Cooking the Books for Israel: How The NY Times Plays a Numbers Game

Jodi Rudoren today in The New York Times puts up a numbers barrier to hide the reality of Palestinian casualties in the latest spate of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The aim, as usual, is to maintain the claim of Israeli victimhood and to obscure the criminal brutality of the occupation.

In a story about four who died yesterday in alleged attacks in the region, Rudoren writes that more than 90 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 1, “about half while attacking or trying to attack Israelis and the rest during demonstrations where they clashed with Israeli soldiers.”

We are to believe from this statement that only violent activists have died at the hands of Israeli forces, but in fact, several Palestinians have been killed in circumstances that were anything but “clashes”—at checkpoints, for instance, when trigger happy troops shot and killed unarmed victims. One of the dead was a 73-year-old grandmother on her way to lunch with her sister.

To omit these cases is to ignore the findings of human rights groups that have charged Israel with committing extrajudicial executions in recent weeks, and Rudoren’s statement, in the face of their evidence, is an effort to distort the facts.

The misrepresentations do not end there, however. Rudoren goes on to say, “At the same time, 17 Israeli Jews have been killed and dozens wounded in 70 stabbings, 10 shootings and 10 vehicular attacks.”

Note what is missing here: the number of Palestinians that have been wounded and the attacks against them in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Her aim is to minimize the huge discrepancy in casualty counts by omitting the number of Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces and settlers.

Ninety compared to 70 sounds like something approaching parity, but Rudoren has deliberately omitted the logical comparison—the number of injuries. This, according to United Nations data, was 133 Israelis and 9,171 Palestinians injured as of Nov. 16.

We should ask Rudoren and Times editors why this information is missing here, in a context that cries out for full disclosure.

Beyond the full casualty count, the Times could also inform readers of other statistics that illuminate the reality of Palestinian-Israeli relations:

  • A weekly average of 150 Israeli military search and arrest operations in the West Bank last year.
  • 211 reported incidents of settler violence against Palestinians this year as of Nov. 16. (Actual incidents are daily occurrences throughout the West Bank.)
  • 50 Israeli military incursions into Gaza from Jan. 1 to Nov. 16, 2015.
  • 481 demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures as of Nov. 16 this year. (This includes homes, animal shelters, cisterns, wells and public buildings such as schools.)
  • 601 Palestinians displaced due to demolitions in 2015.
  • 6,700 Palestinian political prisoners currently held by Israel.
  • 320 Palestinian child prisoners currently in Israeli prisons.

The information for the numbers above comes from the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs and from Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization. The Times, however, ignores their reports and prefers to rely on official Israeli entities. Thus, the numbers Rudoren cites for attacks and casualties are taken from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has an obvious interest in political spin.

Israel has the first and last word in the Times. The United Nations, Palestinian monitoring groups and human rights organizations are silenced while Israeli official claims are taken as fact. The word “alleged,” for instance, never appears in Rudoren’s piece today. The UN report, however, uses the term frequently, distinguishing between the claims of security forces and verified information.

In short, Times reporting on Palestine and Israel is a disgrace. Numbers are deliberately manipulated, relevant facts are censored, and the result is dishonest journalism, in spite of the newspaper’s lofty claims of providing “the complete, unvarnished truth” and “impartial” reporting. The numbers simply prove them wrong.

Barbara Erickson

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Israeli Spin in The NY Times: The Annals of Absurdity

Five men died in Israel and the West Bank yesterday, the victims of shooting and stabbing attacks by Palestinians. The assaults took place in Tel Aviv and in the Etzion illegal settlement bloc, and their deaths, according to The New York Times, marked “the deadliest day in the recent wave of violence.”

Deadliest day? For Israelis, yes, but not for Palestinians. As the Times has reported, Israeli soldiers shot and killed six young men in Gaza during demonstrations at the border fence on Oct. 9. Days later, on Oct. 20, five more Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli troops within the span of 12 hours (in this case, the newspaper remained silent and made no effort to report their deaths).

Nevertheless, Isabel Kershner in the Times today insists that the five deaths (one involving a Palestinian working in Israel and one involving an American visitor) are the high point in violence since a wave of lone wolf attacks against Israelis broke out at the beginning of October.

Nothing could provide more certain evidence of the Israeli bias in the Times. Palestinian deaths do not register on their tally of casualties; violence refers only to Palestinian aggression.

Kershner’s story acknowledges that some 90 Palestinians have died since the beginning of October, compared with 16 Israelis, but in explaining this discrepancy she manages once again to blame the victims. The Palestinians died, she says, while attacking or attempting to attack Israelis or “in clashes with Israeli security forces.”

Nothing is said of those who died in what human rights groups call apparent extrajudicial executions: the youth shot as he tried to extract his identity card from his pocket, the young woman killed as she stood with her hands over her head. It seems the Times wants us to believe the often dubious claims of Israeli forces responsible for Palestinian deaths.

Today’s story lists all of the victims by name and gives a detailed account of one of them, an American teenager who had “distributed food and candy to Israeli soldiers” the day he was killed. The Oct. 9 story about the deaths in Gaza gives the name of not a single Palestinian.

Kershner, however, has provided us with some context here, and the result is bizarre. She manages to link the five deaths to a long-awaited agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority “granting Palestinian cellphone carriers 3G high-speed cellular services in the West Bank.”

The attacks came “hours after” this agreement, she writes, and she goes on to imply that Palestinians should have taken this contract as something of a white flag, a sign that a truce is in effect.

“The move,” Kershner states, “intended to bolster economic development, had indicated a possible effect, or desire, to return to calm after weeks of violence.” She then quotes an Israeli minister who claims, “We always agree to confidence-building measures with the Palestinians to help with their economy.”

It is difficult to reconcile this assertion of goodwill with the fact that Palestinian cellphone carriers have been requesting the right to use 3G services since 2006 and only at this point has Israel agreed to allow this now outdated technology. Yet Kershner reports it without a hint of irony.

Readers are to take from this that the Palestinians have no right to protest, let alone to resort to violence. Israel, Kershner is saying, has their well-being at heart.

Missing, as usual, is the context of the brutal occupation, the ever-tightening pressure of settlement building that robs Palestinians of land, water, basic livelihoods and the right to move freely. Missing also are the arrests and abuse of young Palestinians, some as young as 6, and the heavy use of administrative detention, which denies detainees the right to a defense or even to know the charges against them.

If Kershner wanted to peg her story to recent developments, she could have mentioned the crackdown on the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel; the slap on the wrist meted out to the police officer who brutally beat an American Palestinian teenager last year; or the collective punishment of home demolitions, which can leave a wide trail of devastation beyond the stated targets.

Instead, readers are told that Israeli “goodwill” has been spurned by ungrateful Palestinians and that Israelis alone are the victims of violence. Thus, the Times and Kershner give dominance to Israel spin even as their efforts turn the news into an exercise in distortion and absurdity.

Barbara Erickson

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The NY Times: In Praise of Israel’s Killing Squads

In The New York Times it’s all part of a high stakes game, the good guys (Israelis) against the bad guys (Palestinians), and this time the good guys won, taking the prize through clever and audacious disguises.

Such is the tone of Isabel Kershner’s story today that tells of yet another outrage by Israel: Special forces invaded a hospital in Hebron, held the staff at gunpoint, killed a visitor point blank and kidnapped a patient recovering from surgery.

Condemnation of this atrocity and other recent attacks on Palestinian hospitals has come from Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and a half dozen United Nations agencies, but none of their criticisms are included in the Times story.

Kershner, instead, only includes objections from Palestinians, and in the context of her writing, they come off as sore losers who would be expected to complain, in any case.

Her story opens with a description of the raid, as undercover Israelis disguised as Arabs enter the hospital, pushing a “pregnant woman” in a wheelchair, and it ends with several paragraphs looking back at other Israeli operations that involved masquerades: a 1972 action to foil a hijacking, a “famous” revenge assassination by former prime minister Ehud Barak, and a raid in Dubai to kill a Hamas commander.

In other words, it was all part of an illustrious Israeli tradition.

The Palestinians are described as “livid,” a term that implies a somewhat excessive rage and carries a hint of derision. It is not a neutral term in news writing, but Times editors apparently had no problem allowing it to stand.

The Israeli operation, on the other hand, is characterized as something of a breeze, not the bloody and outrageous affair that it was. They entered the hospital and then “about 10 minutes later they were on their way out.” They “whisked away” the suspect, Azzam Shalalda, leaving his cousin, Abdallah Shalalda, dead on the floor of the hospital room.

In describing a similar raid on a Nablus hospital last month, Kershner writes that Israeli forces “snatched” a suspect in a fatal shooting. Such vocabulary implies a kind of cinematic caper, devoid of real life complications.

Missing from her story is any mention of international humanitarian law, which forbids such violations of hospital and health care facilities. Amnesty International also noted that the killing of Abdallah Shalalda appeared to be a deliberate extrajudicial execution, and Tikun Olam blogger, Richard Silverstein, wrote that the undercover agents had entered the hospital expressly to kill Abdallah and arrest his cousin.

Kershner, however, is quick to quote the military, which claimed that “a suspect attacked the force, which responded to the assault and fired on the attacker.” Only later in her story does she note that hospital officials said he was shot not during an attack but when he emerged from a bathroom. Amnesty stated that his wounds were consistent with a deliberate execution.

Her story glosses over the recent raids on a Jerusalem hospital and UN demands that they cease. (Israel, however, has continued to invade the facility.)

In the eyes of Kershner (and the Times), it seems that there is no problem with Israeli violations of international law when the state wants to apprehend a Palestinian suspect. She writes that the raid was Israel’s way of saying  that “there will be no safe haven for Palestinian suspects.”

By contrast, the Times has never bothered to report that Israel knows the identity of Jewish settlers responsible for burning to death three members of a Palestinian family but refuses to arrest them because it might reveal intelligence methods.

The terrible irony of this double standard is beyond the radar of Isabel Kershner and the Times editors. On the contrary, they present Israel’s lawless and bloody actions as evidence of ingenuity and daring, celebrating a “victory” over the ultimately helpless and endlessly oppressed Palestinians.

Barbara Erickson

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What the Videos Show: Israel is Killing in Cold Blood

What is inspiring young Palestinians to attempt yet more stabbing attacks on Israelis? The answer, according to The New York Times, has nothing to do with the violence of military occupation, the abuse of Palestinian children or trigger-happy troops; it is merely a “loop-like dynamic” of attack and response inspired by video clips.

In a story today, Isabel Kershner reports that videos showing knife attacks and heavy-handed treatment of young detainees are inspiring Palestinian boys as young as 12 to attempt knife assaults. But in a significant omission, the article says nothing about disturbing videos that support a different take: Many Palestinians have been killed when they posed no possible threat.

Likewise, even as Kershner writes about youthful attackers, she (and the Times) have avoided any mention of the constant reports from rights groups over recent years that detail the abusive treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody. These include reports of troops arresting children as young as 6 and documentation of violence used against the young detainees. (Also see TimesWarp 1-13-14.)

Instead, readers are introduced to two cousins, 12 and 13, who played hooky from school yesterday in order to carry out a copycat stabbing attack in Jerusalem. Both were arrested; one was seriously wounded in the process; and both had watched video footage the night before of Israeli interrogators aggressively questioning another young teen, Ahmad Manasra, who was wounded after an alleged attack that left his cousin dead.

Kershner then devotes much of her article to rehashing the story of Manasra, who was featured earlier in a lengthy piece aimed at showing how Palestinians got it wrong when they claimed the boy had been killed. It appears to have the same purpose here: to undermine charges that Israeli troops have made false claims about knife attacks and have planted evidence.

She writes, “In several cases, with no video corroboration, Palestinians have insisted that no stabbings took place and have accused the Israeli authorities of planting knives at the scene.”

Several significant factors are missing from this statement: Although video evidence is unavailable in some cases, others are supported by credible eyewitness accounts contradicting official claims; rights groups, not only Palestinians, have charged Israeli troops with killing innocent victims; and video evidence does exist that bolsters many of the charges against Israeli forces.

In a press release last month, Amnesty International said Israeli soldiers and police had resorted to “extreme and unlawful measures” and had “used intentional and lethal force without justification.” The rights group highlighted four cases of “what appear to have been extrajudicial executions.”

Amnesty pointed up one “especially egregious case” in which Israeli forces killed 19-year-old Sa’ad Muhammad Youssef al-Atrash in Hebron on Oct. 26 as he tried to retrieve an identity card on. As the youth reached into his pocket, a soldier behind Atrash shot him on the right side. The report continues, “The eyewitness said he was shot six or seven times and bled profusely as he lay on the ground for about 40 minutes afterwards, while soldiers failed to provide medical treatment.”

Times readers, however, are unlikely to know anything about Muhammad Atrash and how he died, nor are they aware of the Amnesty statements or of reports from other rights groups, including those in Israel and Europe, all of them charging Israel with unlawful killings.

Since the Amnesty release last month, Israel has continued to kill Palestinians, many of whom posed no possible threat, bringing the total to over 80 killed and some 8,500 wounded since the beginning of October. As of Oct. 31, eight Israelis had died and 115 had been wounded, according to the United Nations. These numbers, however, do not appear in Kershner’s story.

Last week Israeli forces shot and killed a 73-year-old grandmother as she drove through Hebron to meet her sister for lunch. A spokesman said she tried to ram soldiers with the car and that a knife was found in her car. Video footage shows a different scenario: Tharwat Sharawi was driving at a moderate speed and in no way aimed to hit soldiers when a barrage of bullets took her life.

The Times has made no mention of this video evidence, nor has it informed readers of other disturbing cases, also caught on video:

  • A settler shoots and kills Fadi Qawasmi, 18, in Hebron on Oct. 17, and appears to hand a knife to a soldier, who drops it near the body.
  • A mob chases Fadi Alloun in Jerusalem on Oct. 4, shouting, “Shoot him!” as he runs for his life. Police bring him down with a hail of bullets.
  • Muhammad Ramadan al Muhtasib, 23, is shot multiple times and killed as he lies helpless on the ground in Hebron on Oct. 30. The army alleges that he tried to stab a soldier.
  • Issra Abed, 30, is shot at a bus station in Afula as she stands with her hands over her head. After she lies wounded on the ground, a bystander approaches and kicks away a pair of sunglasses lying by her side. (Police said she was grasping a knife.)
  • Dania Irsheid, 18, is shot and killed at a checkpoint in Hebron after passing through metal detectors and a revolving iron gate. Video footage show Israeli police giving her no assistance as she lies bleeding on the ground.
  • Hadeel al Hashlamoun, 18, is shot at a checkpoint in Hebron on Sept. 22 and left to bleed to death. A video shows her being dragged by her heels along the ground.

In several of these videos the indifference of Israeli troops is striking. None of them attempts to help the victims, and in some cases witnesses report that settlers are allowed to take pictures of the dead and dying while Palestinian journalists and medics are turned away. One highly disturbing photo shows a smiling settler taking a photo of a dead Palestinian in Hebron on Oct. 29.

In this context, the report by Kershner is appalling. Although video evidence, eyewitness accounts and investigations by rights groups point to a pattern of trigger happy—even blood thirsty—security forces killing Palestinians with the slightest degree of suspicion, the Times has made no effort to inform readers of these findings. On the contrary, it places this misleading story by Kershner on page 1 above the fold.

Here we find another attempt to blame the victims, to paint Palestinians as the violent offenders, omitting even the numbers of dead and injured, which reveal a disproportionate death toll of 10 Palestinians for every one Israeli. The facts, however, seem to be of no account when it comes to protecting Israel. Given the choice between shielding this rogue state and reporting the news, the Times stands with Israel.

Barbara Erickson

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Protecting Israel, Trashing Hebron: More Spin from The NY Times

Today in The New York Times we have a look at Hebron, a blood-drenched city in the West Bank, a community besieged by violent settlers and trigger-happy Israeli forces. In this month alone, some 20 of its Palestinian residents have died at the hands of soldiers and police, their deaths sometimes caught on video that belies official accounts.

But this grim reality is not the focus in the Times. The article by Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal strips the full context of the occupation from Hebron and presents it, not as a city struggling to survive under crushing oppression, but as a hotbed of Palestinian radicals, a stronghold of the oft-demonized Hamas.

The story takes us to the funeral of Dania Irsheid (identified as Dania al-Husseini in the Times), a schoolgirl shot at a checkpoint on Sunday. It mentions other deaths in recent days, but it completely avoids the eyewitness accounts and human rights organization findings that show many of these deaths were extrajudicial executions.

Israel has callously refused to release the bodies of most of the 20 victims, and we read that residents feel “particular outrage” over the death of Dania and another girl, Bayan Oseili, 16, killed a week before, both accused of stabbing attacks. The story deftly avoids another compelling reason for this outrage: the fact that both obviously posed no threat and could have been arrested and that video footage in the case of Bayan and eyewitness accounts in the case of Irsheid contradict police claims.

Hadid and Nazzal, however, have nothing to say about these contradictions and writes that residents are angry because the refusal to release the bodies is an “affront to the Muslim tradition of immediate burial and a defilement of their honor.”

This fits neatly into the Times’ attempt to spin the oppression in Hebron into more blaming of the victims, who are described as Hamas followers and culturally conservative. The article opens with a quote from a Hebron resident who applauds knife attacks on Israeli soldiers, and it closes with the same speaker who “was pleased to see the surge in violence turn to Hebron.”

Missing entirely are any comments from nonviolent Hebron activists and the accounts of eyewitnesses who say Israeli forces have planted knives near the bodies of victims. The story also omits some chilling reports of deliberate executions and the statements of human rights groups that raise the charge of extrajudicial killings.

One of the most disturbing accounts describes the death of a young man, Islam Ibeidu, 23, on Wednesday near the Kirya Arba settlement. The news outlet Middle East Eye noted, “According to the quoted eyewitness, Ibeidu was searched by Israeli soldiers by the checkpoint and released, before orders were given to execute him.”

One witness tweeted: “I saw everything. I saw soldiers loading the guns. He had his arms up and was shaking, he was unarmed and they just shot him.” A second tweet continues, “eyewitness overheard police woman say ‘he looks nice, shoot him’ before he was shot to death by m16 from 2 meters away.”

The accounts of other deaths are equally disturbing (see TimesWarp 10-27-15), but the Times story includes none of them. It states that the victims this month died “in demonstrations and attacks,” taking the official Israeli line as fact.

On the other hand, the article refers frequently to Hamas in an effort to tie the group to the violence in Hebron. It makes no mention of several non-violent groups active in the city, such as Youth Against Settlements, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the International Solidarity Movement and the UN mandated Temporary International Presence in Hebron.

All of these organizations are avowedly non-violent; they observe and document violence against Palestinians. Yet another group, Breaking the Silence, was founded by Israeli soldiers who had served in Hebron and now collect and document Israeli army abuses. None of these organizations has a voice in the Times story.

Much of Hebron’s agony dates back to March, 1994, when an American-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 worshippers in the Ibahimi Mosque. Hadid mentions this as part of the historical record but omits the brutal Israeli crackdown that followed.

Rather than act to protect Palestinians after this attack, Israeli security forces went on to kill some 20 more Hebron residents during protests and to lock them down under a round-the-clock curfew. The government also closed once bustling Shuhada Street to all Palestinian traffic, welded shut Palestinian shops, turned the street over to settlers and divided the mosque into Jewish and Muslim sections.

This finds no clarification in the Times story, which refers vaguely to a “volatile mix of Palestinians and Jewish settlers.” Instead, the newspaper has adopted the official playbook of the occupiers: Stick to the narrative of Israeli victimhood, ignore countervailing fact, and whenever possible blame Hamas.

Barbara Erickson

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In The NY Times, Israeli Injuries Make Headlines, Palestinian Deaths Are Footnotes

These are the last moments of 17-year-old Hebron schoolgirl Dania Irsheid, as described by witnesses: Raising her hands above her head, terrified by the shouts of Israeli police, Dania cried out, “I don’t have a knife.” Immediately, one shot hit the ground between her legs; then a hail of bullets followed, and she fell.

A video shows her lying motionless, her white headscarf stained with blood, as police mill about but make no attempt to assist her. The terrible scene took place at a checkpoint near Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque on Sunday.

Her death merited a brief and anonymous mention in The New York Times. Far into a story about the changing tactics of Palestinian Authority security forces, we find this single sentence: “Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli police officer fatally shot a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who tried to stab him, The Associated Press reported.”

Witnesses at the scene said she had no knife and had already passed through two metal detectors and revolving doors before opening her book bag for inspection at the mosque site. Israeli police, however, released a statement saying she was a “female Arab terrorist” and had been “neutralized.”

The Times says nothing of these contradictions, and it has maintained a resounding silence over other Palestinian deaths, including the shooting of two Hebron schoolboys who were killed last week, also in disturbing and disputed circumstances. (See TimesWarp 10-21-15).

On the other hand, the newspaper has taken pains to draw readers’ attention to an alleged stabbing attack on an Israeli citizen, which left the victim “moderately wounded” and resulted in the death of one Palestinian and the arrest of another.

The story appeared online five days ago, on Oct. 22, and was still present on the Middle East page through most of today’s online edition (it disappeared only after this post came out) under the headline “Jewish Man Stabbed in Israel by Palestinians as Violence Continues.” The article, touted so tenaciously on the Times website, is a mere 270 words and sketchily reported, but it outlasted other breaking news from the region with unusual longevity.

The death of Dania Irsheid merited no headline in the Times while the “moderate wounding” of an Israeli man was repeatedly flagged for online viewers. It is clear from this (and many other choices they make) that the newspaper’s editors have an agenda of their own, one that is inconsistent with accepted journalistic standards.

Israel is to be the perennial victim. Palestinians are to be the aggressors. Any deviation from this narrative causes dissonance at the Times.

Thus we find no stories about the harried and fearful lives of Palestinians in Hebron, even though the situation cries out for a close look at their ordeal. (Some 16 Palestinians have been killed in the city since the beginning of this month, out of 44 in the West Bank overall and 17 in Gaza, according to the International Middle East Media Center). Nor do we find any serious examination of the brutal occupation and colonization of Palestine that fuels the resistance.

We do, however, find a Times story about youthful Palestinian attackers inspired by social media, and we find an article focused on Palestinian songs with a nationalistic and sometimes violent bent. Both these articles appeared in print on page 1, and both conveniently fit the portrait of Palestinians as aggressors.

When evidence to the contrary cannot be ignored (as in the arson deaths of three Palestinian family members this summer), the Times turns to damage control. Thus, we have the newspaper attempting to undermine video evidence that shows Israeli security forces making false accusations or killing Palestinians who pose no threat.

This was the purpose of a story with the disingenuous headline, “Conflicting Accounts of Jerusalem Strife Surround a Wounded Arab Boy.” The point of this article is not what it purports to be, an examination of two different narratives, but an effort to debunk videos and witness accounts challenging the statements of Israeli security forces.

The Times devotes 1,600 words to telling us that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abba and others got it wrong when they said Ahmad Manasra, 13, caught on video as he lay bleeding in Jerusalem, had been killed. He had only been wounded, the Times notes, and he is now being cared for in hospital.

The Times (and Israeli officials) are using this error to claim that Palestinian testimonies cannot be trusted. Some video evidence of Israeli misconduct is irrefutable, however, and monitoring groups outside of Palestine have vouched for them, calling for an end to the use of excessive force and extrajudicial executions.

Moreover, the video of Ahmad is shocking in its revelations of Israeli settler brutality even though the boy eventually survived. And beyond this, the Times story itself makes a significant error in claiming that the boy is shown in hospital being “spoon-fed by a nurse.”

In fact, it was an attorney, Tareq Barghout, who held the spoon, as the man later testified. Barghout also said Ahmad was shackled to the bed and suffered constant verbal abuse from hospital staff. The Times story, however, included none of this information.

Israeli officials made much of the error over Ahmad’s survival, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “the new big lie,” and the Times obligingly followed suit. The overblown story is consistent with Times efforts to support the Israeli narrative and to discredit the testimony of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, three more died in Hebron on Monday, and the Times has once again failed to take notice. Palestinian deaths are—at best—footnotes in the newspaper of record while Israeli injuries are headlines. This is the unspoken but evident policy at The New York Times.

Barbara Erickson

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Five Palestinians Die Within 12 Hours: The NY Times Goes Mum

Within the span of 12 hours yesterday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinians, one of them in Gaza and the rest in the West Bank. Two of the dead were teenagers, and although the army claims some of them were shot during stabbing attempts, witnesses have given different accounts.

None of this, however, has appeared in The New York Times. Searches using the names of the dead in various spellings turn up blank, without even a fleeting appearance in wire service accounts.

Contrast this response to the Times headline of just one week ago: “Attacks by Palestinians Kill 3 Israelis and Wound More Than 20.” This title ran across the top of page A8 last Wednesday, and the story that followed never reported the number of wounded Palestinians, which by that point had reached nearly 2,000 since the beginning of the month.

Now we have five Palestinians dead and not even a paragraph in World Briefing to inform readers of this latest carnage by Israeli troops. If five Israelis had been among the dead, we can be sure the Times would have found this news fit to print.

Those who died yesterday included Oday Hesham al Masalma, 24, of Beit Awwa, southwest of Hebron; Hamza Mousa al Alma, 25, of Beit Oula, west of Hebron; Bashar Nizam al Ja’abari, 15, and Hussam Isma’il al Ja’abari, 17, both of Hebron; and Ahmed Sharif al Sarahi, 30, of Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that al Masalma had tried to stab a soldier but was disabled and helpless when he was killed. It added that soldiers refused to let an ambulance approach him for half an hour.

Al Alma was shot in his car near Gush Etzion settlement near Bethlehem, PCHR stated, and the military claimed that he had run into two settlers.

PCHR reports that the teenagers died during a settler protest in the streets of Hebron, when the two had been prevented from making their way home. The boys had asked a soldier for help in crossing through a gate when army snipers shot them, the release states.

“When the two children heading towards the gate were only two meters away from the soldier,” the report says, “other Israeli soldiers fortified in a military watchtower in the area opened fire at the children and killed them immediately. The Israeli forces detained the children’s corpses and denied the Palestinian civilians and ambulances access to the area‫.”

Media outlets reported the army version of events: that one of the boys tried to stab a soldier and both were shot.

PCHR reported that al Sarahi died after being hit by three bullets to the chest when he was with a group in an agricultural field about 350 meters from the border fence. Two others were wounded. The Israeli army claimed that it had killed a “sniper,” even though the group was in the open.

The deaths on Tuesday brought the total of Palestinians killed this month to 47 as of yesterday, PCHR said.

Times articles have managed to obscure the tally of Palestinian dead during this latest uprising, breaking the data into narrow categories or providing imprecise amounts. Thus, in a story yesterday we find, “Eight Israelis have been killed this month and at least 18 suspected attackers have been fatally shot at the scene by Israeli security forces and civilians.” By that date the total of Palestinian dead was over 40.

The newspaper has also failed to report the evidence that Israel is carrying out extrajudicial killings in shooting protesters and others who posed no threat. Times readers are unlikely to know that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a group of nine human rights groups in Israel have charged Israel with killing without provocation.

A release by the rights group Adalah, signed by the nine organizations, notes, “In instances when Jews have been suspected of attacks, none of the suspects has been shot.”

The organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor also released a video with eight cases that reveal Israeli brutality and trigger-happy security forces. Its press release, “Euro-Med Monitor Calls on International Community to Halt Israel’s Extrajudicial Executions,” states that “Israel is escalating its use of extrajudicial execution” and notes that video footage has disproven some claims that victims were shot during stabbing attempts.

The Times has ignored all of these reports, relying heavily on the official word from Israel security forces. Often the claims of stabbing attempts are reported without the usual journalistic addition of “alleged” to the claims. Police and army statements are taken at face value as fact in many instances in the Times (see here and here), and the countervailing reports by eyewitnesses go unmentioned.

In today’s edition, the newspaper has gone one farther. It has turned its back entirely on the latest round of killings, omitting any mention of five tragic Palestinian deaths from its pages. The contrast with coverage of Israeli fatalities could not be more stark than it is in this instance. The effort to shield Israel at all costs could not be more obvious.

Barbara Erickson

Defending the Indefensible: How The NY Times Spins for Israel

It’s a topsy-turvy world in The New York Times. Palestinians are dying, but it is Israelis who are fearful. Unarmed Palestinians face the threat of heavily armed settlers and security forces, but it is not Palestine that has a security problem; it is Israel.

This is the scenario we find today in a story by Isabel Kershner titled “Stabbings, and Deadly Responses, Add to Israel’s Security Challenge.” Here we learn that Israelis have a “shattered sense of personal security” after a series of lone-wolf stabbing attempts.

Kershner takes all the stabbing allegations as fact, rejecting any evidence to the contrary, and nowhere in this lengthy story do we find any concern for how Palestinians are feeling even though more than two dozen have been killed since Oct. 1 and more than 1,300 wounded (compared with four Israelis killed and some 28 wounded in the same time period).

Neither Kershner nor her editors find Palestinian vulnerability at all newsworthy. It is only Israeli sentiments that matter here.

Likewise, it is not the death of so many Palestinians that concerns the Times but the effect on Israel’s reputation. As Israel “resorts to live fire,” Kershner writes, the number of Palestinian deaths is mounting, and this fact “is increasingly opening Israel up to criticism, placing the government in a quandary.”

From then on her article is an attempt to defuse that criticism without giving readers a clear sense of what accusations have been made. She writes, for instance, that Amnesty International “has accused Israel of using excessive force,” as if this refers to past reports by the monitoring group but failing to mention a recent release about the current attacks.

In fact, Amnesty is one of three human rights organizations to speak out against trigger-happy Israeli forces in the past week. Human Rights Watch and Al Haq, a Palestinian group, also raised the alarm about the increasing violence against Palestinian civilians.

Amnesty’s report was titled, “No justification for deliberate attacks on civilians, unlawful killings by Israeli forces, or collective punishment of Palestinians.”

Kershner ignores the findings of all these reports and at the same time attempts to explain away the shocking brutality displayed by Israeli settlers and troops in several videos appearing on social media in recent days. “Some of the videos of police shootings have had the added effect of turning the Israelis, in the eyes of some people, from the victims of terrorism into aggressors,” she writes.

These videos (see here and here) show helpless and unarmed Palestinians surrounded by armed troops or angry mobs. In one of them a boy lies crumpled and bleeding on the pavement as Israelis shout at him, “Die, you son of a whore!” All of the Palestinians are either injured or killed, but once again Kershner’s concern is not for the victims in the videos but for Israel’s reputation.

Kershner concedes that Israelis may have gone too far in a couple of these cases, but she is quick to excuse their aggression as “panic” by traumatized individuals.

After trying to neutralize the effects of the videos and the human rights groups’ reports, Kershner turns her attention to alternative media. The accounts by these outlets have often contradicted the stabbing attempt allegations made by Israeli security forces.

Rather than reporting the contradictions, Kershner states that alternative news media have been “feeding the anger” of Palestinians by often denying that any attack took place. She is implying that these media are not to be trusted and that their reports are inciting Palestinian hostility.

As usual, the Times makes no effort to place the attacks in context, ignoring the ugly realities of the occupation and the enormous disparity in power between Palestinians and Israelis. Thus she implies that the attacks on Israelis arise out of hatred and lack any valid motive. Her reference to “feeding the anger” fits well into that narrative.

Missing from her article are the frequent settler mobs who march through Jerusalem and other cities chanting “Death to Arabs” while police and soldiers stand by to protect them. Kershner ignores this kind of incitement, preferring to stay with the Israelis-as-victims story line.

Israel is a nuclear power with sophisticated weapons and a standing army. Palestine has no army and not a single tank or aircraft, and its unarmed populace has suffered appallingly at the hands of the occupiers. The numbers show Palestinian casualties outnumbering those of Israelis by a ratio of more than 100 to 1 in the first week of this month.

Given all this, it takes some effort to convince readers that Israel—not Palestine—faces a “security challenge.” Kershner, with the blessing of the Times editors, has made that effort, providing us with a story that distorts the reality on the ground, ignoring journalistic standards and the ethical demands of compassion.

Barbara Erickson

Casualty Count: 794 Palestinians, 7 Israelis—NY Times Obsesses on Israeli Victims

Isabel Kershner in The New York Times tells us that Palestinians are running amok, lashing out at Israelis not only in the West Bank but now in Israel as well. Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to quell this “wave of terrorism,” she reports, and Israelis are “unnerved” by the spread of incidents.

Kershner describes three alleged stabbing attempts, dwelling at length on one of them; recaps an earlier incident that left two Israelis dead; and in the final paragraphs of her story informs us that “at least two” Palestinians were killed, one of them a 13-year-old boy “described as a bystander.”

Nowhere do we learn that the major victims of violence in this turbulent conflict are Palestinians, not Israelis, as revealed in a recent United Nations report: In one week, ending Oct. 5, Israeli security forces injured 794 Palestinians, while Palestinians injured a total of seven Israelis. (As of Oct. 5, 30 Palestinians had been killed in 2015 compared with eight Israelis.)

This is an injury ratio of more than 100 to one, a shocking disparity, but the Times story shows concern only for Israeli injuries and fears. We find no accounts there of what the Palestinian victims experienced as they faced the aggression of heavily armed security forces.

Readers and viewers elsewhere, however, got a firsthand view of Israeli violence yesterday as videos emerged that revealed undercover agents inciting stone throwers in the West Bank. The agents, wearing keffiyehs and bearing a Hamas flag, urge bystanders to join them, then draw their weapons and assault Palestinian youths.

The videos, by several agencies, including Reuters and Agence France-Presse, went viral, appearing on French, British, Israeli and American media outlets. The Times, however, has so far failed to link to the videos, which show a soldier shooting a captive Palestinian in the leg at point blank range.

The newspaper also avoids any commentary that would shed a clear light on the nature of the conflict even as Israeli columnists have recently provided eloquent testimony of the despair behind Palestinian attacks.

Gideon Levy, writing in Middle East Eye, notes that when Palestinians remain quiet, they reap nothing but “an intensification of the occupation.” He lists the constant attacks and humiliations they endure and asks, “Are Palestinians to assent to all this in silence?”

Levy notes that after a Palestinian family was burnt alive, Israeli officials admitted that they knew who was responsible but refused to make any arrests. “What people could maintain restraint in the face of such a sequence of events,” he writes, “with the entire might of the occupation in the background, without hope, without prospects, with no end in sight?”

Amira Hass writes in a similar vein, and the headlines on her Haaretz article express it well: “Palestinians Are Fighting for Their Lives; Israel Is Fighting for the Occupation—That we notice there’s a war on only when Jews are murdered does not cancel out the fact that Palestinians are being killed all the time.”

Both these Israelis speak with an honesty that rarely, if ever, appears in the Times. Readers of the newspaper of record instead face a determined effort to protect Israel’s reputation, to preserve the narrative of Israeli victimhood even in the face of the evidence.

As Palestinians fall to Israeli violence at the rate of 100 a day, the Times obsesses on Israeli Jewish victims. It ignores the numbers that reveal an enormous toll of Palestinian suffering and it excludes the news and the voices of conscience that could help readers gain a truer perspective in this conflict.

Barbara Erickson

The Constant Cruelty of the Israeli Occupation: A No-go Zone in The NY Times

As Israelis and Palestinians die in an upsurge of violence, The New York Times fails once again to give readers an honest look at the causes of this agonizing conflict. Missing from its pages is any real exposure of the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine that underscores every aspect of the current crisis.

Thus we find a story today that focuses on the abstract: how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can “calibrate his response” to avoid provoking greater violence and satisfy his extremist opponents in the government. It is heavily weighted with Israeli punditry and refers to ongoing clashes and attacks, but it makes no effort to provide the essential context.

In this article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner the word “occupation” appears only in a quote by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. “Palestine,” she says, “has been subject to the systematic and escalating violence of the occupation, whether in the form of settler-terrorism or at the hands of the Israeli military using live ammunition.”

Times readers are likely to dismiss her words as little more than rhetorical flourishes of the opposition, given that the newspaper has consistently failed to show the full reality of life for Palestinians, glossing over violence by soldiers and settlers and giving prominence to Palestinian attacks.

For instance, today’s report states that a Palestinian teenager was shot after he tried to stab an Israeli youth early Sunday, but it omits any mention that videos show he was chased down by a mob, shot by police, was carrying no knife and did not pose a threat to anyone in the area.

The story also says nothing of settler rampages throughout the West Bank in recent days, which have left dozens injured and forced the Red Crescent Society to declare a state of emergency after numerous attacks on its ambulances by both settlers and security forces.

Times readers rarely receive even a brief glimpse of what occupation means to Palestinians. The newspaper largely ignores the constant reports emanating from alternative media, the United Nations and monitoring groups that show how a sophisticated military power oppresses a nearly helpless population lacking even the most basic weapons for defense.

Readers remain ignorant of the Israeli abuse of Palestinian child prisoners, a situation that has been documented and criticized in numerous reports. They are unaware of the frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza fishermen and farmers and a recent United Kingdom report that states Israel has violated the 2014 ceasefire some 700 times since August of last year.

They hear nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli troops harass the poorest and most vulnerable communities, burning their crops, destroying their tents and water systems and repeatedly forcing them from their homes for “maneuvers.”

They are unaware of the huge disparity in water supplies between the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the indigenous Palestinian villages, and they were never informed when hundreds of animals died in the West Bank community of Kafr Qaddoum this summer as Israeli officials cut off water deliveries during a stifling heat wave.

These constant, daily cruelties find no place in the Times, and readers likewise find no historical backdrop for the occupation. It is rarely, if ever, reported that Israel is in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a military occupying force and that the settlements are built in defiance of international law.

Without this backstory, it is not surprising when readers take Netanyahu’s claim at face value: that acts of resistance against the occupation are nothing but terrorist assaults arising out of a free-floating hatred of Jews.

Palestinians watch with dismay as Israel confiscates ever more land and resources, forcing the indigenous communities into poverty-stricken bantustans. This is the reality that is missing from the Times, deliberately obscured in the context-free reporting of Rudoren and Kershner.

Barbara Erickson