New York Times: Outcry Over Susiya Nothing but Clever PR

Susiya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, has now made it into the pages of The New York Times news section, and we are permitted a view of how Israel wants us to see this disturbing story: All the fuss about Susiya is little more than the result of clever marketing on the part of the villagers.

Thus we find a story today by Diaa Hadid titled (in the online version) “How a Palestinian Hamlet of 340 Drew Global Attention.” This primes readers from the start to expect a tale of simple villagers who devised a winning media strategy, and it distracts from the real issue, which is nothing less than ethnic cleansing: Susiya is to be destroyed to make way for Jewish settlers.

High in her story Hadid writes, in a telling phrase, that “the cause of [this] tiny village” has become “outsized,” in other words overblown, as if Susiya, with its population of 300 or so, is not worth the fuss.

The village first got notice when “sympathetic” foreigners visited Susiya some 20 years ago and took up its cause, Hadid states. By that time the residents had been forced out of their original homes and were living near the centuries-old site that had belonged to their ancestors.

Jewish settlers had taken over the original village in 1986, she writes, and Israeli forces made them move on again in 1990 “for unknown reasons.” They were expelled once more in 2001, according to Hadid, “as collective punishment over the shooting death of a Jewish settler.”

Her story omits a crucial detail: The authorities knew that the villagers were innocent of the killing but used the incident as an excuse to harass the Susiya residents once more. The Times account leaves the impression that a Susiya resident was responsible for the settler’s death.

Hadid quotes a staff member of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, who notes that residents “have managed to place Susiya on the international agenda in ways that other villages have not managed to do,” and her story goes on to say that “years of advocacy appeared to pay off when Susiya’s residents began warning early this month that their village was under threat.”

As a result, the story reports, Susiya received visits from a European Union delegation, Israeli activists and American consular officials. Then, a week ago, the U.S. State Department mentioned Susiya in a press briefing and urged Israel to spare the village.

The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.

Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”

We find the word “occupied” here, as usual in Times reporting, but it is devoid of meaning. Readers do not hear that the West Bank is Palestinian territory; that Israel is there as an invading military force; and that the settlements violate international law, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own population into the foreign territory.

The Times story makes no reference to international law, but it does quote an Israeli military spokesman who says Susiya “was built illegally.” Thus Hadid emphasizes the pretext of legality Israel draws over its defiance of international norms while she ignores the flagrant breaches of the Geneva Convention and other standards.

Readers can pick up some revealing details in the story: the ousted villagers’ descriptions of sleeping outside “in the wild, in the rain,” the fact that they can no longer access two- thirds of their original land because of the settlers, the expectation that if Susiya goes, other vulnerable villages will also fall to Israel’s greed for Palestinian land.

But the story glosses over these details to present the Susiya’s case as above all a successful publicity effort. The Times would have us believe that the real story here is how the village became an “outsized” international cause, through “years of advocacy.”

Susiya is just one of many villages in Israel’s Negev and in the occupied West Bank where Israel is determined to ethnically cleanse certain areas of their indigenous inhabitants and install Jewish residents in their place. Times readers are finally learning about Susiya only because international attention has forced the newspaper to acknowledge the issue.

The village should have been known to readers long before now, just as they should also know of dozens more facing annihilation: Al Araqib, Umm Al Kher and Khirbet Yarza, to name just a few. In the South Hebron Hills alone, where Susiya is located, some 30 villages are faced with demolition.

But even now the Times can’t just tell the story of a village nearly helpless under the weight of Israeli might, a community faced with extinction after centuries of living on the land. Instead we find an effort to play down the tragedy, to present it as an overblown cause, not really worth our concern.

Barbara Erickson

Save Susiya: Israeli Threat to Demolish Village Finds a Back Door to the NY Times

The New York Times has finally done the right thing and informed readers of Israel’s plan to destroy an entire village in the West Bank. This is good to see, but the move exposes a significant fault line in the newspaper: The foreign desk and Jerusalem bureau have been the gatekeepers here, avoiding their responsibilities in reporting the story.

The piece appears on the op-ed page under the byline of one of the threatened villagers—Nasser Nawaja, community organizer and a researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. It’s a good article, summarizing the sad history of Susiya and the resistance to Israel’s plan, which comes from local and international supporters.

Nawaja’s article includes a quote from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby made during a press briefing last week. Kirby was clearly prepared to address the issue and ask Israel to back off. This in itself should have prompted the news section of the paper to address the story, but the Times remained silent. (See TimesWarp 7-20-15.)

Until today the only mention of Susiya’s plight came in a Reuters story that the Times published earlier this week without posting it on the Middle East or World pages. Readers had no way to find it unless they specifically searched for it, by typing in the key word “Susiya,” for instance.

The story of Susiya and its struggle to survive has been reported in news outlets since 2013. The United Nations and other groups, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, have issued statements and press releases on Susiya; the European Union, and now the State Department, have spoken out; but none of this prompted the Times to do what good journalism demands and assign a reporter to the story.

The Times’ treatment of Susiya is reminiscent of a similar story, which emerged during the attacks on Gaza in 2012: In one day Israel targeted and killed three journalists traveling in marked cars, but the Times article describing events that day simply said that “a bomb” had killed two men, even though an officer confirmed the army’s responsibility.

Times readers learned the full story only when columnist David Carr wrote of the journalists’ deaths days later in the Business section. He titled his piece “Using War As a Cover to Target Journalists,” and he did the reporting that was missing in the news section. (See TimesWarp 2-17-15.)

Carr gave the details of the killings, and quoted the lieutenant colonel who affirmed the attacks on the journalists. He then wrote, “So it has come to this: killing members of the media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”

When Carr died earlier this year, the Times was filled with tributes to his work, but none of the articles mentioned this fine moment of his career. The story of the assassinated journalists never again emerged in the newspaper.

Susiya may have a different fate, however. Now that its name has appeared in the back pages of the newspaper, we may find that the story flickers to life in the news section as well. All things are possible, even in the Times.

Barbara Erickson

 

As West Bank Village Faces Extinction, NY Times Looks the Other Way

Bulldozers are poised outside the West Bank village of Susiya, deployed in advance of their stated mission—the razing of homes, animal shelters, cisterns, clinics and schools and the eviction of some 300 Palestinian residents, all to make way for Jewish settlers.

The arrival of the bulldozers this month did not come as a surprise. Susiya’s struggle to survive has been in the Israeli and international news for at least three years. Its case has reached to the Israeli Supreme Court, and its cause has drawn protests from local and international activists, members of the U.S. Congress and even the Department of State, which spoke against the demolition this past week.

Despite all this, The New York Times has had nothing to say about Susiya, although the story is eminently newsworthy and has appeared often of late in Israeli and international media and in the reports of human rights groups.

Palestinians have lived in Susiya for centuries, written records of a community at that site in the South Hebron Hills go back to 1830, and it appears on British Mandate maps from 1917, but none of this counts in the eyes of Israeli settlers and officials, who are determined to remove the residents from their homes and land.

Settlers have been encroaching on Susiya since 1983 when they established an illegal colony near the village. Three years later the Israeli army’s Civil Administration, which runs affairs in the West Bank, expelled the residents from their traditional village land and turned it over to the settlers, who now run it as an archaeological site.

The villagers have twice been forced to move since then, setting up homes nearby only to be driven out by the army each time. Since their third expulsion in 2001 they have lived on their agricultural fields, constantly under threat of losing their final hold on the land.

Today, the residents of Susiya have no connection to water or electrical services, and their homes are under demolition orders. The Civil Administration has refused their attempts to qualify for utility services, and the Israeli Supreme Court has allowed the army to proceed with demolitions in spite of all appeals.

This treatment is in flagrant contrast with a “generous planning policy” that Israeli grants the settlers. As the Israeli rights group B’Tselem notes, “The settlers of Susya and its outposts enjoy full provision of services and infrastructure and are in no danger of their homes being demolished—despite the fact that the outposts are illegal under Israeli law and in the settlement itself…23 homes were built on private Palestinian land.”

Meanwhile, Susiya residents spend a third of their income for water to be tanked in, paying five times the price paid by the nearby settlers who are served by the water network.

Israeli has confiscated 370 acres of Susiya’s land, and settlers prevent the villagers from accessing another 500 acres. Now the settlers, backed by the state, are pressing to have it all.

In the face of this patent discrimination and injustice, Susiya has found support from a number of champions in Israel and abroad. Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli group, helped take the case to the Supreme Court. Jewish Voice for Peace, Rebuilding Alliance,the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and others in the United States are pressing members to take action through petitions and phone calls to representatives.

And this support reaches beyond the activist community to government officials. On June 7 this year all 28 European Union member states with consulates in Jerusalem sent representatives to Susiya to stand in solidarity with the villagers.

More striking still, the campaign on behalf of the impoverished village has reached the halls of the U.S. Congress and state department. Last week Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sent an open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to intervene and help save Susiya. Ten members of the house joined her in signing.

The state department took notice and spoke out. At a press briefing on Thursday spokesperson John Kirby took a question about the fate of Susiya, and he was prepared with a detailed answer: The department “strongly urges” Israel to refrain from “any demolitions in the village.” Such actions would be “harmful and provocative,” they would “worsen the atmosphere” and “set a damaging standard.” The message was clear.

This made the news in Israel, but The New York Times remained silent. It had nothing to say when the 28 EU consulates took part in an act of solidarity with Susiya. It made no mention of the Eshoo letter. Now it has studiously avoided the remarks by Kirby at the state department last week.

The Times would prefer to say nothing about the case of Susiya, which exposes the Israeli occupation in all its worst manifestations. To report the full story would damage the fictional narrative promoted by Israel and the Times: that the West Bank is “disputed territory” fought over by two equal sides and Palestinians are terrorizing the settlers.

If the pressure becomes great enough, if other mainstream media begin to report on the threats to Susiya and the protests at the highest levels of the U.S. government, the Times may have to relent. Then it will be instructive to see how it manages to play catch-up and, we expect, strive to give the story an Israeli spin.

Barbara Erickson

[On 7-21-15 a search with the key word “Susiya” turned up a Reuters story on the Times website. Previous searches had yielded nothing more than a 2008 feature story involving the village. The Reuters story did not appear on the site’s World or Middle East pages. In other words, it was well hidden, but the Times can claim to have “covered” the issue. Here’s the link to the Reuters story:  http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2015/07/20/world/middleeast/20reuters-palestinians-israel-susya.html?_r=0]

Israeli Racism on Trial in the Strange Case of Two Missing Men

A full 10 months after Ethiopian Israeli Avera Mengistu made his way into Gaza, not to be heard from since, officials have allowed his name to appear in print, and The New York Times has offered us a report that promotes Israeli spin, omitting key details and glossing over the government’s unsavory role in this strange tale.

Isabel Kershner tells us that Israeli officials, lifting a gag order on the story, announced that Mengistu and a second Israeli citizen, a Palestinian, were being held in Gaza. Officials said Mengistu crossed into Gaza voluntarily on Sept. 7, but they had nothing more to report about the other man.

Kershner’s story gives the impression that Israeli officials have been working hard to free the men, but it omits details reported in other media that suggest a far different story. These reports state that officials ignored the Ethiopian’s case until American blogger Richard Silverstein exposed the name of the missing man last month and Ethiopian-Israelis began raising the issue in street protests.

It was only then, this past week, that the government agreed to lift the gag order, which had applied to Mengistu’s family as well as news media. Family members are now saying that the government forced them to remain silent but failed to respond to their requests for information and help until recently.

An Israeli television station, Channel 10, gave weight to their claims by broadcasting a conversation between a Netanyahu aide and Mengistu’s parents. Israelis heard Lior Lotan, Netanyahu’s representative for missing persons, threaten the family members and warn them against criticizing the government’s handling of the case or blaming it on discrimination.

If they did so, he said, their son would be left “in Gaza for another year.” The recording also captures complaints by Mengistu’s father that he had written to Netanyahu several times and received no response. The prime minister, according to reports, never called the family until just before lifting the gag order.

But nothing of this appears in the Times story. Here we are told that “the news blackout regarding Mr. Mengistu had been imposed with the agreement of his family.” We also hear that Netanyahu is taking a tough line, telling Hamas he holds the party responsible for the welfare of the two men.

Kershner appears eager to counter the charges of discrimination coming from the Ethiopian community and their supporters. She repeatedly links Mengistu’s disappearance to the case of Gilad Shalit, an Askenazi Jew, who was taken captive in 2006 in Gaza and later exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. The Shalit affair “traumatized” Israeli society, she writes, and the Mengistu case threatens to “open old wounds.”

The Shalit affair followed a different route and quickly received widespread publicity in Israel, with a full-scale campaign for his release. Ethiopian-Israelis, who have been protesting government treatment this year, have noted the difference.

Kershner, however, waits until her final paragraphs before she makes brief mention of the Mengistu family’s objections to the government response. Their complaints, she implies, are part of a general “discontent” on the part of Ethiopian Israelis who have made “accusations of discrimination and police harassment.”

Kershner’s story avoids still further evidence that Netanyahu had little interest in the Mengistu case: Several officials in the Security Cabinet and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said after the gag order was lifted that they had never received official briefings on the affair.

It was a request from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Kershner writes, that finally led officials to lift the news blackout. Authorities had rejected previous requests, she writes, adding, “It is not clear what prompted the change.”

In fact, Kershner and others who have followed this story know why the order was rescinded: The silence was broken last month when Silverstein revealed Mengistu’s name in a Mint Press News article. Soon afterwards Ethiopian Israelis showed up on the streets wearing T-shirts with Mengistu’s name.

But the Times gives no credit to Silverstein, who had reported last October that an unnamed man was missing in Gaza. Silverstein recently revealed the name of the second missing man, Hashem al-Sayyed, who apparently disappeared April 20 from his Bedouin village in the Negev. This man’s father also complained of official negligence in his son’s case.

Kershner’s story omits the most telling details of the Mengistu case—the threats against the family, their evidence of negligence and the ignorance of high government officials—while she gives weight to officials’ statements of concern for the missing man. It is all in line with official spin.

As a result, readers are likely to remain ignorant of the full story concerning Mengistu and al-Sayyed. The actions of Netanyahu and the revelations of Israeli racism as they appear in this tale are off limits in the Times, and the curious and the caring will have to find the full story elsewhere.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Whitewashes Israel’s Racist Justice System

Three Israeli civilians are standing trial for killing a Palestinian teenager in a brutal murder last summer, and The New York Times is on hand to report the details. It is all meant to carry a clear message to readers: that democracy is at work in Israel and the law is on hand to deal out justice.

So we read that Israeli prosecutors are pressing defendants to admit their intent to kill, that the families of defendants and the victim are on hand and that the “cramped courtroom” in Jerusalem is crowded with judges, lawyers and observers.

But for all its detail, this story by Isabel Kershner is missing some crucial context: the fact that Israel runs a blatantly racist system of justice, with strikingly different treatment for Israelis and Palestinians. The present trial—for the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was doused with gasoline, beaten and burned in a wooded area a year ago—is far from typical.

In reality, Israeli civilians and security forces rarely stand trial for attacks on Palestinians. A study by the Israeli human rights monitoring organization, Yesh Din, released this May, shows that Palestinian complaints against Israeli civilians lead to indictments only 7.4 percent of the time, and only a third of these (or 2.5 percent of the complaints) result in even partial convictions.

Security forces are also shielded from prosecution. Yesh Din notes that criminal investigations against soldiers are rare and even when they do take place, they are closed without indictments 94 percent of the time. And, Yesh Din states, “In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.”

In the Times story Kershner quotes the parents of the victim, who are skeptical of the Israeli justice system. “It is all an act,” the boy’s father says. “They burned Muhammad once. Every day we are burned anew.”

Readers are likely to dismiss his misgivings as rhetoric and prompted by anger and grief. In fact, Palestinians have reason for doubting that they can find justice in Israeli courts.

West Bank settlers, for instance, are tried in civilian courts, while their Palestinian neighbors—even the children—face trial in military courts, which are notorious for their lack of due process and impossibly high conviction rates. As UNICEF noted in an extensive report on the abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli custody: “In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are convicted 99.74 percent of the time, according to Israeli Defense Force data. Knowing this, most Palestinians and their lawyers opt for plea bargains and give up even the faintest hope of receiving a fair trial.

None of this appears in Kershner’s story, but the context of Israeli justice as it applies to Palestinians is crucial to understanding what is really happening here. The fact is, Israeli officials know the world is watching this trial, just as it watched events unfold after Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed. We can expect at least the appearance of justice to be on display.

The Times, which has ignored the hundreds of cases that show Israel in a far different light, is ready here to present Israeli prosecutors pressing for justice. Readers will not suspect that the newspaper has failed to inform them of other, less savory, outcomes to Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

We can name a few:

  • This past April, two years after 16-year-old Samir Awad of the West Bank village of Budrus was killed with three bullets to his back and head, the State Attorney’s Office opted to charge his accused assailant with the minor offense of a “reckless and negligent act using a firearm.” B’Tselem, the Israeli rights organization, called this decision “a new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians.”
  • In January Israel closed an investigation into the killing of Musad Badwan Ashak Dan’a, 17, in Hebron, four years after the event, saying there was no evidence available. In fact, the army investigating unit had plentiful evidence, including medical documents and eyewitness accounts.
  • Israel forces shot and killed Yusef a Shawamreh, 14, in March last year as he collected herbs near the Separation Barrier in the West Bank. Three months later, investigators closed the case, saying there was no breach of military rules involved. Videos of the incident show that the boy and his companions posed no possible threat to the soldiers or Israeli security.

All of these (and dozens of others) were newsworthy items, fit to print in the Times, but the newspaper has preferred to look away. Only Samir Awad’s name appeared briefly in an online Reuters story that never made it into print; the others received no mention.

Now, however, Israel knows that the world is aware of the Abu Khdeir case, and a trial is in progress. It is likely that the prosecutors and judges will remain on their best behavior throughout the proceedings.

The Times, as well, is ready to present a narrative of Israeli justice at work. We can expect more reports from the Jerusalem courtroom, but readers are unlikely to learn that the trial is a rare event, an aberration in a system of flagrant inequality.

Barbara Erickson

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