinians away from targeted buildings, these are all used to protect lives — Israeli and Palestinian.

But there’s one final implication to this lead sentence, which is probably what offends Israel and its supporters the most.

No matter what the New York Times says, Israel has no reason to apologize for developing the technology it needs to defend itself.

Featured image: CC0 BY Pixabay, CC0 Unsplash; hands CC0 Pixabay;

Source material can be found at this site.

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