“Israelis Link Attacks To Their Own Struggles,” reads a recent headline in The New York Times. The story, with a prominent photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fills the top of a front section page in the paper’s print edition.
It is pure hype. The horrifying Paris shootings are not an Israeli story, and Netanyahu is making a big stretch to appropriate the tragedy for his own use. Unfortunately, the Times is a willing partner in this effort.
Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren writes in the Times article that Netanyahu equated the Paris attackers with Israel’s enemies, including Hamas and Hezbollah, and stated that “Israel is being attacked by the very same forces that attack Europe.”
And his remarks, Rudoren says, came before a gunman and several hostages died in a standoff at a kosher supermarket. This development, she writes, “brought things closer to home for Jews in Israel and beyond”—as if it revealed that anti-Semitism was at the heart of the attacks.
In fact, in thousands of words devoted to the shootings, the Times makes no connection between the motives of the gunmen and Israel, even in stories about their background and training under Al Qaeda. The anger and hostility they expressed was directed at France and French society.
The Times would do better to focus on the actual victims of Al Qaeda and its related movements in Iraq and Syria. There we could hear from those who know firsthand just how these groups operate.
Instead it is Israeli “struggles” that are promoted here and Israeli complaints that the world ignores their fight with terrorism. Rudoren does give voice to critics of Israel, but she does so obliquely, paraphrasing their major points and speaking through a third party.
Thus we hear from Israeli columnist Anshel Pfeffer, who notes that Europeans don’t see the situation as a battle between Islam and the West but as “a kind of unjust occupation of Palestinian territory.” Israel violates international law in its confiscation of Palestinian land, but Rudoren can’t say so. The best she can do is quote an observer—an Israeli one at that—who pegs it as “kind of unjust.”
Far down in the article we get direct quotes from Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti, who also refers to occupation, but many readers are likely to dismiss his remarks as disgruntled comments from the opposition, and in any case, Rudoren quickly returns to the Israeli sources, who dominate her story.
When Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly last October, he tried to make the same case—that Israel and the West are under attack by radical Islam—but few were listening. As one Israeli journalist noted: “Most of the world does not believe that Hamas—which is part of the Palestinian national movement—and the Islamic State, which is seeking an Islamic caliphate, are ‘branches of the same poisonous tree.’”
The Times, however, is ready to support this claim, tattered as it is, and Netanyahu has an ally here is his effort to capitalize on the tragedy in France for his own purposes.