Spin Becomes “Fact” in NY Times Gaza Flotilla Story

Now, with the seizure of a Swedish boat in international waters, The New York Times can no longer ignore Flotilla III, the latest attempt to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. So we find a story today that ends the paper’s silence on this weeks-long saga that began in Gothenburg last month.

Times readers learned nothing of the Marianne and her three companion vessels as the international organizers of the flotilla announced their plans and gathered crews throughout the spring. Even when one of the boats was sabotaged last week or when a Palestinian member of the Knesset announced that he was joining the group, none of these events appeared in the Times.

Those who checked out The Washington Post, Newsweek, CBS News or Israeli media would have known that Flotilla III was on its way to Gaza, with the Swedish vessel approaching the strip and the others far behind. The Times, however, avoided any mention of the effort until today, when the Israeli navy announced that it had seized the Marianne and was taking her to the port of Ashdod. (The other vessels by then had turned back toward Europe.)

Now the Times has published an article by Diaa Hadid on the seizure, and in the print edition this is downgraded from an 850 word story to a one paragraph item under World Briefing.

Moreover, Hadid’s piece gives precedence to Israeli spin, allowing official excuses for the brutal siege of Gaza to stand as fact. Thus, she writes that Israel maintains a naval blockade of the strip “because militants have tried to smuggle in weapons and attack Israel by sea.”

Hadid repeats this formula in the following paragraph where she states that Israel allows only “small amounts” of construction materials into Gaza “because Hamas has used building materials to construct tunnels to attack Israel.”

United Nations investigations have provided very different takes on these two issues: A 2010 fact-finding mission, for instance, declared that Israel has imposed the blockade (by land and sea) out of “a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.”

Where Hadid’s piece implies that tunnels have been used for random “terror” attacks on Israel, a recent UN report on the 2014 conflict found that the tunnels had been used only for legitimate means, to engage with Israeli troops during the fighting this past summer. Neither the Times nor any other media outlet has named a single Israeli civilian who was harmed because of these tunnels. (See TimesWarp 6-22-15.)

Unfortunately, Hadid fails to mention either of these findings and repeats Israeli spin as accepted fact. She fails to make even a minimal attempt at attribution, and so we have no “according to” or “Israel claims” here—just the bald, assertive “because.”

Her story ends with a poignant quote that begs for explanation. As fishermen gathered in Gaza to protest the seizure of the Marianne, one of them spoke to a Times representative. “We hope that other activists come to Gaza to help us break the naval siege,” he said, “so that we can sail again without fear.”

The article leaves us with an unanswered question: Why are the fishermen living in fear? Times readers, however, never learn the answer: Israeli naval boats routinely open fire on fishermen as they sail within the 6-mile limit imposed by the blockade. At least one died this year, several have been injured, and several have lost their boats and equipment because of the Israeli attacks.

The Times ignores this ongoing breach of the August 2014 truce, which stated that the fishing limit would expand to 12 miles. (This in itself is still far short of the 20-mile boundary set by the Oslo accords.) The paper also ignores Israel’s military incursions into Gaza, which are further breaches of the ceasefire.

Times editors are counting on a short shelf life for the Flotilla III story. Too much attention to such messy topics as international law, the definition of piracy, assaults on unarmed fishermen and Israeli breaches of the 2014 ceasefire might expose some inconvenient facts about Israel’s pitiless siege of Gaza, and this is not to their taste.

Barbara Erickson

UN Report Delegitimizes NY Times Hype on “Terror Tunnels”

The New York Times has had plenty to say about the infamous tunnels built from Gaza into Israel, providing us with photos, articles, videos and frequent talk of “terrorist attacks.” The presence of the tunnels, Times editors said, justified the bloody ground invasion of the strip last summer.

Today we find little mention of these threatening tunnels in a story by Jodi Rudoren about the just-released United Nations Human Rights Council report on the attacks. She tells us that the report “extensively discussed the tunnels militants had used to infiltrate Israeli territory,” but that is the end of it. [Note: this was expanded in later versions of the article.]

The report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict had this to say about the tunnels: “The commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were used only to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

It seems that the Times has scant interest in telling readers that tunnels were used for legitimate purposes. The discussions Rudoren mentions have little to say except that Israelis were scared by the tunnel reports; the final tally shows that not a single civilian was harmed because of them.

The Times, however, bought into the hype of the Israeli government and army. At the beginning of the ground invasion, it ran an editorial claiming that troops were in Gaza to stop rockets and “terrorist attacks via underground tunnels” even though the newspaper had yet to report even one such assault.

The absence of civilian casualties or even of a single attack, however, did not stop the Times from publishing three articles (here, here and here), two of them with Rudoren’s byline, and two videos (here and here), which focused on the tunnels, all of this in addition to the editorial.

It later followed up with a piece about Hezbollah tunnels reportedly running from Lebanon into northern Israel. Again, the Hezbollah story has only Israeli fear to report and no hard evidence of either tunnels or their use in attacks.

The UN report notes such Israeli anxieties in its Concluding Observations: “The increased level of fear among Israeli civilians resulting from the use of the tunnels was palpable.” This is the full extent of damage from the notorious “terror tunnels”—they frightened people.

When the Israeli army and government eagerly played up this supposed evidence of Palestinian “terrorist” intentions, The New York Times (and the United States government) followed suit, citing the tunnels as justification for the invasion. With so much hysteria emanating from the media and officialdom, it is no wonder Israeli civilians were expressing fear.

With its alarmist focus on the Gaza-Israel tunnels, the Times played the role of propagandist for Israel. Now, with the UN report, it could place the issue in a more valid perspective, but Rudoren’s piece suggests that the newspaper would rather avoid the facts in favor of a false Israeli narrative.

Barbara Erickson

A Tale of Two Killings: The NY Times Reveals Its Pro-Israel Bias

When a 22-year-old man died under an Israeli army jeep recently, The New York Times virtually ignored the incident. Now come reports of another death in the West Bank, and the newspaper has given notice with an article appearing both online and in print.

The difference is all in the ethnicity: The first man was Palestinian and his attackers were Israeli soldiers. The second was Israeli and died at the hands of a Palestinian gunman.

When Abdallah Ghuneimat died on Sunday, eyewitnesses reported that he had been shot and then deliberately run down by soldiers in a jeep; the army, however, claimed the vehicle had fallen on him by accident. The Times made fleeting mention of the incident in a wire service story that appeared only online. (See TimesWarp 6-17-15.)

The newspaper has continued to turn its back on the story even as new eyewitnesses have come forth to say that Ghuneimat “was left bleeding under the jeep for hours while Israeli soldiers were jubilantly cheering.” Witnesses also said that troops fired tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition to prevent villagers from approaching the victim.

Now, with the death of an Israeli four days later, we find a different approach from the Times. Editors were not content with a wire service report in this case; they assigned a reporter to cover the incident and published a story replete with quotes from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, education minister Naftali Bennett and a United Nations coordinator.

The Israeli victim, Danny Gonen, 25, had come to the West Bank with a friend to visit a spring near the illegal Israeli settlement of Dolev, according to the account. As they were leaving the area, a man flagged down the car and asked if there was water in the spring. He then pulled out a gun and shot both men. The friend was slightly wounded, but Gonen was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

The author of the Times story, Diaa Hadid, writes in the second paragraph that the timing of shooting was a “grim reminder of the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers” last year, “which unleashed tensions that culminated in a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas.”

Missing from her article is the context of Israeli attacks on Palestinians, including the deaths of two Palestinian men so far in June. According to United Nations data, Israeli forces injure an average of 39 Palestinians each week, and they have killed 13 so far this year. These numbers do not include injuries inflicted by settlers.

The same UN report notes that Palestinians have injured an average of two Israeli civilians each week. Two, including Gonen, have died this year.

In spite of these facts, Hadid has chosen to emphasize Palestinian violence and ignore Israeli attacks, which have injured and killed at a significantly higher rate.

Her story also glosses over another unsavory fact of life in the West Bank by noting that the territory “is dotted with springs” used by Israelis and Palestinians, but some have been made off limits to Palestinians. In her brief treatment of the issue, she fails to describe the full injustice here.

Settler takeovers of springs on private Palestinian land have become so flagrant that the United Nations issued a report specifically addressing the problem. The report states that settlers use threats, intimidation and barriers to prevent villagers from accessing their traditional water sources, at great cost to farmers and herders. The Israeli government acquiesces in these crimes and sometimes actively supports them, the UN says, often allowing the settlers to turn the springs into revenue generating tourist attractions.

But readers learn none of this—neither the casualty rates nor the extent of water theft in Palestinian territory. Although this tragic incident provided an opportunity to inform the public of facts on the ground in the West Bank, the Times has little interest in reporting these details. It glosses over Palestinian deaths, dwells on Israeli casualties and turns its back on the brutality of the Israeli occupation.

Barbara Erickson

How Palestinians Die in The NY Times

Abdullah Iyad Ghanayim, 22, died under an Israeli army jeep last Sunday in the West Bank village of Kafr Malik. The New York Times barely took notice. Other news media inform us that there is a story here and one that is in dispute.

Eyewitnesses in the village east of Ramallah say soldiers shot Ghanayim in the back and then ran him down with a jeep, crushing him against a wall, which collapsed on the vehicle and knocked it over. The soldiers got out, observers say, left the man pinned under the jeep and prevented medics from attending to him.

According to witnesses, Ghanayim was throwing stones when he was shot and bled to death after being left unattended for more than an hour. The mayor of Ramallah, Laila Ghannam, told reporters that soldiers killed Ghanayim “in cold blood.”

The Israeli army had a different story: Ghanayim was throwing a Molotov cocktail at the jeep, and this caused it to swerve and crash. After the vehicle turned over on the victim, the army claimed, “forces later entered the village to try and provide medical assistance,” but the man had already died.

In spite of the army’s failure to explain why “forces” had to enter the village to provide aid when soldiers were already present, The New York Times goes with the army account. This appears in the form of a three-paragraph Associated Press story, which made an obscure and fleeting appearance online and none at all in print. The article gives a brief nod to the eyewitness accounts, saying the mayor of the village claimed the man was shot first.

It’s possible the Times was unable to assign one of its three reporters in Israel to get a firsthand account, but the paper also omitted the story from its World Briefing section, where it frequently runs AP and Reuters news.

The Times had a choice. It could have run a Reuters story by Ali Sawafta and Dan Williams, which states in the lead that “military and locals gave conflicting accounts” and also quotes witnesses who said the man was “run down and then crushed.” Instead it chose the AP version, which relies almost entirely on the Israeli army.

We find fuller reports elsewhere, such as in The National, Agence France-Presse,  and Maanbut the Times treatment falls short. It has chosen a biased wire service piece over a more complete and honest report. Thus it avoids revealing unsavory charges against the Israeli army and allows one more Palestinian death to pass unnoticed.

Barbara Erickson

Palestinian Poverty, Israeli Affluence: Deciphering The NY Times

It takes some attention and a bit of math, but readers of The New York Times now have the means to discover just how great the chasm is between Israelis and Palestinians—not just in politics but in hard cash.

In an article and follow-up editorial concerning a report by the RAND Corporation, an establishment think tank, the Times informs us that if the adversaries negotiated a two-state peace deal, both Palestinians and Israelis would gain financially. Over 10 years, RAND says, Israel would gain $123 billion and Palestine $50 billion.

We learn that in terms of annual per capita income this breaks down to a 5 percent increase, or $2,200, for Israelis and a 36 percent increase, or $1,000, for Palestinians.

Readers are apt to take that in with little pause, but if we do the calculations, this tells us that current incomes average $44,000 for Israelis and $2,778 for Palestinians. This puts Israel far above the World Bank standard of $12,746 for high-income countries. It places Palestine barely over the low-income level.

This means Palestinians make less than their neighbors in Egypt, Jordan or Iraq. It places Palestine in the same World Bank grouping as Guatemala, South Sudan and others with per capita incomes from $1,046 to $4,125.

Israel rates with the economic stars, not only in the high-income category but in the elite of that group. On average, its citizens earn yearly incomes very near those in Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. [The World Bank lists Israel’s per capita income as $32,030, but this includes occupied Palestine, which is given no separate economic status. The RAND report distinguishes between Israel and Palestine.]

The Times would have done its readers a favor by untangling the data and revealing the stark difference between Israeli and Palestinian earnings, but the story and editorial give a sense that the two sides are on an even playing field. A two-state solution, the Times editorial states, “makes both sides winners.”

The article, by Jodi Rudoren, puts emphasis on how much the occupation costs Israel in support for settlements and security. It is seen, she writes, as a “self-imposed economic burden.” There is no mention of the burden on the Palestinian side.

The think tank, however, does better than the Times by stating outright that “A singular feature of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is the power imbalance between the two parties: Israel dominates the region both militarily and economically.”

The report makes clear that Israeli policy has harmed Palestinian commerce with regulations favoring Israeli companies, restrictions on movement and the confiscation of water and land. It also points up the devastating impact of Israel’s policy of demolishing housing and infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.

None of this appears in the Times, which sticks to the dry numbers of the RAND report, but this data has provided clues to a reality the Times obscures—the scandalous inequality between Israelis and Palestinians.

This disparity should inform the paper’s reporting on relations between the two sides, yet we read of the peace talks as if they involve two equal parties, both asked to make concessions. Likewise, in reports on Gaza, we read of the threat of rockets but learn almost nothing about the overwhelming military might of Israel’s arsenal and army.

Readers should not have to take to their calculators to discover the huge imbalance that underlies every aspect of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Our newspaper of record should have revealed that reality long before now and not in hidden ciphers.

Barbara Erickson

Israeli Hysteria Over BDS Hyped in NY Times

Israel is in an uproar, The New York Times informs us, after a French business executive announced that he would pull out of a deal with an Israeli cell phone company. We learn that officials and citizens are venting on social media and in the press, fuming over this latest insult prompted by the Palestinian boycott movement.

Isabel Kershner in “French Telecom Executive’s Remarks on Israel Incite Furor” writes that the remarks by Stephane Richard of Orange “touched a nerve in Israel” because of concern over the growth of boycott, divestment and sanctions, known as BDS. Richard said in Cairo Thursday that he would back out of a contract with an Israeli company “tomorrow,” if it weren’t for the legal and financial penalties.

The resulting firestorm has become big news, and in the Times we hear at length from outraged Israelis and more briefly from a Palestinian civic leader. But missing from the many column inches dedicated to this story are the activists behind the boycott and their reasons for targeting the French company.

Kershner acknowledges the growth of BDS, but she places the blame on the impasse in the peace process and the extremist nature of the latest Israeli cabinet. Nothing is said about the charges against Orange, even though these were laid out in a 53-page report last month.

The report was compiled by a French aid organization, the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development, with the backing of five human rights groups and two French unions. It is titled “Orange: Dangerous Liaisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and it notes that Orange is violating the French foreign ministry’s guidelines against investing in territory occupied by Israel.

Orange contracts with the Israeli company Partner Communications, which has built more than 100 antennas on confiscated Palestinian land, the report states. Partner has also opened shops in illegal Israeli settlements and benefits from Israeli laws that restrict competition from Palestinian companies.

The Times, however, makes no attempt to provide readers with this context. Kershner’s story is all about the Israeli reaction. It has little to say about the stated aims of the BDS movement and nothing to tell us about the charges against Orange.

Other mainstream media, however, have provided this missing information. The Guardian and BBC cite the report and link to it online. Agence France-Presse informs readers of its existence, and France 24 devoted a story to the report immediately after it appeared on May 6. The Electronic Intifada has written extensively about the issue, and Palestinian news agencies also covered the charges against Orange.

All of this is apparently too close to the reality on the ground for the Times. It seems we are not to hear the ugly details of the occupation and the breaches of international law that give rise to BDS actions against Orange and other enterprises.

Times readers lose out once again as the newspaper glosses over the theft of Palestinian land and the suppression of Palestinian commerce, giving precedence to Israeli anxieties. In this skewed vision of journalism, the real news disappears from our newspaper of record.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Covers Up Israel’s Attacks on Gaza Fishermen

The New York Times has turned its sights on Gaza today with a page 1 article highlighting the miseries of life in the beleaguered enclave. The difficulties, we learn, have little to do with Israeli attacks and its crippling blockade: They are the fault of Hamas.

The article by Diaa Hadid and Majd el Waheidi, “Gazans’ Hopes for Rebuilding After War Give Way to Deeper Despair,” takes aim at the Islamist group in the lead paragraph, quoting an angry shopkeeper who resents a recent tax hike. The man is “enraged,” the story tells us, and he blames the government in charge.

This is where the Times wants to direct our attention: away from Israeli culpability for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and directly onto the Palestinians themselves. Meanwhile, the paper has been silent as Israeli gunboats and snipers have frequently attacked fishermen and farmers, violating the terms of the August 2014 ceasefire.

Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip since 2007 and made three sustained assaults on the enclave since then, inflicting more death and destruction on the population each time. But the Times article has only this to say: “Israel places severe restrictions on the import of building materials, saying they have been used to build tunnels to conduct attacks on Israel.”

In the first three months of this year Israel killed one Palestinian and wounded 16 in Gaza, carried out at least six military incursions into the strip and shot at Palestinians, by land and sea, at least 67 times. Since then the attacks have continued almost without pause.

The Times ignores nearly all of this, even as Israel levels farmland and sprays food crops, and the newspaper fails to report other developments, such as a long term ceasefire offer made by Hamas earlier this year through Qatar and Turkey or the launch of a flotilla now on its way to Gaza from Scandinavia, the third such attempt to break the siege.

But now, when Hamas has instituted an unpopular increase in import fees, the Times sees fit to send a reporter to Gaza, intending as usual to demonize the Islamist party. It seems, however, that the evidence hoped for was scanty: The entire story contains only this one example of blaming Hamas.

This does not deter the Times, however. This lone sample is played to the hilt, laid out in the opening paragraph. Close readers may notice this; others will let it color their perceptions of the entire article.

The Palestinian Authority also comes in for blame. We find one Gaza resident who says the rival to Hamas has “an interest in leaving Gaza like this.” Others mention the impasse between Hamas and the PA, but Israeli responsibility gets little mention.

The story goes on to devote two paragraphs to the Egyptian closure of Rafah crossing and Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels. No more is said about Israel’s role except to mention the debris from the last summer’s conflict.

We don’t hear that Israel destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in 2014, along with crops, wells and the electrical plant, and left more than 2,000 dead. Nor do we hear anything about the context of the blockade—the fact that it is has been in place for nearly eight years and its effect on families torn by separation, patients in need of medical care and basic supplies of food and medicine.

No doubt Hadid heard from many despairing residents of Gaza who direct their anger at Israel (and the United States), but we find not a single quote to this effect. She most certainly heard about the attacks on fishermen and farmers, but none of this made its way into the story.

This is just as Israel wants it. As a recent article in the Israeli 972 Magazine notes, “These incidents — in which the Israeli army infiltrates the Gaza Strip, shoots at fishermen, confiscates their boats and fires at farmers near the border zone — they are part of daily life in the besieged Gaza Strip. They are the everyday aspects of living in a giant prison controlled by Israel. But we barely hear about them.”

The author of the 972 piece, Haggai Matar, emphasized the blackout in the Hebrew media: Israelis are not to be aware of the oppression of Gaza; they are only to hear of the occasional rocket, the hyped up discovery of a “terror tunnel” and the failings of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Here in the United States, away from Israeli censors, the Times has chosen to comply with this news embargo. In our newspaper of record nothing is to be said about the shooting of unarmed Gazans and the constant attacks on their welfare. Israel’s reputation comes first; the ethics of journalism and the reader’s right to be informed come far behind.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Applauds While Israel Robs Palestine of Water

The New York Times invites us to gaze with wonder on the miracles of Israeli technology today, with a page 1 photo and story touting the innovations that have saved the country from drought. Because of wise policies and applied science, we learn, “there is plenty of water in Israel.”

The Times never tells us, however, that a significant number of those who reside on the land are seriously deprived of water: Palestinians in some areas of the West Bank are forced to survive on only 20 liters of water a day per person, well below the World Health Organization minimum of 60 liters. In Gaza 90 percent of the water is unfit to drink.

Meanwhile, Israelis in West Bank settlements “generally have access to as much running water as they please,” according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and Israelis over all use three times as much water as Palestinians. Settlers also confiscate West Bank springs, and Israeli security forces destroy water equipment in Palestinian villages and prevent their residents from building cisterns and wells.

In the Times story, “Aided by the Sea, Israel Overcomes an Old Foe: Drought,” Isabel Kershner writes that Israel is thriving because it has adopted recycling and desalination. She quotes at length from Israeli officials but includes not a single Palestinian voice.

Kershner manages to dismiss Palestinian concerns in two sentences: “Israel, which shares the mountain aquifer with the West Bank, says it provides the Palestinians with more water than it is obliged to under the existing peace accords. Palestinians say it is not enough and too expensive.” She feels no need to address the humanitarian crisis Israeli has created in confiscating Palestinian water for its own use.

In fact, Israel steals the water from under the feet of Palestinians, draining West Bank aquifers, allocating 73 percent of this water to Israel and another 10 percent to settlers. Palestinians are left with 17 percent, and many are forced to buy from the Israeli water company at rates up to three times as high as the tariffs charged Israelis.

Kershner omits any mention of the obvious inequalities between Israeli West Bank settlements and the Palestinian villages nearby. Settlements often have swimming pools and green, watered turf, while villages remain dusty and dry, without enough water for agriculture or even for home gardens.

The Times has also turned its back on news that underscores the outright theft of water in Palestine. It had nothing to report, for instance, when settlers recently surrounded a Palestinian spring with mines and barbed wire. The paper also remained silent when security forces destroyed pipes providing water to an impoverished Jordan Valley herding community earlier this year.

Many organizations, however, have spoken out. The United Nations, the World Bank, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, church groups, If Americans Knew, and others. They have issued reports and press releases noting that Israel violates international law in confiscating Palestinian water resources and highlighting the striking disparities between West Bank villages and Jewish settlements.

Kershner found none of this worth mentioning in her story today. Instead, we find a promotional piece that should benefit Israeli water specialists now peddling their products in California and other drought-stricken areas of the United States.

Editors and reporters are complicit in this effort to tout Israel as an enlightened and technologically advanced country, even in the face of its flagrant theft of Palestinian water. The New York Times has found an Israeli puff piece on water technology to be worth a front page spread, but it deems the criminal confiscation of this basic resource unfit to print.

Barbara Erickson

With Courage and Anguish, A Gaza Athlete Speaks Out

His name is Iyad Abu Gharqoud; he is a soccer player and a resident of Gaza, and he speaks to us directly from The New York Times today, allowing us to hear his anguish— as well as his courage—in telling his own experience of Israeli oppression. This is a rare occurrence in the newspaper of record, and we should savor the moment.

It is true that Abu Gharqoud’s op-ed piece “FIFA Should Give Israel the Red Card,” appears in print only in the international edition, but it is also to be found online, with a reasonably prominent position on the World page. The essay, calling on FIFA to suspend Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, is notable for its ring of genuine feeling: his love of soccer, his grief at the suffering he has endured and witnessed and his fear of Israeli reprisals for this moment of speaking out.

The young athlete writes to us from Bureij, a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, where his family has lived since they were driven from their home near Beersheba in 1948. He has found “great joy” in playing soccer, but as a professional he has come up against the fact that Palestinians under occupation live “at the whim of Israeli officials.”

His teams, Hilal al Quds and the Palestinian national team, are often held up at check points or prevented from traveling altogether; players, coaches and referees are denied travel rights, harassed and imprisoned; and two athletes were permanently maimed last year when Israeli border police shot them in their feet.

Abu Gharqoud writes of the special agony of Gaza, where Israel bombed soccer fields and recreation areas last summer, where four boys died under Israeli shells as they played soccer on a sandy beach and where Israeli missile fire killed eight soccer fans as they watched a televised World Cup game.

When he calls for FIFA to suspend Israel, his plea has the force of a moral argument. “I have been stopped at too many checkpoints, held for too many hours and suffered too long on account of my Palestinian nationality to be silent at this crucial moment,” he writes.

Here it becomes clear that he is taking a serious risk by speaking out. He goes on: “I have dedicated much of my life to excelling at the sport I love, but there are more important things in life than success on the soccer pitch.” In other words, he knows that Israel could choose to ruin his career for what he has told the world.

This is an antidote to the usual Times reports on Palestine/Israel, where we find official commentary taking the place of on-the-ground reality. Abu Gharqoud speaks with an authentic voice, and he gives us one small piece of the crushing Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Although he writes of soccer, he links its struggle under Israeli rule to the larger picture of occupation, to the “subjugation of the Palestinian people.” Two states or one, he writes, is not important. “Equality is.”

The article should point us to Israel’s repressive policies beyond the game of soccer. We could substitute almost any other endeavor in its place and find similar stories: in education, for instance, where schools are attacked with tear gas and students detained on the way to exams, in agriculture, where crops are destroyed and market produce left to rot at checkpoints.

In this piece, the Times has lifted the curtain to give us a brief view of the crushing effect of the Israeli occupation. Readers would benefit from more of this, but past experience warns that we should not expect a repeat any time soon.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Promotes Israeli Hypocrisy: “Outraged” Officials Deny Apartheid Label

Israeli officials have backed off from a plan to bar Palestinians from West Bank bound buses, protesting in loud terms that this would smack of “apartheid,” and The New York Times has devoted much space to letting these spokespersons have their say.

We hear from Mark Regev, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s preferred mouthpiece, from opposition leader Isaac Herzog, and—at considerable length—from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin. We also hear indirectly from Netanyahu himself. Palestinians, who bear the brunt of segregated transportation policies, are represented by a single voice—politician and physician Mustafa Barghouti.

The plan would have forced Palestinians working inside Israel (those few who manage to get permits) to use designated entry points on their return. It was put forth by settlers who objected to riding on the same buses with Arabs and was originally announced last fall but put off until after the election.

The author of the Times story, Isabel Kershner, quotes the settlers along with the officials who denounced the plan, but in spite of many column inches devoted to this debate, she omits a significant detail: Although she writes that the plan has been “shelved” or “ended,” it is actually on hold.

Where the Times story failed to take note of this, others spoke up. The newspaper Haaretz states that it is “frozen,” and the Israeli liberal advocacy group Peace Now has said that “the defense minister must announce the cancellation of the bus segregation plan rather than settle for a suspension.” Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam predicted that “apartheid buses are what the government wants and will eventually get” and when this happens “the world be damned.”

Kershner’s story, however, leaves readers with the impression that the plan was withdrawn and skims over the inconvenient fact that it is not dead but merely in suspension. At the same time she emphasizes the rhetoric of denial emanating from Israeli officials.

Rivlin said it could have caused “an unthinkable separation between bus lines, for Jews and Arabs,” an idea that “goes against the very foundations of the state of Israel.” Herzog called it “a stain on the face of Israel and its citizens.”

Both men emphasized the harm it would cause to Israel’s image in the world, and to many observers this is precisely why the plan was put off at this moment. Its announcement came as Israel was in negotiations to prevent a suspension from the world governing body of soccer over the country’s discriminatory policies and as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrived to meet with Palestinian and Israeli officials.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued a press release noting that the temporary hold on the bus segregation plan was “probably due to the negative fallout for Israel’s public image,” and Silverstein wrote that the plan had been in the works for two years but was going into effect when “the time wasn’t right.”

B’Tselem also states that suspension of the bus plan leaves in place a longstanding “policy of segregation and discrimination against Palestinians that has existed on the ground.” It cited the two separate legal systems in the West Bank—one for settlers and another for Palestinians—separate roads for use by Palestinians and settlers and an “official policy of separation in downtown Hebron, and elsewhere.”

The organization notes that Palestinians who ride the buses now are already forced to arrive early in the morning to go through check points and that these are workers who have been lucky enough to get permits to enter Israel.

In the Times story the reality of segregation and discrimination in the West Bank only finds brief expression in a direct quote by Mustafa Barghouti, thus placing it in a context where readers could dismiss it as little more than rhetorical claims coming from a Palestinian opponent. The bus riders who would suffer most from the segregation plan have no voice at all.

The emphasis is on Israeli denials. We hear at length from those who are outraged by charges of apartheid, who speak in lofty terms of Israeli standards and show a sudden fit of indignation over a bus plan that has been in the works for over two years.

Readers would benefit from a look behind this rhetoric. Times reporters know, for instance, that Israel maintains separate roads and separate legal systems in the West Bank, but here we find no challenge to the official efforts to claim the high road, even in the face of obvious facts on the ground.

Barbara Erickson