The NY Times Airbrushes Palestinians From the West Bank

As the Israeli election approaches, The New York Times has provided us with a broad look at West Bank settlements, publishing an online piece with interactive maps to illustrate their rapid growth and an analysis of spending, population, planning and construction and how all this will shake out in the final vote.

The lavishly illustrated piece, “Netanyahu and the Settlements,” seems to provide readers with a quick overview of the issues, but it is all smoke and mirrors: A major element of the West Bank is missing here—the Palestinians, the indigenous residents of this landscape.

In all of this lengthy article, reporter Jodi Rudoren  never once quotes a Palestinian source. We meet settlers and we hear from American and Israeli officials, but Palestinian voices are omitted entirely. Their opinions emerge only in brief phrases—“Palestinians object” or “Palestinians do not accept”—never with a name attached.

After brief dabs of local color in the opening paragraphs, Times readers are introduced to an airbrushed West Bank, without a Palestinian community in sight: “The West Bank,” they write, “is 2,100 square miles of rolling hills dotted by some 200 Jewish settlements surrounded by security fences. They include the hilltop city of Ariel, with its own university and regional theater; planned communities of cookie-cutter houses with red-tile roofs; and hilltop outposts where a few dozen people live in trailers.”

Readers are then taken on a tour of several settlements, and they can click on aerial views to watch them grow over time, but they never visit Palestinian cities or villages, the native communities of this land. In this West Bank there is no Bethlehem or Jericho, no Jenin or Nablus; it is all a Jewish affair.

We learn that international opinion opposes settlement growth, and we get a look at how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accelerated construction during his tenures, but the Times avoids any look at the devastating consequences of settlement building on Palestinian lives.

In the Times, the problem is nothing more than an abstract issue of negotiations and electoral politics. It is a “dilemma for peacemakers” or a “central element of his troubled relationship with Washington,” all of which is far removed from the ugly facts on the ground.

Times readers learn virtually nothing about the ethnic cleansing that accompanies settlement expansion and the harsh consequences for Palestinians. Other media outlets and monitoring groups, however, provide frequent accounts of settler and army harassment, demolitions, olive tree burnings and land seizures, all aimed at driving Palestinians off their land.

Last week, for instance, Israeli bulldozers invaded a Jordan Valley herding community and bulldozed tin shacks and tents that were sheltering the families. The community, Khirbet Ein Karzaliyah, has clung to the land in spite of repeated demolitions. The Red Cross and other aid agencies supply new tents, but Israeli authorities return repeatedly to tear down homes and animal pens, leaving the residents and their stock exposed to the elements.

It is part of a “decades-long policy to expel thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of shepherding communities” in the West Bank, an IMEMC news article stated. It referred readers to a report by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, which details the efforts to force these Palestinians off their land and make way for Jewish ownership and development.

Other reports last week exposed the military use of “firing zones” as a means of seizing land under Palestinian ownership. It told of another Jordan Valley community where the army forced Palestinians out of their homes by designating an area as a firing zone for training exercises. It then reduced the size of the zone and allowed settlers to move in and build there.

In the Times, settlements come at no cost to Palestinians. They are simply a matter of contention and take up land that Palestinians “would like to have” as a future state. There is no mention of the deprivation and suffering settlements cause and no recognition that the land they stand on was stolen from its indigenous owners.

Readers learn that the international community opposes Israeli settlement building, but we never get a look at what is driving this opposition. The Times prefers to stand at a distance from the reality of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, reducing human suffering to abstractions and removing the victims from the scene.

Barbara Erickson

8 thoughts on “The NY Times Airbrushes Palestinians From the West Bank

  1. Netanyahoo and all his predecessors have played a zionist game, a game of illegal occupation, just like most settlers, claiming that god promised them that land, i.e. the god they created, that they used to have him say that they were his “elected few”, and that they also used to claim that he promised them the Palestinian land. In 1945, Palestine was the land of some 150,000 Jews and nearly 2 million Palestinians. Both cultures lived rather peacefully with one another, going as far as taking care of each other’s children on emergency situations. That the same year that the European zionist Jews started arriving in Palestine and planning a take over of the whole territory, which happened when the British left Palestine in December 1948. Then the killing of Palestinians started. Some 8,000 dead were enough to scare over 800,000 Palestinians into searching refuge out of their own land, walking days on with barely anything, forced to abandon their houses, land, fields, etc. The zionists grabbed every thing, and we know the rest of the story. Even the land partitioned by the UN for Jews and Palestinians (the Palestinians were never consulted on the partition of their ancestral land…) started being stolen from day one for the Palestinians, who were allowed only 47% of it, while the few Jews in comparison were given 53%, and that was NOT ENOUGH FOR THEM… Today they must control over 70% of it, ILLEGALLY. Many pacifist and humanist Jews are and have been against their Israeli zionist governments all along, claiming that having been victims of the nazi regime was no reason for using tactics similar to that regime’s to conquer, defeat and dehumanize the whole Palestinian population. History has shown that there are ends to abuse, and South Africa is a shining example of that. Israeli should remember that especially that they’re being called racists, apartheid state, warmongers… The U.S.A. might not be able to protect them forever… And BDS might hit them harder than expected, particularly if their economy fails while their cost of living keeps rising endlessly.

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  2. This interactive feature is useful in informing Americans — who do not know about these things — that these “settlements” are not tented camps or remote outposts. The graphics portray ethnic cleansing in process — but without identifying it as such, of course. As Barbara Erickson points out, those being cleansed from their ancestral lands, the Palestinians and their vibrant, ancient communities, are nowhere to be seen in this feature (except perhaps as the laborers building these sprawling settlements). The assertion that the Palestinians “would like to have” this land as “their future state” is a totally deceptive construction that The Times often uses to obfuscate Palestinian rights. Their right to establish a state on this land has been repeatedly recognized by the international community — and soon it will be half a century since the UN Security Council, in resolution 242 (1967) reiterated the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces (who still control all access to and movement within the West Bank) from these territories.

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  3. Can it be that the phrase “illegal under international law” never enters the narrative of this Ziocentric Times’ effort to keep the public propagandized and dumbed down? Thank you, Ms. Erickson, for not letting ’em get away with it.

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  4. God Barbara, I could hardly get through the fist three paragraphs:

    “With negotiations stalled between the Palestinians and Israelis, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank now exceeds 350,000,” for example. What do the negotiations have to do with anything? The settlements are all COMPLETELY ILLEGAL.

    Then: “Steady growth of settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which most world leaders consider violations of international law…” which “most” world leaders consider violations? Wha? What world leader doesn’t consider the settlements clear violations of int’l law? Netanyahu? Is he considered a world leader now?

    Okay, that’s it. I’m all done reading that article. Thanks for saving me the time.

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