NY Times Applauds While Israel Robs Palestine of Water

The New York Times invites us to gaze with wonder on the miracles of Israeli technology today, with a page 1 photo and story touting the innovations that have saved the country from drought. Because of wise policies and applied science, we learn, “there is plenty of water in Israel.”

The Times never tells us, however, that a significant number of those who reside on the land are seriously deprived of water: Palestinians in some areas of the West Bank are forced to survive on only 20 liters of water a day per person, well below the World Health Organization minimum of 60 liters. In Gaza 90 percent of the water is unfit to drink.

Meanwhile, Israelis in West Bank settlements “generally have access to as much running water as they please,” according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and Israelis over all use three times as much water as Palestinians. Settlers also confiscate West Bank springs, and Israeli security forces destroy water equipment in Palestinian villages and prevent their residents from building cisterns and wells.

In the Times story, “Aided by the Sea, Israel Overcomes an Old Foe: Drought,” Isabel Kershner writes that Israel is thriving because it has adopted recycling and desalination. She quotes at length from Israeli officials but includes not a single Palestinian voice.

Kershner manages to dismiss Palestinian concerns in two sentences: “Israel, which shares the mountain aquifer with the West Bank, says it provides the Palestinians with more water than it is obliged to under the existing peace accords. Palestinians say it is not enough and too expensive.” She feels no need to address the humanitarian crisis Israeli has created in confiscating Palestinian water for its own use.

In fact, Israel steals the water from under the feet of Palestinians, draining West Bank aquifers, allocating 73 percent of this water to Israel and another 10 percent to settlers. Palestinians are left with 17 percent, and many are forced to buy from the Israeli water company at rates up to three times as high as the tariffs charged Israelis.

Kershner omits any mention of the obvious inequalities between Israeli West Bank settlements and the Palestinian villages nearby. Settlements often have swimming pools and green, watered turf, while villages remain dusty and dry, without enough water for agriculture or even for home gardens.

The Times has also turned its back on news that underscores the outright theft of water in Palestine. It had nothing to report, for instance, when settlers recently surrounded a Palestinian spring with mines and barbed wire. The paper also remained silent when security forces destroyed pipes providing water to an impoverished Jordan Valley herding community earlier this year.

Many organizations, however, have spoken out. The United Nations, the World Bank, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, church groups, If Americans Knew, and others. They have issued reports and press releases noting that Israel violates international law in confiscating Palestinian water resources and highlighting the striking disparities between West Bank villages and Jewish settlements.

Kershner found none of this worth mentioning in her story today. Instead, we find a promotional piece that should benefit Israeli water specialists now peddling their products in California and other drought-stricken areas of the United States.

Editors and reporters are complicit in this effort to tout Israel as an enlightened and technologically advanced country, even in the face of its flagrant theft of Palestinian water. The New York Times has found an Israeli puff piece on water technology to be worth a front page spread, but it deems the criminal confiscation of this basic resource unfit to print.

Barbara Erickson

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NY Times Neutralizes Report on Gaza Atrocities

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel came out with a damning report yesterday, citing Israel’s use of human shields during its campaign against Gaza last summer and calling for investigations into possible violations of human rights and international law.

How does The New York Times treat this news? It buries the story inside a report that the Israeli state comptroller, in an effort to head off an International Criminal Court inquiry, will investigate military action in Gaza last summer.

In her page 8 story, Isabel Kershner notes that the comptroller’s announcement coincided with the PHR report, and she goes on to summarize the document, saying that PHR:

“Published a report criticizing what it said were failures of the Israeli military’s system for warning Gaza’s citizens of impending strikes during the fighting last summer. It also faulted the military for a lack of safe evacuation routes and for strikes against rescue teams.”

In other words, Kershner would have us believe that there is no breach of international law here, nothing but a system failure. The early warning mechanism was “inefficient,” Kershner states later in the story, leaving the impression that the army meant well but failed to carry out its plan with due diligence.

In fact, the report says much more. It states that the army appeared to violate “human rights and international humanitarian law, stemming from actions and decisions by multiple levels of the chain of military command.” It cites “the heavy bombardment of civilian neighbourhoods,” the “shooting of civilians at short and medium range by individual soldiers using light arms” and “abuse and ill-treatment during occupation of residential buildings, including the use of civilians as human shields.”

The document calls on the international community to “take steps to ensure” that Israel and Egypt allow investigators who are expert in international law and in the use of weapons to enter Gaza. “This has not been done, months after the offensive,” the report notes.

None of this appears in Kershner’s story. She writes that the report was “researched and written by eight international medical experts who were given access to Gaza,” but she fails to say that Israel has refused entry to other investigative groups, such as Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.

She likewise says nothing of case studies included in the report: the six-year-old who died after being denied medical care, the “apparently deliberate attack” on Shuhada’ Al Aqsa Hospital which left “several people killed and injured” and the use of human shields in which soldiers forced Gaza residents to stand at open windows while soldiers aimed their rifles from behind.

Kershner omits the title of the report (It is named “No Safe Place.”), which means that persistent readers will have search for it on the PHR-I website. The majority however, will come away with just what the Times intended: a sense that the Israeli army was guilty of little more than inefficiency and poor planning.

In fact, the report turns Israeli propaganda on its head, undermining its claims to have “the most moral army in the world” and its accusations that it was Hamas who used human shields in Gaza. The Times fails to report this, opting instead to neutralize and undercut the work of a courageous group of physicians and other experts rather than reveal the truth about Israel.

Barbara Erickson

Israel and the PA Join in Repression: All For the Good, Says The NY Times

A Palestinian Authority minister died Wednesday after Israeli forces roughed him up in the West Bank; Palestinian officials reacted with outrage, and now, according to The New York Times, the episode threatens a “crucial” relationship between the PA and Israel.

In stories yesterday and today the Times reports that the death of Ziad Abu Ein during a tree planting protest has prompted calls to end “security coordination” with Israel. It describes this policy as “the foundation of relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” but both stories add, almost as an aside, that this arrangement is “unpopular with many Palestinians.”

We have several problems here: The foundational relationship between the two entities is that of occupier and occupied, and the security link is that of collaboration with the oppressor. Moreover, the casual use of “many” obscures the fact that the vast majority (80 percent) of Palestinians in the occupied territories oppose the security arrangement.

It is telling that in the face of Palestinian opposition, the Times states outright that this is a “crucial” relationship, in other words, it is necessary. This is the Israeli view, and thus it is becomes a fact in the Times.

There is a huge back-story missing here. As the think tank Al Shabaka puts it, security coordination between the PA and Israel was intended to “criminalize resistance against the occupation and leave Israel—and its trusted minions—in sole possession of the use of arms against a defenceless population,” and it has succeeded to a significant degree.

Under this program, PA security forces in the West Bank cooperate with their Israeli counterparts to prevent “terrorist” activities (virtually any form of resistance to the occupation), arrest suspects and squelch demonstrations. It is an unholy alliance that came into being during peace talks, above all, the negotiations that produced the Road Map for Peace after 2002.

In the course of these talks, the Palestinian Authority came to believe it could hope for an independent state only if it clamped down on “terrorist activities.” The Palestinian police began to answer to Israeli demands, arresting West Bank residents on Israeli intelligence service blacklists and getting out of sight when Israeli forces invaded areas that are nominally under total Palestinian control.

After a decade of doing the bidding of Israel, PA security services have become a repressive force that has been cited by human rights groups (here and here) for torture, arbitrary arrest, assaulting nonviolent demonstrators and arresting journalists.

Nothing is said about this in the Times articles, which describe the PA as “Western-backed” (code for “moderate” or “reasonable”), while they avoid mention of PA abuses. In fact, Western backing has perpetuated a program that is creating a police state overlaying an occupation.

Although the recent Times articles gloss over these details, a November op-ed appearing online and in the international edition of the paper lays out the facts. The article is titled “Subcontracting Repression in the West Bank and Gaza,” and it calls on donors providing funds for the security program to reconsider their support.

The op-ed also states, “The behavior of the Palestinian Authority security sector has also helped to reinforce popular support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because they are seen as carrying the banner of Palestinian resistance.”

This attitude is evident in the different terms used for the Israeli-Palestinian security program: The PA calls it coordination, while the residents of the West Bank call it collaboration, in the negative sense.

It is all for the sake of Israel. One Western diplomat described the security agreement this way: “The main criterion of success is Israeli satisfaction. If the Israelis tell us this is working well, we consider it a success.”

Thus Al Shabaka calls the policy a “donor-supported creation of Palestinian security forces that primarily serve Israel’s colonial ambitions.” It adds that the arrangement has “served as an instrument of control and pacification of the Palestinian population in the area directly under Palestinian control as well as the area controlled jointly with Israel.”

The scandal is plain to see and widely acknowledged, but the Times provides no sense of it in its articles. Instead the paper sides with the oppressor, finding Israeli needs as “crucial” and the Palestinian experience unworthy of mention. Readers are left in ignorance, unaware of the true state of affairs and denied the essential context of this painful narrative.

Barbara Erickson

Israel, Ferguson and the Militarization of US Police (You Won’t Find This in the NY Times)

Ever since police killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., last August, it seems that every facet of the issue has come under scrutiny in The New York Times: police equipment, police militarization, grand juries, racial disparities, training, trust, local politics and profiling. But one element is missing from nearly all the column inches devoted to this topic—the Ferguson-Israel connection.

Others are talking about this, however, including protesters who took to the streets after the shooting and again when a grand jury refused to indict the officer who killed the teen. In Ferguson some taunted police saying, “You gonna shoot us? You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?” Protesters on the Manhattan Bridge chanted, “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation has got to go,” and at least one of them held a sign that read “We are FERGUSON We are GAZA, because We are Human.”

The staunchly pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League has reported this development with alarm, listing nearly 20 separate U.S. groups that have emphasized the link between Israeli and American police abuse. Commentators in Israeli newspapers (here and here) have taken up the issue, as well as media outlets in the United States.

But the Times has avoided the topic, with one exception: Blogger Robert Mackey reported that Palestinians tweeted advice to protesters on how to deal with tear gas; he also published the taunts to police in Ferguson. However, his blog, “Open Source,” does not appear in print nor does it receive prominent play online, and his post failed to pursue another, deeper connection between Israeli security forces and U.S. law enforcement—“counter-terrorism” police training under Israeli instruction.

The newspaper has reported charges that U.S. police have become overly militarized and ran at least one story (in 2005) about Israeli training of American police, but in the recent discussion about militarized police, it has made no mention of the pervasive Israeli influence on local departments.

Since 2004, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, has sent 9,500 “law enforcement executives” to study with Israeli police, army and intelligence services. The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange also sponsor these trips. In addition, Israeli security officers come to the States to give training sessions, Israeli police maintain an office in New York City and the NYPD has an office in Tel Aviv.

The curriculum includes dealing with terrorist operations, transit security, intelligence sharing, surveillance and crowd control during protests. Suppressing protests is a large part of the training, and U.S. police tactics have become a “near replica” of their Israeli counterparts, according to community leader Shakeel Syed of Southern California.

“Whether it is in Ferguson or L.A., we see a similar response all the time in the form of a disproportionate number of combat-ready police with military gear who are ready to use tear gas at short notice,” he said. “Whenever you find 50 people at a demonstration, there is always a SWAT team in sight or right around the corner.”

An Amnesty International report, “Trigger Happy: Israel’s Excessive Use of Force in the West Bank,” has charged Israeli forces with lethal actions in the face of demonstrators who pose no threat to soldiers. The report cited “willful killings” of some protesters, which amount to war crimes, and “virtual impunity” for those responsible.

Nevertheless, American police speak with admiration of Israeli practices. A Maryland officer trained in Israel told former Israeli soldier Eran Efrati (now a dissident and outspoken critic of the army), “Oh, man, you guys are badasses. You guys are the best!” Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer has said that “Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism.”

A recent Center for Investigative Reporting story underscores the effect of this training on U.S. police. It states, “The most tangible evidence that the training is having an impact on American policing is that both countries are using identical equipment against demonstrators, according to a 2013 report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and photographs of such equipment taken at demonstrations in Ferguson and Oakland and Anaheim, California.”

During 2011 Occupy protests in Oakland, U.S. army veteran Scott Olsen was shot in the head with a bean bag round and left with a permanent brain injury. His experience echoes that of protesters in occupied Palestine who have been killed or injured after being hit by “non-lethal” tear gas canisters. Two victims permanently disabled by these projectiles are Americans—Tristan Anderson and Emily Henochowicz, both wounded in the West Bank.

Oakland has a strong connection with Israeli police and army methods. Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern trained in Israel and instituted the annual Urban Shield weekend, in which police forces compete in mock “terrorist attack” exercises. Israel joins local departments in this event and has often taken first place in the competition.

In 2011 journalist Max Blumenthal called the pervasive Israeli influence on U.S. police tactics the “Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” This year others are also making the connection in light of Ferguson.

Ali Winston of the Center for Investigative Reporting wrote about the effect of Israeli training in a piece titled “U.S. police get antiterror training in Israel on privately funded trips,” and journalist Rania Khalek of The Electronic Intifada took up the issue in “Israel-trained police ‘occupy’ Missouri after killing of black youth.” Kristian Davis Bailey published a story in Ebony titled “The Ferguson/Palestine Connection” and noted that “Israel has played a role in the militarization of American police.”

All this is worth mention in the Times, but it prefers to look elsewhere in the discussions of police brutality and militarization within the United States. Its 2005 story on Israeli training was apparently never repeated. Now that the effects of this training could be cause for scandal, it has opted for silence.

Barbara Erickson

Israel Cashes in on Gaza Reconstruction

In a story notable for what it fails to say, The New York Times today tells us that donor nations have pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild Gaza. Although we get some numbers here, the article avoids the big question: Why are other nations asked to pay for Israel’s destruction in the strip this summer?

This is not a new concern. International organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International have called on Israel to make reparations after past attacks, and even the U.S. State Department recently said that Israel should make a material contribution to the rebuilding effort. This year Human Rights Watch has already made a strong statement in support of Israeli reparations.

None of this, however, appears in the Times story by Michael Gordon. In fact, the article avoids mention of Israeli culpability in the massive destruction of Gaza and the deaths of more than 2,000 people, the vast majority of them civilian. It is a “cycle of violence” that is to blame, not Israeli and U.S. bombs.

The Times cannot say the obvious: that Israel was responsible for the carnage and destruction in Gaza, that the residents of the strip live under a state of siege imposed by Israel and that this situation violates international and humanitarian law.

Human Rights Watch, however, cited international law in a recent release calling for donor nations and organizations to insist that Israel lift the blockade and make reparations. When parties to a conflict violate the laws of war, it said, they may be forced to pay compensation.

“Donor-funded projects were among those destroyed or damaged,” HRW wrote. “Donors should assess the damage caused by unlawful attacks” and press for remedies. “Such reparations could assist in the funding of new projects and deter future unlawful attacks.” In other words, demanding accountability from Israel might put a halt to its recurrent assaults.

Finally, HRW said, donors “should require Israel to pay compensation and reconstruction costs for civilian property, including internationally funded projects, that Israeli forces destroyed or damaged in unlawful attacks.”

The UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International also said after the assaults of 2008–2009 that the victims of unlawful attacks should be compensated. Amnesty made its appeal to the UN, saying that the world body should “make clear to the government of Israel that it has an obligation to ensure that victims of violations by Israeli forces that occurred during the conflict have immediate access to an effective remedy, including full and effective reparations.”

But to the contrary, far from paying for its destructive rampage against Gaza, Israel is expected to cash in. Israeli materials will be used in the rebuilding effort, and Israeli currency is needed to fund the projects.

Although the Times avoids any mention of this, other news outlets have taken notice. EurActiv, an online media outlet on the European Union, recently published a report on Israeli manipulations of aid money. It states that “a row is brewing over claims that Israel is earning millions of euros from a de facto policy of preventing non-Israeli reconstruction aid from entering the Gaza Strip.” (See TimesWarp “Israel Will Help Rebuild Gaza, for a Price.”)

The Guardian quotes an expert who claims that “60-65% of the money donated will return to Israel as they will supply the materials to allow the construction.” Alaa Tartir and Jeremy Wildeman of the think tank Al-Shabaka, writing in The WorldPost, set this at 45 percent, noting that “all investment is made in [Israeli] currency, often through Israeli suppliers or imported through Israeli-controlled borders.”

Julie Webb-Pullman in Middle East Monitor writes, “It is difficult to imagine a clearer incentive to continue the cycle of ‘destroy and rebuild’ than to reward the criminal by paying them to repair the destruction they have wreaked, rather than make them pay for it.”

Her article, “Donors or Enablers? ‘Gaza Reconstruction Conference,’” would never make it into the Times. It calls Israel a criminal; it notes that Egypt, the conference host, is preventing materials from entering Gaza and denying entry to medical patients in need of care; it calls the United States the “funder and arms supplier extraordinaire to the Israeli serial killers” and it also attacks Ban Ki-Moon.

Webb-Pullman is venting in print, but she makes some points that others make in more formal terms. She also asks why the conference is not held in Gaza itself and she writes that unless the donor countries insist on an end to the blockade and prevent Israel from profiting from their money, “The international community will merely be enabling ongoing Israeli abuse in the best traditions of the dysfunctional incestuous family.”

Yes, this is something of a rant, and this is not sober journalism with all the evidence at hand, but it is driven by the absurd situation in evidence. After the egregious omissions of the Times story today, her piece is nothing but refreshing.

Barbara Erickson

At the NY Times Silence is the Default Mode for Israeli War Crimes

When Human Rights Watch released a statement this week pointing to cluster bomb use in Syria, The New York Times was quick to pick it up. Under the headline, “Militants Add Cluster Bombing to Tactics, Rights Group Says,” the newspaper informed readers of these latest accusations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Here we have an interesting contrast: HRW released a similar report sounding the alarm about Israeli army actions in Gaza this summer, and the Times remained silent. The Aug. 4 release opened with these words:

“Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza’a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25, 2014. Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes.”

Although its ISIS story shows deference to HRW, referring to the report often and citing a “rights group” in the headline, the Times ignored the charges of war crimes in Gaza, even in the midst of intense coverage of the conflict.

It was not only the HRW report that failed to make the Times when the suspect in question was Israel. Amnesty International likewise received no mention when the group released a statement on Aug. 7 alleging other atrocities.

The news release states, “An immediate investigation is needed into mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza, which have left six medics dead, said Amnesty International as it released disturbing testimonies from doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel working in the area.”

The Times has never informed readers of this statement, nor has it reported more recent news concerning both AI and HRW: Israel has refused to let staff from either group enter Gaza to investigate possible war crimes.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this, saying outright that Israel was “using various bureaucratic excuses” to ban the groups from Gaza. The Institute for Middle East Understanding, AI and HRW have all issued statements and reports on Israel’s denial of access, but the Times has ignored them.

In an interview with IMEU, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said, “Obviously, Israel doesn’t want us investigating alleged war crimes in Gaza, even though we would look, as we always do, at the conduct of both sides.”

Israel has denied HRW entry to Gaza since 2006 and AI since the summer of 2012. It now tells them they have to register with the foreign affairs or the social welfare ministry. Both ministries set conditions that are “virtually impossible” for international human rights groups to meet, the groups claim.

None of this has appeared in the Times, nor has anything been said about charges that Israel used an experimental weapon, dense inert metal explosive (DIME) this summer in Gaza. DIME releases tungsten microshrapnel, which is carcinogenic and can slice through soft tissue and bone. Victims who manage to survive often lose their limbs and remain with wounds that do not respond to treatment.

DIME has not yet been banned under international law, but evidence of its use is disturbing and most decidedly newsworthy. It should find equal billing with Times reports of cluster bombs in Syria.

It may happen that one day the Times will run a headline saying that ISIS or the Syrian army or Al Qaeda is using DIME, but Israel is another matter, as HRW and other rights groups have found. When it comes to Israeli crimes, silence is the default mode at the Times.

Barbara Erickson

The NY Times Joins Israel’s Legal Defense Team

The month-long attack on Gaza has left some 2,000 dead, hundreds of thousands of residents displaced and nearly 17,000 homes destroyed, but in The New York Times none of this takes center stage: It is the view from Israel that prevails.

Israelis think it is time to move on, reporter Isabel Kershner tells us today. “Attention has already shifted to the legal battlefield,” she writes, “as Israel gears up to defend itself against possible war crimes.” The story that follows is a full-out effort to discredit a United Nations investigation into breaches of humanitarian and international law during what Israel called Operation Protective Edge.

In her article, “Israel Braces for War Crimes Inquiries on Gaza,” Kershner tells of the Israeli reaction to a UN Human Rights Council investigation launched earlier this week. She devotes her opening paragraphs to Israeli charges that the Canadian expert heading the inquiry, Prof. William Schabas, and the rights council itself are both biased against Israel, and she gives no space at all to the Palestinian reactions to the probe.

As for the war crimes in question, these receive brief attention well into the story. Kershner comes up with a few examples of incidents that might cause problems for Israel: the damage to UN schools where residents were taking shelter, the bombing of family homes and extensive destruction in Rafah. Once these are dealt with, she devotes the rest of the article to Israeli efforts to counter the investigations to come.

Although various human rights groups have issued reports and press releases alleging war crimes, Kershner mentions only one, a recent report from the Israeli group B’Tselem on the targeting of family homes. As she tells it, the group was “calling into question the clear military nature of the targets.”

In fact, B’Tselem accused Israel in more direct terms. In its report, “A Death Foretold,” it stated, “The grave consequences lend a hollow ring to Israel’s repeated claims that it has no intention of harming civilians. The massive bombardments of civilian locations were the rule rather than the exception in the last operation, routinely killing dozens of people a day.

“Whoever authorized the strikes must have known that they would result in many civilian fatalities, yet the bombardments continued day after day and even intensified. Authorizing attacks from the air, sea and artillery fire at heavily populated civilian areas and specific homes, constitutes willfully ignoring the inevitable killing of civilians – men, women and children – who did not take part in the hostilities.”

Kershner also makes no mention of other reports, such as one by Amnesty International accusing Israel of directly targeting health workers. In a recent release, the group quoted a senior official: “‘The harrowing descriptions by ambulance drivers and other medics of the utterly impossible situation in which they have to work, with bombs and bullets killing or injuring their colleagues as they try to save lives, paint a grim reality of life in Gaza,’ said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“‘Even more alarming is the mounting evidence that the Israeli army has targeted health facilities or professionals. Such attacks are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes. They only add to the already compelling argument that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.’”

There is no mention of the Amnesty release in the Times, nor is anything said about a Human Rights Watch report that stated, “Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war.” Nor has the newspaper reported that international law experts have charged that Israel deliberately terrorized civilians in Gaza.

Instead we have a look at how Israel will cope with this threat of legal condemnation in the international community, as if this is the major news of the day. Nothing is said about the Hamas reaction to the Human Rights Council probe. (In fact, even though Hamas will also be investigated for shooting rockets into Israel, a senior official welcomed the investigation.)

Moreover, Kershner continues to follow Israel’s wishes in downplaying civilian casualties. She writes that over 1,900 were killed “a majority of them believed to be civilians.” In her article the overwhelming majority reported by the United Nations and other observers has become just possibly a mere majority.

Although the United Nations is experienced and trusted in tallying such information, the Times prefers to go with the Israeli claim that the numbers are in doubt. In giving preference to Israel (with its obvious stake in the issue) over an independent organization, this reveals a deliberate bias.

For more detailed information, Times readers can go directly to the latest UN report. (There they will find that as of Aug. 15, 1,975 had been counted dead, including 1,417 civilians, 459 children and 239 women.) Readers may also be interested in a Guardian story that lists all the UN schools hit in Gaza with the casualty numbers for each.

Much is missing from the Times, and this is no accident. The newspaper has in effect joined the Israeli legal team. Readers will have to search elsewhere if they hope to find a serious look at what Israel has done in Gaza.

Barbara Erickson

[For those of you who would like to let the Times know what you think about their coverage of Palestine and Israel, there is a perfect opportunity right now in an ongoing effort by the US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation. Click here and find out what you can do.]

Israel’s Reputation Lies in Ruins: The NY Times Puts Up a Smoke Screen

A perfect storm of protest has converged in recent days, all fueled by outrage over Israeli attacks in Gaza. It ranges from the highest levels of the British government to demonstrators on the street, but The New York Times today has turned its back on all of them.

Rather than inform readers of these developments, the paper has chosen to help Israel by muddying the waters regarding the issue of civilian casualties. Casting doubt on carefully amassed United Nations statistics that show 85 percent civilian deaths (the Times uses older data showing 72 percent), writer Jodi Rudoren gives deference to undocumented Israeli claims that half the deaths were combatants.

It seems that this is meant to distract us from the international outcry over innocent deaths in Gaza and recent accounts that show just how far Israel has managed to “delegitimize” itself in the eyes of the world. The Times runs stories about Israel’s pull-back from Gaza, Hamas politics and efforts to stifle dissent in Israel, but there is only cursory mention of international condemnation far down in the ceasefire article.

Nowhere in the Times is there any detailed look at the outcry against Israel that is coming from all levels in the international community. Readers, however, can look elsewhere, and here are some of the stories they will find in other media outlets:

Senior British cabinet member, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, resigned yesterday citing the government’s failure to condemn the attack on Gaza. She wrote, “Our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

A group of distinguished British jurists wrote to the International Criminal Court, urging it to launch an investigation into crimes committed in Gaza, including the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools. The letter was signed by the chair of the British Bar Council’s human rights committee and signed by a host of senior barristers and law professors.

Human Rights Watch issued a news release saying that Israeli forces shot and killed civilians fleeing from fighting in the town of Khuza. It cited “several incidents” from July 23 to July 25.

Amnesty International appealed to the United States government to halt a shipment of fuel to the Israeli military “as evidence of war crimes mounts.” The group has also asked for an arms embargo on Israel.

The British National Union of Students voted to boycott companies that support Israel, stating, “NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity, and to actively work to cut ties with those that do.”

A group of nine activists in the United Kingdom shut down a factory run by a subsidiary of the Israeli arms firm Elbit. The group said in a statement, “By allowing this factory to export engines for killer drones to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.”

The American group Jewish Voice for Peace, which opposes military aid to Israel as long as the occupation remains, has reported a spike in its membership and also in support on social media since the attacks on Gaza began. The number of Facebook likes has tripled, the number of Twitter followers has doubled and dues paying membership increased 20 percent in one month.

These are disastrous developments for Israel, which devotes funds and organizational effort to promote its standing in the international community, but Times readers hear none of it. Rather than report the news in whole, the newspaper has chosen once again to place Israel’s reputation above the right to know.

Barbara Erickson

Israeli Bias Trumps the News in the NY Times

It’s been a rough two weeks in the West Bank, ever since three Israeli teenagers went missing near Hebron: the aggressive search operation has led to scores of injuries, hundreds of raids on homes and offices, confiscated property and the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians.

In a dozen stories published since June 12, when the settler boys were last seen, The New York Times has informed us of the massive campaign and the reactions of Israelis and Palestinians to the operation dubbed Brother’s Keeper. Yet, in all this reportage, the newspaper has omitted or glossed over some key developments, including the arrests of of Palestinian children, who can also be described as kidnap victims, albeit at the hands of security forces.

In its operation, ostensibly aimed at finding the three Israeli teens, the army has arrested dozens of Palestinian children, bringing the total to 250 held in military custody. Times readers have not been told about this, however, nor have they heard that Israel’s treatment of child prisoners has come under attack by numerous groups in recent years. (See TimesWarp, “The Times Non-Story of 2013: Abuse of Child Prisoners.”)

A UNICEF report published in 2013, found that Israel was responsible for abusive treatment of child prisoners, coerced confessions, failure to provide legal help or contact with parents and other violations of the rights of children. It stated, “In no other country are children systematically tried by military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing for the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.” In spite of this report and others, Israel has continued to arrest Palestinian children, targeting even more of them during the recent crackdown.

Reports also inform us that Israel is aiming to increase yet another alarming statistic: officials say they will double the number of Palestinians held without charge or trial (administrative detainees), from 200 to 400. Rights groups have frequently condemned this practice, and a recent letter by a consortium of groups states (with a hint of sarcasm), “In terms of administrative detainees, it is hard not to question if there is really an immediate, essential military need that entailed the swift detention without trial of dozens of people.”

Among those arrested during the sweep of the last two weeks are 52 former prisoners released in an exchange deal for the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, plus another former detainee, Samer Issawi, who won his freedom from administrative detention after a grueling partial fast of 266 days. During a brief court appearance, his lawyer said, Issawi was barely able to hold up his head in court, a sign of severe sleep deprivation.

Which brings us to another unreported item concerning Brother’s Keeper, the loosening of laws restricting torture. Israeli media have reported that less than a week after the teens went missing, the government issued an order classifying prisoners detained in the current operation as “ticking bombs.” Under Israeli law, this designation allows the use of interrogation techniques that amount to torture.

Samer Issawi’s behavior in court is a sign that this government order is in effect. The order also means that every Palestinian rounded up in the sweep comes under this designation of “ticking bomb:” university professors, students, shopkeepers, legislators, farmers and children as well as adults.

The Times last reported that “more than 370” Palestinians have been arrested since the operation began. The number appears to be much higher, however. Last week the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society reported 566 in detention. The group also provided the numbers city by city, ranging from 201 in Hebron (near the site the teens were last seen) and 90 in Nablus (far from the alleged crime) to one in Jericho.

Moreover, the Times has failed to report the total number of Palestinian dead as a result of the search operation. As of June 27 it stood at seven, including two elderly West Bank residents who died of heart failure during raids on their communities. The victims have been unarmed civilians.

The Times has also glossed over the fact that Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations, such as Amnesty International have condemned the search campaign, failing to name these groups or give more than passing mention to their statements. Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren takes notice of their protests but vaguely refers to them as a “chorus of human rights groups” and places their charge of collective punishment in quotes.

A statement by several of the organizations, however, notes that Israel’s crackdown breaches international law and the army’s measures “do not seem to serve a military need that can justify the damage they have caused.” It condemns “stringent restrictions” imposed on Palestinians already in detention as well as Israel’s “sweeping and arbitrary travel restrictions,” and it calls the operation “a blatant violation of the prohibition against collective punishment.” Times readers, unfortunately, have heard none of this.

We have a right to know these aspects of Brother’s Keeper. The number of dead, the abuse of children and all prisoners, the practice of administrative detention and the heartbreaking story of Samer Issawi and his courageous battle for freedom are newsworthy items fit to print. The Times, however, has omitted these details from its coverage, showing once again that its dedication to preserving the reputation of Israel trumps its responsibility to readers.

Barbara Erickson

The NY Times and the Kidnapped Teens: What Else is Missing Here?

Three unfortunate Israeli boys go missing in the West Bank; security forces scour the territory, arresting hundreds; and The New York Times devotes a flurry of articles to covering the apparent kidnapping and the search that follows.

Times readers have been treated to seven stories (accompanied by five photos) over six days; it would seem they are getting every angle, every scrap of news possible in this tragedy. They have read about raids in Hebron (the area where the teenagers were last seen), yeshiva prayers for the missing, debates over the wisdom of hitchhiking, cooperation from the Palestinian Authority, accusations against Hamas, denials from Hamas and comments from the U.S. Department of State.

Yet, in spite of all the space devoted to the boys’ disappearance, readers have little sense of the punishment unleashed on innocent Palestinians during the search for the boys. They fail to hear the words of human rights groups alarmed by the massive raids, and they learn nothing of the  Israeli critics who charge their own government with hypocrisy.

The Times has reported some of the numbers, the hundreds of arrests and raids on homes and offices that have taken place throughout the West Bank in the search for the missing teens, but it has failed to convey the full extent of official abuse that has terrorized communities, leaving two dead so far.

In Hebron, where the teenagers were last seen, Jodi Rudoren describes house raids and shuttered shops, but she selects the mildest of examples for publication. She zeroes in on the Emreish family, who were forced to stand outside for five minutes while soldiers searched their house. What did the soldiers do inside? Nothing but open a few cabinets.

Contrast this with a report from Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that supports peacemaking groups in conflict areas. CPT members saw with their own eyes the devastation of the Al Qawasmeh family home: “Children’s belongings were spread and broken around the house. Israeli soldiers demolished the kitchen, smashing fruits, vegetables, and other food items on the floor, and left feces on a rug in the basement.”

Moreover, soldiers had needlessly blasted open the front door, spraying the house with shards of glass and seriously wounding a 7-year-old boy. “After the explosion,” CPT states, “Israeli soldiers did not allow Akram Al Qawasmeh to see his son, and according to reports, the military initially stopped medical personnel from treating the victim.”

In Rudoren’s example, however, Israeli troops are on good behavior, inconveniencing family members for a mere five minutes. She gives a brief second-hand account of apartment residents held for 24 hours without cigarettes or phones, but that is as close as she gets to the kind of atrocities suffered by many. CPT, however, reports that the Al Qawasmeh family experience was only one of many like it.

Some Israeli commentators are taking note of the vengeance falling on Palestinians and publishing harsh assessments of their own society. Gideon Levy in Haaretz accuses Israel of a blatant double standard in its reaction: “Human life only refers to ours; concern for it and its liberty only matters when it’s us. Only we are permitted to be our ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ as the IDF is calling the operation to find the three kidnapped teens.”

Avraham Burg, also in Haaretz, claims that Palestine itself has been kidnapped by Israel. He points to midnight raids on Palestinian homes, detention without trial and the refusal to negotiate for peace, and he asks his readers, “What is all this if not one big official, evil and unjust kidnapping that we all participate in and never pay the price for?” Israelis, he says, are “incapable of understanding the suffering of a whole society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us.”

In a piece titled “Shrapnel in Israel’s Backside is Bleeding,” Yariv Oppenheimer write in Ynet that it is time to see the state of affairs through Palestinian eyes. Of course they hate us, he says; of course, some are driven to terrorism. Look at the settlements, choking off any chance for a Palestinian state. “The harsh and humiliating reality the Palestinians live in is stronger than any television broadcast or any sermon in a mosque,” he writes, and now: “The loss of hope on the other side, the Israeli arrogance and the unwillingness to compromise are blowing up in our faces.”

These are strong words and surprising in the midst of a national tragedy. (There is more, such as commentary in 972 Magazine, here and here.) It is unfortunate that Times readers have heard none of it. Instead, they are left with the impression that the only voices of complaint are Palestinian.

Amnesty International, however, has issued a call for the end to collective punishment, joining a consortium of 12 Palestinian human rights organizations that condemned Israel’s disregard for international law and called on the international community to help end the wave of collective punishment.

In a June 17 statement, Amnesty noted that Israel rearrested prisoners released in recent exchanges, detained Palestinian parliamentarians and members of Hamas and threatened to deport Hamas officials and members to Gaza. Israel also cancelled family visits to prisoners and imposed a “complete closure” on the Hebron district.

The statement pointed out ongoing oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and concluded, “Amnesty International urges the Israeli authorities to immediately lift all measures which constitute collective punishment of civilians, both those that are long-standing and the specific measures imposed since 12 June. Collective punishment of civilians is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as customary international humanitarian law.”

Over nearly a week of intense coverage, we have no stories like that of the Qawasmeh family to give context to the outrage of human rights groups and nothing about Amnesty’s call for an end to the vengeful attacks in the West Bank. Those hoping for a fuller view of the conflict will have to look elsewhere, to human rights organizations and alternative media.

In the Times, meanwhile, we receive a narrow view of a broader story. Readers are screened from the full reality of official and well-armed fury aimed at innocent Palestinians, and they hear nothing about the efforts of rights groups calling for justice, nor of the pained self-scrutiny within Israel itself.

Barbara Erickson

[TimesWarp readers may also be interested in a discussion concerning the failure of mainstream media to cover the detention of hundreds of Palestinian children in Israeli military facilities. See also an earlier TimesWarp post, “The Times Non-Story of 2013: Abuse of Child Prisoners.”]