One is a bizarre and improbable story: A Jordanian judge goes berserk at a border crossing and grabs a soldier’s gun. He has to be shot dead on the spot.
The other is a story recycled for propaganda effect: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displays arms seized from a ship last week, repeating his charge that the rockets were bound for Gaza and sent by Iran.
The New York Times has them both today, the first by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren and the second by Isabel Kershner. Both of them fail in the same way, discarding details that fall outside the official Israeli narrative.
According to Rudoren’s account, a 38-year-old Jordanian judge of Palestinian descent tried to grab a soldier’s gun at the Allenby Bridge crossing on Monday before seizing a metal bar and shouting “Allahu akbar (God is great).” She quotes Col. Yaron Beit-On as saying, “The soldiers understood they had no way to handle him; they used a gun and they shot him. They were in danger.”
Rudoren does not explain how the man threatened the soldiers or why they could not incapacitate him otherwise. She acknowledges that “Palestinian and Jordanian officials questioned the Israeli account,” but she dismisses their concerns in one sentence: “Colonel Beit-On said it was based on interviews with witnesses, including the Jordanian bus driver.”
So much for the other side of the story. She goes no further than the Israeli army spokesman, even when the killing involves a Jordanian judge from the magistrate court in Amman. The fact that Netanyahu apologized today for the killing throws even more doubt on the official account.
Times readers will have to look elsewhere for the competing narrative. The Los Angeles Times cites Jordanian reports that the judge, Raed Zeiter, reached for a metal detector as he was being searched and made no effort to seize a gun. Al Jazeera states that witnesses described nothing but a verbal altercation between Zeiter and a soldier. (Also see an extensive eyewitness account at this site.)
Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times and other outlets also place the killing in context, noting that Amnesty International recently released a report on “trigger happy” Israeli soldiers who killed 41 civilians between January 2011and December 2013. None of them posed any threat to the soldiers, the report said. The Times, however, makes no mention of this report.
The Kershner story on Iranian arms runs above the article about the judge’s killing. It comes with a photo of Netanyahu inspecting rockets and missiles in Eilat on Monday, and it describes the event as “a public relations spectacle” designed to expose “the true face of Iran” to the world.
Although Kershner calls the event a spectacle, this is the only note of irony or skepticism in the story. It then goes on to quote the prime minister on his anger at the “hypocrisy” of the international community for engaging in talks with Iran. It also quotes Israelis who support his version of events.
Missing from her story are the denials from officials in Iran and Gaza that the weapons either originated in Iran or were bound for Hamas in Gaza. Other media outlets follow normal journalistic procedures and include these denials. (See Reuters, for instance, and BBC.)
Kershner’s story also ignores other takes on the arms shipment seizure, such as that by blogger Richard Silverstein, who notes that even if arms came from Iran, this is no proof that they were supplied by the government. Her article stays well within the official Israeli narrative and never quotes Iranian officials, Hamas or any of the international players who come under fire from the prime minister.
Moreover, there is a third story tucked into the pages of the Times today, an add-on at the end of the article about the Jordanian judge. Rudoren tells us in one paragraph that the Israeli army also killed Saji Sayel Darwish, 20, on Monday when soldiers opened fire on a group throwing rocks at vehicles near the settlement of Beit El.
Rudoren again fails to include any comments beyond those emanating from the army itself when, in fact, other accounts dispute the army’s claims. Yahoo news reports that the man’s family said he was herding goats at the time he was shot. Yahoo quotes an official source, Laila Ghannam, Palestinian governor of nearby Ramallah: “There were no signs of clashes in the area and it was clear by the man’s clothes he was there to take care of the goats.”
The murdered judge Raed Zeiter, young Saji Darwish, Iranian officials and Hamas officials never receive their due in the pages of the Times. Israeli soldiers, responsible for two killings, are allowed to give their explanations in full. The Israeli prime minister receives the attention he demands. Others are denied a voice.