Palestinians Are Dying, But Only Israelis are “Vulnerable” in The NY Times

Isabel Kershner in The New York Times reports that Israelis are suffering from “a sense of vulnerability” after a bus bombing in Jerusalem this week. The event, she reports, sowed fear and anxiety in a population “already on edge” after a series of attacks over the past several months.

Although there were no reported deaths from the bombing, she writes that Israelis were reminded of the second Palestinian uprising “when suicide bombers blew up buses in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, killing scores.”

Missing from her account is any mention of Palestinian fear or vulnerability in spite of data showing that Palestinian deaths outnumber Israeli fatalities by a factor of five or more, depending on the time frame. The second intifada, for instance, which Kershner takes as her reference point, left 5,904 Palestinians dead compared with 1,163 Israelis.

She notes that “about 30” Israelis have died in the past six months in contrast to “more than 200” Palestinians, a rate of more than six to one. But this fact has not inspired her to look into Palestinian anxieties. Instead she once again attempts to place the blame on Palestinians, writing that they reportedly died in “attacks or attempted attacks or in clashes with Israeli security forces.”

Nothing is said of the frequent charges that Israeli troops have carried out “street executions” of Palestinians who pose no threat to them or others. (See TimesWarp 3-25-16.) Likewise, nothing is said about the crippling effects of the brutal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the crucial background for this conflict.

Kershner entirely omits the context here while focusing on every possible source of Israeli angst: the bus bombing, the recent discovery of a tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel, a belligerent statement by Hamas and the lone-wolf knife and vehicular attacks by Palestinians.

Discerning readers may ask why Palestinians are using kitchen knives and automobiles as their weapons of choice, but the Times is not about to address the question. It would underscore the fact that Palestinians are the vulnerable party, an unarmed and virtually helpless population contending with one of the most sophisticated armies in the world.

In fact, Palestinians face daily threats from Israeli weapons, ranging from bulldozers to drones to live fire. Gaza farmers tending their fields near the border with Israel and fishermen at sea are frequently targeted by Israeli bullets and shells. West Bank communities confront the threat of land confiscation, settler attacks and demolitions that destroy homes and livelihoods.

And unarmed protesters in Gaza and the West Bank have been injured and killed during non-violent demonstrations. In fact, Israeli security forces injured a shocking number of Palestinians last year, a total of 14,925. As of April 11 this year, troops had already wounded 1,627.

According to United Nations data, Israeli forces have injured an average of 109 Palestinians each week in 2016. By comparison, Palestinians are wounding an average of four Israelis weekly. Yet it is Israeli “vulnerability” that takes center stage in the Times.

Kershner writes that “the threat of the tunnels continues to sow fear in Israeli communities along the border,” but she fails to say that not a single Israeli civilian has been harmed because of the tunnels. During the 2014 attacks on Gaza, they were used solely for targeting Israeli troops.

Palestinians, on the other hand, have reason to feel vulnerable, and they have reason to build tunnels as one of the few means of defense when they are under attack from Israeli weapons, but the Times has no interest in reporting this. It is only Israeli angst that matters here.

Israelis may have to deal with their fears, but Palestinians have to face much more: the loss of land, water, mobility, security and dignity. They have concrete and verifiable casualties, and they have to contend with their own defenselessness and fears, but in spite of all the evidence, the Times has turned its back on their narrative, joining Israel in blaming the victim.

Barbara Erickson

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

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Israeli Spin in The NY Times: The Annals of Absurdity

Five men died in Israel and the West Bank yesterday, the victims of shooting and stabbing attacks by Palestinians. The assaults took place in Tel Aviv and in the Etzion illegal settlement bloc, and their deaths, according to The New York Times, marked “the deadliest day in the recent wave of violence.”

Deadliest day? For Israelis, yes, but not for Palestinians. As the Times has reported, Israeli soldiers shot and killed six young men in Gaza during demonstrations at the border fence on Oct. 9. Days later, on Oct. 20, five more Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli troops within the span of 12 hours (in this case, the newspaper remained silent and made no effort to report their deaths).

Nevertheless, Isabel Kershner in the Times today insists that the five deaths (one involving a Palestinian working in Israel and one involving an American visitor) are the high point in violence since a wave of lone wolf attacks against Israelis broke out at the beginning of October.

Nothing could provide more certain evidence of the Israeli bias in the Times. Palestinian deaths do not register on their tally of casualties; violence refers only to Palestinian aggression.

Kershner’s story acknowledges that some 90 Palestinians have died since the beginning of October, compared with 16 Israelis, but in explaining this discrepancy she manages once again to blame the victims. The Palestinians died, she says, while attacking or attempting to attack Israelis or “in clashes with Israeli security forces.”

Nothing is said of those who died in what human rights groups call apparent extrajudicial executions: the youth shot as he tried to extract his identity card from his pocket, the young woman killed as she stood with her hands over her head. It seems the Times wants us to believe the often dubious claims of Israeli forces responsible for Palestinian deaths.

Today’s story lists all of the victims by name and gives a detailed account of one of them, an American teenager who had “distributed food and candy to Israeli soldiers” the day he was killed. The Oct. 9 story about the deaths in Gaza gives the name of not a single Palestinian.

Kershner, however, has provided us with some context here, and the result is bizarre. She manages to link the five deaths to a long-awaited agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority “granting Palestinian cellphone carriers 3G high-speed cellular services in the West Bank.”

The attacks came “hours after” this agreement, she writes, and she goes on to imply that Palestinians should have taken this contract as something of a white flag, a sign that a truce is in effect.

“The move,” Kershner states, “intended to bolster economic development, had indicated a possible effect, or desire, to return to calm after weeks of violence.” She then quotes an Israeli minister who claims, “We always agree to confidence-building measures with the Palestinians to help with their economy.”

It is difficult to reconcile this assertion of goodwill with the fact that Palestinian cellphone carriers have been requesting the right to use 3G services since 2006 and only at this point has Israel agreed to allow this now outdated technology. Yet Kershner reports it without a hint of irony.

Readers are to take from this that the Palestinians have no right to protest, let alone to resort to violence. Israel, Kershner is saying, has their well-being at heart.

Missing, as usual, is the context of the brutal occupation, the ever-tightening pressure of settlement building that robs Palestinians of land, water, basic livelihoods and the right to move freely. Missing also are the arrests and abuse of young Palestinians, some as young as 6, and the heavy use of administrative detention, which denies detainees the right to a defense or even to know the charges against them.

If Kershner wanted to peg her story to recent developments, she could have mentioned the crackdown on the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel; the slap on the wrist meted out to the police officer who brutally beat an American Palestinian teenager last year; or the collective punishment of home demolitions, which can leave a wide trail of devastation beyond the stated targets.

Instead, readers are told that Israeli “goodwill” has been spurned by ungrateful Palestinians and that Israelis alone are the victims of violence. Thus, the Times and Kershner give dominance to Israel spin even as their efforts turn the news into an exercise in distortion and absurdity.

Barbara Erickson

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

 

Defending the Indefensible: How The NY Times Spins for Israel

It’s a topsy-turvy world in The New York Times. Palestinians are dying, but it is Israelis who are fearful. Unarmed Palestinians face the threat of heavily armed settlers and security forces, but it is not Palestine that has a security problem; it is Israel.

This is the scenario we find today in a story by Isabel Kershner titled “Stabbings, and Deadly Responses, Add to Israel’s Security Challenge.” Here we learn that Israelis have a “shattered sense of personal security” after a series of lone-wolf stabbing attempts.

Kershner takes all the stabbing allegations as fact, rejecting any evidence to the contrary, and nowhere in this lengthy story do we find any concern for how Palestinians are feeling even though more than two dozen have been killed since Oct. 1 and more than 1,300 wounded (compared with four Israelis killed and some 28 wounded in the same time period).

Neither Kershner nor her editors find Palestinian vulnerability at all newsworthy. It is only Israeli sentiments that matter here.

Likewise, it is not the death of so many Palestinians that concerns the Times but the effect on Israel’s reputation. As Israel “resorts to live fire,” Kershner writes, the number of Palestinian deaths is mounting, and this fact “is increasingly opening Israel up to criticism, placing the government in a quandary.”

From then on her article is an attempt to defuse that criticism without giving readers a clear sense of what accusations have been made. She writes, for instance, that Amnesty International “has accused Israel of using excessive force,” as if this refers to past reports by the monitoring group but failing to mention a recent release about the current attacks.

In fact, Amnesty is one of three human rights organizations to speak out against trigger-happy Israeli forces in the past week. Human Rights Watch and Al Haq, a Palestinian group, also raised the alarm about the increasing violence against Palestinian civilians.

Amnesty’s report was titled, “No justification for deliberate attacks on civilians, unlawful killings by Israeli forces, or collective punishment of Palestinians.”

Kershner ignores the findings of all these reports and at the same time attempts to explain away the shocking brutality displayed by Israeli settlers and troops in several videos appearing on social media in recent days. “Some of the videos of police shootings have had the added effect of turning the Israelis, in the eyes of some people, from the victims of terrorism into aggressors,” she writes.

These videos (see here and here) show helpless and unarmed Palestinians surrounded by armed troops or angry mobs. In one of them a boy lies crumpled and bleeding on the pavement as Israelis shout at him, “Die, you son of a whore!” All of the Palestinians are either injured or killed, but once again Kershner’s concern is not for the victims in the videos but for Israel’s reputation.

Kershner concedes that Israelis may have gone too far in a couple of these cases, but she is quick to excuse their aggression as “panic” by traumatized individuals.

After trying to neutralize the effects of the videos and the human rights groups’ reports, Kershner turns her attention to alternative media. The accounts by these outlets have often contradicted the stabbing attempt allegations made by Israeli security forces.

Rather than reporting the contradictions, Kershner states that alternative news media have been “feeding the anger” of Palestinians by often denying that any attack took place. She is implying that these media are not to be trusted and that their reports are inciting Palestinian hostility.

As usual, the Times makes no effort to place the attacks in context, ignoring the ugly realities of the occupation and the enormous disparity in power between Palestinians and Israelis. Thus she implies that the attacks on Israelis arise out of hatred and lack any valid motive. Her reference to “feeding the anger” fits well into that narrative.

Missing from her article are the frequent settler mobs who march through Jerusalem and other cities chanting “Death to Arabs” while police and soldiers stand by to protect them. Kershner ignores this kind of incitement, preferring to stay with the Israelis-as-victims story line.

Israel is a nuclear power with sophisticated weapons and a standing army. Palestine has no army and not a single tank or aircraft, and its unarmed populace has suffered appallingly at the hands of the occupiers. The numbers show Palestinian casualties outnumbering those of Israelis by a ratio of more than 100 to 1 in the first week of this month.

Given all this, it takes some effort to convince readers that Israel—not Palestine—faces a “security challenge.” Kershner, with the blessing of the Times editors, has made that effort, providing us with a story that distorts the reality on the ground, ignoring journalistic standards and the ethical demands of compassion.

Barbara Erickson

Casualty Count: 794 Palestinians, 7 Israelis—NY Times Obsesses on Israeli Victims

Isabel Kershner in The New York Times tells us that Palestinians are running amok, lashing out at Israelis not only in the West Bank but now in Israel as well. Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to quell this “wave of terrorism,” she reports, and Israelis are “unnerved” by the spread of incidents.

Kershner describes three alleged stabbing attempts, dwelling at length on one of them; recaps an earlier incident that left two Israelis dead; and in the final paragraphs of her story informs us that “at least two” Palestinians were killed, one of them a 13-year-old boy “described as a bystander.”

Nowhere do we learn that the major victims of violence in this turbulent conflict are Palestinians, not Israelis, as revealed in a recent United Nations report: In one week, ending Oct. 5, Israeli security forces injured 794 Palestinians, while Palestinians injured a total of seven Israelis. (As of Oct. 5, 30 Palestinians had been killed in 2015 compared with eight Israelis.)

This is an injury ratio of more than 100 to one, a shocking disparity, but the Times story shows concern only for Israeli injuries and fears. We find no accounts there of what the Palestinian victims experienced as they faced the aggression of heavily armed security forces.

Readers and viewers elsewhere, however, got a firsthand view of Israeli violence yesterday as videos emerged that revealed undercover agents inciting stone throwers in the West Bank. The agents, wearing keffiyehs and bearing a Hamas flag, urge bystanders to join them, then draw their weapons and assault Palestinian youths.

The videos, by several agencies, including Reuters and Agence France-Presse, went viral, appearing on French, British, Israeli and American media outlets. The Times, however, has so far failed to link to the videos, which show a soldier shooting a captive Palestinian in the leg at point blank range.

The newspaper also avoids any commentary that would shed a clear light on the nature of the conflict even as Israeli columnists have recently provided eloquent testimony of the despair behind Palestinian attacks.

Gideon Levy, writing in Middle East Eye, notes that when Palestinians remain quiet, they reap nothing but “an intensification of the occupation.” He lists the constant attacks and humiliations they endure and asks, “Are Palestinians to assent to all this in silence?”

Levy notes that after a Palestinian family was burnt alive, Israeli officials admitted that they knew who was responsible but refused to make any arrests. “What people could maintain restraint in the face of such a sequence of events,” he writes, “with the entire might of the occupation in the background, without hope, without prospects, with no end in sight?”

Amira Hass writes in a similar vein, and the headlines on her Haaretz article express it well: “Palestinians Are Fighting for Their Lives; Israel Is Fighting for the Occupation—That we notice there’s a war on only when Jews are murdered does not cancel out the fact that Palestinians are being killed all the time.”

Both these Israelis speak with an honesty that rarely, if ever, appears in the Times. Readers of the newspaper of record instead face a determined effort to protect Israel’s reputation, to preserve the narrative of Israeli victimhood even in the face of the evidence.

As Palestinians fall to Israeli violence at the rate of 100 a day, the Times obsesses on Israeli Jewish victims. It ignores the numbers that reveal an enormous toll of Palestinian suffering and it excludes the news and the voices of conscience that could help readers gain a truer perspective in this conflict.

Barbara Erickson