In The New York Times it’s all part of a high stakes game, the good guys (Israelis) against the bad guys (Palestinians), and this time the good guys won, taking the prize through clever and audacious disguises.
Such is the tone of Isabel Kershner’s story today that tells of yet another outrage by Israel: Special forces invaded a hospital in Hebron, held the staff at gunpoint, killed a visitor point blank and kidnapped a patient recovering from surgery.
Condemnation of this atrocity and other recent attacks on Palestinian hospitals has come from Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and a half dozen United Nations agencies, but none of their criticisms are included in the Times story.
Kershner, instead, only includes objections from Palestinians, and in the context of her writing, they come off as sore losers who would be expected to complain, in any case.
Her story opens with a description of the raid, as undercover Israelis disguised as Arabs enter the hospital, pushing a “pregnant woman” in a wheelchair, and it ends with several paragraphs looking back at other Israeli operations that involved masquerades: a 1972 action to foil a hijacking, a “famous” revenge assassination by former prime minister Ehud Barak, and a raid in Dubai to kill a Hamas commander.
In other words, it was all part of an illustrious Israeli tradition.
The Palestinians are described as “livid,” a term that implies a somewhat excessive rage and carries a hint of derision. It is not a neutral term in news writing, but Times editors apparently had no problem allowing it to stand.
The Israeli operation, on the other hand, is characterized as something of a breeze, not the bloody and outrageous affair that it was. They entered the hospital and then “about 10 minutes later they were on their way out.” They “whisked away” the suspect, Azzam Shalalda, leaving his cousin, Abdallah Shalalda, dead on the floor of the hospital room.
In describing a similar raid on a Nablus hospital last month, Kershner writes that Israeli forces “snatched” a suspect in a fatal shooting. Such vocabulary implies a kind of cinematic caper, devoid of real life complications.
Missing from her story is any mention of international humanitarian law, which forbids such violations of hospital and health care facilities. Amnesty International also noted that the killing of Abdallah Shalalda appeared to be a deliberate extrajudicial execution, and Tikun Olam blogger, Richard Silverstein, wrote that the undercover agents had entered the hospital expressly to kill Abdallah and arrest his cousin.
Kershner, however, is quick to quote the military, which claimed that “a suspect attacked the force, which responded to the assault and fired on the attacker.” Only later in her story does she note that hospital officials said he was shot not during an attack but when he emerged from a bathroom. Amnesty stated that his wounds were consistent with a deliberate execution.
Her story glosses over the recent raids on a Jerusalem hospital and UN demands that they cease. (Israel, however, has continued to invade the facility.)
In the eyes of Kershner (and the Times), it seems that there is no problem with Israeli violations of international law when the state wants to apprehend a Palestinian suspect. She writes that the raid was Israel’s way of saying that “there will be no safe haven for Palestinian suspects.”
By contrast, the Times has never bothered to report that Israel knows the identity of Jewish settlers responsible for burning to death three members of a Palestinian family but refuses to arrest them because it might reveal intelligence methods.
The terrible irony of this double standard is beyond the radar of Isabel Kershner and the Times editors. On the contrary, they present Israel’s lawless and bloody actions as evidence of ingenuity and daring, celebrating a “victory” over the ultimately helpless and endlessly oppressed Palestinians.