NY Times Bureau Chief Serves Israeli Agenda: Distorting History, Ignoring Oppression

One month into his stint as New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, Peter Baker has struck a world-weary tone: In his telling, the turmoil of Palestine-Israel is nothing more than an ancient feud, and the United Nations has grown tired of hearing about it from two intransigent leaders.

The effect of this jaded stance is to leave readers with the impression that Palestinians and Israelis face off over a level playing field and they have been doing so for millennia, two notions that serve to benefit Israel above all.

In a piece about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Baker juxtaposes their comments as if they were two contenders facing off in a boxing ring, hurling invectives at each other. Where Abbas speaks of “heinous crimes” and a “historic catastrophe,” he says, Netanyahu lashes out with charges of “fanaticism” and “inhumanity.”

The two men, Baker writes, are “guilt-tripping” the international community; they are “filled with grievance and bristling with resentment;” and they “summon the ghosts of history from hundreds and even thousands of years ago to make their cases.” But, he states, “the world has begun to move on” as other crises, such as the war in Syria, take center stage.

The tenor is one of fatigue and cynicism, which does a disservice to readers and to the cause of honest journalism. Baker makes no attempt to discern the truth or falsity of any of the statements, dismissing them all as nothing more than rivalry.

When he says that the world has moved on, this implies that the United Nations itself has grown weary of the conflict, but late in his piece Baker quotes Netanyahu on the world body, providing readers with clear evidence that the organization is still very much engaged in the issue.

Baker tells us that the Israeli prime minister bitterly attacked the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the UN cultural agency, and knowledgeable readers will find the reasons for Netanyahu’s resentment obvious: UN agencies frequently report on Israeli violations of international and humanitarian law, and the UN has granted membership status to Palestine, over the objections of Israel.

Nevertheless, the Times article would have us believe that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has become passé, that the world is tired of these two bitter rivals who refuse to make up.

In presenting the issue in this light, Baker hides the terrible disparity between the two sides and ignores the urgent issues of injustice and international law.

He writes in this vein knowing that Abbas and Netanyahu represent two very different political and military realities. The United States, as the Times has recently reported, provides massive amounts of military aid to Israel each year, but it provides absolutely none to Palestinians. It also supports Israel at the United Nations, wielding its veto power to block resolutions critical of Israel, even those that echo its own policy statements.

Moreover, Baker and Times editors certainly know that Palestinians have no army, air force or navy; no tanks, warships, drones or nuclear arms; and that Israel has all this and more. They also have UN data for 2016, which show that, as of Sept. 19, 89 Palestinians had been killed by Israelis, while 10 Israelis had died at the hands of Palestinians.

Moreover, they know the shocking Gaza death toll from the summer of 2014, in which, according to the Israeli organization B’Tselem, Israeli forces killed 2,202 Palestinians, two-thirds of them civilians and 526 of them children. By contrast, Gaza fighters and rockets killed 72 Israelis, including 62 soldiers and one child.

The disparity is enormous, yet Baker has chosen to present the situation as a conflict between two equal sides. He has also adopted the “ancient hatreds” line that ignores the reality of Palestinian dispossession since 1947 and the present brutality inflicted on an occupied people by the powerful Israeli state.

Two days after his Abbas vs. Netanyahu story appeared, Baker published a piece on soccer in the West Bank, writing in the lead that “the latest battleground in the age-old struggle” between Israelis and Palestinians” was a dispute over whether FIFA rules allow Israeli soccer teams to play in West Bank settlements.

He thus manages to distort history, trivialize Palestinian resistance and maintain the false impression of parity between the two sides, ignoring evidence that pre-Zionist Palestine saw peaceful coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The “age-old struggle” is actually a recent one.

In dubbing conflict over soccer as “latest battlefield” he turns his back on urgent and immediate issues: recent Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces; the state-sponsored destruction of homes and livelihoods (including humanitarian aid donated to struggling communities); and continued attacks on unarmed fishermen and farmers in Gaza.

When Baker suggests that the conflict is fueled by ancient and intractable animosities, that only the two sides take any real interest in its outcome and that it involves petty disputes and little more than a war of words, this serves the Israeli agenda. He is directing our attention away from the core issues, allowing Israel to carry out its brutal regime of dispossession and oppression well under the radar.

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.]

Advertisements

The NY Times, Netanyahu’s Stenographer

The New York Times serves as Benjamin Netanyahu’s stenographer in a story this week that reports his latest rant against critics of Israeli policy, repeating his claims at length but making no attempt to verify or even question the distortions in his response.

The Israeli prime minister was reacting to comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who criticized Israel’s settlement construction in and around East Jerusalem during a session in parliament Wednesday, saying that he found the situation “genuinely shocking.” The Times, which made no mention of Cameron’s remarks at the time, now presents us with an article by Isabel Kershner framed around the official Israeli response.

Her story, “Benjamin Netanyahu Rebukes David Cameron for Criticizing Israel,” gives much space to the prime minister’s assertions and allows him the final word. It also quotes Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and lets the comments of both men to stand without challenge.

Netanyahu, speaking at a political meeting Thursday, portrayed Israel as the peacekeeper in East Jerusalem, saying that “only Israeli sovereignty” has prevented ISIS “and Hamas from igniting the holy sites as they are doing all over the Middle East.”

He implied that Israel has brought prosperity to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, citing “roads, clinics, employment and all the other trappings of normal life that their brethren do not enjoy elsewhere in the Middle East.” Mayor Barkat also stated that Israel is building “the newest, most advanced schools” for Palestinian youth and paving new roads for residents.

The Times made no attempt to challenge the veracity of these comments although they grossly misrepresent the situation Palestinians face in occupied East Jerusalem. The data is available for all to see and is certainly familiar to Kershner and Times editors.

For instance, as of January 2011:

  • Entire Palestinian neighborhoods were not connected to a sewer system and lacked paved roads and sidewalks.
  • West Jerusalem had 1,000 public parks compared to 45 in East Jerusalem.
  • West Jerusalem had 34 swimming pools; East Jerusalem had three.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the sewage pipes, roads and sidewalks in the city were found in West Jerusalem.
  • West Jerusalem had 26 libraries; East Jerusalem had two.

More recent news also belies the claims of Netanyahu and Barkat. Far from working to provide education, health care and road access for Palestinian residents, Israeli policies and actions have made life more and more difficult for the non-Jewish residents of the city:

  • In 2015, Israel placed dozens of Palestinian children under house arrest in East Jerusalem, preventing them from attending school.
  • The Israeli government has been working with settler groups to dispossess Palestinians of their homes.
  • More than a third of East Jerusalem students are unable to complete high school because there are not enough classrooms. (Under an order by the Israeli High Court, some new classrooms are being built, but these will only alleviate the shortage by half.)
  • Some 38 percent of East Jerusalem’s planned areas have been confiscated for the development of Jewish settler neighborhoods, while only 2.6 percent is zoned for public buildings—such as schools—for the city’s indigenous Palestinians.
  • Israeli invasions of Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem hospital and restrictions on patients attempting to enter the hospital prompted several United Nations agencies to condemn the actions as violations of international law.
  • By Feb. 22,  Israeli forces had demolished 27 Palestinian-owned structures in East Jerusalem, including a school, since the beginning of this year.

Kershner’s story, however, makes no mention of any of this. The focus here is solely on the Israeli show of outrage. Netanyahu and Barkat’s statements are allowed to stand, even the claim that Hamas and ISIS are working together to foment terrorism. In fact, the two are bitter enemies, but the Times has no interest in disabusing its readers of this inconvenient fact.

Cameron’s statements gave the Times an opening, a chance to examine the settlement enterprise, conditions in East Jerusalem and the attitudes of Palestinian leaders and citizens living under Israeli control. But this was not to be. Only the Israeli narrative was of interest to the Times, and even the prime minister of the United Kingdom could not make his voice heard above its strident demands.

Barbara Erickson

The Constant Cruelty of the Israeli Occupation: A No-go Zone in The NY Times

As Israelis and Palestinians die in an upsurge of violence, The New York Times fails once again to give readers an honest look at the causes of this agonizing conflict. Missing from its pages is any real exposure of the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine that underscores every aspect of the current crisis.

Thus we find a story today that focuses on the abstract: how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can “calibrate his response” to avoid provoking greater violence and satisfy his extremist opponents in the government. It is heavily weighted with Israeli punditry and refers to ongoing clashes and attacks, but it makes no effort to provide the essential context.

In this article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner the word “occupation” appears only in a quote by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. “Palestine,” she says, “has been subject to the systematic and escalating violence of the occupation, whether in the form of settler-terrorism or at the hands of the Israeli military using live ammunition.”

Times readers are likely to dismiss her words as little more than rhetorical flourishes of the opposition, given that the newspaper has consistently failed to show the full reality of life for Palestinians, glossing over violence by soldiers and settlers and giving prominence to Palestinian attacks.

For instance, today’s report states that a Palestinian teenager was shot after he tried to stab an Israeli youth early Sunday, but it omits any mention that videos show he was chased down by a mob, shot by police, was carrying no knife and did not pose a threat to anyone in the area.

The story also says nothing of settler rampages throughout the West Bank in recent days, which have left dozens injured and forced the Red Crescent Society to declare a state of emergency after numerous attacks on its ambulances by both settlers and security forces.

Times readers rarely receive even a brief glimpse of what occupation means to Palestinians. The newspaper largely ignores the constant reports emanating from alternative media, the United Nations and monitoring groups that show how a sophisticated military power oppresses a nearly helpless population lacking even the most basic weapons for defense.

Readers remain ignorant of the Israeli abuse of Palestinian child prisoners, a situation that has been documented and criticized in numerous reports. They are unaware of the frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza fishermen and farmers and a recent United Kingdom report that states Israel has violated the 2014 ceasefire some 700 times since August of last year.

They hear nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli troops harass the poorest and most vulnerable communities, burning their crops, destroying their tents and water systems and repeatedly forcing them from their homes for “maneuvers.”

They are unaware of the huge disparity in water supplies between the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the indigenous Palestinian villages, and they were never informed when hundreds of animals died in the West Bank community of Kafr Qaddoum this summer as Israeli officials cut off water deliveries during a stifling heat wave.

These constant, daily cruelties find no place in the Times, and readers likewise find no historical backdrop for the occupation. It is rarely, if ever, reported that Israel is in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a military occupying force and that the settlements are built in defiance of international law.

Without this backstory, it is not surprising when readers take Netanyahu’s claim at face value: that acts of resistance against the occupation are nothing but terrorist assaults arising out of a free-floating hatred of Jews.

Palestinians watch with dismay as Israel confiscates ever more land and resources, forcing the indigenous communities into poverty-stricken bantustans. This is the reality that is missing from the Times, deliberately obscured in the context-free reporting of Rudoren and Kershner.

Barbara Erickson

Israeli Racism on Trial in the Strange Case of Two Missing Men

A full 10 months after Ethiopian Israeli Avera Mengistu made his way into Gaza, not to be heard from since, officials have allowed his name to appear in print, and The New York Times has offered us a report that promotes Israeli spin, omitting key details and glossing over the government’s unsavory role in this strange tale.

Isabel Kershner tells us that Israeli officials, lifting a gag order on the story, announced that Mengistu and a second Israeli citizen, a Palestinian, were being held in Gaza. Officials said Mengistu crossed into Gaza voluntarily on Sept. 7, but they had nothing more to report about the other man.

Kershner’s story gives the impression that Israeli officials have been working hard to free the men, but it omits details reported in other media that suggest a far different story. These reports state that officials ignored the Ethiopian’s case until American blogger Richard Silverstein exposed the name of the missing man last month and Ethiopian-Israelis began raising the issue in street protests.

It was only then, this past week, that the government agreed to lift the gag order, which had applied to Mengistu’s family as well as news media. Family members are now saying that the government forced them to remain silent but failed to respond to their requests for information and help until recently.

An Israeli television station, Channel 10, gave weight to their claims by broadcasting a conversation between a Netanyahu aide and Mengistu’s parents. Israelis heard Lior Lotan, Netanyahu’s representative for missing persons, threaten the family members and warn them against criticizing the government’s handling of the case or blaming it on discrimination.

If they did so, he said, their son would be left “in Gaza for another year.” The recording also captures complaints by Mengistu’s father that he had written to Netanyahu several times and received no response. The prime minister, according to reports, never called the family until just before lifting the gag order.

But nothing of this appears in the Times story. Here we are told that “the news blackout regarding Mr. Mengistu had been imposed with the agreement of his family.” We also hear that Netanyahu is taking a tough line, telling Hamas he holds the party responsible for the welfare of the two men.

Kershner appears eager to counter the charges of discrimination coming from the Ethiopian community and their supporters. She repeatedly links Mengistu’s disappearance to the case of Gilad Shalit, an Askenazi Jew, who was taken captive in 2006 in Gaza and later exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. The Shalit affair “traumatized” Israeli society, she writes, and the Mengistu case threatens to “open old wounds.”

The Shalit affair followed a different route and quickly received widespread publicity in Israel, with a full-scale campaign for his release. Ethiopian-Israelis, who have been protesting government treatment this year, have noted the difference.

Kershner, however, waits until her final paragraphs before she makes brief mention of the Mengistu family’s objections to the government response. Their complaints, she implies, are part of a general “discontent” on the part of Ethiopian Israelis who have made “accusations of discrimination and police harassment.”

Kershner’s story avoids still further evidence that Netanyahu had little interest in the Mengistu case: Several officials in the Security Cabinet and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said after the gag order was lifted that they had never received official briefings on the affair.

It was a request from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Kershner writes, that finally led officials to lift the news blackout. Authorities had rejected previous requests, she writes, adding, “It is not clear what prompted the change.”

In fact, Kershner and others who have followed this story know why the order was rescinded: The silence was broken last month when Silverstein revealed Mengistu’s name in a Mint Press News article. Soon afterwards Ethiopian Israelis showed up on the streets wearing T-shirts with Mengistu’s name.

But the Times gives no credit to Silverstein, who had reported last October that an unnamed man was missing in Gaza. Silverstein recently revealed the name of the second missing man, Hashem al-Sayyed, who apparently disappeared April 20 from his Bedouin village in the Negev. This man’s father also complained of official negligence in his son’s case.

Kershner’s story omits the most telling details of the Mengistu case—the threats against the family, their evidence of negligence and the ignorance of high government officials—while she gives weight to officials’ statements of concern for the missing man. It is all in line with official spin.

As a result, readers are likely to remain ignorant of the full story concerning Mengistu and al-Sayyed. The actions of Netanyahu and the revelations of Israeli racism as they appear in this tale are off limits in the Times, and the curious and the caring will have to find the full story elsewhere.

Barbara Erickson

The NY Times Airbrushes Palestinians From the West Bank

As the Israeli election approaches, The New York Times has provided us with a broad look at West Bank settlements, publishing an online piece with interactive maps to illustrate their rapid growth and an analysis of spending, population, planning and construction and how all this will shake out in the final vote.

The lavishly illustrated piece, “Netanyahu and the Settlements,” seems to provide readers with a quick overview of the issues, but it is all smoke and mirrors: A major element of the West Bank is missing here—the Palestinians, the indigenous residents of this landscape.

In all of this lengthy article, reporter Jodi Rudoren  never once quotes a Palestinian source. We meet settlers and we hear from American and Israeli officials, but Palestinian voices are omitted entirely. Their opinions emerge only in brief phrases—“Palestinians object” or “Palestinians do not accept”—never with a name attached.

After brief dabs of local color in the opening paragraphs, Times readers are introduced to an airbrushed West Bank, without a Palestinian community in sight: “The West Bank,” they write, “is 2,100 square miles of rolling hills dotted by some 200 Jewish settlements surrounded by security fences. They include the hilltop city of Ariel, with its own university and regional theater; planned communities of cookie-cutter houses with red-tile roofs; and hilltop outposts where a few dozen people live in trailers.”

Readers are then taken on a tour of several settlements, and they can click on aerial views to watch them grow over time, but they never visit Palestinian cities or villages, the native communities of this land. In this West Bank there is no Bethlehem or Jericho, no Jenin or Nablus; it is all a Jewish affair.

We learn that international opinion opposes settlement growth, and we get a look at how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accelerated construction during his tenures, but the Times avoids any look at the devastating consequences of settlement building on Palestinian lives.

In the Times, the problem is nothing more than an abstract issue of negotiations and electoral politics. It is a “dilemma for peacemakers” or a “central element of his troubled relationship with Washington,” all of which is far removed from the ugly facts on the ground.

Times readers learn virtually nothing about the ethnic cleansing that accompanies settlement expansion and the harsh consequences for Palestinians. Other media outlets and monitoring groups, however, provide frequent accounts of settler and army harassment, demolitions, olive tree burnings and land seizures, all aimed at driving Palestinians off their land.

Last week, for instance, Israeli bulldozers invaded a Jordan Valley herding community and bulldozed tin shacks and tents that were sheltering the families. The community, Khirbet Ein Karzaliyah, has clung to the land in spite of repeated demolitions. The Red Cross and other aid agencies supply new tents, but Israeli authorities return repeatedly to tear down homes and animal pens, leaving the residents and their stock exposed to the elements.

It is part of a “decades-long policy to expel thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of shepherding communities” in the West Bank, an IMEMC news article stated. It referred readers to a report by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, which details the efforts to force these Palestinians off their land and make way for Jewish ownership and development.

Other reports last week exposed the military use of “firing zones” as a means of seizing land under Palestinian ownership. It told of another Jordan Valley community where the army forced Palestinians out of their homes by designating an area as a firing zone for training exercises. It then reduced the size of the zone and allowed settlers to move in and build there.

In the Times, settlements come at no cost to Palestinians. They are simply a matter of contention and take up land that Palestinians “would like to have” as a future state. There is no mention of the deprivation and suffering settlements cause and no recognition that the land they stand on was stolen from its indigenous owners.

Readers learn that the international community opposes Israeli settlement building, but we never get a look at what is driving this opposition. The Times prefers to stand at a distance from the reality of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, reducing human suffering to abstractions and removing the victims from the scene.

Barbara Erickson

Somebody Needs to Tell The NY Times: Israel Has The Bomb

The New York Times has had plenty to say about Iran and nuclear ambitions recently—in op-eds, editorials and news stories; in reports on negotiating sessions and in articles about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coming speech to Congress, at which he will raise the alarm about Iran’s ability to produce a bomb.

In all these venues—opinion pieces and news accounts—one element of this story is taken for granted: A nuclear proficient Iran would be a threat and cannot be allowed. As Israeli politician Isaac Herzog wrote in a Times op-ed published this weekend, “If [Iran] goes nuclear, the Middle East will go nuclear, putting world peace itself in jeopardy.”

Yet, in spite of all the words devoted to this issue, a major piece of information is missing: The Middle East has already gone nuclear. Israel has had the bomb since 1967 and is counted as the world’s sixth nuclear state, with a stockpile of weaponry possibly equal to that of France and the United Kingdom.

As Netanyahu warns against nuclear research in Iran and the Times editorial board insists that Iran allow “even more aggressive inspections” by the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is no mention of the fact that Israel has refused to allow any inspections of its advanced nuclear program and refuses even to confirm that it exists.

There is no compelling reason to prevent the Times from writing about Israel’s nukes. The newspaper has already published at least one opinion piece urging more openness on the issue; similar commentary has appeared in other publications, such as The New Yorker; and academic groups have openly issued assessments of Israel’s program.

Israeli scholar Avner Cohen has published two books on the subject (the second is titled The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb). Seymour Hersh, a former member of the Times’ own staff, has written one (The Samson Option), and Israeli journalist Ari Shavit dedicated an entire chapter in his book, My Promised Land, to the creation of Israel’s nuclear facility. Shavit speaks with pride of this accomplishment and notes that his chapter won the approval of Israeli censors.

The Federation of American Scientists states that “the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons is a ‘public secret’ by now due to the declassification of large numbers of formerly highly classified US government documents which show that the United States by 1975 was convinced that Israel had nuclear weapons.”

It is only left to determine just how many nuclear weapons Israel possesses and how it is capable of delivering them. The estimates vary from 80 (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) to 300 weapons, which can be launched by land, air and sea.

In 2009 Israel and its nukes made the news when the general conference of the IAEA called on Israel to open its facilities to inspection. The Israeli delegate to the conference rejected the request, saying, “Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution.”

In the face of all this, the Times recently published a lead editorial concerning “the protracted nuclear threat from Iran” and how best to contain it. The piece noted that “Iran’s major nuclear installations are already monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and watched by the United States.”

But, the editorial insisted, this is not enough. Iran must also ratify the IAEA’s “additional protocol” in order to “ensure materials are not diverted to a covert nuclear weapons program.”

A covert nuclear program is precisely what Israel has had since the 1950s, but the Times has nothing to say about it. Moreover, while Israel has refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty or allow inspections of its program, Iran has done both. It is a signatory to the treaty and allows IAEA visits to its facilities.

Here is Israeli exceptionalism at its irrational worst. The Times has no problem pointing the finger at Iran, which has signed the treaty and allowed inspections, but it shields Israel, which has done neither and is already capable of launching nuclear weapons against its neighbors in the Middle East.

If it chose to report this issue fully, the Times could rely on expert analysis and testimony as evidence, and it could point to the precedence of publications which have “outed” the program in their writings. The information is readily available, but the newspaper prefers to say nothing.

At the least, the Times could say that Israel is “widely believed” to possess nuclear weapons, but it avoids even this construct. As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal in public, The New York Times remains silent as well.

Readers are entitled to a fully informed treatment of the current debate over Iran and nuclear arms in the Middle East, but there is no sign that this will happen anytime soon. The newspaper places its obligations to journalism behind its loyalty to Israel, and readers are the losers in this game—once again.

Barbara Erickson

NY Times (and Netanyahu) Co-opt Paris Massacre

“Israelis Link Attacks To Their Own Struggles,” reads a recent headline in The New York Times. The story, with a prominent photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fills the top of a front section page in the paper’s print edition.

It is pure hype. The horrifying Paris shootings are not an Israeli story, and Netanyahu is making a big stretch to appropriate the tragedy for his own use. Unfortunately, the Times is a willing partner in this effort.

Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren writes in the Times article that Netanyahu equated the Paris attackers with Israel’s enemies, including Hamas and Hezbollah, and stated that “Israel is being attacked by the very same forces that attack Europe.”

And his remarks, Rudoren says, came before a gunman and several hostages died in a standoff at a kosher supermarket. This development, she writes, “brought things closer to home for Jews in Israel and beyond”—as if it revealed that anti-Semitism was at the heart of the attacks.

In fact, in thousands of words devoted to the shootings, the Times makes no connection between the motives of the gunmen and Israel, even in stories about their background and training under Al Qaeda. The anger and hostility they expressed was directed at France and French society.

The Times would do better to focus on the actual victims of Al Qaeda and its related movements in Iraq and Syria. There we could hear from those who know firsthand just how these groups operate.

Instead it is Israeli “struggles” that are promoted here and Israeli complaints that the world ignores their fight with terrorism. Rudoren does give voice to critics of Israel, but she does so obliquely, paraphrasing their major points and speaking through a third party.

Thus we hear from Israeli columnist Anshel Pfeffer, who notes that Europeans don’t see the situation as a battle between Islam and the West but as “a kind of unjust occupation of Palestinian territory.” Israel violates international law in its confiscation of Palestinian land, but Rudoren can’t say so. The best she can do is quote an observer—an Israeli one at that—who pegs it as “kind of unjust.”

Far down in the article we get direct quotes from Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti, who also refers to occupation, but many readers are likely to dismiss his remarks as disgruntled comments from the opposition, and in any case, Rudoren quickly returns to the Israeli sources, who dominate her story.

When Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly last October, he tried to make the same case—that Israel and the West are under attack by radical Islam—but few were listening. As one Israeli journalist noted: “Most of the world does not believe that Hamas—which is part of the Palestinian national movement—and the Islamic State, which is seeking an Islamic caliphate, are ‘branches of the same poisonous tree.’”

The Times, however, is ready to support this claim, tattered as it is, and Netanyahu has an ally here is his effort to capitalize on the tragedy in France for his own purposes.

Barbara Erickson

Netanyahu Bombs, but the NY Times Remains True to Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations yesterday, reportedly a flop at the assembly hall, also received short shrift in The New York Times. The article appears at the bottom of page 4 and gives scant notice to Netanyahu’s attempt to rebut Palestinian charges of war crimes and genocide in Gaza.

The Times thus refused to cooperate with the prime minister’s plan to use his time at the podium defending Israel against accusations made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN last week. In other ways, however, the newspaper stays within its Israeli-centric boundaries, failing to note the errors in Netanyahu’s broad claims that Islamic extremists are a threat worldwide.

“Netanyahu, at U.N., Lashes Out at ‘Poisonous’ ISIS and Hamas,” by Somini Sengupta and David E. Sanger, reports the prime minister’s charges that the Islamic State and Hamas are “branches of the same poisonous tree.” Appealing to the widespread abhorrence of ISIS, he asserted that all militant Islamists are dangerous, regardless of their affiliation.

Although experts dismiss these allegations, the Times allows Netanyahu’s comments to stand unchallenged. Readers never hear, for instance, from Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who states that “there is no comparison between Hamas and ISIS except in Israeli propaganda. Hamas is a Palestinian religious-national movement, not a world Jihad organization.”

Nor do they hear from Hamas expert Mark Perry, who notes that Hamas is a democratic institution and that ISIS rejects democracy and charges Hamas with having “sold out.” While Hamas is a political party, taking part in elections and producing plans for governance, ISIS is rather like the Khmer Rouge, Perry says, intent on destruction as a first step to a new order.

Perry makes this observation about the charge that “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas”: “Neither Netanyahu nor any other Israelis who have made the claim has made much of an effort to support it. Manifestly, because it is unsupportable.”

It is the Times’ job to challenge Israeli spokespersons when they make such charges. Readers should be hearing from knowledgeable commentators like Perry and Levy, but their voices are censored in its pages. The Times would rather let the false linkage of ISIS to Hamas stand and thus support Israel’s attempt to demonize Hamas at every turn.

Today’s story also fails to inform readers how Netanyahu was received at the UN, but readers can turn to Barak Ravid of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, who has provided us with the scene in the assembly hall. “The General Assembly plenum was mostly empty,” Ravid writes, “and the diplomats who were there sank into their chairs and looked bored.” The only leaders on hand were the foreign ministers of Liechtenstein, Iceland and Bahrain.

A loyal group of supporters, including billionaire Sheldon Adelson, sat in the upper balcony to cheer their patron. “They rose and applauded every time they detected a need to boost morale,” Ravid writes, “when Netanyahu mentioned Iran, when he declared that the IDF was the most moral army in the world, and when he attacked the organization under whose logo he was speaking.”

Ravid says that Netanyahu tried to repeat a former strategy of holding up an image to illustrate his point, but this time it fell flat: “Instead of the bomb drawing and the red line of two years ago that became a viral video hit, we got a poster with a less-than-clear photo of Palestinian children playing near a Hamas rocket launcher. The people in the first rows had to strain to understand what they were looking at, and Netanyahu himself needed a second or two to turn the picture right-side up.”

(For photos of the empty assembly hall and the image gimmick, see the Los Angeles Times, “Netanyahu calls on Arabs to take first step for peace.”)

If addresses by the Iranian or Palestinian presidents had bombed, would the Times have hinted that all was not well? If Netanyahu had found an enthusiastic reception this week, would that have been newsworthy enough for the paper? Last week Abbas received a standing ovation, and the newspaper made no mention of it. It has been up to others to fill in the blanks for both stories.

Of more concern, however, is the consistent failure of the Times to set the record straight about Hamas. (See TimesWarp, “Hamas in its Own Words.”) Although it is capable of defying Netanyahu, the Times is more than happy to “delegitimize” the Islamic party at every opportunity, following the lead of official spokespersons in Washington and Tel Aviv.

Barbara Erickson

As Gazans Pull Bodies from the Rubble, the NY Times Strives to Give Israel the Moral High Ground

There is a bright spot in The New York Times today, a story out of Gaza by Ben Hubbard, but the editors would rather you placed your attention elsewhere, on their efforts to sell the Israeli point of view over the news of Palestinian deaths.

The front page of the print edition gives us a teaser, “One-Sided Cease-Fire in Gaza,” directing readers to a Page 10 article on Israel’s acceptance of a ceasefire extension, an agreement rejected by Hamas. The online edition also prominently displayed this story.

Meanwhile, Hubbard’s story is relegated to the bottom of the page and tagged with a skewed headline: “Pause in the Fighting Gives Civilians on Both Sides a Moment to Take Stock.” This implies parity in the experiences of the two populations, but the article makes it clear that there is no such thing.

“The 12-hour lull granted people an ability to move,” he writes, “with Israelis visiting their troops and Palestinians discovering damaged neighborhoods and dead bodies.” The story tells of “vast destruction” that “in places stretched for blocks.” In the Gaza area called Beit Hanoun, “scores of buildings, including a hospital and a mosque had been damaged or destroyed.”

And then there are the dead, a total of 1,139 at that point, the vast majority civilians. Hubbard tells of one attack, just before dawn, when the truce was to take effect. This assault on a home killed 21 people in the al-Najjar family.

Hubbard asks the Israeli security forces to explain this massacre and tells us that the army has nothing to say. A spokesperson “could not explain the airstrike some 19 hours after it happened,” he writes.

This is all worth reading, but the Times places its emphasis elsewhere, on the ceasefire story, which seeks to disparage Hamas because it rejected terms that left Israeli soldiers still deployed in Gaza. The paper also runs a lengthy article on the opposite page, “Amid Outcry Abroad, a Wealth of Backing in Israel for Netanyahu.”

This story, by Jodi Rudoren, mentions “mounting international outcry over civilian casualties” but provides no details about these protests. She says only that Israelis are feeling isolated and “outraged over the anti-Semitic tinge of pro-Palestinian protests around the world.”

Readers hear nothing about the specific charges against Israel, the numbers of protestors taking to the streets nor the expressions of condemnation and alarm emanating from the United Nations and human rights groups. We also learn nothing about what has given the protests an “anti-Semitic tinge.”

We do hear a lot about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is presented in the best possible light as a “guy who has a historical view of events,” patient even with his opponents and “very human.”

Readers need to look elsewhere to learn about the “international outcry.” They can read that more than a million people have taken to the streets to protest the carnage in Gaza, that the International Red Cross has protested Israel’s attacks on medical workers and that even evangelical Christians are abandoning support for Israel.

They can also see photos of some of the massive demonstrations taking place in cities around the world.

Fortunately, we had Ben Hubbard in Gaza even though Times editors would rather that you give his reporting less attention than their attempts to promote Israel. We shall see how long this journalist is allowed to report from the beleaguered territory and what happens to his future articles in the Times.

Barbara Erickson

In The NY Times: Blaming the Extremists, Absolving the State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is outraged by the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, The New York Times reports, and he has vowed to bring the killers to justice. A front-page story quotes Netanyahu and a number of Israeli officials who condemn the act along with the radical extremists behind it.

All this is well and good. Every decent Israeli and Palestinian is dismayed by the killings of four innocent youths in recent weeks; all of them condemn violence and hope for justice. But the Times story by Isabel Kershner omits two crucial aspects of the crisis: calls for vengeance have come from higher ups as well as fringe elements, and the arrests in this case are rare events in the search for justice in Palestine.

Just how rare is underscored in two reports: The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din found that of 642 cases of settler violence against Palestinians reported to Israeli police, 90 percent were closed after the authorities failed to investigate. After another Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, filed nearly 60 complaints against Israeli soldiers who stood by as settlers attacked Palestinians and their property, officials investigated only four complaints and closed two without taking action.

This state of affairs has also disturbed two former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police, who said recently that the Netanyahu administration has no interest in stopping hate crimes against Palestinians. Their charges echoed those made by a former chief of staff of the Israeli army in June 2012.

Even those entities that usually stand behind Israel, the European Union and the United States, have spoken out. A confidential EU report of 2012 found that settler violence is growing and systematic and “enjoys the tacit support of the state of Israel.” Likewise, a U.S. State Department report on terrorism released this year noted numerous attacks by extremist settlers and the fact that these attacks “were largely unprosecuted.”

The Times story gives no hint of this complicity at the highest government levels although it quotes Prof. Shlomo Avineri of Hebrew University, who faults the government and security forces for failing to deal with “extremist, nationalist fringe” in recent years.

But the case of Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman shows that it is more than a failure to act that underscores government culpability. In February 2012 it was revealed that Neeman had been advising extremists already convicted of violent attacks against Palestinians and others, helping them apply for pardons. In other words, he was an active participant in their efforts.

Yet readers do not hear of Neeman’s actions, of the soldiers who stand by as settlers attack Palestinian villagers nor of the failure to investigate reported crimes. If they did, it would give weight to the statement by Muhammad’s father, quoted in the article: “There is no justice in Israel.” As it stands, his comment appears to be a bitter complaint without substance.

The Times story notes that after the bodies of the three teenagers were found near Hebron, Netanyahu called the killers “beasts,” and there were calls for harsh military action against Palestinians. It fails to say just how provocative many of these statements were. Knesset member Nissan Slomiansky, for instance, said the murderers were “animals without any semblance of humanity.”

Others called for retribution, “The blood of the boys must be redeemed. It’s an eye for an eye today, and tooth for a tooth,” said Shuli Muallem-Refaeli of the Knesset. And Aryeh Deri, chairman of the Shas party evoked the boys by name and called for revenge: “Gilad, Naftali and Eyal—may God avenge their blood.”

The world now knows their names and that of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The Times has covered the deaths of the four boys in detail, but many of the Palestinian dead are never acknowledged in Israeli or international press accounts. Who has heard, for instance, of Amin Al-Faqeer, 13, who died last Dec. 21 after a settler deliberately rammed his car into the boy as he rode his donkey near Jerusalem?

There were no outcries over his death and no calls for justice, no official hand wringing or vows to bring the full weight of the law on the killer. But the murder of Muhammad made the news in a big way. The world soon knew about his terrible death by burning, and Israeli officials were under pressure to redeem their country’s image.

This led to Netanyahu’s rare public condemnation of settler violence and the chorus of support among Israeli officials. The Times is helping this Israeli effort with its front- page report of Netanyahu’s pledge to pursue justice.

But readers should also get some of the context here, the facts that reveal government complicity in extremist violence and the numbers that show this tough stance against
an “extreme, nationalist fringe” is an exception in the history of Israeli relations with its Palestinian population.

And beyond this focus on settler attacks, there is the larger framework, missing once again in The New York Times: the numbers that show Palestinian deaths outnumbering Israeli deaths by a factor of some 30 to 1 in the West Bank and Gaza, the underlying cancer of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the crushing asymmetry of a military power dominating a civilian population.

Without this background, readers are shortchanged, left with vague impressions of “cycles of violence.” The deaths of four teenagers demand much more.

Barbara Erickson