“Gaza-Israel Escalation Threatens Cease-Fire.” So says the headline today in The New York Times. It is an even-handed title for a violent episode, but the article that follows weighs heavily on one side of the scale. It presents the narrative of Israel under fire but skimps on the story of Gaza.
The story by Jodi Rudoren tells us that some 60 rockets fell on Israel yesterday, and Israel swiftly answered with more than 30 airstrikes and artillery attacks on Gaza. No casualties were reported from either side.
She quotes officials on the Palestinian and Israeli sides and reports that the flurry of rockets from Islamic Jihad was in response to the killing of three of the group’s fighters on Tuesday. Rudoren writes, “The Israeli military said the three had fired a mortar at its soldiers while they patrolled just inside the border fence.”
In fact, the army was not on patrol; it was nothing so innocuous. Patrols take place in home territory, but these soldiers had invaded Gaza, as they have done many times in breach of the November 2012 ceasefire. The soldiers come with tanks, bulldozers and live ammunition, and they level agricultural land planted with crops and destroy farm buildings and homes. (See Under Fire, a recent report by The International Displacement Monitoring Centre.)
So it could be said that Islamic Jihad was retaliating and repeated Israeli attacks set off the latest exchange of bombs and rockets. The Times story, however, makes the usual claim that Israel is acting only in response to aggression from Gaza.
Rudoren also shortchanges her readers when she addresses Palestinian charges that Israel was engaging in “purposeful escalation” of violence with the deaths of six Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in a single day this week. She lists five of the victims and repeats a dubious claim by the Israeli military that one of them, a Jordanian judge, “had tried to seize a soldier’s weapon as he crossed the Allenby Bridge into the West Bank.”
Only yesterday Rudoren reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Jordan for the death and agreed to join an investigation into the tragedy. Today she is content to repeat the military claim without comment, even though the apology casts doubt on army’s version of events.
In addition to background data and quotes by officials, the Times article introduces us to several Israeli individuals with names, ages, occupations and homes; innocent civilians terrorized by the bombardment.
We meet Adel Ramer, a teacher, and we learn the names of her dogs, Nikki and Nala, who were unable to go for a walk when the rockets began to fall. We hear from Dani Rachamim, 60, a kibbutz resident, and we learn that a 57-year-old woman was hurt running for shelter, the only Israeli injury recorded so far.
But no ordinary citizen in Gaza is mentioned. Their plight gets one general comment: “With the news that Israel had closed Kerem Shalom, the commercial crossing through which Gaza imports and exports limited goods, residents of Gaza City rushed out Wednesday night to fill their fuel tanks and stock up at bakeries and supermarkets.”
Rudoren introduces us to no one like Ramer and Rachamim in Gaza. She also implies that it is only the Kerem crossing that concerns them, not the explosives falling from the skies nor the navy ships ready to rain missiles from the sea. Nor does she mention the fact that Gaza has no airplanes, drones, tanks or other heavy weaponry except for the mainly ineffectual rockets.
Likewise, the story never mentions the blockade of Gaza, which has imprisoned some 1.7 million people since 2007 (or even earlier, in some analyses). Instead, Rudoren says only that “Israel withdrew its settlers and troops in 2005.” She also omits the fact that 13 residents of Gaza have died from Israeli fire since the beginning of the year.