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

[To subscribe to TimesWarp, scroll to the bottom of this page for email, follow @TimesWarp on Twitter or like Times Warp on Facebook.]

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In The NY Times, Israeli Injuries Make Headlines, Palestinian Deaths Are Footnotes

These are the last moments of 17-year-old Hebron schoolgirl Dania Irsheid, as described by witnesses: Raising her hands above her head, terrified by the shouts of Israeli police, Dania cried out, “I don’t have a knife.” Immediately, one shot hit the ground between her legs; then a hail of bullets followed, and she fell.

A video shows her lying motionless, her white headscarf stained with blood, as police mill about but make no attempt to assist her. The terrible scene took place at a checkpoint near Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque on Sunday.

Her death merited a brief and anonymous mention in The New York Times. Far into a story about the changing tactics of Palestinian Authority security forces, we find this single sentence: “Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli police officer fatally shot a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who tried to stab him, The Associated Press reported.”

Witnesses at the scene said she had no knife and had already passed through two metal detectors and revolving doors before opening her book bag for inspection at the mosque site. Israeli police, however, released a statement saying she was a “female Arab terrorist” and had been “neutralized.”

The Times says nothing of these contradictions, and it has maintained a resounding silence over other Palestinian deaths, including the shooting of two Hebron schoolboys who were killed last week, also in disturbing and disputed circumstances. (See TimesWarp 10-21-15).

On the other hand, the newspaper has taken pains to draw readers’ attention to an alleged stabbing attack on an Israeli citizen, which left the victim “moderately wounded” and resulted in the death of one Palestinian and the arrest of another.

The story appeared online five days ago, on Oct. 22, and was still present on the Middle East page through most of today’s online edition (it disappeared only after this post came out) under the headline “Jewish Man Stabbed in Israel by Palestinians as Violence Continues.” The article, touted so tenaciously on the Times website, is a mere 270 words and sketchily reported, but it outlasted other breaking news from the region with unusual longevity.

The death of Dania Irsheid merited no headline in the Times while the “moderate wounding” of an Israeli man was repeatedly flagged for online viewers. It is clear from this (and many other choices they make) that the newspaper’s editors have an agenda of their own, one that is inconsistent with accepted journalistic standards.

Israel is to be the perennial victim. Palestinians are to be the aggressors. Any deviation from this narrative causes dissonance at the Times.

Thus we find no stories about the harried and fearful lives of Palestinians in Hebron, even though the situation cries out for a close look at their ordeal. (Some 16 Palestinians have been killed in the city since the beginning of this month, out of 44 in the West Bank overall and 17 in Gaza, according to the International Middle East Media Center). Nor do we find any serious examination of the brutal occupation and colonization of Palestine that fuels the resistance.

We do, however, find a Times story about youthful Palestinian attackers inspired by social media, and we find an article focused on Palestinian songs with a nationalistic and sometimes violent bent. Both these articles appeared in print on page 1, and both conveniently fit the portrait of Palestinians as aggressors.

When evidence to the contrary cannot be ignored (as in the arson deaths of three Palestinian family members this summer), the Times turns to damage control. Thus, we have the newspaper attempting to undermine video evidence that shows Israeli security forces making false accusations or killing Palestinians who pose no threat.

This was the purpose of a story with the disingenuous headline, “Conflicting Accounts of Jerusalem Strife Surround a Wounded Arab Boy.” The point of this article is not what it purports to be, an examination of two different narratives, but an effort to debunk videos and witness accounts challenging the statements of Israeli security forces.

The Times devotes 1,600 words to telling us that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abba and others got it wrong when they said Ahmad Manasra, 13, caught on video as he lay bleeding in Jerusalem, had been killed. He had only been wounded, the Times notes, and he is now being cared for in hospital.

The Times (and Israeli officials) are using this error to claim that Palestinian testimonies cannot be trusted. Some video evidence of Israeli misconduct is irrefutable, however, and monitoring groups outside of Palestine have vouched for them, calling for an end to the use of excessive force and extrajudicial executions.

Moreover, the video of Ahmad is shocking in its revelations of Israeli settler brutality even though the boy eventually survived. And beyond this, the Times story itself makes a significant error in claiming that the boy is shown in hospital being “spoon-fed by a nurse.”

In fact, it was an attorney, Tareq Barghout, who held the spoon, as the man later testified. Barghout also said Ahmad was shackled to the bed and suffered constant verbal abuse from hospital staff. The Times story, however, included none of this information.

Israeli officials made much of the error over Ahmad’s survival, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “the new big lie,” and the Times obligingly followed suit. The overblown story is consistent with Times efforts to support the Israeli narrative and to discredit the testimony of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, three more died in Hebron on Monday, and the Times has once again failed to take notice. Palestinian deaths are—at best—footnotes in the newspaper of record while Israeli injuries are headlines. This is the unspoken but evident policy at The New York Times.

Barbara Erickson

[To subscribe to TimesWarp, scroll to the bottom of this page for email, follow @TimesWarp on Twitter or like Times Warp on Facebook.]

The Ugly Reality of the Occupation: Censored in The NY Times

Israel has been the big story in The New York Times this month, with lead stories, front page photos and endless commentary. Reporters and pundits have looked at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and his election win from every angle. What could be left to say? What more would you want to know?

In fact, there is much that the Times is not telling you. For instance, that Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians this month and that the United Nations released a report showing that Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any year since the 1967 war.

Times reporters failed to cover these events, and they continued, as always, to neglect the ongoing harassment of Palestinians, the daily incidents that underscore the brutality of the occupation—home demolitions, the destruction of crops and orchards and the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons to threaten and injure protesters.

The first to die from Israeli fire this month was a Gaza fisherman, Tawfiq Abu Riyala, 32, who was shot in the abdomen March 7 as his boat sailed within the six-mile limit set by the terms of the August 2014 ceasefire. Riyala, who had created an artificial reef to attract fish within the allowable offshore limit, was featured in news accounts after his death.

The second victim was Ali Mahmoud Safi, 20, of Al Jalazun refugee camp, shot in the chest during a demonstration near Ramallah March 18; he died a week later. A third man died March 1 in Gaza from unexploded remnants left from the Israeli attacks last summer. He was gathering sand from a destroyed building to use in rebuilding his home.

The recent UN report, “Fragmented Lives,” sums up the effects of the occupation on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It states: “Palestinians across the [occupied Palestinian territories] continue to be subject to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settlers violence. 2014 witnessed the highest civilian death toll since 1967 due to the July-August hostilities in Gaza and a significant increase in Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank.”

This report was released last week and is eminently newsworthy, but it has received no attention from the Times. Likewise, the systemic problems alluded to in the report—settler violence and policies and practices related to the occupation—rarely make the pages of the newspaper.

Readers would have to visit alternative news outlets or the weekly reports out of the United Nations to discover the information denied them in the Times. During this past month, they would have found the following took place during the four weeks from Feb. 24 to March 23 (see UN weekly reports):

  • 81 homes and other buildings in the West Bank were demolished by Israel, leaving 93 people displaced.
  •  170 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
  • In 98 incidents Israeli security forces fired on Palestinians near land and sea boundaries in the Gaza Strip. In addition to the fisherman killed on March 7, two other fishermen were injured and six were detained during these attacks.
  • 991 olive trees were destroyed by settlers and Israeli security forces in the West Bank. On March 29 settlers destroyed another 1,200 trees near Hebron.
  • Settlers set fire to a mosque near Bethlehem and a Greek Orthodox church in East Jerusalem.

The demolitions, injuries and settler vandalism are weekly events in the occupied territories. The Times, however, has consistently ignored them, even when settlers destroy 1,200 trees in a single attack.

The newspaper turns away from the facts on the ground and the legitimate grievances of Palestinians under Israeli rule. It prefers to focus on Israeli politics and the analyses of Israeli pundits, avoiding the ugly realities of the decades-long occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.

Barbara Erickson

[For a close-up view of life under occupation, see a photo essay of one week in Hebron here.]

NY Times’ Flimsy Attempt to Smear BDS

After months of silence on the steamrolling campus movement in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions aimed at Israel, The New York Times has at last spoken out—in a not-so-subtle attempt to tarnish the movement as anti-Semitic.

In a page 1 piece, which was also prominent online, the Times presents Jewish students as victims of a poisoned atmosphere on universities nationwide. The article is titled “Debate Over Treatment of Jews Is Amplified on Many Campuses” (in the print edition) but manages to cite only a single example of this “debate”—a discussion over the confirmation of a Jewish student to a University of California-Los Angeles board.

The story by Adam Nagourney states that the discussion “served to spotlight what appears to be a surge of hostile sentiments directed against Jews at many campuses in the country.” He then links this sentiment to the passage of a UCLA student government resolution in favor of divestment from companies that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

Nagourney notes that UCLA is “one of many campuses” to take such an action, but he provides readers with no further details. Readers never learn, for instance, that many Jewish students work to pass BDS resolutions at their schools.

The Times has failed to deliver any serious coverage of student BDS actions in the United States and beyond, although the movement has steadily racked up victories, even in the face of intense lobbying efforts by pro-Israel activists. The UCLA vote last November, for instance, was the sixth University of California undergraduate vote in favor of divestment.

Another significant victory came in December, when graduate and undergraduate workers throughout the statewide University of California system voted in favor of divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and its violations of human rights. The vote was taken under the auspices of the United Auto Workers Union Local 2865, which represents 13,000 students. The resolution passed by a two-thirds margin.

In February the Stanford undergraduate student senate voted in favor of divestment by more than two to one (10-4, with one abstention), and last week the student senate of the University of Toledo in Ohio approved a similar resolution by the landslide vote of 21 to 4. Other schools joining the movement in the past year include the University of New Mexico, Loyola University in Chicago and Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

The movement has been successful overseas also. In 2014, the United Kingdom National Union of Students voted to support BDS movements on campuses, and student unions at the University of Exeter, the University of Kent and the National University of Ireland voted in support of BDS measures.

Last month the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London handed the campaign a major victory when more than 2,000 students, faculty and contract workers endorsed an academic boycott of Israel by an overwhelming 73 percent. The vote took place over five days and called for SOAS to cut all ties with Israeli academic institutions.

None of this is newsworthy, according to the Times. Nagourney’s story glosses over the movement with a single reference to UCLA as “one of many campuses” to vote for BDS measures. Readers learn nothing about the factors that inspire students to take up the cause or the debates over Palestine and Israel taking place on a number of campuses.

Instead, the Times gives prominence to a single incident at UCLA and blows this into an unsubstantiated claim about a “surge of hostile sentiments” toward Jews. The evidence for this charge, as the news site Mondoweiss stated, “is laughably thin. No statistics, no research, not even a biased survey from the [Anti-Defamation League].”

The BDS movement is a story of national and international significance, but rather than inform readers, the Times attempts to deflect attention from the campaign, the facts on the ground in Israel and Palestine and the growing support for BDS. It is Israel first and foremost, once again.

Barbara Erickson

Scrubbing the Data: How the NY Times Obscures Israeli Crimes

The New York Times takes up some unsavory topics concerning Israel in recent issues and in each instance leaves readers in the dark—omitting data, glossing over history and concealing the relevant context.

Thus, in a story about the revival of a former punitive home demolition policy, we never learn that Israel destroyed thousands of homes before and after its first such program in 2005. An article about two injured protesters fails to say that many others have also been killed or wounded in similar circumstances. And a piece about refugees omits any reference to the relevant numbers and history of Palestinians in exile.

By shrinking the scope of the first two stories, the Times implies that Israel has restricted home demolitions to two disparate periods of time and that the shooting of protesters is an isolated incident. In the refugee article, the Times simply avoids the hard data implicating Israel, even though this leaves gaping holes in the story.

The numbers are misleading (or missing) in all of these articles. Jodi Rudoren in the demolition story reports that Israel destroyed 675 Palestinian homes “for punitive reasons” during the second intifada from 2000 to 2005. It reinstated the policy this year and has begun to level the homes of family members related to suspects in recent Jerusalem attacks.

Readers never learn that since 1967, Israel has destroyed some 27,000 homes and structures mainly due to bureaucratic, not military, orders. Only about 2 percent of these demolitions have been carried out for “security reasons.” Most of them are done ostensibly because owners failed to get building permits from the Israeli authorities, and these permits are notoriously difficult for Palestinians to secure.

In the shooting story Isabel Kershner writes that Israel forces wounded an Italian activist and a Palestinian with live ammunition during a weekly protest at Kufr Qadoum in the West Bank. The article quotes activists, medical personnel and a military spokesperson, but it fails to say that others were also wounded at the same protest.

Other news sources report that not one but 11 Palestinians were wounded at the demonstration. They also note that normally it would take 10 minutes to reach the nearest hospital, but because Israel has closed the main road between the village and Nablus, it now takes 30 minutes.

It would also be useful for readers to know that although this shooting incident elicited a headline (in World Briefing), most pass without mention in the Times. United Nations data show that Israeli forces injured 212 Palestinians in the week of Nov. 11 to 17 alone and that they had killed 47 between Jan. 1 and Nov. 17 of this year.

A story out of Lebanon, “Palestinian Haven for 6 Decades, Now Flooded From Syria,” informs us that the refugees of Shatila Camp near Beirut are Palestinians who “fled what became Israel in 1948.” It also refers to this tragic series of events as “the 1948 displacement.”

These are euphemisms for ethnic cleansing. Zionist forces deliberately drove Palestinians from their homes, killing many and sowing terror among the population to induce them to flee. An estimated 750,000 became refugees to make way for Jewish immigrants.

The Times story, however, never provides this number, and although readers should expect some appropriate data in a story like this, the Times fails to says how many refugees live in Shatila and how many other camps are found in Lebanon. The article likewise never explains why the refugees remain in Lebanon more than 60 years after they were forced out of their homeland.

In fact, there are nearly 10,000 refugees in Shatila and 455,000 living in Lebanon, mainly within 12 camps. They are there because Israel refuses to let them return home, in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

The Times has scrubbed the relevant data from these stories, obscuring the extent of home demolitions, the alarming number of protesters wounded by Israeli fire and the magnitude of the refugee crisis created and sustained by Israel.

Readers deserve more and should expect more from the Times, but the paper is content with appearing to report the news, minimizing and obscuring Israeli crimes, present and past.

Barbara Erickson

A Moral Morass at the NY Times

As the death toll tops 1,650 in Gaza, The New York Times highlights the loss of one Israeli soldier, and as thousands protest the Israeli assault in Washington, D.C., the newspaper ignores the event and runs a column calling such opposition anti-Semitic.

Today’s Times shows the newspaper sunk into a moral morass in its coverage of the carnage in Gaza. The page 1 story briefly touches on the terrible toll among the residents of Gaza in the fourth paragraph of the article and devotes the rest to the captured soldier and a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A page 11 graphic of damage in the Gaza Strip indicates lost infrastructure and agricultural land but gives no mention to the loss of lives. And an op-ed by Roger Cohen tells us that protests in Europe are misguided and encourage anti-Semitism.

We get only a piece of the real story out of Gaza in an article at the bottom of page 10, “Hospitals in Gaza Overwhelmed as Attacks Continue.” Unfortunately, this is provided for color, not for news, and the story is missing the hard information readers need—reports from human rights organizations and the United Nations, percentages of civilians killed and other details.

As for the story out of Washington, D.C., the news that thousands from around the country massed outside the White House to protest the massacres in Gaza, the Times provides no coverage at all.

Readers must look elsewhere for news censored in the Times; fortunately, it is not hard to find.

A good start is an  Al Jazeera story titled “Palestinians struggle to ‘dig out bodies’” and subtitled “Dozens of dead bodies remain under the rubble in Rafah, as Israel’s assault on southern Gaza kills scores of civilians.” Here we find the real news of the day, the timelines, data and human stories missing from the Times.

They can also visit The Institute for Middle East Understanding, which documents the destruction of entire families in its report, “Israel’s Mass Killing of Palestinian Families in Gaza.” The article features a photo of the Kelani family (two girls, three boys and two adults), completely wiped out by an Israeli airstrike, and it lists other families destroyed during the present operation.

Readers may also want to see a blog post by Richard Silverstein, which informs us that the Israeli army deliberately killed the captured soldier under the terms of what is known as the Hannibal Directive (See yesterday’s TimesWarp post). It is probable that Times reporters know this but are unwilling (and also forbidden by military censors) to write about it. The story today simply says the “circumstances surrounding his death remained cloudy.”

For information about the demonstration in Washington, D.C. yesterday, readers can turn to The Washington Post, “Thousands from across country protest in support of Palestinians near White House.” Here they will learn that the protest included many American Jews, including members of Jewish Voice for Peace.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is nearly beyond imagination, and Israel bears responsibility. The Times today evades these facts and deliberately obscures the terrible carnage a military powerhouse has inflicted on a helpless population.

Editors and reporters cannot plead ignorance here. They have chosen to avoid and obfuscate the real news, betraying their own stated values as journalists and the universal values of a moral society.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times Blogger Destroys Israeli Spin 

Robert Mackey in his NYTimes.com blog, The Lede, has published a video showing the killing of two Palestinian teenagers during a protest and in the same post destroys an Israeli journalist’s claim that he was “attacked and beaten” by a hostile Palestinian mob.

Kudos to the Times for giving Mackey the latitude to publish his piece online (even though his blog is out of sight of the casual browser). Mackey has shown dedication to the truth before, attracting the ire of pro-Israel watchdog groups like CAMERA. In 2010, for instance, he published a raw video of the murderous Israeli attack on the flotilla ship Mavi Marmara.

This time he posts a video released by Defense of Children International that shows the scene outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank on May 15, when a group gathered to demonstrate on Nakba Day, the commemoration of the “catastrophe,” when over 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes to make way for the State of Israel.

The video shows the moment each boy was shot and substantiates the claims of witnesses that neither posed a threat. Although an army spokesperson described protestors as a menacing mob, throwing stones and firebombs and ignoring orders from soldiers, the DCI film shows otherwise. Each of the teenagers was walking alone in an open area when he fell to the ground. One was actually heading away from the action and was shot in the back. Both young men died at the scene.

Mackey’s post also takes on the claims of Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff, who wrote that he and a colleague were “seconds away from being beaten to death” by a Palestinian mob during the protest. They survived only by pure chance, he writes in The Times of Israel, because plainclothes members of the Palestinian security forces rescued them

Mackey quotes an Israeli activist and a French journalist who saw the exchange between the two men and the Palestinians. There was pushing and shoving but nothing more, they said, adding that the Palestinians were afraid that one of journalists was videotaping protestors to turn over to security forces.

The print story of the shooting appeared in the Times under the byline of Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. She quoted the Israeli military, who claimed that they used nonviolent means to disperse the crowd, but also cited Palestinians and Amnesty International, who disputed the army account. It was a fair story in itself.

Last week Rudoren wrote a reasonably sympathetic (though limited) piece about the Nakba, which appeared only in the international edition, and last month, when Hamas and Fatah announced their unity deal, the Times published a range of op-ed pieces online, featuring commentators who rarely get mention in print.

The lesson here is this: The gatekeepers who reject news and commentary that fails to hew closely to the Israeli spin are hard at work in the print news section of the Times. There we find contorted efforts to hide negative stories under misleading headlines, articles that give the first and last word to Israeli spokespersons and commentary limited to Israeli and U.S. official; there we often hear nothing at all about innocent victims of trigger-happy Israeli troops.

Beyond that sphere, online and in the international edition, real reporting occasionally challenges the official narrative of Palestine-Israel, and when it appears it can shine a sudden light on the usual murk in the Times. But even there the day-to-day coverage is missing. Reporting that challenges the official narrative concerning Palestine appears only sporadically in The Lede, online and in the international edition.

Readers need to follow alternative media such as Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada to find daily reports from unofficial and on-the-ground perspectives. And they can always go to Palestinian sources, such as Ma’an News and the International Middle East Media Center.

Mackey’s latest post, however, keeps hope alive that eventually the fortified walls surrounding the news and opinion section of the Times may begin to crumble. Meanwhile, readers can search online for the occasional breakthrough and keep watch here for TimesWarp updates.

Barbara Erickson

Deaths in Gaza Provide Cover for “Other News”

Israel killed three men in Gaza yesterday, and The New York Times has reported the fact in a meandering story that serves as a smokescreen for other, more revealing news: Prime Minister Nethanyahu’s apology to Jordan for the killing of a judge on Monday.

The headline (“Amid Escalating Violence, Israeli Strike Kills 3 Militants in Gaza”) and lead paragraph provide the smokescreen, and thus the story by Jodi Rudoren states at the outset that the Gaza men were militants who had fired at Israeli troops moments before.

Although civilian victims, such as  a mentally ill Gaza woman shot last week, often fail to get any mention at all, Rudoren has no problem reporting the deaths of Ismail Abu Jouda, 23; Shaer Shanab, 24; and Abdel Shafi Abu Muammar, 33; identified as members of Islamic Jihad. The militant group said that the men had been trying to resist an Israeli incursion into Gaza when they were shot.

The article makes the observation, oft-repeated in Times stories about Gaza casualties, that the deaths are part of increasing violence between Israel and Gaza and this threatens the fragile ceasefire of November 2012.

On the Gaza side, increasing violence means mainly ineffective rocket attacks by splinter groups defying Hamas requests to hold fire. On the Israeli side, it includes attacks on Gaza farmers and fishermen; extrajudicial killings; excessive force leading to the deaths of innocent civilians; airstrikes on infrastructure and residents; and Israeli incursions inside the border to destroy orchards, crops and structures.

Rudoren notes that Israeli security forces have killed 13 Gaza residents so far this year, but she fails to explain that several were civilians, such as Amneh Qdeih, the woman shot last week; Ibrahim Mansour, 36, who was killed as he collected gravel near the border on Feb. 13; and Adnan Jamil Shehda Abu Khater, 17, shot as he approached the border with friends on Jan. 2.

She makes no mention of the Israeli death toll, which stands at zero, unless we include the unfortunate soldier, Capt. Tal Nachman, 21, killed on Feb. 4 in “friendly fire.” (Another soldier saw “suspicious movement” in the bottom of a truck parked near the border fence and shot him in the back as he slept.)

Her story also reports that “Israeli tanks, bulldozers and troops were operating inside the border fence, which Palestinians consider a violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

In fact, this is not merely an opinion held by the residents of Gaza. This is the first provision of the ceasefire, which states, “A. Israel shall stop all hostilities in the Gaza strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.” Rudoren’s statement that “Palestinians consider [incursions] a violation” thus falls short of the truth.

The Times story can’t stick to Gaza, however. It makes an awkward transition into a different topic, the killing of a Jordanian judge on Monday. Rudoren notes that Jordanians protested at the Israeli embassy, calling for an end to the Israeli Jordanian peace treaty of 1994. In response, she writes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “expressed regret” at the killing and agreed to take part in a joint Jordanian-Israeli investigation into the incident.

Although Netanyahu’s apology points to a tacit admission of Israeli culpability in the death of the Raed Zeiter, Rudoren makes no attempt to question the Israeli army’s claim that the man had grabbed a gun and attacked soldiers. She reported this charge in a story yesterday and by her silence allows it to stand today.

Instead, she quotes Israeli officials who say they are cooperating with Jordan’s investigation in order to avoid violence and calm tempers. There is no hint that the facts of the case may have influenced the decision.

In other news outlets, the apology to Jordan is worth a story on its own. See, for instance, the Los Angeles Times and BBC, who are not afraid to run headlines announcing this news.

In The New York Times, however, the Jordanian judge tragedy hides behind the Gaza killings. Now the Times can claim that it has indeed covered the story of Netanyahu’s apology to Jordan, even though this news appears under a diversionary headline and even as the article avoids the implications of the apology. Gaza is a story in itself; it is also a convenient smokescreen for the Times.

Barbara Erickson

No Room for Dissent: The Times Hews to the Israeli Line

One is a bizarre and improbable story: A Jordanian judge goes berserk at a border crossing and grabs a soldier’s gun. He has to be shot dead on the spot.

The other is a story recycled for propaganda effect: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displays arms seized from a ship last week, repeating his charge that the rockets were bound for Gaza and sent by Iran.

The New York Times has them both today, the first by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren and the second by Isabel Kershner. Both of them fail in the same way, discarding details that fall outside the official Israeli narrative.

According to Rudoren’s account, a 38-year-old Jordanian judge of Palestinian descent tried to grab a soldier’s gun at the Allenby Bridge crossing on Monday before seizing a metal bar and shouting “Allahu akbar (God is great).” She quotes Col. Yaron Beit-On as saying, “The soldiers understood they had no way to handle him; they used a gun and they shot him. They were in danger.”

Rudoren does not explain how the man threatened the soldiers or why they could not incapacitate him otherwise. She acknowledges that “Palestinian and Jordanian officials questioned the Israeli account,” but she dismisses their concerns in one sentence: “Colonel Beit-On said it was based on interviews with witnesses, including the Jordanian bus driver.”

So much for the other side of the story. She goes no further than the Israeli army spokesman, even when the killing involves a Jordanian judge from the magistrate court in Amman. The fact that Netanyahu apologized today for the killing throws even more doubt on the official account.

Times readers will have to look elsewhere for the competing narrative. The Los Angeles Times cites Jordanian reports that the judge, Raed Zeiter, reached for a metal detector as he was being searched and made no effort to seize a gun. Al Jazeera states that witnesses described nothing but a verbal altercation between Zeiter and a soldier. (Also see an extensive eyewitness account at this site.)

Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times and other outlets also place the killing in context, noting that Amnesty International recently released a report on “trigger happy” Israeli soldiers who killed 41 civilians between January 2011and December 2013. None of them posed any threat to the soldiers, the report said. The Times, however, makes no mention of this report.

The Kershner story on Iranian arms runs above the article about the judge’s killing. It comes with a photo of Netanyahu inspecting rockets and missiles in Eilat on Monday, and it describes the event as “a public relations spectacle” designed to expose “the true face of Iran” to the world.

Although Kershner calls the event a spectacle, this is the only note of irony or skepticism in the story. It then goes on to quote the prime minister on his anger at the “hypocrisy” of the international community for engaging in talks with Iran. It also quotes Israelis who support his version of events.

Missing from her story are the denials from officials in Iran and Gaza that the weapons either originated in Iran or were bound for Hamas in Gaza. Other media outlets follow normal journalistic procedures and include these denials. (See Reuters, for instance, and BBC.)

Kershner’s story also ignores other takes on the arms shipment seizure, such as that by blogger Richard Silverstein, who notes that even if arms came from Iran, this is no proof that they were supplied by the government. Her article stays well within the official Israeli narrative and never quotes Iranian officials, Hamas or any of the international players who come under fire from the prime minister.

Moreover, there is a third story tucked into the pages of the Times today, an add-on at the end of the article about the Jordanian judge. Rudoren tells us in one paragraph that the Israeli army also killed Saji Sayel Darwish, 20, on Monday when soldiers opened fire on a group throwing rocks at vehicles near the settlement of Beit El.

Rudoren again fails to include any comments beyond those emanating from the army itself when, in fact, other accounts dispute the army’s claims. Yahoo news reports that the man’s family said he was herding goats at the time he was shot. Yahoo quotes an official source, Laila Ghannam, Palestinian governor of nearby Ramallah: “There were no signs of clashes in the area and it was clear by the man’s clothes he was there to take care of the goats.”

The murdered judge Raed Zeiter, young Saji Darwish, Iranian officials and Hamas officials never receive their due in the pages of the Times. Israeli soldiers, responsible for two killings, are allowed to give their explanations in full. The Israeli prime minister receives the attention he demands. Others are denied a voice.

Barbara Erickson