Protecting Israel, Trashing Hebron: More Spin from The NY Times

Today in The New York Times we have a look at Hebron, a blood-drenched city in the West Bank, a community besieged by violent settlers and trigger-happy Israeli forces. In this month alone, some 20 of its Palestinian residents have died at the hands of soldiers and police, their deaths sometimes caught on video that belies official accounts.

But this grim reality is not the focus in the Times. The article by Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal strips the full context of the occupation from Hebron and presents it, not as a city struggling to survive under crushing oppression, but as a hotbed of Palestinian radicals, a stronghold of the oft-demonized Hamas.

The story takes us to the funeral of Dania Irsheid (identified as Dania al-Husseini in the Times), a schoolgirl shot at a checkpoint on Sunday. It mentions other deaths in recent days, but it completely avoids the eyewitness accounts and human rights organization findings that show many of these deaths were extrajudicial executions.

Israel has callously refused to release the bodies of most of the 20 victims, and we read that residents feel “particular outrage” over the death of Dania and another girl, Bayan Oseili, 16, killed a week before, both accused of stabbing attacks. The story deftly avoids another compelling reason for this outrage: the fact that both obviously posed no threat and could have been arrested and that video footage in the case of Bayan and eyewitness accounts in the case of Irsheid contradict police claims.

Hadid and Nazzal, however, have nothing to say about these contradictions and writes that residents are angry because the refusal to release the bodies is an “affront to the Muslim tradition of immediate burial and a defilement of their honor.”

This fits neatly into the Times’ attempt to spin the oppression in Hebron into more blaming of the victims, who are described as Hamas followers and culturally conservative. The article opens with a quote from a Hebron resident who applauds knife attacks on Israeli soldiers, and it closes with the same speaker who “was pleased to see the surge in violence turn to Hebron.”

Missing entirely are any comments from nonviolent Hebron activists and the accounts of eyewitnesses who say Israeli forces have planted knives near the bodies of victims. The story also omits some chilling reports of deliberate executions and the statements of human rights groups that raise the charge of extrajudicial killings.

One of the most disturbing accounts describes the death of a young man, Islam Ibeidu, 23, on Wednesday near the Kirya Arba settlement. The news outlet Middle East Eye noted, “According to the quoted eyewitness, Ibeidu was searched by Israeli soldiers by the checkpoint and released, before orders were given to execute him.”

One witness tweeted: “I saw everything. I saw soldiers loading the guns. He had his arms up and was shaking, he was unarmed and they just shot him.” A second tweet continues, “eyewitness overheard police woman say ‘he looks nice, shoot him’ before he was shot to death by m16 from 2 meters away.”

The accounts of other deaths are equally disturbing (see TimesWarp 10-27-15), but the Times story includes none of them. It states that the victims this month died “in demonstrations and attacks,” taking the official Israeli line as fact.

On the other hand, the article refers frequently to Hamas in an effort to tie the group to the violence in Hebron. It makes no mention of several non-violent groups active in the city, such as Youth Against Settlements, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the International Solidarity Movement and the UN mandated Temporary International Presence in Hebron.

All of these organizations are avowedly non-violent; they observe and document violence against Palestinians. Yet another group, Breaking the Silence, was founded by Israeli soldiers who had served in Hebron and now collect and document Israeli army abuses. None of these organizations has a voice in the Times story.

Much of Hebron’s agony dates back to March, 1994, when an American-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 worshippers in the Ibahimi Mosque. Hadid mentions this as part of the historical record but omits the brutal Israeli crackdown that followed.

Rather than act to protect Palestinians after this attack, Israeli security forces went on to kill some 20 more Hebron residents during protests and to lock them down under a round-the-clock curfew. The government also closed once bustling Shuhada Street to all Palestinian traffic, welded shut Palestinian shops, turned the street over to settlers and divided the mosque into Jewish and Muslim sections.

This finds no clarification in the Times story, which refers vaguely to a “volatile mix of Palestinians and Jewish settlers.” Instead, the newspaper has adopted the official playbook of the occupiers: Stick to the narrative of Israeli victimhood, ignore countervailing fact, and whenever possible blame Hamas.

Barbara Erickson

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