The NY Times and BDS: Changing the Subject

The topic of boycott, divestment and sanctions has made another rare—and fleeting—appearance in The New York Times, a phenomenon that takes place only under the right conditions: when it is possible to bury the issue under charges of anti-Semitism.

So it happens that this week BDS creeps into a story titled “Student Coalition at Stanford Confronts Allegations of Anti-Semitism” by Jennifer Medina. Although the Times never covered any aspects of an intense Stanford debate that ended in a vote favoring divestment from Israel this February, the newspaper has now broached the issue in a story based on a single complaint of anti-Semitism.

The student, Molly Horwitz, wrote in the Stanford Daily that she was “shocked and devastated” after an interview with a panel representing a group called the Students of Color Coalition. She was running for the student senate and sought an endorsement from the group, and she had written extensively in her application about being both Jewish and Latina (she was adopted from Paraguay and raised Jewish).

Horwitz claimed that a panel member asked, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?” and she answered that the voting process had been fair but she was disappointed by the outcome. An “awkward silence” followed, she told the Times, and the interview soon came to an end. She failed to get the endorsement.

In a response also published in the Stanford Daily, SOCC denied that the divestment question had been linked to Horwitz’s religion and said it was asked of all candidates. The group also denied charges that it asked senate candidates who received endorsements to sign a contract prohibiting affiliation with Jewish groups.

This last allegation appeared in the Stanford Review, a publication founded by Peter Thiel, who has campaigned against efforts to promote diversity on campus. The Times identifies the paper only as “a student publication that has criticized the [SOCC] in the past.”

There we have it. Even though the Times article admits that the circumstances here are “murky, with no official record,” editors nevertheless chose to run this non-story with a four-column photo at the head of the National section of the newspaper.

By contrast, readers have received virtually no news of the many divestment votes on campuses throughout the United States, including Stanford and a system-wide poll at University of California. Although these have generated lively discussions, late-night meetings and hotly contested votes (and most have been successful), the Times chooses to ignore them.

The paper would rather have us believe that the raging debate on campus concerns “what constitutes anti-Semitism.” In this story and an earlier one about a similar occurrence at the University of California Los Angeles, the Times states that the topic has become a big issue at universities but fails to name any other incidents to support the claim.

The Times is eager to foster a debate about anti-Semitism, but it avoids the hot-button campus discussions on divestment. Those debates bring up unsavory facts about Israel and Palestine, which the paper prefers to obscure and marginalize: human rights abuses, breaches of international law and the daily cruelties inflicted on the residents of Gaza and the West Bank.

In its coverage, the Times amplifies the voices of those who raise charges of anti-Semitism, aiding their efforts to undermine the BDS movement and divert attention from divestment debates. It does so, unfortunately, under the banner of “objective journalism.”

Barbara Erickson

[Further BDS news omitted from the Times: The Israeli High Court of Justice this week upheld a controversial law that allows anyone to sue an individual or group that calls for a boycott of Israel or any entity under its control (such as settlements). 972 Magazine has written two excellent pieces on this development, here and here.]

How the Israeli Army “Helps” Palestinians

It seems that the Israeli Defense Forces, far from repressing Palestinians under their control, are just trying to help. This is what we learn from a recent report by Isabel Kershner in The New York Times. In the occupied West Bank, she writes, the military is making an effort to provide Palestinians with “economic stability and revive the local economy.”

In “Israel’s Military Faces Delicate Balance in West Bank,” Kershner quotes an Israeli general who claims that the army has allowed freer movement of Palestinians in an effort to “offset the growing economic hardship.” This, says Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, is being done even though it involves “some security risks.”

Readers who pay even minimal attention to alternative media will sense serious dissonance here. This talk of easing the burden contrasts with accounts of some very different activities on the part of Israeli forces: the demolition of homes, the confiscation of equipment, the destruction of water systems, the uprooting of olive trees and other activities that directly threaten the livelihoods of Palestinians.

Just last week, for example, the army entered Khan al Ahmar, a Bedouin community outside Jerusalem, and removed a dozen solar panels. The panels had been donated by an organization that promotes sustainability and were the only source of electricity for the village and a school serving all the Bedouin communities in the area. B’Tselem, an Israeli rights organization, reported that the last of the panels had been put in place the same day the army arrived to take them away.

The following day Israeli officers uprooted and confiscated 120 olive trees near Salfit in the northern West Bank, claiming that the farmers who owned the trees had been told to evacuate their land. This came on top of a one-week period last month when the army destroyed 492 trees in three communities across the West Bank. The orchards, according to the army, had been declared “state land.”

The same week that Israeli forces were uprooting nearly 500 olive trees, officers confiscated water tanks in the northern Jordan Valley farming community of al Farisiyah, which is not connected to a water supply network. Another Jordan Valley community lost its water supply in late January when the army confiscated all its recently installed water pipes.

The IDF is responsible for all of this, whether in its role as the Civil Administration (a branch of the military) or as troops guarding the agency’s workers.

Yet Kershner reports in the Times that these same Israeli forces who are devastating homes, fields, solar panels and water tanks are trying to bolster the economy of the West Bank. Without a hint of irony she quotes General Alon as saying that the government has instructed his army to “maintain security, civilian and economic stability as much as we can.”

Kershner blames at least part of the West Bank’s economic problems on the Israeli government’s decision to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority, a punitive measure taken after Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court at the beginning of this year. There is no mention of the fact that army officials are tasked with destroying the most basic amenities in West Bank communities.

Nor is anything said about home demolitions, which have driven East Jerusalem families out of their neighborhoods and forced a number of West Bank Palestinians to take shelter in caves. Some 15 families in the village of Al Mafqara near Hebron are now living in mountainside caves after the army destroyed the homes they were building. The army raids also destroyed a generator, the only source of electricity for the village.

It would take only minimal efforts to alleviate the burdens of Palestinians who now live without electricity or piped water, but this is not part of the mitigation plan described by General Alon. Israel’s “effort to offset economic hardship” involves two policy changes: allowing Palestinians with permits to enter Israel simply by showing their identity cards and by lowering the age of permit applicants from 24 to 22.

Even this is a “risk,” according to Alon, but apparently it is seen as a safety valve, a way to prevent Palestinian unrest. Readers would never know from this story and others in the Times that Palestinians are the ones at constant risk of harassment, loss and damages.

Kershner writes that her interview with General Alon was a “rare” opportunity and came only as he was leaving his tour of duty as top commander in the West Bank. Here was a chance to ask some urgent questions concerning army abuses in the territory—the arrest, mistreatment and detention of Palestinian children, for instance, and the excessive use of deadly force during demonstrations, both well-documented by monitoring agencies.

But none of this was on Kershner’s radar. General Alon was allowed to hold forth on his efforts to “offset the economic hardship” in the West Bank, apparently without any unwelcome questions from the Times’ reporter. The result is a story with blinders on, one that turns away from the facts on the ground and gives voice to a claim that is ultimately absurd.

Barbara Erickson

Israeli Spin Trumps Ethics in The NY Times

Marathon runners gathered in Bethlehem recently to run loops through the walled-in city, aiming to make a point: Israel’s separation barrier has cut the city off from Jerusalem and much of the West Bank and confined its residents inside a towering wall. The New York Times was on hand to observe and report, but the result was something less than an honest view of the scene.

The event was named “The Right to Movement: Palestine Marathon,” and reporter Diaa Hadid tells us that it took place in Bethlehem in order “to draw attention to the constraints Palestinians say they face in their daily lives.”

Note her use of the phrase “Palestinians say they face.” This is a familiar construction in the Times. Palestinians suffer from undeniable rights abuses under the Israeli occupation, but this cannot be stated outright. Times stories tend to reduce these facts to “claims,” issues that readers can dismiss as the grumblings of Israel’s adversaries.

Thus we also read in the marathon story that “Bethlehem is a postcard-perfect location to display Palestinian grievances.” With the single word “grievances” oppressive policies are dismissed as mere complaints.

This is not the case when it comes to the Israeli side of the narrative. Hadid writes, “Israel built the barrier in response to a wave of suicide bombings during the Second Intifada. Palestinians see it more as a land grab because it frequently dips into the West Bank swallowing what they see as their traditional lands.”

So Israel’s stated rationale for building the barrier is taken at face value, as a “response” pure and simple. But it is a different situation for the Palestinians: Once again we have their problems framed as a point of view, something they “see more as” a land grab. And the territory in question is no longer theirs; it has become “what they see as their traditional lands.”

Any story that deals so directly with the Separation Wall should remind readers of these facts: The International Court of Justice has declared the barrier to be illegal under international law, and 85 percent of the planned route runs within the West Bank not on the boundary with Israel. (Thus, when Hadid writes that the wall “dips into” Palestinian territory, she is minimizing the actual state of affairs.)

In its 2004 14-to-1 decision the ICJ declared that the wall was not necessary for Israel’s security and that it should be dismantled and reparations made for the extensive damage it had caused. Israel rejected to ICJ’s findings and continues to build on Palestinian land, cutting off farmers from their fields and dividing families and communities.

Israeli officials like to say that the wall has prevented suicide bombings, but the fact is that Hamas on its own abandoned the tactic in 2006. It was not the wall that stopped the bombings; it was the decision by Hamas.

In fact, the wall has never been an impermeable barrier. It has failed to keep out some 15,000 to 30,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who work illegally inside Israel and is obviously no obstacle to would-be bombers.

It is also worth noting that suicide bombings ended when the wall was only partially completed, and now, long after the threat ended, Israel continues to build, citing a rationale that no longer applies.

Nevertheless, in the Times story the wall is a “response” to bombings, while the abuses of the occupation, clearly revealed under the adjudication of international law, have become nothing more than claims. In the newspaper of record readers are shortchanged once again as Israeli spin trumps the demands of ethical journalism.

Barbara Erickson

The Ugly Reality of the Occupation: Censored in The NY Times

Israel has been the big story in The New York Times this month, with lead stories, front page photos and endless commentary. Reporters and pundits have looked at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and his election win from every angle. What could be left to say? What more would you want to know?

In fact, there is much that the Times is not telling you. For instance, that Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians this month and that the United Nations released a report showing that Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any year since the 1967 war.

Times reporters failed to cover these events, and they continued, as always, to neglect the ongoing harassment of Palestinians, the daily incidents that underscore the brutality of the occupation—home demolitions, the destruction of crops and orchards and the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons to threaten and injure protesters.

The first to die from Israeli fire this month was a Gaza fisherman, Tawfiq Abu Riyala, 32, who was shot in the abdomen March 7 as his boat sailed within the six-mile limit set by the terms of the August 2014 ceasefire. Riyala, who had created an artificial reef to attract fish within the allowable offshore limit, was featured in news accounts after his death.

The second victim was Ali Mahmoud Safi, 20, of Al Jalazun refugee camp, shot in the chest during a demonstration near Ramallah March 18; he died a week later. A third man died March 1 in Gaza from unexploded remnants left from the Israeli attacks last summer. He was gathering sand from a destroyed building to use in rebuilding his home.

The recent UN report, “Fragmented Lives,” sums up the effects of the occupation on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It states: “Palestinians across the [occupied Palestinian territories] continue to be subject to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settlers violence. 2014 witnessed the highest civilian death toll since 1967 due to the July-August hostilities in Gaza and a significant increase in Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank.”

This report was released last week and is eminently newsworthy, but it has received no attention from the Times. Likewise, the systemic problems alluded to in the report—settler violence and policies and practices related to the occupation—rarely make the pages of the newspaper.

Readers would have to visit alternative news outlets or the weekly reports out of the United Nations to discover the information denied them in the Times. During this past month, they would have found the following took place during the four weeks from Feb. 24 to March 23 (see UN weekly reports):

  • 81 homes and other buildings in the West Bank were demolished by Israel, leaving 93 people displaced.
  •  170 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
  • In 98 incidents Israeli security forces fired on Palestinians near land and sea boundaries in the Gaza Strip. In addition to the fisherman killed on March 7, two other fishermen were injured and six were detained during these attacks.
  • 991 olive trees were destroyed by settlers and Israeli security forces in the West Bank. On March 29 settlers destroyed another 1,200 trees near Hebron.
  • Settlers set fire to a mosque near Bethlehem and a Greek Orthodox church in East Jerusalem.

The demolitions, injuries and settler vandalism are weekly events in the occupied territories. The Times, however, has consistently ignored them, even when settlers destroy 1,200 trees in a single attack.

The newspaper turns away from the facts on the ground and the legitimate grievances of Palestinians under Israeli rule. It prefers to focus on Israeli politics and the analyses of Israeli pundits, avoiding the ugly realities of the decades-long occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.

Barbara Erickson

[For a close-up view of life under occupation, see a photo essay of one week in Hebron here.]

Blaming the Victims: An Art Form in The NY Times

Now that the Israeli election has faded from prominence on the front pages of The New York Times, readers may recall that a new entity sprang up during the 2015 campaign, a coalition party called the Joint List. It represents the Palestinian (Arab) citizens of Israel, and it managed to take third place in the number of seats in parliament.

The Times gave space to this new phenomenon. The party was duly mentioned in overviews of the race, and stories out of the Israeli Arab cities of Nazareth and Ibillin looked at its candidates and the concerns of Palestinians who support its platform.

At first glance, this is all to the good—the Times often overlooks the presence of Arabs and other minorities within Israel—but a closer look shows that even here we find the usual effort to shield Israel from serious scrutiny.

The Times stories (“Arab Alliance Rises as Force in Israeli Elections” and “Voters in Nazareth Cheer Gains by Arab Alliance”) note that Palestinian citizens of Israel are poorer and less educated than their Jewish counterparts and that they live in more crowded conditions, but the articles say nothing about the Israeli policies and laws that create this inequality in the first place.

On the contrary, the stories imply that the fault is with Israeli Arab leaders. Reporter Diaa Hadid quotes a Palestinian resident of the Galilee who says Arab politicians have done nothing for them so far. “We have no space here,” the man adds, apparently blaming this fact on the Palestinian representatives.

Hadid then describes the town as “crowded with boxy concrete homes on narrow streets” with “billboards blighting the view.” The “densely packed” Arab towns, she writes, “are in stark contrast to the leafy, well-planned Jewish communities that often sit nearby.”

There is no mention of the fact that 93 percent of the land in Israel is owned by the state for the benefit of Jews only and it is Israeli policies that prevent Arabs from expanding their crowded towns. Nazareth, for instance, has been encircled by the Jewish community of Nazareth Illit, which sits on hilltops surrounding the city. It was built specifically to block any efforts to develop Nazareth beyond its present boundaries.

The story also fails to note that 600 Israeli Jewish towns have been built since 1948 while the state has yet to recognize a single new Arab community. In fact, many towns that predated the establishment of Israel by centuries are “unrecognized” by the state and thus denied normal services, such as water, schools and transportation.

Most of these unrecognized villages are Bedouin communities in the Negev (Naqab in Arabic). Israel plans to force nearly all of their residents into townships, destroying their traditional livelihoods of herding and agriculture.

During the recent elections, residents of these villages were forced to travel long distances to reach polling places. The authorities refused to set up polls in their communities and even cut back the number of voting sites that had existed before.

Yet, none of this appeared in the pages of the Times, even in the stories directly concerned with Arab voters. Nothing is said of the more than 50 laws that privilege Jewish over minority residents of Israel. Instead, readers were provided with a vague reference to inequality in “land allocation” and demeaning comparisons between Palestinian and Jewish communities.

In a third story concerning the Joint List, the Times acknowledges the prejudice and ridicule directed at Arab members within parliament, but overall the paper fails to provide the context for Arab struggles within Israel, beginning with the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 and continuing even now with the confiscation of homes and land. (See, for instance, “Arab village of Dahmash fears being wiped off Israel’s map.”)

As Israeli Palestinians continue to cling to their homeland, squeezed into constricted spaces and denied the benefits of the majority community, they deserve recognition of their narrative. The Times, however, prefers to protect Israel, falling back on that ancient tactic of blaming the victim.

Barbara Erickson

The NY Times Airbrushes Palestinians From the West Bank

As the Israeli election approaches, The New York Times has provided us with a broad look at West Bank settlements, publishing an online piece with interactive maps to illustrate their rapid growth and an analysis of spending, population, planning and construction and how all this will shake out in the final vote.

The lavishly illustrated piece, “Netanyahu and the Settlements,” seems to provide readers with a quick overview of the issues, but it is all smoke and mirrors: A major element of the West Bank is missing here—the Palestinians, the indigenous residents of this landscape.

In all of this lengthy article, reporter Jodi Rudoren  never once quotes a Palestinian source. We meet settlers and we hear from American and Israeli officials, but Palestinian voices are omitted entirely. Their opinions emerge only in brief phrases—“Palestinians object” or “Palestinians do not accept”—never with a name attached.

After brief dabs of local color in the opening paragraphs, Times readers are introduced to an airbrushed West Bank, without a Palestinian community in sight: “The West Bank,” they write, “is 2,100 square miles of rolling hills dotted by some 200 Jewish settlements surrounded by security fences. They include the hilltop city of Ariel, with its own university and regional theater; planned communities of cookie-cutter houses with red-tile roofs; and hilltop outposts where a few dozen people live in trailers.”

Readers are then taken on a tour of several settlements, and they can click on aerial views to watch them grow over time, but they never visit Palestinian cities or villages, the native communities of this land. In this West Bank there is no Bethlehem or Jericho, no Jenin or Nablus; it is all a Jewish affair.

We learn that international opinion opposes settlement growth, and we get a look at how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accelerated construction during his tenures, but the Times avoids any look at the devastating consequences of settlement building on Palestinian lives.

In the Times, the problem is nothing more than an abstract issue of negotiations and electoral politics. It is a “dilemma for peacemakers” or a “central element of his troubled relationship with Washington,” all of which is far removed from the ugly facts on the ground.

Times readers learn virtually nothing about the ethnic cleansing that accompanies settlement expansion and the harsh consequences for Palestinians. Other media outlets and monitoring groups, however, provide frequent accounts of settler and army harassment, demolitions, olive tree burnings and land seizures, all aimed at driving Palestinians off their land.

Last week, for instance, Israeli bulldozers invaded a Jordan Valley herding community and bulldozed tin shacks and tents that were sheltering the families. The community, Khirbet Ein Karzaliyah, has clung to the land in spite of repeated demolitions. The Red Cross and other aid agencies supply new tents, but Israeli authorities return repeatedly to tear down homes and animal pens, leaving the residents and their stock exposed to the elements.

It is part of a “decades-long policy to expel thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of shepherding communities” in the West Bank, an IMEMC news article stated. It referred readers to a report by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, which details the efforts to force these Palestinians off their land and make way for Jewish ownership and development.

Other reports last week exposed the military use of “firing zones” as a means of seizing land under Palestinian ownership. It told of another Jordan Valley community where the army forced Palestinians out of their homes by designating an area as a firing zone for training exercises. It then reduced the size of the zone and allowed settlers to move in and build there.

In the Times, settlements come at no cost to Palestinians. They are simply a matter of contention and take up land that Palestinians “would like to have” as a future state. There is no mention of the deprivation and suffering settlements cause and no recognition that the land they stand on was stolen from its indigenous owners.

Readers learn that the international community opposes Israeli settlement building, but we never get a look at what is driving this opposition. The Times prefers to stand at a distance from the reality of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, reducing human suffering to abstractions and removing the victims from the scene.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times’ Flimsy Attempt to Smear BDS

After months of silence on the steamrolling campus movement in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions aimed at Israel, The New York Times has at last spoken out—in a not-so-subtle attempt to tarnish the movement as anti-Semitic.

In a page 1 piece, which was also prominent online, the Times presents Jewish students as victims of a poisoned atmosphere on universities nationwide. The article is titled “Debate Over Treatment of Jews Is Amplified on Many Campuses” (in the print edition) but manages to cite only a single example of this “debate”—a discussion over the confirmation of a Jewish student to a University of California-Los Angeles board.

The story by Adam Nagourney states that the discussion “served to spotlight what appears to be a surge of hostile sentiments directed against Jews at many campuses in the country.” He then links this sentiment to the passage of a UCLA student government resolution in favor of divestment from companies that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

Nagourney notes that UCLA is “one of many campuses” to take such an action, but he provides readers with no further details. Readers never learn, for instance, that many Jewish students work to pass BDS resolutions at their schools.

The Times has failed to deliver any serious coverage of student BDS actions in the United States and beyond, although the movement has steadily racked up victories, even in the face of intense lobbying efforts by pro-Israel activists. The UCLA vote last November, for instance, was the sixth University of California undergraduate vote in favor of divestment.

Another significant victory came in December, when graduate and undergraduate workers throughout the statewide University of California system voted in favor of divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and its violations of human rights. The vote was taken under the auspices of the United Auto Workers Union Local 2865, which represents 13,000 students. The resolution passed by a two-thirds margin.

In February the Stanford undergraduate student senate voted in favor of divestment by more than two to one (10-4, with one abstention), and last week the student senate of the University of Toledo in Ohio approved a similar resolution by the landslide vote of 21 to 4. Other schools joining the movement in the past year include the University of New Mexico, Loyola University in Chicago and Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

The movement has been successful overseas also. In 2014, the United Kingdom National Union of Students voted to support BDS movements on campuses, and student unions at the University of Exeter, the University of Kent and the National University of Ireland voted in support of BDS measures.

Last month the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London handed the campaign a major victory when more than 2,000 students, faculty and contract workers endorsed an academic boycott of Israel by an overwhelming 73 percent. The vote took place over five days and called for SOAS to cut all ties with Israeli academic institutions.

None of this is newsworthy, according to the Times. Nagourney’s story glosses over the movement with a single reference to UCLA as “one of many campuses” to vote for BDS measures. Readers learn nothing about the factors that inspire students to take up the cause or the debates over Palestine and Israel taking place on a number of campuses.

Instead, the Times gives prominence to a single incident at UCLA and blows this into an unsubstantiated claim about a “surge of hostile sentiments” toward Jews. The evidence for this charge, as the news site Mondoweiss stated, “is laughably thin. No statistics, no research, not even a biased survey from the [Anti-Defamation League].”

The BDS movement is a story of national and international significance, but rather than inform readers, the Times attempts to deflect attention from the campaign, the facts on the ground in Israel and Palestine and the growing support for BDS. It is Israel first and foremost, once again.

Barbara Erickson

Somebody Needs to Tell The NY Times: Israel Has The Bomb

The New York Times has had plenty to say about Iran and nuclear ambitions recently—in op-eds, editorials and news stories; in reports on negotiating sessions and in articles about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coming speech to Congress, at which he will raise the alarm about Iran’s ability to produce a bomb.

In all these venues—opinion pieces and news accounts—one element of this story is taken for granted: A nuclear proficient Iran would be a threat and cannot be allowed. As Israeli politician Isaac Herzog wrote in a Times op-ed published this weekend, “If [Iran] goes nuclear, the Middle East will go nuclear, putting world peace itself in jeopardy.”

Yet, in spite of all the words devoted to this issue, a major piece of information is missing: The Middle East has already gone nuclear. Israel has had the bomb since 1967 and is counted as the world’s sixth nuclear state, with a stockpile of weaponry possibly equal to that of France and the United Kingdom.

As Netanyahu warns against nuclear research in Iran and the Times editorial board insists that Iran allow “even more aggressive inspections” by the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is no mention of the fact that Israel has refused to allow any inspections of its advanced nuclear program and refuses even to confirm that it exists.

There is no compelling reason to prevent the Times from writing about Israel’s nukes. The newspaper has already published at least one opinion piece urging more openness on the issue; similar commentary has appeared in other publications, such as The New Yorker; and academic groups have openly issued assessments of Israel’s program.

Israeli scholar Avner Cohen has published two books on the subject (the second is titled The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb). Seymour Hersh, a former member of the Times’ own staff, has written one (The Samson Option), and Israeli journalist Ari Shavit dedicated an entire chapter in his book, My Promised Land, to the creation of Israel’s nuclear facility. Shavit speaks with pride of this accomplishment and notes that his chapter won the approval of Israeli censors.

The Federation of American Scientists states that “the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons is a ‘public secret’ by now due to the declassification of large numbers of formerly highly classified US government documents which show that the United States by 1975 was convinced that Israel had nuclear weapons.”

It is only left to determine just how many nuclear weapons Israel possesses and how it is capable of delivering them. The estimates vary from 80 (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) to 300 weapons, which can be launched by land, air and sea.

In 2009 Israel and its nukes made the news when the general conference of the IAEA called on Israel to open its facilities to inspection. The Israeli delegate to the conference rejected the request, saying, “Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution.”

In the face of all this, the Times recently published a lead editorial concerning “the protracted nuclear threat from Iran” and how best to contain it. The piece noted that “Iran’s major nuclear installations are already monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and watched by the United States.”

But, the editorial insisted, this is not enough. Iran must also ratify the IAEA’s “additional protocol” in order to “ensure materials are not diverted to a covert nuclear weapons program.”

A covert nuclear program is precisely what Israel has had since the 1950s, but the Times has nothing to say about it. Moreover, while Israel has refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty or allow inspections of its program, Iran has done both. It is a signatory to the treaty and allows IAEA visits to its facilities.

Here is Israeli exceptionalism at its irrational worst. The Times has no problem pointing the finger at Iran, which has signed the treaty and allowed inspections, but it shields Israel, which has done neither and is already capable of launching nuclear weapons against its neighbors in the Middle East.

If it chose to report this issue fully, the Times could rely on expert analysis and testimony as evidence, and it could point to the precedence of publications which have “outed” the program in their writings. The information is readily available, but the newspaper prefers to say nothing.

At the least, the Times could say that Israel is “widely believed” to possess nuclear weapons, but it avoids even this construct. As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal in public, The New York Times remains silent as well.

Readers are entitled to a fully informed treatment of the current debate over Iran and nuclear arms in the Middle East, but there is no sign that this will happen anytime soon. The newspaper places its obligations to journalism behind its loyalty to Israel, and readers are the losers in this game—once again.

Barbara Erickson

Israel Under Existential Threat—From Rock Throwers

Four-year-old Adele Biton, an Israeli girl, died this week, two years after she was injured in a car crash that took place during a stone throwing assault. Although her death was not directly tied to the trauma she suffered then, The New York Times saw fit to report the event in a recent news piece.

The story, by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, is titled “Israeli Girl Injured in Palestinian Rock Throwing Attack in 2013 Dies.” It includes quotes from a settler leader and government official who mourned her passing; it also adds that she had become a “potent national symbol of the dangers that stones can cause.”

We can contrast her death with that of Methad Rada, 31, a disabled man who died in Gaza this month, six months after he was injured during a missile attack on a United Nations school in Rafah. His death, said to be caused by complications from the injury, brought the death toll in that assault to 13 and raised the total killed in Gaza during the summer’s conflict to 2,220.

The New York Times has had nothing to say about Rada’s death. He was injured by a weapon far more dangerous than rocks, and he was one of many to be maimed or killed under the Israeli assault, but neither Rada nor any of the other thousands left crippled by Israel’s sophisticated armory has received serious notice in the Times.

The Times appears oblivious to its own unthinking bias, which is mirrored in another recent story about desperate youths trying to escape the blockaded enclave of Gaza. Although the article cries out for a hard look at just what is driving this young men to leave their homes, the Times has made no attempt to do this.

The story, also by Rudoren, dismisses this fundamental question in a few terse words: The youths are leaving, she writes, to escape “poverty, death and destruction.” No fuller explanation is offered.

Instead, she devotes a good portion of the piece to Israeli fears. “The crossings,” she writes, “have shaken residents on Israel’s side of the fence still psychologically scarred from the series of tunnel invasions by Palestinian militants that punctuated last summer’s conflict.”

She omits the fact that no tunnel attacks targeted Israeli civilians or led to any injuries of civilians. They were used only for military operations.

Likewise, the present influx of fence jumpers has led to no assaults on civilians, and army officials confirmed that the crossings are “less about terrorism than desperation.” But this does not prevent Rudoren from hyping the fear factor.

She interviews residents of two kibbutzim near the border, where some have taken to carrying pistols, and she notes that “reports of each illegal crossing are jittery reminders of last summer.”

Life in Gaza takes a back seat in her story. Israeli fear is placed front and center.

Adele Biton’s death may or may not have been due to the car accident caused by a rock throwing incident two years ago, but the event provided one more opportunity to highlight the claims of Israeli victimhood. The death of Rada has no place in this opportunistic narrative, and it therefore finds no mention in the Times.

The Times strives to portray Israel, with its sophisticated military might, as under threat from rock throwers and impoverished job seekers. That it does so without a hint of irony testifies to the blind depths of this ingrained bias.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Snubs David Carr’s Gaza Expose

In all its many tributes to media critic David Carr, who died last week, The New York Times has praised his style, honesty and courage and held to light the dramatic arc of his life, but the paper has failed to mention one of his finest moments as a newsman: the day he called out the Israeli military for targeting and killing journalists.

Carr’s column, “Using War as Cover to Target Journalists,” appeared on Nov. 25, 2012, five days after Israeli missiles killed three newsmen traveling in marked cars in Gaza. Carr wrote, “Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, ‘The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.’”

He followed this with a terse comment: “So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”

Carr also noted that Israel had earlier struck two buildings housing “journalists and production personnel from a variety of local and international news media outlets,” and he reported the outraged protests from Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders over the killings.

All of this should have appeared in the Times news section, but Jodi Rudoren’s article the day of the strikes obscured the reality of what took place. She summed up one of the strikes in these words: “Just before 6 p.m., two camera operators for Hamas’s Al Aqsa Television network were burned to death when a bomb exploded their car on Al Shifa Street at the edge of the Beach Refuge Camp.”

Rudoren introduces this fact far into her story and she omits the death of a third journalist, also killed in a targeted strike that day. In her telling, Israeli forces had no responsibility for their deaths: It was simply that “a bomb exploded their car.”

It was not until Carr’s column appeared days later that readers were fully informed of Israel’s culpability. The difference was obvious to those members of the Israel lobby who monitor the news. They were silent following Rudoren’s story, but immediately after Carr’s column appeared the lobby responded—with letters to the editor and attacks in Zionist media, all of them saying the victims were terrorists, not really journalists.

The contrast is telling. Rudoren’s story shielded Israel; Carr’s column brought Israeli breaches of international law to public notice, and so he took the heat.

David Carr was doing the work that the Jerusalem bureau should have done, and his truth telling undermined the Times’ claim of neutrality, especially in regards to Israeli actions in Palestine. Along with his many other achievements, he should be remembered for this.

Barbara Erickson