The New York Times appears almost apologetic about its Gaza ceasefire story on page 1 today. Although the accord ends seven weeks of conflict and should be big news, the headline is of modest size, the article jumps far inside the paper to page 11 and the article is difficult to find online.
There is good reason for avoiding a big display with this piece. The headline and opening paragraphs are misleading, and the story omits significant facts. Readers never learn, for instance, that many in the Israeli cabinet opposed the agreement, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thus approved the accord on his own.
In “Cease-Fire Extended, but Not on Hamas’s Terms,” Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren notes from the outset that Hamas did not get all it asked for in the agreement. It is true that Hamas asked for more, but Netanyahu failed in all of his primary political aims: the destruction of Hamas, the end of the Palestinian unity government and the demilitarization of Gaza.
Rudoren states that the agreement restores the 6 nautical-mile fishing zone off the coast (the Oslo Accords actually set this at 20 miles) and opens border crossings to humanitarian aid and construction materials. There is more she fails to say.
Although there is no text of a signed agreement to refer to, news accounts from distinct sources (see here and here) tell us that Israel agreed to stop all military operations, end extrajudicial killings of resistance leaders, expand the fishing zone to 12 miles by the end of 2014, end restrictions on money transfers to Gaza and shrink the buffer zone (a lethal no-go area patrolled by Israeli snipers along the perimeter of the border fence). The Palestinian national consensus government will be in charge of reconstruction and the border crossings.
In return, Hamas agreed to halt rocket fire.
Rudoren makes no mention of these reports, in which Israel makes almost all the concessions. We get only hints that Israel appears to have received the short end when Rudoren mention opposition to the accord toward the end of her story.
Even here she fails to give a sense of just how bitter this opposition has been. Some headlines from the Israeli press are instructive: “Israel will exchange quiet for a lie (with the subhead “Israel surely didn’t win”) and “Netanyahu saw his chance to run away and he took it.” Barak Ravid wrote in Haaretz, “All Israel’s prime minister wanted in the end—after all the promises, and the rhetoric—was to achieve a cease-fire with Hamas at just about any price.”
Also missing from the story is the fact that Qatar was involved. The Times would have us think that this is solely an Egyptian brokered deal, but other accounts mention “extensive negotiations” in Doha, Cairo and Ramallah and have Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas thanking Qatar for its help.
Why would the Times omit Qatar’s role? Most likely because Israel objected to Qatar’s involvement in earlier talks and because it is taking aim at Qatar for supporting Gaza with extensive financial help. (See TimesWarp, Aug 25, 2014.)
The newspaper runs a photo of celebration in Gaza (a decidedly militant photo compared with others that were available) and none in Israel. There is reason for this discrepancy: There were no crowds celebrating there, even in areas most threatened by rockets out of Gaza. But Rudoren fails to explain the reasons for this difference, preferring instead to spin a losing situation into something of a victory, all on behalf of Israel.