So what is happening this month in Palestine? Nothing to speak of, according to The New York Times: A Palestinian newspaper faced complaints about disrespecting the prophet Muhammad, and two lovers started a Facebook campaign to overcome an Israeli travel ban that separates them; otherwise it appears that all has been quiet.
Readers who depend on the Times for “all the news that’s fit to print” will not suspect that a great deal is missing here, but in just the past two days, other media have had much to say about stories that involved Israeli abuse of Palestinian children and the Israeli courts’ failure to hold its military accountable. And, as usual, life is far from quiet in Gaza.
When Israeli soldiers arrested a 14-year-old girl, Malak al Khatib, in December and charged her with throwing stones and carrying a knife, the Times filed no report. Nor did the paper inform readers when an Israeli military court sentenced her to two months in prison. This action provoked international outrage, but none of it was mentioned in the Times.
The subject of child imprisonment and abuse in Israel has long been off limits in the Times, even as international monitoring organizations have tried to raise the alarm. (See TimesWarp Jan. 13, 2014.) So it is no surprise that a recent statement on the abuse of Palestinian children, issued by Defence of Children International, likewise found no mention in the paper.
In a Feb. 9 release, DCI charged that Israel subjects Palestinian children to solitary confinement and other abuse “designed to coerce confessions.” It notes that Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military court and that “no Israeli children come into contact with the military court system.”
None of this is new information. It has appeared often in the reports of rights organizations and in media outlets. Times readers, however, are unlikely to know any of these facts.
The newspaper also ignored a story out of Israel that drew attention elsewhere: a court decision denying Israeli responsibility for the death of the young American activist Rachel Corrie in 2003. A military bulldozer ran over Rachel while she was protesting the destruction of housing in Gaza.
Her family sued for civil damages, lost in a Haifa court, and this past week also lost an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court. In a statement, her family said that the recent decision “amounts to judicial sanction of immunity for Israeli military forces when they commit injustices and human rights violations.”
The Times has also chosen silence as the best response to this story, even as Israeli newspapers joined the international press in reporting the decision.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel continued to breach the ceasefire agreement of last August and reconstruction efforts stalled. Gunboats fired on fishermen working within the 6-mile limit, Israeli bulldozers invaded the strip to raze farmland, Israel carried out “mock raids” over the skies of Gaza and 90 families returned to collective shelters after the UN ran out of money for a rental and repair assistance program.
Gaza is a big untold story in The New York Times. Readers deserve a hard look at what has gone wrong with reconstruction efforts. They should know about the ordeals of fishermen and farmers, through news reports and through firsthand accounts.
Instead, the Times this month has published a single story about Palestinian life—a somewhat giddy look at two lovers divided by travel restrictions, one in Gaza and the other in the West Bank. This is as much as the paper seems willing to say about life in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Times prefers to focus on the upcoming Israeli election, on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to address a joint session of the United States Congress and on relations between Israel and the international community—anything but the reality of the occupation.
In November Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan critiqued the paper’s coverage of Palestine-Israel and asked, “What is Palestinian daily life like? I haven’t seen much of this in The Times.”
Her question remains unanswered. The newspaper continues to avoid any serious look at how Palestinians survive under Israeli rule. To do so would reveal inconvenient and damaging truths that the Times is determined to avoid.