“Desperately” Spinning at The NY Times

In an analysis published in The New York Times today, Jodi Rudoren opens with the observation that Israel “desperately sought” quiet during its 50 days of conflict with Gaza this summer. Here we have a curious development: We are told that Israel, with its state-of-the-art weaponry was “desperate” as it faced impoverished Gaza armed with mainly homemade rockets and small arms

Her choice of words implies that the 2,100 deaths in Gaza—some 500 of them children and more than 1,400 civilians—all came about because Israel was desperate to restore calm and had no other choice. It attempts to say Israel was driven to destroy schools, hospitals, ambulances, power stations, greenhouses and high-rise apartment buildings because it despaired of achieving quiet any other way.

In opening the story this way, Rudoren signals that once again we have a Times effort to spin the news in Israel’s favor, and the rest of the article bears this out.

The story notes that although both sides have claimed victory since a ceasefire went into effect, Israel did manage to restore calm and Gaza only got an easing of the blockade that has created such misery since 2007.

There is more however, that could be said. Israel did not destroy the Palestinian unity government or demilitarize Gaza, and the conflict did not eradicate Hamas. To the contrary, Hamas emerged stronger than before in terms of popular support.

A former New York Times correspondent, Taghreed El-Khodary, writes in Huffington Post that Hamas fighters “have brought to the people the pride and dignity they seek as people living under siege and under cruel military occupation.” She quotes a Gaza mother who told her over a Skype interview, “After the war, we will kiss their feet. We want peace but not without Hamas.”

“If Hamas has proven something,” Khodary writes, “it is that they exist and can’t be marginalized, period.”

There is no mention of this outcome in Rudoren’s analysis. Her piece is long on the Israeli perspective and short on the Palestinian view, with most of the text devoted to commentary by Israeli and American observers.

We hear from four Israeli commentators and from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former peace process negotiator Martin Indyk. On the Palestinian side, Rudoren quotes a Gaza political consultant, a Ramallah-based analyst and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but not a single member of Hamas is given voice.

This is a serious omission in a story that purports to look at what both sides are saying, and it is compounded by another lapse, the failure to give context to what Rudoren calls “the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

This is more than a “conflict.” Palestinians live under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel is in violation of international law in its treatment of Palestinians. An occupying power is legally obliged to care for the civilian population under its control, but Israel has attacked and impoverished the residents of Gaza and the West Bank and confiscated their land and water.

Even during periods of “calm,” when no rockets have broken the peace, Israel has continued to carry out extrajudicial assassinations in Gaza, along with military incursions, demolitions, attacks on fishermen and farmers and a blockade on people and goods.

Under such circumstances Palestinians could be driven to “desperately” seek an out, but in the illogical realm of Israeli-centric spin it becomes Israel that despairs and is forced to lash out against the people under its control. As we have noted before in TimesWarp, Israel, the military power, is a master at provoking a response, even from feebly armed groups like Hamas, and did so this time around as well.

All of this should be part of any analysis of the recent fighting, but the Times avoids mention of the underlying situation. Readers are left with a vague impression that two sides are at it again, that this is unfortunate and irreconcilable and Israel is desperate for peace. Meanwhile, Times readers who know the true state of affairs, are undoubtedly becoming “desperate” for clarity in the stories about Palestine.

Barbara Erickson

2 thoughts on ““Desperately” Spinning at The NY Times

  1. It seems that TW’s mission was fulfilled with particular brilliance in real-time analysis of breaking coverage by NYT of the latest “unpleasantness,” as British imperialists might have put it. Might someone review the TW output from, say, the kidnapping of the three teens to the final ceasefire that marked the end of Protective Edge to pull together a sense of historical coherence that would memorialize the sacrifice and samud of the people of Gaza and the shameful conduct of Israel, the U.S. and NYT? Steve


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