Israel has been the big story in The New York Times this month, with lead stories, front page photos and endless commentary. Reporters and pundits have looked at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and his election win from every angle. What could be left to say? What more would you want to know?
In fact, there is much that the Times is not telling you. For instance, that Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians this month and that the United Nations released a report showing that Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any year since the 1967 war.
Times reporters failed to cover these events, and they continued, as always, to neglect the ongoing harassment of Palestinians, the daily incidents that underscore the brutality of the occupation—home demolitions, the destruction of crops and orchards and the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons to threaten and injure protesters.
The first to die from Israeli fire this month was a Gaza fisherman, Tawfiq Abu Riyala, 32, who was shot in the abdomen March 7 as his boat sailed within the six-mile limit set by the terms of the August 2014 ceasefire. Riyala, who had created an artificial reef to attract fish within the allowable offshore limit, was featured in news accounts after his death.
The second victim was Ali Mahmoud Safi, 20, of Al Jalazun refugee camp, shot in the chest during a demonstration near Ramallah March 18; he died a week later. A third man died March 1 in Gaza from unexploded remnants left from the Israeli attacks last summer. He was gathering sand from a destroyed building to use in rebuilding his home.
The recent UN report, “Fragmented Lives,” sums up the effects of the occupation on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It states: “Palestinians across the [occupied Palestinian territories] continue to be subject to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settlers violence. 2014 witnessed the highest civilian death toll since 1967 due to the July-August hostilities in Gaza and a significant increase in Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank.”
This report was released last week and is eminently newsworthy, but it has received no attention from the Times. Likewise, the systemic problems alluded to in the report—settler violence and policies and practices related to the occupation—rarely make the pages of the newspaper.
Readers would have to visit alternative news outlets or the weekly reports out of the United Nations to discover the information denied them in the Times. During this past month, they would have found the following took place during the four weeks from Feb. 24 to March 23 (see UN weekly reports):
- 81 homes and other buildings in the West Bank were demolished by Israel, leaving 93 people displaced.
- 170 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
- In 98 incidents Israeli security forces fired on Palestinians near land and sea boundaries in the Gaza Strip. In addition to the fisherman killed on March 7, two other fishermen were injured and six were detained during these attacks.
- 991 olive trees were destroyed by settlers and Israeli security forces in the West Bank. On March 29 settlers destroyed another 1,200 trees near Hebron.
- Settlers set fire to a mosque near Bethlehem and a Greek Orthodox church in East Jerusalem.
The demolitions, injuries and settler vandalism are weekly events in the occupied territories. The Times, however, has consistently ignored them, even when settlers destroy 1,200 trees in a single attack.
The newspaper turns away from the facts on the ground and the legitimate grievances of Palestinians under Israeli rule. It prefers to focus on Israeli politics and the analyses of Israeli pundits, avoiding the ugly realities of the decades-long occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
[For a close-up view of life under occupation, see a photo essay of one week in Hebron here.]