The New York Times takes us to the West Bank village of Sa’ir today, visiting the families of youthful Palestinians shot down by Israeli troops, witnessing their grief and providing a glimpse of life under military rule. But missing from this seemingly sympathetic piece is the major story here: Israel stands accused of summarily executing many of these young men without trial.
These charges made headlines recently when Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called for an investigation into Israel’s spate of killings. Her words set off a diplomatic row between the two countries and prompted heavy coverage in Israeli and international media, but the Times gave the story nothing but a passing nod, posting a few fleeting wire service accounts online.
The charges have come from other respected sources as well. Last week Israeli journalist Gideon Levy published an article headlined “Yes, Israel Is Executing Palestinians Without Trial.” And earlier this month the organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor released a report titled “100 Days of Brutal Israeli Intimidation and Extrajudicial Executions.”
[Levy, it should be noted, has been awarded this year’s Olof Palme Prize and cited for his “passionate search for truth and a fearless faith in the victory of reason in a region infested by prejudice and violence, propaganda and disinformation.”]
Steven Erlanger, the author of today’s piece, most certainly knew about the firestorm surrounding Wallstrom’s comments, the Levy article and damning reports by organizations such as Euro-Med, but his story confines criticism of Israel to one single source: the Palestinians. Readers can thus dismiss their words as the kind of griping one would expect from an adversary.
On the other hand, he takes Israeli official statements as fact. Thus Erlanger writes that a young Palestinian, Moyyad Jabarin, was killed “after trying to stab a soldier.” There is no acknowledgement of contrary reports from Palestinian media outlets, which cite eyewitness claims that he had “been executed” and was left to bleed to death.
He also describes the recent spate of violence as “near daily attacks by knife, vehicle and gunfire.” Thus he manages to present the claims of security forces as fact, when they are actually nothing more than efforts to explain why so many Palestinians have died at their hands. A judicious reporter would have noted that this is just one side of the story, that they are allegations, not proven realities.
Readers should have been told that the Euro-Med report directly contradicts these official claims. “Proven Palestinian attacks are relatively small in number,” it states, while the Israeli military has been arresting, harassing and executing Palestinians to an “excessive and disproportionate” degree. “As such,” Euro-Med writes, “the behavior of the Israeli military constitutes violations of international law.”
Erlanger reports on the constricting grip of the occupation, citing the roadblocks, the humiliations and the “circuitous route” needed to reach the village on the day of Jabarin’s funeral. But ultimately he shields Israel here, allowing a glimpse at the suffering imposed by the occupation but ignoring the mounting evidence and charges of extrajudicial killings.
He gives us a peek at Palestinian grief, but he refuses to look at the crimes taking place right now at checkpoints and demonstrations. Courageous Israelis like Gideon Levy, rights monitoring groups within Israel and without and now European diplomats are trying to get our attention, but the Times steadfastly looks the other way, determined to hide the full truth from public view.