Israeli Army Shoots 10-Year-Old Boy, NY Times Buries the Lead

We have this headline today in The New York Times: “Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border.” Not big news, it would seem, but the title here obscures a salient fact: The victim was a 10-year-old boy.

The text of the story by Isabel Kershner also seems to take pains to play down the alarming news that Israeli soldiers seriously wounded a young boy. He is identified in the first sentence as simply as a “Palestinian” who “approached the border fence on Sunday.”

The unnamed boy was taken to an Israeli hospital, and Kershner adds that a “spokeswoman for the hospital said the Palestinian was a 10-year-old boy.” This comes across as an incidental fact and not particularly newsworthy, a stance that raises questions about the newspaper’s news judgment, especially when the story involves Palestinian lives.

The Times’s approach runs counter to other news media that reported the incident. Other outlets—even prominent Israeli media services such as Ynet and The Jerusalem Post—identify the victim in their headlines and opening sentences as a young boy, and most reports say that he was shot in the neck.

Kershner’s story also states that “Israel’s border with Gaza has remained tense but relatively calm since Israel and Hamas” agreed to a ceasefire in late August. TimesWarp readers will know that the border has been anything but calm for farmers and fishermen trying to ply their trades within the borders of Gaza. (See “Israeli Breaches of Gaza Ceasefire: Unfit to Print in The NY Times.”)

Although Israeli forces have fired on farmers, fishermen, boats and housing along the border and troops have invaded the enclave to level crops and degrade agricultural land, the Times can say that the border is “relatively calm” simply because it has been quiet on the Israeli side.

Israel-centrism pervades Times reporting; the Palestinian viewpoint is barely acknowledged, given brief notice in the obligatory quote from a source here and there. And when Israeli actions raise alarm (as in the shooting of a 10-year-old boy), the Times plays down the fact, once again confirming its status as a vigilant protector of Israel’s reputation.

Barbara Erickson

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Yet Another NY Times Writer with a Son in the Israeli Military

The Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, writes in her blog today that the paper should disclose the fact that columnist David Brooks has a son in the Israeli army. She did so after receiving complaints from a number of readers.

Although columnists are held to different standards than news reporters, she writes, “Mr. Brooks’s son is serving as a member of a foreign military force that has been involved in a serious international conflict – one that the columnist sometimes writes about and which has been very much in the news.”

She concludes that a “one-time acknowledgement of this situation in print (not in an interview with another publication) is completely reasonable.”

Sullivan received complaints after Brooks revealed his son’s status in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The story was published in Hebrew but picked up by U.S. journalists (see here and here).

The news echoed previous revelations that the son of former Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner was serving in the Israeli forces even as his father was reporting from Israel. This also prompted complaints from readers and a suggestion from then public editor Clark Hoyt that Bronner be reassigned. Bronner, however, remained at his post.

TimesWarp readers might be interested in visiting this blog’s “Times Staff” page, where they can find more information about the Bronner affair and the close ties between other Times writers, Israel and the Israeli military.

Readers may also want to see Alison Weir’s blog today on the Brooks revelations and her comments on Sullivan’s post.

Barbara Erickson

Israeli War Crimes: Too Much Even for the NY Times

The New York Times has at last come out with two good front-page stories about Israeli atrocities in Gaza. After weeks of blatant and subtle efforts to obscure the reality of war crimes, it seems that Israel’s bloodbath has finally become too much even for the Times.

We have a breaking news account of an Israeli missile strike that killed 10 people lined up for food rations at a United Nations school in Rafah, and we have a look at a past shelter attack in Jabaliya. Both stories finger Israel as the culprit.

The article about the Jabaliya attack tells of vain efforts to get detailed information from the Israeli army and throws doubt on an army video purported to show that no one was present when one of their shells struck the compound.

Such reports are refreshing when we consider the usual deference Times reporters show to Israeli security forces pronouncements. But today’s approach does not extend to Israeli officials’ claims about the number of combatants killed. Rather than accept the carefully acquired and documented data supplied by the United Nations, the Rafah story gives equal weight to  unnamed Israeli officials who throw out their own claims about the combatant toll.

Thus, we do not read that more than 80 percent of the dead have been civilians, as UN research has shown, but that estimates “varied widely, with some Israeli officials suggesting that the number [of combatants killed] was more than 700 [out of a total of 1,822].”

Nevertheless, we can be grateful for the stories today and perhaps note that the two stories fall into line with the reaction of U.S. officials. The White House and state department also finally broke their silence on Israeli war crimes and expressed outrage at the latest killings. Thus we find the Times in its usual posture of supporting the official American stance.

The big question now is whether the Times will continue to question Israeli spin and begin to place the latest assault in the context of the seven-year siege of Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian land.

We should hope that Times readers will soon receive a comprehensive look at what the present attacks have done to agricultural land, utilities, water resources, schools, homes, hospitals and other necessities of life. And we should hope that the Times would do this in the context of international law, taking a hard look at Israel’s intentions in inflicting such grievous damage on an already impoverished population.

We can express these hopes, encouraged by today’s change of tone, but based on past experience, we cannot do so with any confidence.

Barbara Erickson

How to Spin an Atrocity: Lessons from the NY Times

More than a dozen civilians die under a barrage of fire at a United Nations shelter, and The New York Times is faced once again with a dilemma: how to report the news and at the same time deflect any blame directed at Israel.

In today’s story about the tragic shelling of a school in Gaza, the Times draws on its own arsenal of spin: blurring the focus of the article and withholding information that is crucial to understanding what happened.

Although the event merits a breaking news story with a direct statement of the facts, the Times begins with a “soft” opening about families seeking shelter. This provides a broader (and fuzzier) emphasis and delays mention of the actual event until the third paragraph.

Even before the relevant information comes to light, however, the story by Ben Hubbard and Jodi Rudoren tells us that “war approached” the area where the shelter, a UN school, was located. In fact, it was the Israeli army that was approaching the area, and it was Israel that had invaded Gaza in the first place.

Times readers are told that “the source of the blasts remains unclear,” and the paper quotes an Israeli army source who said, “There was combat there.” He also suggested that the shells may have come from Hamas rockets.

Careful readers will note that this claim is thrown into doubt by the quotes at the end of the article where the families of victims “all denied that there had been Hamas fighters in the area.” If they had been present, one Palestinian told the Times, “We would have died a long time ago.”

The story omits a significant development: The Israeli army later stated that it had fired in the area of the school (claiming that Hamas was shooting rockets there). It also omits crucial information found in other news reports.

In The Christian Science Monitor we hear from those who were present at the scene: “Multiple witnesses described multiple explosions in the attack on the shelter, and said they appeared to be shelling from Israeli tanks positioned within range of the school.”

And in The Guardian we get a firsthand inspection of the site: “There was no visible evidence of debris from broken Palestinian rockets in the school. The injuries and the number of fatalities were consistent with a powerful explosion that sent shrapnel tearing through the air, in some cases causing traumatic amputations.

“The surrounding neighbourhood bore evidence of multiple Israeli attacks, including smoke from numerous artillery rounds and air strikes. One building was entirely engulfed by flames.”

A simple look at the scene of a crime should be basic journalistic practice, but the Times, with all its resources and staff in Gaza, failed to give its readers anything like this. In its eyes, it is better to stick with officialdom, no matter how far from the scene these spokespersons are and no matter how biased.

The Times also runs an editorial today, insisting that “there are competing claims” over who was responsible and “that could take time to sort out.” The editors certainly knew of the Israeli army admission and the reports from the scene, but they preferred to look the other way.

Fortunately, readers do not have to rely on the Times with its obfuscations and unconscionable omissions. The real news is available elsewhere, only a few clicks away on the Internet.

Barbara Erickson

In The NY Times (and Israel) Abbas Gets a New Role

Mahmoud Abbas, once skewered in The New York Times as the villain in the peace talks debacle, has been cast in a new role: He is now the victim of Palestinian fanaticism.

In a front-page article about the disappearance of three teenage Israeli settlers nearly two weeks ago, Jodi Rudoren writes that the Palestinian Authority president “is under unprecedented attack for cooperating with Israel’s search for the teenagers.” The assaults are coming on social media, she notes, where he has been called a traitor and threatened with death, and even members of his Fatah party are challenging his control.

Meanwhile, in the Fatah stronghold of Ramallah, Palestinians fought with PA security forces, “smashing at least four police cars and storming a police station.” This was a first time occurrence, Rudoren writes, and she goes on to marshal quotes that show Palestinians cheering in support of the abduction and calling for more kidnappings.

In Rudoren’s telling it seems that Abbas is the only reasonable Palestinian in sight and that he is under attack for nothing more than an offer of help in the search for three missing teens.

Times readers, however, hear nothing of the wider context in this story, the occupation itself, the brutality of the search operation, and the role of the Palestinian Authority that compounds the misery of its own people.

Last Friday, the U.S. trained PA troops attacked nonviolent demonstrators and a CNN crew in Hebron as they rallied in support of hunger strikers in Israeli detention. Wives and mothers of the detainees were injured. Earlier this month, the PA roughed up journalists during another demonstration, and this week, the PA worked hand in hand with Israeli soldiers when they invaded Ramallah, the PA stronghold.

“Both forces, Israeli and Palestinian, were attacking the Palestinian people on the streets [of Ramallah],” writes Allison Deger in Mondoweiss. She also reports that the PA had been notified in advance of the invasion and Ramallah residents were dismayed at the PA’s failure to protect them against Israeli fire.

The incursion into Ramallah came after more than a week of violent searches and mass arrests throughout the West Bank, well beyond the Hebron area where the teens went missing. Soldiers trashed homes and offices, injuring hundreds and leaving at least five dead.

In this context and in light of the PA’s actions against its own people, the anger with Abbas is reasonable and expected. The Times, however, would have you believe he is the victim of irrational rage.

Although Rudoren provides some data—the number of Palestinians arrested (340), the number of searches conducted so far (1,350), even the number of Palestinian dead (four at the time of writing, now five, or six, if we include a heart attack victim)—there is no hint of the suffering inflicted on innocent residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

Rudoren has also failed to report that the violence of Israeli’s raids on Palestinian communities prompted a consortium of 12 rights groups to condemn the collective punishment of an entire population. Amnesty International also demanded a halt to the incursions last week, and reports say that the Palestinian Authority (incoherently, in view of its collaboration with Israel) is planning an appeal to the United Nations Security Council to force a halt to the raids.

Her story also comes up with a peculiar phrase in her description of this latest crisis. She writes of the “huge gulf, political and psychological, between the long-warring neighbors,” as if we had two separate states here, longtime neighbors with their grievances. This is an odd way to speak about the military occupation of a beleaguered land.

The Times follows Israeli hasbara (propaganda) conscientiously. Omitting any mention of the hard realities of occupation and military abuse, it would have you believe that Palestinians are caught up in a culture of hate, a free-floating hostility without reason.

Not so long ago, Abbas was the villain who destroyed the peace process by acceding to international organizations. Today he is the good guy facing off against his fanatical constituents. It is all about Israel. When he went against the demands of the Israeli state, he was vilified. Now that he is cooperating, it is those who oppose him who take the heat.

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.”]

NY Times Blogger Destroys Israeli Spin 

Robert Mackey in his NYTimes.com blog, The Lede, has published a video showing the killing of two Palestinian teenagers during a protest and in the same post destroys an Israeli journalist’s claim that he was “attacked and beaten” by a hostile Palestinian mob.

Kudos to the Times for giving Mackey the latitude to publish his piece online (even though his blog is out of sight of the casual browser). Mackey has shown dedication to the truth before, attracting the ire of pro-Israel watchdog groups like CAMERA. In 2010, for instance, he published a raw video of the murderous Israeli attack on the flotilla ship Mavi Marmara.

This time he posts a video released by Defense of Children International that shows the scene outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank on May 15, when a group gathered to demonstrate on Nakba Day, the commemoration of the “catastrophe,” when over 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes to make way for the State of Israel.

The video shows the moment each boy was shot and substantiates the claims of witnesses that neither posed a threat. Although an army spokesperson described protestors as a menacing mob, throwing stones and firebombs and ignoring orders from soldiers, the DCI film shows otherwise. Each of the teenagers was walking alone in an open area when he fell to the ground. One was actually heading away from the action and was shot in the back. Both young men died at the scene.

Mackey’s post also takes on the claims of Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff, who wrote that he and a colleague were “seconds away from being beaten to death” by a Palestinian mob during the protest. They survived only by pure chance, he writes in The Times of Israel, because plainclothes members of the Palestinian security forces rescued them

Mackey quotes an Israeli activist and a French journalist who saw the exchange between the two men and the Palestinians. There was pushing and shoving but nothing more, they said, adding that the Palestinians were afraid that one of journalists was videotaping protestors to turn over to security forces.

The print story of the shooting appeared in the Times under the byline of Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. She quoted the Israeli military, who claimed that they used nonviolent means to disperse the crowd, but also cited Palestinians and Amnesty International, who disputed the army account. It was a fair story in itself.

Last week Rudoren wrote a reasonably sympathetic (though limited) piece about the Nakba, which appeared only in the international edition, and last month, when Hamas and Fatah announced their unity deal, the Times published a range of op-ed pieces online, featuring commentators who rarely get mention in print.

The lesson here is this: The gatekeepers who reject news and commentary that fails to hew closely to the Israeli spin are hard at work in the print news section of the Times. There we find contorted efforts to hide negative stories under misleading headlines, articles that give the first and last word to Israeli spokespersons and commentary limited to Israeli and U.S. official; there we often hear nothing at all about innocent victims of trigger-happy Israeli troops.

Beyond that sphere, online and in the international edition, real reporting occasionally challenges the official narrative of Palestine-Israel, and when it appears it can shine a sudden light on the usual murk in the Times. But even there the day-to-day coverage is missing. Reporting that challenges the official narrative concerning Palestine appears only sporadically in The Lede, online and in the international edition.

Readers need to follow alternative media such as Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada to find daily reports from unofficial and on-the-ground perspectives. And they can always go to Palestinian sources, such as Ma’an News and the International Middle East Media Center.

Mackey’s latest post, however, keeps hope alive that eventually the fortified walls surrounding the news and opinion section of the Times may begin to crumble. Meanwhile, readers can search online for the occasional breakthrough and keep watch here for TimesWarp updates.

Barbara Erickson

The IDF: Judge, Prosecutor, Executioner and Witness

“Israeli Raid Leaves 3 Dead In West Bank Refugee Area.” So reads yesterday’s headline in The New York Times. We learn that Israeli forces came to the Jenin refugee camp to arrest Hamza Abu El-Hijja, 22, in a pre-dawn raid, that a gunfight broke out, and that he was killed as he tried to escape capture.

Then there is a curious lapse. We learn the names of the other men who died but nothing of the circumstances of their death, in spite of the fact that there was an arresting story to tell: Witnesses said the men were killed as they tried to carry their friend’s body away from the scene of conflict.

How does the Times handle this news? It lists the names of the two men and says “Palestinian news media reported that they were unarmed, though Colonel Lerner [the army spokesperson] said they had ‘weapons or explosive devices’ and were ‘part of a contingency plan’ to corner the Israeli troops.”

The reporter, Jodi Rudoren, says nothing about the context of their death. She quotes Lerner directly but briefly paraphrases the Palestinian press and omits any reference to the testimony of witnesses. If readers had heard the full account, they might be asking how men carrying a body, armed or not, posed any threat to troops.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has given us a different perspective on this almost routine account of Palestinian deaths. Gideon Levy, a longtime voice for justice, writes of the wanted man as a human being, someone he remembers as a child, the son of militants, a family man close to his mother and siblings.

In the Israeli army’s words, Hamza was “a ticking time bomb,” nothing but a terrorist, and his death “actually saved lives” by thwarting an attack. Levy’s story comes with a photo of Hamzi [his name is spelled differently in Haaretz], smiling and holding a young girl on his lap: “Wearing sweats, he was playing with his little niece and joined the conversation we were having with his mother. He smiled a lot and said he was not afraid.”

Then Levy goes on to tell of the other two men, saying eye witnesses reported that “they were killed as they were carrying Hamzi’s body to his family home, which is a distance from where the gun battle had occurred.” This had also been reported in an earlier Haaretz story by other writers, and came out in a detailed press release today by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

In the Times the army has the first and last word on Abu El-Hijja. Readers see no photo of a smiling young man. Instead, the story comes with an aerial shot of his funeral, showing a seething mass of mourners, the usual Times take on Palestinians as a threatening group, members of the angry “Arab street.”

We can also thank Haaretz for memorializing a young Palestinian shot last Wednesday, Yusef Abu Aker Shawamreh, 14, who was killed when he went out with friends to gather a wild plant called tumble thistle near the separation barrier. “Poor families receive five shekels, less than a dollar and a half, for every kilogram that children like Yusef harvest from the fields,” Amira Hass writes.

In an open letter to the soldier who shot the unarmed boy, Hass says that Yusef and his friends headed for “a large opening in the fence there that surely had been made over several days,” that the children left their village of Deir al-Asal al-Fauqa at 6:30 a.m. and that shots were heard a half hour later.

A sniper team had been waiting in the dark and opened fire on the three boys from 50 to 70 yards away. Yusef’s friends dropped to the ground, but he continued running and was killed with a shot to the back. The friends, 12 and 17 years of age, were arrested but later released.

Hass deals head-on with the army’s account: “According to an official at the IDF Spokesman’s Office, you claimed you fired on a Palestinian because he had sabotaged the separation barrier. You’re not only judge, prosecutor and executioner, but also witness.”

This kind of challenge is missing from the Times, which shows deference to army pronouncements. Even when later accounts and investigations blow holes in official responses to yet another Palestinian death, the Times avoids follow-up. In the case of Yusef Abu Aker Shawamreh, it never bothered to mention his death at all.

Barbara Erickson 

 

 

 

 

Deaths in Gaza Provide Cover for “Other News”

Israel killed three men in Gaza yesterday, and The New York Times has reported the fact in a meandering story that serves as a smokescreen for other, more revealing news: Prime Minister Nethanyahu’s apology to Jordan for the killing of a judge on Monday.

The headline (“Amid Escalating Violence, Israeli Strike Kills 3 Militants in Gaza”) and lead paragraph provide the smokescreen, and thus the story by Jodi Rudoren states at the outset that the Gaza men were militants who had fired at Israeli troops moments before.

Although civilian victims, such as  a mentally ill Gaza woman shot last week, often fail to get any mention at all, Rudoren has no problem reporting the deaths of Ismail Abu Jouda, 23; Shaer Shanab, 24; and Abdel Shafi Abu Muammar, 33; identified as members of Islamic Jihad. The militant group said that the men had been trying to resist an Israeli incursion into Gaza when they were shot.

The article makes the observation, oft-repeated in Times stories about Gaza casualties, that the deaths are part of increasing violence between Israel and Gaza and this threatens the fragile ceasefire of November 2012.

On the Gaza side, increasing violence means mainly ineffective rocket attacks by splinter groups defying Hamas requests to hold fire. On the Israeli side, it includes attacks on Gaza farmers and fishermen; extrajudicial killings; excessive force leading to the deaths of innocent civilians; airstrikes on infrastructure and residents; and Israeli incursions inside the border to destroy orchards, crops and structures.

Rudoren notes that Israeli security forces have killed 13 Gaza residents so far this year, but she fails to explain that several were civilians, such as Amneh Qdeih, the woman shot last week; Ibrahim Mansour, 36, who was killed as he collected gravel near the border on Feb. 13; and Adnan Jamil Shehda Abu Khater, 17, shot as he approached the border with friends on Jan. 2.

She makes no mention of the Israeli death toll, which stands at zero, unless we include the unfortunate soldier, Capt. Tal Nachman, 21, killed on Feb. 4 in “friendly fire.” (Another soldier saw “suspicious movement” in the bottom of a truck parked near the border fence and shot him in the back as he slept.)

Her story also reports that “Israeli tanks, bulldozers and troops were operating inside the border fence, which Palestinians consider a violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

In fact, this is not merely an opinion held by the residents of Gaza. This is the first provision of the ceasefire, which states, “A. Israel shall stop all hostilities in the Gaza strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.” Rudoren’s statement that “Palestinians consider [incursions] a violation” thus falls short of the truth.

The Times story can’t stick to Gaza, however. It makes an awkward transition into a different topic, the killing of a Jordanian judge on Monday. Rudoren notes that Jordanians protested at the Israeli embassy, calling for an end to the Israeli Jordanian peace treaty of 1994. In response, she writes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “expressed regret” at the killing and agreed to take part in a joint Jordanian-Israeli investigation into the incident.

Although Netanyahu’s apology points to a tacit admission of Israeli culpability in the death of the Raed Zeiter, Rudoren makes no attempt to question the Israeli army’s claim that the man had grabbed a gun and attacked soldiers. She reported this charge in a story yesterday and by her silence allows it to stand today.

Instead, she quotes Israeli officials who say they are cooperating with Jordan’s investigation in order to avoid violence and calm tempers. There is no hint that the facts of the case may have influenced the decision.

In other news outlets, the apology to Jordan is worth a story on its own. See, for instance, the Los Angeles Times and BBC, who are not afraid to run headlines announcing this news.

In The New York Times, however, the Jordanian judge tragedy hides behind the Gaza killings. Now the Times can claim that it has indeed covered the story of Netanyahu’s apology to Jordan, even though this news appears under a diversionary headline and even as the article avoids the implications of the apology. Gaza is a story in itself; it is also a convenient smokescreen for the Times.

Barbara Erickson

No Room for Dissent: The Times Hews to the Israeli Line

One is a bizarre and improbable story: A Jordanian judge goes berserk at a border crossing and grabs a soldier’s gun. He has to be shot dead on the spot.

The other is a story recycled for propaganda effect: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displays arms seized from a ship last week, repeating his charge that the rockets were bound for Gaza and sent by Iran.

The New York Times has them both today, the first by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren and the second by Isabel Kershner. Both of them fail in the same way, discarding details that fall outside the official Israeli narrative.

According to Rudoren’s account, a 38-year-old Jordanian judge of Palestinian descent tried to grab a soldier’s gun at the Allenby Bridge crossing on Monday before seizing a metal bar and shouting “Allahu akbar (God is great).” She quotes Col. Yaron Beit-On as saying, “The soldiers understood they had no way to handle him; they used a gun and they shot him. They were in danger.”

Rudoren does not explain how the man threatened the soldiers or why they could not incapacitate him otherwise. She acknowledges that “Palestinian and Jordanian officials questioned the Israeli account,” but she dismisses their concerns in one sentence: “Colonel Beit-On said it was based on interviews with witnesses, including the Jordanian bus driver.”

So much for the other side of the story. She goes no further than the Israeli army spokesman, even when the killing involves a Jordanian judge from the magistrate court in Amman. The fact that Netanyahu apologized today for the killing throws even more doubt on the official account.

Times readers will have to look elsewhere for the competing narrative. The Los Angeles Times cites Jordanian reports that the judge, Raed Zeiter, reached for a metal detector as he was being searched and made no effort to seize a gun. Al Jazeera states that witnesses described nothing but a verbal altercation between Zeiter and a soldier. (Also see an extensive eyewitness account at this site.)

Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times and other outlets also place the killing in context, noting that Amnesty International recently released a report on “trigger happy” Israeli soldiers who killed 41 civilians between January 2011and December 2013. None of them posed any threat to the soldiers, the report said. The Times, however, makes no mention of this report.

The Kershner story on Iranian arms runs above the article about the judge’s killing. It comes with a photo of Netanyahu inspecting rockets and missiles in Eilat on Monday, and it describes the event as “a public relations spectacle” designed to expose “the true face of Iran” to the world.

Although Kershner calls the event a spectacle, this is the only note of irony or skepticism in the story. It then goes on to quote the prime minister on his anger at the “hypocrisy” of the international community for engaging in talks with Iran. It also quotes Israelis who support his version of events.

Missing from her story are the denials from officials in Iran and Gaza that the weapons either originated in Iran or were bound for Hamas in Gaza. Other media outlets follow normal journalistic procedures and include these denials. (See Reuters, for instance, and BBC.)

Kershner’s story also ignores other takes on the arms shipment seizure, such as that by blogger Richard Silverstein, who notes that even if arms came from Iran, this is no proof that they were supplied by the government. Her article stays well within the official Israeli narrative and never quotes Iranian officials, Hamas or any of the international players who come under fire from the prime minister.

Moreover, there is a third story tucked into the pages of the Times today, an add-on at the end of the article about the Jordanian judge. Rudoren tells us in one paragraph that the Israeli army also killed Saji Sayel Darwish, 20, on Monday when soldiers opened fire on a group throwing rocks at vehicles near the settlement of Beit El.

Rudoren again fails to include any comments beyond those emanating from the army itself when, in fact, other accounts dispute the army’s claims. Yahoo news reports that the man’s family said he was herding goats at the time he was shot. Yahoo quotes an official source, Laila Ghannam, Palestinian governor of nearby Ramallah: “There were no signs of clashes in the area and it was clear by the man’s clothes he was there to take care of the goats.”

The murdered judge Raed Zeiter, young Saji Darwish, Iranian officials and Hamas officials never receive their due in the pages of the Times. Israeli soldiers, responsible for two killings, are allowed to give their explanations in full. The Israeli prime minister receives the attention he demands. Others are denied a voice.

Barbara Erickson