A Nuclear Power Confronting Slingshots, Israeli Hypocrisy Finds an Ally in The NY Times

Israel, The New York Times tells us, has vowed to crack down on violence in Jerusalem, allowing the use of live fire against Palestinians who take to “rock throwing and firebombing,” expanding the rules of engagement and lengthening sentences for such crimes.

In a story titled “Israel Acts to Combat Violence in Jerusalem,” Isabel Kershner quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls such Palestinian weaponry “deadly and murderous objects,” which have been “thrown without response and without being thwarted.”

It is noteworthy that Netanyahu, responsible for bombing and strafing the 1.8 million residents of Gaza, can say these words without a hint of irony. It is also striking that the Times can report his utterances without pointing out the full context here—the lopsided nature of the conflict.

In fact, it is the Palestinians who face a deadly enemy: Israel possesses armored vehicles, automatic rifles, drones, rockets, fighter jets, smart bombs and sophisticated surveillance equipment, all of them more “deadly and murderous” than Palestinian rocks. As the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel also has a stockpile of up to 300 nuclear weapons, which can be launched by air, land or sea.

Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have nothing more than stones, firecrackers, kitchen knives and homemade firebombs. The mortality figures reflect this disparity: Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed more than 25 Palestinians in the West Bank (settlers have killed at least another three), while Palestinians are responsible for the deaths of four Israelis within the West Bank and Israel combined.

Yet the Times strains to make Israelis appear as the victims, giving voice to the claims of Netanyahu, playing down Palestinian deaths and hyping Israeli casualties. A recent headline declared, “Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car in East Jerusalem,” suggesting that the driver was stoned to death. In fact, he had a heart attack, lost control of his car and ran into a light pole. The Times story cites only one object hitting the car.

By contrast, the paper gives a bland and ambiguous title to the story of a young Palestinian woman who died from a barrage of Israeli bullets last week as she tried to cross a checkpoint in Hebron. This news appears under the title, “2 Are Killed in West Bank as Jewish and Muslim Holidays Approach.”

Readers find no hint of the bloody assault on 18-year-old Hadeel Al Hashlamoun in this headline, and the Times has also failed to report that Amnesty International termed her killing a “extrajudicial execution” and called for a “prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations” into her death.

Firsthand accounts say that an Israeli soldier shot Al Hashlamoun in the leg, and when she lay motionless on the ground, approached her and fired several more shots into her abdomen. Witnesses add that soldiers refused to let a Palestinian ambulance approach her and left her to bleed for about half an hour before allowing an Israeli ambulance to arrive and take her away. Video footage also shows a soldier grabbing her by a foot as she lay bleeding on the ground and dragging her out of camera sight.

This is raw violence with “deadly and murderous” arms, but the Times and Netanyahu do not find the word “violence” appropriate here. They reserve its use for Palestinians who throw rocks and firecrackers, never applying it to the atrocities of Israeli security forces. The irony and hypocrisy in this discourse seem to elude them entirely.

In a story that appeared online yesterday, the Times reports that four Palestinian youths have been arrested for throwing rocks at the car of the man who died after crashing in East Jerusalem. This news is in striking contrast to the latest, disturbing developments in the case of three Palestinian family members who died in an arson attack.

When news broke of the fire that killed a toddler in the West Bank village of Duma and led to the later deaths of his mother and father, the Times quoted the reactions of Israeli politicians at length and described Jewish Israeli “soul searching” over the deaths. The paper also noted that some extremist settlers had been arrested but that no one accused of the Duma arson was in custody.

The Times ran several stories immediately after the arson attack, reporting that Netanyahu vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but after running a brief article when the mother died earlier this month, the newspaper has been silent, even though there is news to tell: Israeli officials know who committed the crime but do not plan to arrest them.

Israeli media have reported that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted that the names of the suspects are known but the defense establishment has not arrested anyone “to avoid revealing intelligence sources in court.”

So we have the quick arrest of four youths suspected of throwing rocks and (perhaps) indirectly causing the death of an Israeli driver, while those responsible for burning and killing three innocent Palestinians go free. The remarks by Ya’alon add even more irony to Netanyahu’s complaint that rock throwing occurs “without response and without being thwarted.”

The Times has shown itself to be tone deaf to such dissonance in the Israeli narrative. Far from analyzing or commenting on the hypocrisy of vilifying rock throwers, it has worked to support this deliberate distortion of the reality in Palestine.

So in the Times we find silence concerning official complicity in settler crimes, efforts to portray Israelis as victims and a refusal to state the obvious: Killing civilians with the world’s most sophisticated weapons ranks high on the scale of violence, far above the efforts of Palestinian youth who face armored soldiers and tanks with slingshots and stones.

Barbara Erickson

Advertisements

As Third Victim Dies, Arsonists Get a Pass in Israel (and in The NY Times)

Riham Dawabsheh, the third victim of an arson attack on her West Bank home, was laid to rest this week in a funeral attended by thousands. The New York Times has duly reported this, but the article is little more than a “color” piece, a detour around the full story of Israeli racism and impunity surrounding this event.

Riham, 27, died Monday, on her birthday, more than a month after the July 31 firebombing of her home in the village of Duma. Her toddler son, Ali, was burned to death in the attack, and her husband, Saad, 32, died a week later. A second son, Ahmad, 4, remains alive in a hospital with burns over 60 percent of his body.

The Times barely mentioned Riham’s death in a brief 135-word story yesterday (placed in the bottom corner of page 6 of the print edition); today it gives us a five-column photo with an article by Diaa Hadid that describes the women at her funeral and very little else.

It is a piece devoid of context, and it includes no official responses to the news of the latest death, with one exception—the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decrying the attack and insisting that security services were “doing their utmost” to find the perpetrators.

Other media outlets in the United States and Israel report the anguished concern of United Nations and Palestinian officials over the lack of progress in the case. Nicholay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said that he “reiterated and strengthened” his earlier call for justice, and that he was “concerned by the lack of progress in identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of this outrage.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, released a statement saying, “Over a month has passed and the Israeli government has not yet brought the terrorists to justice. In fact, more hate speech and incitement have been coming out from members of the Israeli government, more settler attacks have been carried out, and more Palestinians have been killed, injured or detained.”

The Times story mentions none of this and says only that Israel arrested several extremists who belonged to a “network that had encouraged acts of arson” and that it is “unclear” if any of them were connected to the Duma attack because Israel had imposed a gag order on the investigation.

Missing from this all-too-brief summary are some significant facts: The Israeli authorities arrested several suspects soon after the arson attack but released them, and although villagers reported that four men ran from the house after setting it on fire and entered a nearby settlement, no one from the settlement is in custody.

Other media have noted that Israel has failed to arrest and prosecute those responsible for similar attacks in the past. The Israeli magazine 972 ran a piece titled “No one is put on trial when a Palestinian family is burned alive,” comparing the Duma attack to a taxi firebombing three years ago.

The taxi bombing left six Palestinian family members hospitalized, but all survived. The investigation, however, did not. As 972 writers John Brown and Noah Rotem state, “Despite incontrovertible evidence showing settlers were behind the attack, the case was closed after a two-week investigation.”

None of the Times stories on the Duma bombing have found this news fit to print, and the newspaper has failed to mention other developments that shed light on the tragedy. They include:

The newspaper has had several opportunities to include this kind of information in its pages, but it has preferred to emphasize officials’ efforts to control the damage to Israel’s reputation as news of the deadly arson emerged in the media. Thus we have found several stories about the arrests of Jewish extremists and many reports of Israeli outrage over this act of terrorism.

Today’s story was one more opportunity to inform readers of the full context in this disturbing story, but the Times has given us a diversionary slice of local life, omitting any reactions beyond that from the prime minister’s office and obscuring the facts surrounding the investigation.

Even in the most egregious examples of violence against Palestinians, the Times chooses to act as a protector of Israel, placing this goal above its mandate as the newspaper of record.

Barbara Erickson

As Palestinians Die, NY Times Shields Israel

One week has passed since a Palestinian toddler died in an arson fire, one day since the boy’s father also perished from burns, and The New York Times has provided us with some half dozen stories on the tragedy. Only one of these was deemed fit to make the front page, however, and this fact is instructive: The favored story was not the original crime or the deaths of two villagers but a report on Israeli angst.

This maneuver was just one more piece of evidence that the Times has tried to provide an Israeli spin to this story. The paper has also adopted the government line that the concern here is extremism, not official policies and actions, and it has failed to provide the full context of settler violence in occupied Palestine.

When the story broke, the Times placed the news that 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned to death on page 4 of the Aug. 1 of the print edition. The brief article about his father’s demise appears on page 9 today. Other stories—concerning protests, accusations and additional responses to the news—were also on inside pages.

It was only when Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren filed an article on Israeli “soul searching” that the editors saw fit to give the story a prominent spot in its Friday edition.

The print article, “Two Killings Make Israelis Look Inward,” received a favored site on page 1 above the fold. This, the editors are saying, is the real news here—not the shocking death of a helpless child, the lingering and painful death of his father or even the legacy of settler attacks—but the feelings of ordinary Israelis.

The arson attack has received this much attention in the Times only because it was impossible to ignore: It made headlines worldwide and forced Israeli officials to condemn the act and vow to take action. But the Times stories have failed to report the full extent of violence against Palestinians and official complicity in these actions.

Readers of the newspaper are unlikely to know that Israeli settlers have often resorted to arson and that their actions have never, until now, caused much concern among government officials. B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, reports that “in recent years Israeli civilians set fire to dozens of homes, mosques, businesses, agricultural land and vehicles in the West Bank. The vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli police did not even bother taking elementary investigative actions.”

B’Tselem also notes that West Bank Palestinians are tried in military courts, with minimal rights and protection, while settlers living in the same area appear in civilian courts. Most shocking of all: The conviction rate for Palestinians in military courts is 99.74 percent.

The Times has acknowledged the charges of unequal treatment in an Isabel Kershner story titled “Israeli Justice in West Bank Is Seen as Often Uneven,” but the headline leaves the impression that we are dealing with opinions here, not facts, and the story fails to provide the data that would reveal just how uneven the system is.

In fact, B’Tselem reports that over an 11-year period only 11 percent of settler violence cases resulted in an indictment, nearly a quarter of the cases were never investigated and in the few cases where settlers were tried and convicted, they usually received “extremely light sentences.” The numbers are even more glaring when we note that Palestinians, knowing the outcomes and facing obstacles, often fail to file complaints.

These percentages, however, are less scandalous than the statistics concerning security forces. The Israeli monitoring group Yesh Din reports that 94 percent of the investigations into complaints about Israeli soldiers suspected of violence against Palestinians and their property are closed without action.

Yet the Times, following the lead of the Israeli government, has focused on “extremists” as the problem, ignoring the officially sanctioned destruction wrought by the military: In defiance of international law, the army helps the state confiscate land and destroy property  to make room for illegal Jewish settlements.

In recent weeks and months, the Israeli army has been responsible for widespread destruction of Palestinian property in the West Bank. Here are a few examples:

  • On July 22 the army invaded the village of Beit Ula and destroyed a Roman-era water well and 450 olive trees.
  • On July 2 the army uprooted an acre of agricultural land west of Hebron and issued demolition orders for a home and a water well.
  • On June 15 the Israeli army uprooted dozens of olive tree saplings over five acres in Husan, a village west of Bethlehem.
  • On May 4 the army evacuated the residents of Wadi al Maleh in the Jordan Valley for “training exercises” and set fire to grazing land using live ammunition. Residents were denied access to the land to put out the fires.
  • During the month of June in the Jordan Valley the army forced hundreds of Palestinians from their homes for “military maneuvers” and used live ammunition that set fire to acres of grazing land.
  • As of Aug. 3 the army was responsible for demolishing 302 Palestinian structures in 2015, displacing 304 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Times readers almost never read of these actions taken by the military with the official blessing of the government, and they rarely learn of most settler attacks. (Nor do they learn that settlers are allowed to carry weapons while Palestinians are denied even the most basic arms for defense.)

Now the Times, in the face of an international scandal, has done what it can to minimize the damage to Israel, muting the charges of unequal justice, placing Israeli “soul searching” on prominent display, joining the Israeli effort to blame extremists and ignoring the officially sanctioned crimes against Palestinians.

Israeli angst is fit to print in the Times, but Israeli crimes against Palestinians are something else again. If they are deemed worthy of notice, they may come to light in the back pages, under evasive headlines—all part of an effort to protect Israel at the expense of our right to be informed.

Barbara Erickson