Five Palestinians Die Within 12 Hours: The NY Times Goes Mum

Within the span of 12 hours yesterday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinians, one of them in Gaza and the rest in the West Bank. Two of the dead were teenagers, and although the army claims some of them were shot during stabbing attempts, witnesses have given different accounts.

None of this, however, has appeared in The New York Times. Searches using the names of the dead in various spellings turn up blank, without even a fleeting appearance in wire service accounts.

Contrast this response to the Times headline of just one week ago: “Attacks by Palestinians Kill 3 Israelis and Wound More Than 20.” This title ran across the top of page A8 last Wednesday, and the story that followed never reported the number of wounded Palestinians, which by that point had reached nearly 2,000 since the beginning of the month.

Now we have five Palestinians dead and not even a paragraph in World Briefing to inform readers of this latest carnage by Israeli troops. If five Israelis had been among the dead, we can be sure the Times would have found this news fit to print.

Those who died yesterday included Oday Hesham al Masalma, 24, of Beit Awwa, southwest of Hebron; Hamza Mousa al Alma, 25, of Beit Oula, west of Hebron; Bashar Nizam al Ja’abari, 15, and Hussam Isma’il al Ja’abari, 17, both of Hebron; and Ahmed Sharif al Sarahi, 30, of Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that al Masalma had tried to stab a soldier but was disabled and helpless when he was killed. It added that soldiers refused to let an ambulance approach him for half an hour.

Al Alma was shot in his car near Gush Etzion settlement near Bethlehem, PCHR stated, and the military claimed that he had run into two settlers.

PCHR reports that the teenagers died during a settler protest in the streets of Hebron, when the two had been prevented from making their way home. The boys had asked a soldier for help in crossing through a gate when army snipers shot them, the release states.

“When the two children heading towards the gate were only two meters away from the soldier,” the report says, “other Israeli soldiers fortified in a military watchtower in the area opened fire at the children and killed them immediately. The Israeli forces detained the children’s corpses and denied the Palestinian civilians and ambulances access to the area‫.”

Media outlets reported the army version of events: that one of the boys tried to stab a soldier and both were shot.

PCHR reported that al Sarahi died after being hit by three bullets to the chest when he was with a group in an agricultural field about 350 meters from the border fence. Two others were wounded. The Israeli army claimed that it had killed a “sniper,” even though the group was in the open.

The deaths on Tuesday brought the total of Palestinians killed this month to 47 as of yesterday, PCHR said.

Times articles have managed to obscure the tally of Palestinian dead during this latest uprising, breaking the data into narrow categories or providing imprecise amounts. Thus, in a story yesterday we find, “Eight Israelis have been killed this month and at least 18 suspected attackers have been fatally shot at the scene by Israeli security forces and civilians.” By that date the total of Palestinian dead was over 40.

The newspaper has also failed to report the evidence that Israel is carrying out extrajudicial killings in shooting protesters and others who posed no threat. Times readers are unlikely to know that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a group of nine human rights groups in Israel have charged Israel with killing without provocation.

A release by the rights group Adalah, signed by the nine organizations, notes, “In instances when Jews have been suspected of attacks, none of the suspects has been shot.”

The organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor also released a video with eight cases that reveal Israeli brutality and trigger-happy security forces. Its press release, “Euro-Med Monitor Calls on International Community to Halt Israel’s Extrajudicial Executions,” states that “Israel is escalating its use of extrajudicial execution” and notes that video footage has disproven some claims that victims were shot during stabbing attempts.

The Times has ignored all of these reports, relying heavily on the official word from Israel security forces. Often the claims of stabbing attempts are reported without the usual journalistic addition of “alleged” to the claims. Police and army statements are taken at face value as fact in many instances in the Times (see here and here), and the countervailing reports by eyewitnesses go unmentioned.

In today’s edition, the newspaper has gone one farther. It has turned its back entirely on the latest round of killings, omitting any mention of five tragic Palestinian deaths from its pages. The contrast with coverage of Israeli fatalities could not be more stark than it is in this instance. The effort to shield Israel at all costs could not be more obvious.

Barbara Erickson

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Blaming the Victims: An Art Form in The NY Times

Now that the Israeli election has faded from prominence on the front pages of The New York Times, readers may recall that a new entity sprang up during the 2015 campaign, a coalition party called the Joint List. It represents the Palestinian (Arab) citizens of Israel, and it managed to take third place in the number of seats in parliament.

The Times gave space to this new phenomenon. The party was duly mentioned in overviews of the race, and stories out of the Israeli Arab cities of Nazareth and Ibillin looked at its candidates and the concerns of Palestinians who support its platform.

At first glance, this is all to the good—the Times often overlooks the presence of Arabs and other minorities within Israel—but a closer look shows that even here we find the usual effort to shield Israel from serious scrutiny.

The Times stories (“Arab Alliance Rises as Force in Israeli Elections” and “Voters in Nazareth Cheer Gains by Arab Alliance”) note that Palestinian citizens of Israel are poorer and less educated than their Jewish counterparts and that they live in more crowded conditions, but the articles say nothing about the Israeli policies and laws that create this inequality in the first place.

On the contrary, the stories imply that the fault is with Israeli Arab leaders. Reporter Diaa Hadid quotes a Palestinian resident of the Galilee who says Arab politicians have done nothing for them so far. “We have no space here,” the man adds, apparently blaming this fact on the Palestinian representatives.

Hadid then describes the town as “crowded with boxy concrete homes on narrow streets” with “billboards blighting the view.” The “densely packed” Arab towns, she writes, “are in stark contrast to the leafy, well-planned Jewish communities that often sit nearby.”

There is no mention of the fact that 93 percent of the land in Israel is owned by the state for the benefit of Jews only and it is Israeli policies that prevent Arabs from expanding their crowded towns. Nazareth, for instance, has been encircled by the Jewish community of Nazareth Illit, which sits on hilltops surrounding the city. It was built specifically to block any efforts to develop Nazareth beyond its present boundaries.

The story also fails to note that 600 Israeli Jewish towns have been built since 1948 while the state has yet to recognize a single new Arab community. In fact, many towns that predated the establishment of Israel by centuries are “unrecognized” by the state and thus denied normal services, such as water, schools and transportation.

Most of these unrecognized villages are Bedouin communities in the Negev (Naqab in Arabic). Israel plans to force nearly all of their residents into townships, destroying their traditional livelihoods of herding and agriculture.

During the recent elections, residents of these villages were forced to travel long distances to reach polling places. The authorities refused to set up polls in their communities and even cut back the number of voting sites that had existed before.

Yet, none of this appeared in the pages of the Times, even in the stories directly concerned with Arab voters. Nothing is said of the more than 50 laws that privilege Jewish over minority residents of Israel. Instead, readers were provided with a vague reference to inequality in “land allocation” and demeaning comparisons between Palestinian and Jewish communities.

In a third story concerning the Joint List, the Times acknowledges the prejudice and ridicule directed at Arab members within parliament, but overall the paper fails to provide the context for Arab struggles within Israel, beginning with the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 and continuing even now with the confiscation of homes and land. (See, for instance, “Arab village of Dahmash fears being wiped off Israel’s map.”)

As Israeli Palestinians continue to cling to their homeland, squeezed into constricted spaces and denied the benefits of the majority community, they deserve recognition of their narrative. The Times, however, prefers to protect Israel, falling back on that ancient tactic of blaming the victim.

Barbara Erickson