Six Palestinians Die, Silence in The NY Times—One Israeli Dies, We Get Headlines

Six Palestinians died over this past weekend, three of them minors, all of them relatively young. They died in separate incidents that took place throughout the West Bank, from Jenin in the north to Hebron in the south, and although their deaths left a bloody trail throughout the region, they were deemed unfit to print in The New York Times.

Now we have an Israeli death and the event appears prominently at the top of page 3 in the print edition, with a four-column photo. Online the headline reads, “New West Bank Violence as Palestinian Boys Stab 2 Israelis.”

According to the Times, we can not say that Palestinians experienced violence when six young people died from gunshot wounds. The word became relevant only when Israelis were the victims.

The story today by Isabel Kershner names the one Israeli killed in this latest attack. It says nothing of the half dozen Palestinians who died at the hands of security forces in recent days. Their names and even the circumstances of their deaths are of no interest to the Times, and they appear only as additional numbers in brief mention of Palestinian dead since the latest “lone wolf” uprising began last October.

Kershner reports that some 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in that time, compared with 28 Israelis killed by Palestinians. In the Times’ formulaic explanation for this striking contrast, she throws the blame on Palestinians, saying they were killed during attacks or in “clashes.” (For more on this, see TimesWarp 1-4-16.)

Her story does mention claims that Israeli forces have killed Palestinians who pose no threat. This is a small step forward in Times reporting, and she goes on to quote Israeli Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who criticized the use of excessive force and those in the government and military who have encouraged it.

His remarks are evidence that leaders the military and government recognize that Palestinians have died at the hands of trigger happy troops. It’s not unlikely that Times reporters have also known this but made no effort to report it.

Meanwhile, Kershner’s report also fails to inform us of the numbers of injured on both sides, data which provide at least a hint of the violence Palestinians face daily under occupation.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli security forces injured 14,925 Palestinians last year, and as of Feb. 8 this year, they had already injured 719.

In other words, Israeli police and army have been injuring over a hundred Palestinians weekly during 2016. By contrast, according to OCHA reports, the weekly average of Israelis injured by Palestinians this year is no more than two.

The difference here is a factor of more than 50 to one, yet we have headlines in the Times that point to Palestinian violence as the only news fit to print.

Also missing from Kershner’s story, as usual, is any context for the attacks. The brutal military occupation has no place in her story, and there is no attempt at all to provide the Palestinian attackers with a motive. Readers will have to look elsewhere for the real news here.

Meanwhile, we will end with a list of the six who lost their lives over this past weekend:

  • Omar Ahmad Omar and Mansour Yasser Abdulaziz Shawamra, both of them 20-year-olds from the West Bank village of al-Qubeiba;
  • Nihad Raed Muhammad Waqed and Fuad Marwan Khalid Waqed, both 15, in the northern West Bank near the village of al-Araqa, west of Jenin;
  • Naim Ahmad Yousif Safi, a 17-year-old from the village of al-Ubediya, east of Bethlehem;
  • Kilzar al-Uweiwi, 18, a young woman who died near the Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron.

Barbara Erickson

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The NY Times Maps Jerusalem: Distilling the Worst of Israeli Propaganda

In a new multimedia production The New York Times is now offering us “The Roots of the Recent Violence Between Israelis and Palestinians,” a series of 13 images accompanied by brief notes. The title promises much, and the teaser adds that this new offering presents us with “the geography of the issues surrounding the ongoing violence.”

Here, it seems, the newspaper has an opportunity to provide the context so often missing from Times stories about Palestine and Israel. With such an introduction readers might hope to learn about the historical beginnings of the conflict and to perceive the effects of occupation on the face of the land.

It was not to be. In fact, this slick presentation distills the worst of the Times reporting on the issue. The text never once mentions the occupation; it provides no historical context of any kind, and it blindly follows the preferred narrative of Israeli propagandists.

The visuals never leave Jerusalem, and the text sticks to events there. The presentation opens with an image of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, accompanied by the comment that the violence “was set off in part over a dispute over Al Aqsa Mosque compound.” Nothing more is said about this complex issue.

The images then move on to highlight Jewish “neighborhoods” in Palestinian East Jerusalem and Jewish homes dotting the Palestinian neighborhoods, and we learn that the “neighborhoods” are “considered illegal settlements by most of the world.” This is the Times’ usual formulation, which distorts the fact that the entire international community—outside of Israel—deems the settlements illegal.

There is no mention of the impact these settlements have on Palestinians’ lives. We get nothing but maps and terse comments about who lives where, but the Times does finally provide a motive for the recent attacks: It comes from “frustration” over the lack of basic city services.

We are set up for this trivial claim in the fourth visual, which shows us Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem surrounded by a yellow line. “Israel built a barrier in response to Palestinian attacks from the West Bank in the early 2000s,” the text notes. “While effective at stopping suicide bombers, it cut off several East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the rest of the city, leaving them without basic services.”

In the following image the narrative continues, “Palestinians say these frustrations are at the root of the recent attacks. Israelis officials accuse Palestinian leaders of inciting violence.”

There we have it. Not a word about loss of land, the confiscation of resources, military incursions and all the many miseries associated with military occupation. So much for the “roots” of the conflict.

Although the Times attempts a show of balance, by referring to both sides, the text is heavily weighted toward the Israeli point of view. It twice mentions Israeli actions as “responses” to violence and never suggests that Palestinians are responding to oppression.

It repeats the Israeli claim that Palestinians who died in the recent uprising were all involved in attacks or “clashes” with troops, omitting the reports of human rights groups and others who charge Israel with “street executions” of Palestinians who pose no possible threat to security forces or civilians.

In addition, the Times gives a distorted account of the Separation Barrier. It fails to say that the 2004 International Court of Justice decision held that the wall is illegal and that its route (85 percent of it inside the West Bank) threatens “de facto annexation.” The newspaper also repeats the Israeli claim that the wall “effectively stopped suicide bombers.”

As an Israeli journalist recently observed in 972 Magazine, the recent assaults have demolished this facile claim. The latest attackers could have come with bombs instead of knives; the wall did not keep them out. The bombings ended when militants abandoned the tactic.

If the Times truly intended to illustrate the “geography of the issues surrounding the ongoing violence,” it could have shown some dramatic effects of the occupation on the landscape, such as:

  • The route of the Separation Barrier, snaking well inside the boundary between the West Bank and Israel
  • The rows of dead parsley and spinach fields in Gaza, where Israel has deliberately sprayed herbicides on hundreds of acres
  • The contrast between lush West Bank settlements, with their lawns and swimming pools, and parched Palestinian villages nearby
  • The shrinking cantons of the West Bank, where Israel is illegally confiscating more and more Palestinian territory
  • The dead strip of land inside Gaza, where Israel has imposed a firing zone and has frequently entered to bulldoze crops and soil

Images such as these might provide a real sense of the “roots” of the recent violence. Instead, the Times has chosen to encapsulate Israeli propaganda in this latest presentation, perpetuating its ingrained bias in a package of misleading notes and slick visual effects.

Barbara Erickson

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The Occupation Goes Missing from The NY Times

The occupation went missing from The New York Times this past week. Palestinians were there, as victims and attackers, but the brutal military regime that controls their lives made no appearance.

The newspaper had plenty to say about Israeli Jewish life, however: two lengthy stories about prayer space at the Western Wall and one discussing Zionism. Each of these stories ran over a thousand words.

Two shorter news articles reported that the murderers of a Palestinian teen had been sentenced to prison and that a knife attack left one Israeli police officer dead, but nothing in either of these provided the context crucial to understanding events in the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, as the Times obsesses over Israeli identity and attitudes, the occupation grinds on, producing news that appears elsewhere. At the top of the list were two major stories: A Palestinian prisoner was near death after passing his 75th day on hunger strike, and Israeli forces carried out a massive demolition of over 20 homes, rendering more than 100 Palestinians homeless in the dead of winter.

The ordeal of Mohammed al-Qeeq, a journalist held without trial since Nov. 21 of last year, drew the attention of Israeli and international media outlets, which recounted his legal appeals, protests on his behalf and an Israeli Supreme Court decision which “froze” his detention but confined him to a hospital. (Al-Qeeq refused the offer and continued his fast.)

Al-Qeeq’s hunger strike was deemed unfit to print in the Times, perhaps because it would touch on Israel’s use of administrative detention, which holds prisoners without trial. Readers are not to know that as of last December 660 Palestinians were held in this limbo, nor were they to be informed that a number of human rights groups have protested Israel’s unsavory use of the practice.

And then there is the matter of two impoverished villages in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, Khirbet Jenbah and Khirbet Al-Halawah, which were made even more destitute after Israeli army crews arrived last Tuesday and demolished 22 structures, displacing 110 people, including dozens of minors. The army also confiscated solar panels, which, like many of the homes, had been donated by aid organizations.

The military claimed that it destroyed Jenbah and Al-Halawah because they were located in a declared firing zone. The Israeli publication 972 Magazine, however, noted that “Jewish settlements within [the zone] have not been served with eviction orders.”

This was the largest mass demolition in a decade, and the plan to destroy villages within the firing zone has drawn international attention and a petition from world-renowned authors to spare the communities. None of this, however, was enough to draw the interest of the Times.

Instead, the Times considered it more urgent to examine the effects of a new prayer space at the Western Wall—not once, but twice—and to take a look at Zionism today. Villagers thrown out in the cold of winter and a prisoner on the brink of death took a back seat to these concerns.

The Times claims that it gives readers “the complete, unvarnished truth as best as we can learn it,” and it insists that the newspaper’s overriding goal is to “cover the news as impartially as possible.” Readers who never stray to other sources of information may actually believe this.

Barbara Erickson

Update: NY Times Hoaxers Come Forward

The authors of yesterday’s spoof edition of The New York Times have pulled back the veil and revealed their identities: the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!, organizations based in New York and dedicated to supporting the rights of Palestinians and Israelis.

The perpetrators of the hoax told Ben Norton of Salon that the parody had been months in the making. They also said that their website domain and Twitter accounts had been suspended, but in a separate statement, Jewish Voice for Peace published links to views of these and to a PDF of the full parody.

The Times was quoted in several news accounts as saying, “We’re extremely protective of our brand and other intellectual property and object to this group (or any group’s) attempt to cloak their political views under the banner of The New York Times. We believe strongly that those advocating for political positions are best served by speaking openly, in their own voice.”

We can be sure that the Times would adopt a much less huffy tone if the spoof had not managed to hit a nerve by focusing on Israel-Palestine. Their icy response to a good joke reveals a defensive posture at work. Could there be a conscience lurking somewhere in the depths of the Times leadership? We can only hope.

Barbara Erickson

A Change of Heart at The NY Times!

Someone else is watching The New York Times’ coverage of Palestine and Israel with a keen eye. Today a spoof edition of the paper, using heavy doses of irony, points up the obvious bias in its news reporting of this critical topic.

Everything is changing at the Times, according to this wonderful parody: The paper met with representatives from both sides of the conflict and issued a mea culpa, saying that they have protected Israel and trashed Palestine, and now that is going to end.

This news appears on a fake website and was handed out in a print edition at venues across New York City this morning, including Grand Central Station, Times Square subway stations and outside corporate offices.

The entire edition is devoted Israel-Palestine, and it reports that as the Times goes, so goes Congress and even presidential candidates. Hilary Clinton is dropping out to run a women’s coop with headquarters in Ramallah, Palestine, among other places. Congress is actually debating the issue of military aid to Israel.

The letters to the editor, editorials and news stories all take up the same theme, and some reports come to us under bylines that carry a familiar ring: Peter Quaker (for Peter Baker, the presumptive new Jerusalem bureau chief), Laila Said (suggestive of Diaa Hadid, a frequent contributor) and Imogen Lerner (rhyming with Isabel Kershner, a longtime Jerusalem bureau staff writer).

Who did it? Democracy Now and others speculate that it was The Yes Men, a group that did a similar Times spoof in 2008. Now it appears that they have been reading the paper closely and noting the infinite variety of ways it shields Israel and betrays its obligation to readers.

Our thanks and congratulations go out to the authors of this insightful hoax. Please give us more!

Barbara Erickson

 

International Outrage at Israeli Killing Spree Gets no Notice in The NY Times

 

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.

Barbara Erickson

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A Murky Tale of Racism and Betrayal, Censored in The NY Times

Barely a week ago a gunman killed two Israelis in a Tel Aviv bar, setting off a manhunt and raising fears of more attacks. Yesterday the Palestinian suspect died in a hail of gunfire, and The New York Times, which reported the original story and ran a piece speculating on the man’s motives, has now become oddly reticent.

The paper devoted a scant 100 words to the print story of his killing in the World Briefings section and managed to provide only slightly more details online. This should be a sign to careful readers that something is amiss, and so it is.

The Times has not told the full story all along, and now it appears to be withholding even more. Isabel Kershner in the briefings piece writes that “many details of the case were unavailable because of a government order of silence,” but this appears to be a lame excuse: Israeli media outlets had already published much of significance that never appeared in the Times.

For starters, we have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanuyahu’s rant against Arab and Muslim Israeli citizens, which he delivered at the site of the shooting one day after the event. He accused “the Muslim sector” of “wild incitement against Israel,” and said he would “not accept two states within Israel, a state of law for most citizens and a state within a state with Islamist incitement and illegal arms.”

One Israeli newspaper called his speech a “a shameful, fear-spreading horror show.” Opposition politicians, including the mayor of Tel Aviv, accused him of stirring up hostility against the country’s Palestinian citizens.

The Times, however, had nothing to say about the prime minister’s comments. Instead, in a story about possible motives for the crime, Kershner presents him as thoughtful and measured in his reactions. “Netanyahu and police officials,” she writes, “have been careful to refer to the gunman as a ‘murderer’ rather than a ‘terrorist.’” It appears, then, that Kershner is doing damage control for Netanyahu.

Then there is the matter of the assailant’s gun. Israeli media have reported that the gunman, identified as Nashat Melhem, 31, of Arara in northern Israel, used a Falcon submachine gun stolen from his father’s safe. This kind of weapon, used by the Swiss and Italian military, is “hardly available” in Israel, The Times of Israel stated, with perhaps 10 in the entire country.

Moreover, Melhem’s father, Muhammad, had a license for the weapon, an extremely rare privilege for Palestinian citizens of Israel. It had been confiscated by the police earlier this year, after a complaint that a family member used it to threaten someone, but the police returned it to the suspect’s father.

This is a most peculiar affair, but journalist Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam has provided an account that could explain the gag order on the story as well as the strange tale of the Palestinian with a licensed submachine gun. Muhammad Melhem, according to an Israeli source, is a collaborator working with the Israeli security service Shin Bet, and his son was aiming to kill his handler, a man known as “Shin,” but missed and killed the man’s friend instead, along with an employee of the bar.

It’s all very ugly and murky, and the Times would rather avoid tarnishing Israel with such affairs. Reporting the Netanyahu rant would expose the fact that Israeli racism is in full flower at the top and is more than the affair of extremists. To tell the strange tale of Muhammad Melhem and his submachine gun would raise suspicion and hint too clearly at the web of double-dealing and subterfuge in the state security services.

As the story developed, the Times had less and less to say. In the end it chose to hide the final chapter in a roundup of briefs and to provide readers with nothing more than a single paragraph, an evasive fragment of news.

Barbara Erickson

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Deceit and Obfuscation: How The NY Times Shields Israel

As scores of Palestinians have died at the hands of Israeli forces over the past three months, The New York Times has endeavored to hide the full story of this bloodbath, emphasizing Israeli losses, ignoring the majority of Palestinian deaths, and promoting a narrative that shields trigger-happy troops and obscures facts to the point of deceit.

Thus, a recent story about deadly attacks in Tel Aviv tells us that “at least 20” Israelis have been killed since Oct. 1 and about 130 Palestinians, “up to two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks, or attempting to attack Israelis, according to the police. Others have been killed in clashes with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and along Israel’s border with Gaza.”

In other words, the Times is saying that Israeli troops were justified in these killings because they were trying to repel deadly attacks or responding to “clashes” with the army or police. This is the message we are to hear, and readers are unlikely to notice that its source is none other than those responsible for a significant number of Palestinian deaths—the Israeli police.

The Times betrays its claim of neutrality by ignoring other sources. Nothing is said of reports by alternative media and human rights groups that accuse Israeli forces of carrying out extrajudicial executions and killing Palestinians who pose no possible threat to security forces or civilians. Likewise, nothing is said of those victims who were taking no part in demonstrations but were merely bystanders or passers-by when they were killed.

The Times, omitting contrary evidence, thus leaves readers with the impression that all of the Palestinian dead were killed as they participated in acts of violence.

At the same time the Times has been quick to name Israeli casualties but has provided identities for only a fraction of the Palestinians. Virtually every Israeli victim has been identified in stories by Times reporters, while only some 34 Palestinians out of more than 130 were mentioned by name. (Some, however, may have been identified in wire services reports that appear briefly online.)

This tally was based on a search of Times stories out of its Jerusalem bureau, using a published list of those killed since Oct. 1. It shows a grossly lopsided preference for Israeli victims over Palestinians, with the names of more than 100 victims omitted from news reports.

Moreover, in the single instance when an Israeli victim was unnamed, the Times apologized, saying the man “was not immediately identified” but was said to be 45 years old and the father of seven.

By contrast, the Times often failed to report Palestinian deaths or it mentioned them almost as afterthoughts, as in this paragraph tucked into a story about dampened Christmas celebrations in the West Bank: “On Thursday, Israeli forces killed three young Palestinian men who they said were trying to carry out attacks. In one episode, a Palestinian tried to ram his vehicle into soldiers near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, lightly wounding a man before he was shot dead.”

The man who was said to have “tried to ram his vehicle into soldiers” had a name. It was Wisam Abu Ghweila; he was from Qalandiya refugee camp, and according to the International Middle East Media Center, there is much more to his story than appeared in the Times.

Abu Ghweila drove his car “too close to a roadblock,” IMEMC reported, and lightly struck a soldier in the process. “Instead of addressing the situation as if it were an accident,” the story continues, “Israeli troops immediately began to empty their guns at the suspect, wounding him severely.”

Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that soldiers shot more than 30 rounds at Abu Ghweila’s car and allowed the injured soldier to receive medical care but left Abu Ghweila unattended as he lay dying in his car.

B’Tselem, an Israeli monitoring group, has reported on other cases in which troops have denied medical care to wounded Palestinians, and alternative media often give accounts of ambulances and medics being denied access to injured victims. The Times, however, makes no mention of these charges, even though some are backed by video evidence.

Israeli media have also reported killings that never appear in the Times. One of these involved a teenage girl who was shot as she sat in the back seat of her family car. The story in Haaretz was titled “The Face of Collateral Damage” and carried this subhead: “Samah Abdallah, 18, from a little-known Palestinian village in the West Bank, was shot dead, either on purpose or by accident—but most assuredly without legitimate reason.”

The Times made no mention of this incident, which took place near Nablus, nor did it report on the death of a mother of four, an inexperienced driver, who was killed in a hail of bullets when she drove slowly through a checkpoint and failed to stop in time. Haaretz, however, told her story under this headline: “A Palestinian Mother of Four, Shot 17 Times for Being a Bad Driver.”

This unfortunate woman, Mahdia Hammad, appears in the Times merely as one of the “about 130” Palestinian killed in the past three months. As in dozens of other cases, the fact of her death at the hands of Israeli security forces received no notice at all, not even a brief paragraph citing officials’ claims that they had “neutralized” a would-be attacker.

These incidents expose the deception inherent in the Times’ claim that Palestinian casualties have occurred only during attacks on Israelis or during “clashes” with security forces.

This self-serving narrative, however, is what Israeli officials want us to believe, and the Times is a willing co-conspirator, showing an appalling indifference to the mounting death toll among Palestinians. It gives credence only to the official reports of police and army spokespersons, the groups most responsible for the bloodshed, turning its back on respected sources and betraying its readers and its own stated values of journalistic ethics.

Barbara Erickson

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NY Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Turned a Deaf Ear to Palestinian Suffering

As Jodi Rudoren exits the Jerusalem bureau of The New York Times, she leaves behind a series of gaping holes in coverage of Palestine-Israel, above all in her failure to expose the treatment of the most vulnerable, who suffer disproportionately under the constant brutality of the Israeli occupation.

Readers of the Times have never been told of the international outcry over the abuse of Palestinian children detained by Israeli security forces. They know nothing about the myriad Israeli breaches of the 2014 ceasefire with Gaza, especially the frequent attacks on fishermen and farmers; and they are uninformed of the cruel measures imposed on struggling Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley and elsewhere.

Rudoren, who leaves her post as Jerusalem bureau chief at the end of this month, replaced Ethan Bronner nearly four years ago. She has written from inside a Israeli Jewish perspective, giving voice to official Israeli spin and omitting the stories that beg to be told.

Thus, although Rudoren visited Gaza, she had nothing to say about the numerous attacks on defenseless farmers and fishermen there, some of whom have died simply trying to do a day’s work. These attacks are in violation of the truce that ended the assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014 (as well as previous agreements),  but Rudoren’s reporting from the enclave has strained to deflect the blame from Israel.

Instead of telling the stories we need to hear, Rudoren has written about individual Gazans who are anything but typical—a woman artist who defies the authorities, a man who goes against the grain by advocating for the two-state solution.

In this way she has given us the appearance of entering into Gazan society, of “balance” in covering both Israeli and Palestinian affairs, while she actually provided a smokescreen to avoid looking at the urgent issues.

The Bedouin of the West Bank received even less attention during Rudoren’s term in Jerusalem, but their stories are equally disturbing and compelling. In the Jordan Valley and east of Jerusalem (and also within Israel, in the Negev), Israeli forces often confiscate and destroy the basic necessities of life in these poverty-stricken communities.

The Israeli Civil Administration, a branch of the army, routinely destroys tents, latrines, animal shelters, water pipes, cisterns, wells, houses, solar panels and storage sheds, usually under the pretext that they lack building permits. Many of the confiscated and destroyed items have been donated by the International Committee of the Red Cross or other aid organizations.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has documented these acts of destruction and the many times Israeli troops have forced entire communities to leave their homes for hours and days at a time under the pretext of needing the area for “military training.” These live fire training sessions have more than once set the Bedouins’ fields on fire, destroying valuable crops and grazing land.

And yet, as she ignored these depredations, Rudoren chose to write about illegal settlers in the Jordan Valley, presenting them as plucky and determined and ignoring the plunder of indigenous communities in the area.

Although B’Tselem, the United Nations, Amnesty International and other monitoring groups have exposed the contemptible actions and policies of the Israeli government and its security forces, Rudoren has almost totally ignored the reports and even worked to undermine them.

Numerous groups, for instance, have raised alarm over the abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli custody, but Rudoren never saw fit to address the issue in the Times—except for a somewhat oblique attempt to defuse the charges. Thus, she wrote about stone throwing as a rite of passage in one West Bank village, presenting the youthful efforts at resistance and the Israeli response as a kind of game, nothing to be taken seriously.

The story mentions the arrests of children and military interrogations, but readers never learn that Israeli courts and security forces have been accused of serious mistreatment, amounting to torture: beatings, forced confessions, sleep deprivation, threats and more.

Instead, Rudoren says that it can be cold in those infamous interrogation rooms, as if that is the worst of it.

In the latest uprising, marked by a series of lone wolf stabbing and vehicular attacks, Rudoren continued to ignore the reports of monitoring groups, saying nothing about the well-documented charges that Israeli security forces are carrying out street executions of Palestinians who pose no threat.

This kind of news is deemed unfit to print in the Times. Rudoren, who goes on to join the international desk at the paper’s headquarters, played her part well, according to Times protocol, which expects that its reporters will maintain the Israeli narrative of victimhood, suppress anything that contradicts this claim and betray its readers under a camouflage of “balanced” reporting.

Barbara Erickson

In an Appalling Act of Hypocrisy, NY Times Promotes Settlers as Peace Builders

Gush Etzion Junction was a peaceful corner of the West Bank, according to The New York Times, until Palestinians ruined it with a series of attacks in the latest uprising. Such is the message in Isabel Kershner’s most recent attempt to whitewash Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

Readers are never reminded of the fact that Gush Etzion is an illegal Jewish-only settlement block located in the heart of the West Bank. Nor are they told that its presence means the loss of thousands of acres of land once vital to the livelihood of the indigenous Palestinians, the confiscation of water resources and a choking system of military checkpoints.

In her story today, Isabel Kershner makes no attempt to discern what Gush Etzion means to Palestinians, although it sprawls over a large tract of their heartland, on their confiscated hills and fields. She provides Gush Etzion’s Jewish history but says nothing of the Palestinian experience, and while listing recent attacks on Jews, she makes no mention of Palestinian injuries and deaths, which far exceed those of Israelis.

Her one attempt to provide a motive for Palestinian attacks is ludicrous: The junction has become a target because it is a “hub of coexistence.” Nothing is said about the crushing effects of the occupation, trigger-happy Israeli troops, the continuing confiscation of Palestinian land and the loss of hope.

She writes: “Jewish settler leaders have promoted the slightly shabby complex as a symbol of peaceful coexistence and evidence that Israelis and Palestinians can share the hotly contested territory.”

In other words, the settlers have the best of intentions. After stealing Palestinian land and water to build Jewish-only colonies, they insist that they want only to be good neighbors.

Kershner also makes a feeble effort to provide “balance,” bringing out her stock phrases to defend Israel’s crimes: “The Palestinians and much of the world consider all settlements in the territories seized in 1967 as illegal and an obstacle to establishing a Palestinian state.”

Much of the world. This is a duplicitous way to put it. In fact, the entire world opposes the settlements, even Israeli’s staunchest ally, the United States.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year announced a huge land grab from Palestinian villages surrounding Gush Etzion, the world rushed to condemn the act. This is important context in any discussion of the block, but no mention of it appears in Kershner’s story.

Other factors undermine her claim of peaceful coexistence and good intentions from settler leaders. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights monitoring group, has frequently charged that the Gush Etzion police station is notorious for torturing Palestinian teens in order to extract confessions. It has released reports over several years pointing to significant abuses in the heart of the settlement block.

Kershner makes much of the presence of Palestinian employees at Gush Etzion Junction and manages to quote one of them—at the end of her story—thus suggesting that it is a welcoming place, open and tolerant. The backstory, however, is more revealing. It can be found in this paragraph from The Economist, written after Netanyahu’s land grab announcement last year:

“Encircled by Mr Netanyahu’s latest appropriation, Palestinian residents of the bucolic village of Wadi Fukin have already lost all but 450 of the 3,000 acres they once had, and stand to lose more. The hillsides where the village’s 600 sheep and goats graze are set to go. Unable to farm, many men find work as builders, often on Jewish settlements nearby. They may yet be called upon to build homes for Israelis on land they regard as their own.”

Wadi Fukin is one of the villages destined to lose under the latest expansion of Gush Etzion. Its tragic tale and that of many others are entirely missing from the story in the Times today. In such a context-free effort, Kershner makes her claims of tolerant settlers and a peaceful oasis, and the result is an appalling act of hypocrisy and spin.

Barbara Erickson

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