Condescension is the tone today in The New York Times’s coverage of Gaza. In three separate stories, the newspaper of record manages to belittle the needs and claims of Palestinians even as they die by the hundreds under Israeli fire.
Thus, we have the headline on a Page 9 story, “Israel Says Its Forces Did Not Kill Palestinians Sheltering at U.N. School.” Although Hamas has also denied responsibility for the deaths, the Times sees no need to emphasize that statement in the bold letters of a headline.
The story also quotes Israeli sources, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it includes not a single Palestinian spokesperson, although 16 Palestinians died in this attack. Even when it comes to providing the Palestinian point of view on negotiations, the Times turns to an Israeli professor, Shmuel Sandler, to tell us what Hamas is thinking. (He says they want to set ceasefire terms themselves.)
Above this article in the print edition, we find a story about Hamas’s determination to press ahead with the fight in Gaza. Here, in a single sentence, the Times shows disdain for Palestinian pleas to end the blockade of Gaza:
“Though weary of war, many Gazans see the so-called resistance as the only possible path to pressing Israel and Egypt to open border crossings and to ending Israel’s ‘siege’ on imports and exports and naval ‘blockade.’”
With the addition of “so-called” before “resistance” and the quote marks around “siege” and “blockade,” the Times has signaled that these are to be taken with a sense of irony. This is an attempt to deny the misery Israel has imposed on Gaza for more than seven years as it has sealed the enclave by land, air and sea.
The story tells us that many in Gaza are willing to suffer more Israeli assaults in order to have this blockade lifted. This is the spirit of resistance that the Times sees fit to place in quote marks.
It is remarkable that ordinary citizens would say this after 20 days of bombardments, which left over a thousand dead and destroyed hundreds of homes, but the Times makes no effort to look at the conditions of occupation and siege that have prompted such resolve. Instead, it employs quote marks to undercut the Gazans’ efforts to describe their ordeal.
In the third story today, “Even Gaza Truce Is Hard to Win, Kerry Is Finding,” the bias in the Times mimics the United States official line in showing concern for Israeli security and none for Palestinians. No one at the newspaper seems to recognize the deep irony behind this stance.
Even after more than a thousand have died in Gaza, compared with a handful within the borders of Israel, we are told that ceasefire negotiations should “neutralize the [Hamas] military threat to Israel.” Is it really the case that mostly homemade rockets pose a serious threat to the military power that is Israel?
It seems impossible for the Times to recognize that there is a Palestinian need for security. Even in times of relative calm, Palestinians die at a rate some 30 times that of Israelis. In Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 the ratio was about 100 to one. (See B’Tselem, statistics.)
The Times should take a hard look at conditions that lead to such disparities, not just during times of outright conflict but also throughout the year. Readers deserve as much, but in its effort to promote Israel, no matter what, the paper omits and muddies the vital context that is needed here and disparages the Palestinians’ efforts to make their voices heard.