A Nuclear Power Confronting Slingshots, Israeli Hypocrisy Finds an Ally in The NY Times

Israel, The New York Times tells us, has vowed to crack down on violence in Jerusalem, allowing the use of live fire against Palestinians who take to “rock throwing and firebombing,” expanding the rules of engagement and lengthening sentences for such crimes.

In a story titled “Israel Acts to Combat Violence in Jerusalem,” Isabel Kershner quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls such Palestinian weaponry “deadly and murderous objects,” which have been “thrown without response and without being thwarted.”

It is noteworthy that Netanyahu, responsible for bombing and strafing the 1.8 million residents of Gaza, can say these words without a hint of irony. It is also striking that the Times can report his utterances without pointing out the full context here—the lopsided nature of the conflict.

In fact, it is the Palestinians who face a deadly enemy: Israel possesses armored vehicles, automatic rifles, drones, rockets, fighter jets, smart bombs and sophisticated surveillance equipment, all of them more “deadly and murderous” than Palestinian rocks. As the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel also has a stockpile of up to 300 nuclear weapons, which can be launched by air, land or sea.

Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have nothing more than stones, firecrackers, kitchen knives and homemade firebombs. The mortality figures reflect this disparity: Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed more than 25 Palestinians in the West Bank (settlers have killed at least another three), while Palestinians are responsible for the deaths of four Israelis within the West Bank and Israel combined.

Yet the Times strains to make Israelis appear as the victims, giving voice to the claims of Netanyahu, playing down Palestinian deaths and hyping Israeli casualties. A recent headline declared, “Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car in East Jerusalem,” suggesting that the driver was stoned to death. In fact, he had a heart attack, lost control of his car and ran into a light pole. The Times story cites only one object hitting the car.

By contrast, the paper gives a bland and ambiguous title to the story of a young Palestinian woman who died from a barrage of Israeli bullets last week as she tried to cross a checkpoint in Hebron. This news appears under the title, “2 Are Killed in West Bank as Jewish and Muslim Holidays Approach.”

Readers find no hint of the bloody assault on 18-year-old Hadeel Al Hashlamoun in this headline, and the Times has also failed to report that Amnesty International termed her killing a “extrajudicial execution” and called for a “prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations” into her death.

Firsthand accounts say that an Israeli soldier shot Al Hashlamoun in the leg, and when she lay motionless on the ground, approached her and fired several more shots into her abdomen. Witnesses add that soldiers refused to let a Palestinian ambulance approach her and left her to bleed for about half an hour before allowing an Israeli ambulance to arrive and take her away. Video footage also shows a soldier grabbing her by a foot as she lay bleeding on the ground and dragging her out of camera sight.

This is raw violence with “deadly and murderous” arms, but the Times and Netanyahu do not find the word “violence” appropriate here. They reserve its use for Palestinians who throw rocks and firecrackers, never applying it to the atrocities of Israeli security forces. The irony and hypocrisy in this discourse seem to elude them entirely.

In a story that appeared online yesterday, the Times reports that four Palestinian youths have been arrested for throwing rocks at the car of the man who died after crashing in East Jerusalem. This news is in striking contrast to the latest, disturbing developments in the case of three Palestinian family members who died in an arson attack.

When news broke of the fire that killed a toddler in the West Bank village of Duma and led to the later deaths of his mother and father, the Times quoted the reactions of Israeli politicians at length and described Jewish Israeli “soul searching” over the deaths. The paper also noted that some extremist settlers had been arrested but that no one accused of the Duma arson was in custody.

The Times ran several stories immediately after the arson attack, reporting that Netanyahu vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but after running a brief article when the mother died earlier this month, the newspaper has been silent, even though there is news to tell: Israeli officials know who committed the crime but do not plan to arrest them.

Israeli media have reported that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted that the names of the suspects are known but the defense establishment has not arrested anyone “to avoid revealing intelligence sources in court.”

So we have the quick arrest of four youths suspected of throwing rocks and (perhaps) indirectly causing the death of an Israeli driver, while those responsible for burning and killing three innocent Palestinians go free. The remarks by Ya’alon add even more irony to Netanyahu’s complaint that rock throwing occurs “without response and without being thwarted.”

The Times has shown itself to be tone deaf to such dissonance in the Israeli narrative. Far from analyzing or commenting on the hypocrisy of vilifying rock throwers, it has worked to support this deliberate distortion of the reality in Palestine.

So in the Times we find silence concerning official complicity in settler crimes, efforts to portray Israelis as victims and a refusal to state the obvious: Killing civilians with the world’s most sophisticated weapons ranks high on the scale of violence, far above the efforts of Palestinian youth who face armored soldiers and tanks with slingshots and stones.

Barbara Erickson

How The NY Times Hides the Scandal of US-Israeli War Crimes

The United States sends at least $3.1 billion in military aid grants to Israel every year, more than the amount given to all the rest of the world combined, and although Americans oppose this excess, their opinion has had no effect: Officials are now in talks to raise the yearly amount by as much as 50 percent.

If you missed that news in The New York Times, there is no reason for surprise. The issue has essentially remained out of sight, glossed over in a smattering of news stories, where readers find murky references to US aid and no enlightening details.

Thus we have a story by Jodi Rudoren this month, a look at how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a “pivot” after losing his battle against the nuclear agreement with Iran. Several paragraphs into this piece she writes, “Washington is expected to deliver a huge new military aid package to Israel…to appease Mr. Netanyahu and Democratic supporters of Israel who reluctantly backed the nuclear deal.”

This begs for explanation. How much is “huge”? Why is this “expected”? But nothing more is forthcoming.

Times readers have to look elsewhere for a fuller story. Other sources tell us that Israel has been asking for up to $4.5 billion a year in military aid and that talks have been going on “away from the spotlight.” Observers expect announcement of an aid agreement in November, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington.

The Times did manage to work in the $4.5 billion price tag, in the last paragraph of a story that ran in July. The US has guaranteed Israel $31 billion in military aid grants over 10 years ending in 2017, and Israel now wants a new deal guaranteeing up to $45 billion over another 10 years. The article states that officials will frame the deal that finally emerges as an effort to bolster Israel’s defenses in the face of a resurgent Iran. Thus they will try to defuse the charge that the new deal is a way of “appeasing” Israel.

Since this story appeared, the Times has avoided the subject, except for Rudoren’s reference to a “huge” new package, and brief comments elsewhere about “compensation” for defying Israel on the Iran nuclear deal.

US aid to Israel is a subject that the Times would like to avoid. On many fronts it is difficult to defend and shines a harsh light on the actions of both the US and Israeli governments. For instance:

  • Congress has been willing to maintain and even increase military aid to Israel even as it cuts programs for education, food assistance and tax relief for working families in the United States.
  • Israel receives US aid even though it is one of the most economically advanced countries in the world.
  • US military aid makes up a full 20 percent of the Israeli military budget.
  • Israel, a small country, is so well supplied with arms that it is the tenth largest purveyor of weaponry in the world. In other words, Israel receives military aid from the US, and then makes money by selling arms to other nations.
  • US aid to Israel amounts to $10.2 million per day or $450 per year for each Israeli citizen.
  • Israel receives special perks that other aid recipients are denied, such as the right to use some of the funds to buy weapons from Israeli manufacturers instead of being required to purchase American products.
  • Israel spends more on military expenditures than any other country in the world, based on percentage of gross domestic product.
  • The annual U.S. military aid package for Palestine is $0.00.
  • In addition to the $3.1 billion in direct military aid guaranteed each year, Israel receives other gifts, such as economic grants and immigration assistance, raising the total aid well beyond the stated amount. (Vice President Joe Biden recently cited $7.18 billion for a one-year package.)
  • Sixty percent of Americans polled in a survey said the United States “gives too much aid to Israel.”

In addition, human rights organizations and other observers have raised ethical concerns over supplying arms to Israel in view of its deadly attacks on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last year, during the assaults on Gaza that left some 2,200 Palestinians dead, Amnesty International called on the United States to stop transferring arms to Israel, citing “growing evidence of war crimes.” In June of this year, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) asked the State Department to review the legality of military aid to Israel in light of evidence that security forces abuse child prisoners and have killed nonviolent demonstrators.

This past week a coalition of 10 organizations—American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, Defense for Children International and others—sent out a petition asking President Obama to stop supplying Israel with arms. In particular the petition targets the 50 percent increase in direct aid from $3.1 to $4.5 billion now under consideration.

Within days, by Sept. 21, the petition had reached its goal of 50,000 signatures and reset its sights on 60,000.

The Times, however, has had nothing to say about these protests, although they have been reported elsewhere. Rep. McCollum’s letter, which garnered the signatures of 18 additional members of Congress, was featured in US and Israeli media but found no mention in the Times.

The subject of military aid to Israel demands a fuller treatment in the Times. Readers should know the actual cost to U.S. taxpayers; they should be told of ethical concerns raised by organizations and officials; they are entitled to know more about the lethal effects of Israel’s weaponry; they should find Times analysts willing to discuss the contrast between congressional largess for Israel and the efforts to cut domestic programs.

It is not too much to say that US military aid to Israel is scandalous in light of the devastating effects it has had on innocent Palestinians and also on Americans deprived of basic needs. The failure of the Times to address the issue also amounts to scandal, making it fully complicit in this sordid affair.

Barbara Erickson

Al Aqsa Under Attack: The NY Times Blames Its Youthful Defenders

Tensions are running high at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, and The New York Times can tell us where to place the blame: It’s not the fault of extremists who plan to destroy the landmark, according to the Times, nor is it recent Israeli moves to restrict Muslim access to the site; it is the fault of hot-headed Palestinian youth.

In a story today and in a similar article last July Isabel Kershner points directly to these young people as the source of trouble in clashes with police. This is how the police have framed the issue, and Kershner gives prominence to their claims.

The Times story contrasts with reports from international media and Palestinian sources. From these accounts we learn that the youths were volunteer guards helping defend the holy site against Israeli incursions and that police stormed the mosque while Muslims were inside, beating and injuring worshippers and damaging prayer rugs and other articles. We also learn that these actions prompted even Arab nations on good terms with Israel to speak out in protest.

Kershner quotes Palestinian Liberation Organization secretary Saeb Erekat and a Hamas spokesman who condemn the Israel invasion of the mosque, but she fails to tell readers that both Jordan and Egypt, two nations friendly to Israel, also protested, along with the Arab League and the United Nations representative for peace talks.

The Al Aqsa Mosque has stood at its site in Jerusalem for a thousand years and is revered by Muslims everywhere, but Jews also consider the area as holy ground, where the Second Temple once stood. Extremists openly call for the destruction of both Al Aqsa and the even more ancient Dome of the Rock, which dominates the Jerusalem skyline. They plan to raze the edifices and replace them with a Third Temple.

The Times story fails to acknowledge these real threats that cause anguish among the followers of Islam. It has also neglected to report on Israel’s numerous efforts to restrict Muslim prayer at the mosque and the increasing presence of Jewish worshippers, who are protected by troops when they visit the compound.

Muslims know that another holy site, the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, has been divided between a Muslim and a Jewish section, and that Israeli officials often choose to ban Muslims from entering altogether. This month, worshippers have been excluded from the Hebron mosque for six entire days.

Kershner reports that Muslims charge Israel with plans to divide the Al Aqsa compound, but she says that this is “an assertion vehemently denied by Israel.” Missing from her article is the history of Hebron and the restrictions Israeli authorities frequently impose on Muslim worshippers in both sites.

In recent weeks, for instance, Israel has prevented women from entering the Al Aqsa area, retained the identify cards of worshippers, allowed Jewish extremists to enter the mosque compound for “tours,” restricted the entry of students attending schools in the Al Aqsa compound and confiscated land in an Islamic cemetery next to the mosque.

After the latest incursion, the director of the mosque compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, said that Israel occupation authorities “have imposed their sovereignty over [the mosque compound] by power of force.” Israel controls who enters and exists, he said, and officials use force against anyone who challenges them.

This is a cry of alarm from a site revered by millions of Muslims throughout the world, but it found no mention in the Times. Instead, we receive the Israeli spin on this tragic saga as the newspaper glosses over the expansionist aims of a Zionist state.

Barbara Erickson

As Third Victim Dies, Arsonists Get a Pass in Israel (and in The NY Times)

Riham Dawabsheh, the third victim of an arson attack on her West Bank home, was laid to rest this week in a funeral attended by thousands. The New York Times has duly reported this, but the article is little more than a “color” piece, a detour around the full story of Israeli racism and impunity surrounding this event.

Riham, 27, died Monday, on her birthday, more than a month after the July 31 firebombing of her home in the village of Duma. Her toddler son, Ali, was burned to death in the attack, and her husband, Saad, 32, died a week later. A second son, Ahmad, 4, remains alive in a hospital with burns over 60 percent of his body.

The Times barely mentioned Riham’s death in a brief 135-word story yesterday (placed in the bottom corner of page 6 of the print edition); today it gives us a five-column photo with an article by Diaa Hadid that describes the women at her funeral and very little else.

It is a piece devoid of context, and it includes no official responses to the news of the latest death, with one exception—the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decrying the attack and insisting that security services were “doing their utmost” to find the perpetrators.

Other media outlets in the United States and Israel report the anguished concern of United Nations and Palestinian officials over the lack of progress in the case. Nicholay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said that he “reiterated and strengthened” his earlier call for justice, and that he was “concerned by the lack of progress in identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of this outrage.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, released a statement saying, “Over a month has passed and the Israeli government has not yet brought the terrorists to justice. In fact, more hate speech and incitement have been coming out from members of the Israeli government, more settler attacks have been carried out, and more Palestinians have been killed, injured or detained.”

The Times story mentions none of this and says only that Israel arrested several extremists who belonged to a “network that had encouraged acts of arson” and that it is “unclear” if any of them were connected to the Duma attack because Israel had imposed a gag order on the investigation.

Missing from this all-too-brief summary are some significant facts: The Israeli authorities arrested several suspects soon after the arson attack but released them, and although villagers reported that four men ran from the house after setting it on fire and entered a nearby settlement, no one from the settlement is in custody.

Other media have noted that Israel has failed to arrest and prosecute those responsible for similar attacks in the past. The Israeli magazine 972 ran a piece titled “No one is put on trial when a Palestinian family is burned alive,” comparing the Duma attack to a taxi firebombing three years ago.

The taxi bombing left six Palestinian family members hospitalized, but all survived. The investigation, however, did not. As 972 writers John Brown and Noah Rotem state, “Despite incontrovertible evidence showing settlers were behind the attack, the case was closed after a two-week investigation.”

None of the Times stories on the Duma bombing have found this news fit to print, and the newspaper has failed to mention other developments that shed light on the tragedy. They include:

The newspaper has had several opportunities to include this kind of information in its pages, but it has preferred to emphasize officials’ efforts to control the damage to Israel’s reputation as news of the deadly arson emerged in the media. Thus we have found several stories about the arrests of Jewish extremists and many reports of Israeli outrage over this act of terrorism.

Today’s story was one more opportunity to inform readers of the full context in this disturbing story, but the Times has given us a diversionary slice of local life, omitting any reactions beyond that from the prime minister’s office and obscuring the facts surrounding the investigation.

Even in the most egregious examples of violence against Palestinians, the Times chooses to act as a protector of Israel, placing this goal above its mandate as the newspaper of record.

Barbara Erickson