Six Palestinians Die, Silence in The NY Times—One Israeli Dies, We Get Headlines

Six Palestinians died over this past weekend, three of them minors, all of them relatively young. They died in separate incidents that took place throughout the West Bank, from Jenin in the north to Hebron in the south, and although their deaths left a bloody trail throughout the region, they were deemed unfit to print in The New York Times.

Now we have an Israeli death and the event appears prominently at the top of page 3 in the print edition, with a four-column photo. Online the headline reads, “New West Bank Violence as Palestinian Boys Stab 2 Israelis.”

According to the Times, we can not say that Palestinians experienced violence when six young people died from gunshot wounds. The word became relevant only when Israelis were the victims.

The story today by Isabel Kershner names the one Israeli killed in this latest attack. It says nothing of the half dozen Palestinians who died at the hands of security forces in recent days. Their names and even the circumstances of their deaths are of no interest to the Times, and they appear only as additional numbers in brief mention of Palestinian dead since the latest “lone wolf” uprising began last October.

Kershner reports that some 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in that time, compared with 28 Israelis killed by Palestinians. In the Times’ formulaic explanation for this striking contrast, she throws the blame on Palestinians, saying they were killed during attacks or in “clashes.” (For more on this, see TimesWarp 1-4-16.)

Her story does mention claims that Israeli forces have killed Palestinians who pose no threat. This is a small step forward in Times reporting, and she goes on to quote Israeli Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who criticized the use of excessive force and those in the government and military who have encouraged it.

His remarks are evidence that leaders the military and government recognize that Palestinians have died at the hands of trigger happy troops. It’s not unlikely that Times reporters have also known this but made no effort to report it.

Meanwhile, Kershner’s report also fails to inform us of the numbers of injured on both sides, data which provide at least a hint of the violence Palestinians face daily under occupation.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli security forces injured 14,925 Palestinians last year, and as of Feb. 8 this year, they had already injured 719.

In other words, Israeli police and army have been injuring over a hundred Palestinians weekly during 2016. By contrast, according to OCHA reports, the weekly average of Israelis injured by Palestinians this year is no more than two.

The difference here is a factor of more than 50 to one, yet we have headlines in the Times that point to Palestinian violence as the only news fit to print.

Also missing from Kershner’s story, as usual, is any context for the attacks. The brutal military occupation has no place in her story, and there is no attempt at all to provide the Palestinian attackers with a motive. Readers will have to look elsewhere for the real news here.

Meanwhile, we will end with a list of the six who lost their lives over this past weekend:

  • Omar Ahmad Omar and Mansour Yasser Abdulaziz Shawamra, both of them 20-year-olds from the West Bank village of al-Qubeiba;
  • Nihad Raed Muhammad Waqed and Fuad Marwan Khalid Waqed, both 15, in the northern West Bank near the village of al-Araqa, west of Jenin;
  • Naim Ahmad Yousif Safi, a 17-year-old from the village of al-Ubediya, east of Bethlehem;
  • Kilzar al-Uweiwi, 18, a young woman who died near the Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron.

Barbara Erickson

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In The NY Times, Palestinian Dead Are Nameless Numbers (At Best)

Since the beginning of December at least 10 Palestinians have died at the hands of Israeli security forces. Only one of these deaths has received brief mention in The New York Times; the rest have been deemed unfit to print.

During this same period, no Israelis died from Palestinian attacks, so we can assume this is the reason for the show of indifference at the Times. Israeli deaths in these circumstances usually make headlines.

The recent Palestinian victims ranged in age from 15 to 37. All but one were male, and it was the lone female, Maram Hasouna, who managed to make the news in a story about young women joining the ranks of would-be attackers during the current Palestinian uprising.

The victims include: Ma’moun Raed al-Khatib, 16; Maram Hasouna, 19; Taher Faisal Fannoun, 17; Mustafa Fadel Fannoun, 19; Abdul Rahman Wajeeh Barghouti, 27; Anas Bassam Hammad, 21; Mazin Hasan Ureiba, 37; Omar Yasser Skafi, 21;  Malek Akram Shahin, 18, and  Ihab Fathi Miswadi, 21.

Security forces claimed that nine of the victims had attempted to attack Israelis. Only one, Shahin, was killed in other circumstances—during clashes that took place when troops invaded Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.

All of the deaths are newsworthy, but some of the fatalities involved details that add particular news value: Ureiba was a Palestinian Authority intelligence officer; Barghouti was an American citizen; and doctors reported that Shahin was shot in the head with a hollow point bullet, a weapon held to be illegal under international law. None of these factors, however, was enough to rouse the interest of the Times.

Instead, since the first of this month the newspaper has provided us with stories about wine making in Israel, the discovery of a possible ancient model of the Temple of Herod, the arrest of suspects in a fatal arson attack, a look at the risks of banning an Israeli Islamic group, the conviction of two Israeli youths in the killing of a Palestinian teen last year, the conviction of a Palestinian lawmaker and Israel’s attempt to draw Russian tourists.

The 10 who died so far this month are likely to appear as nothing more than numbers in future Times reports. As of today they have brought the total dead since Oct. 1 to at least 113. This compares with 17 Israelis.

Even in reporting this kind of data, the Times makes an effort to obscure the fact that Palestinians are suffering disproportionately at the hands of their well-armed occupiers. In a formulaic explanation for the numbers gap, the Times nearly always blames the victims entirely, saying that Palestinians were killed when they tried to attack Israelis or during violent protests.

Little or nothing will be said of the doubtful cases, in which witnesses dispute the official accounts and video evidence shows that the victims were posing no danger to troops. We can also expect that the Times will fail to mention human rights groups’ charges that a number of the victims were assassinated in “extrajudicial executions.”

The Palestinian dead rarely get their due in the Times, which prefers to consign them to tally sheets. Were they to appear in full context, as human beings with histories and families, this might elicit sympathy for them and condemnation of Israel, and this cannot be allowed.

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.]

 

Five Palestinians Die Within 12 Hours: The NY Times Goes Mum

Within the span of 12 hours yesterday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinians, one of them in Gaza and the rest in the West Bank. Two of the dead were teenagers, and although the army claims some of them were shot during stabbing attempts, witnesses have given different accounts.

None of this, however, has appeared in The New York Times. Searches using the names of the dead in various spellings turn up blank, without even a fleeting appearance in wire service accounts.

Contrast this response to the Times headline of just one week ago: “Attacks by Palestinians Kill 3 Israelis and Wound More Than 20.” This title ran across the top of page A8 last Wednesday, and the story that followed never reported the number of wounded Palestinians, which by that point had reached nearly 2,000 since the beginning of the month.

Now we have five Palestinians dead and not even a paragraph in World Briefing to inform readers of this latest carnage by Israeli troops. If five Israelis had been among the dead, we can be sure the Times would have found this news fit to print.

Those who died yesterday included Oday Hesham al Masalma, 24, of Beit Awwa, southwest of Hebron; Hamza Mousa al Alma, 25, of Beit Oula, west of Hebron; Bashar Nizam al Ja’abari, 15, and Hussam Isma’il al Ja’abari, 17, both of Hebron; and Ahmed Sharif al Sarahi, 30, of Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that al Masalma had tried to stab a soldier but was disabled and helpless when he was killed. It added that soldiers refused to let an ambulance approach him for half an hour.

Al Alma was shot in his car near Gush Etzion settlement near Bethlehem, PCHR stated, and the military claimed that he had run into two settlers.

PCHR reports that the teenagers died during a settler protest in the streets of Hebron, when the two had been prevented from making their way home. The boys had asked a soldier for help in crossing through a gate when army snipers shot them, the release states.

“When the two children heading towards the gate were only two meters away from the soldier,” the report says, “other Israeli soldiers fortified in a military watchtower in the area opened fire at the children and killed them immediately. The Israeli forces detained the children’s corpses and denied the Palestinian civilians and ambulances access to the area‫.”

Media outlets reported the army version of events: that one of the boys tried to stab a soldier and both were shot.

PCHR reported that al Sarahi died after being hit by three bullets to the chest when he was with a group in an agricultural field about 350 meters from the border fence. Two others were wounded. The Israeli army claimed that it had killed a “sniper,” even though the group was in the open.

The deaths on Tuesday brought the total of Palestinians killed this month to 47 as of yesterday, PCHR said.

Times articles have managed to obscure the tally of Palestinian dead during this latest uprising, breaking the data into narrow categories or providing imprecise amounts. Thus, in a story yesterday we find, “Eight Israelis have been killed this month and at least 18 suspected attackers have been fatally shot at the scene by Israeli security forces and civilians.” By that date the total of Palestinian dead was over 40.

The newspaper has also failed to report the evidence that Israel is carrying out extrajudicial killings in shooting protesters and others who posed no threat. Times readers are unlikely to know that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a group of nine human rights groups in Israel have charged Israel with killing without provocation.

A release by the rights group Adalah, signed by the nine organizations, notes, “In instances when Jews have been suspected of attacks, none of the suspects has been shot.”

The organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor also released a video with eight cases that reveal Israeli brutality and trigger-happy security forces. Its press release, “Euro-Med Monitor Calls on International Community to Halt Israel’s Extrajudicial Executions,” states that “Israel is escalating its use of extrajudicial execution” and notes that video footage has disproven some claims that victims were shot during stabbing attempts.

The Times has ignored all of these reports, relying heavily on the official word from Israel security forces. Often the claims of stabbing attempts are reported without the usual journalistic addition of “alleged” to the claims. Police and army statements are taken at face value as fact in many instances in the Times (see here and here), and the countervailing reports by eyewitnesses go unmentioned.

In today’s edition, the newspaper has gone one farther. It has turned its back entirely on the latest round of killings, omitting any mention of five tragic Palestinian deaths from its pages. The contrast with coverage of Israeli fatalities could not be more stark than it is in this instance. The effort to shield Israel at all costs could not be more obvious.

Barbara Erickson

Amnesty Report Prompts Damage Control at the Times

The New York Times has placed its pro-Israel bias on display today in a clumsy and transparent attempt to play down a report by Amnesty International. In doing so it stands apart from other media worldwide and from its own coverage of former Amnesty reports.

On page 9 of the print edition readers find this headline: “Palestinian Found Dead After Standoff With Israelis.” Above the story is a photo spanning four columns showing an apparently angry crowd of mourners at a funeral. The message is this: Here is the Palestinian street, seething and prone to violence.

But the story by Isabel Kershner devotes only one column to the death of Mutaz Washaha, 25, of Bir Zeit. After saying that troops stormed his home and he was found dead, the article makes a sudden transition: “The killing came as Amnesty International published a report on Thursday accusing Israeli forces of being ‘trigger happy’ and using excessive force in the West Bank.”

This is a strange way to practice journalism, using a headline and photo for one story and devoting three quarters of the article to another. It is also odd (but not a first for the Times) to highlight a report on the victimization of Palestinians with a photo portraying them as a menace.

The Amnesty International report documents a spike in the death of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers in the past year, states that none of the victims posed a threat to the soldiers and describes a number of killings as “willful” and possible war crimes. It notes that soldiers operate with virtual impunity and calls on the international community to stop sending arms to Israel.

The report, “Trigger Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank,” covers the past three years and cites several case studies, including that of Samir Awad, 16, who was first shot in the leg and then killed with two bullets to the back as he stumbled toward his home in the village of Budrus, and that of a young woman, Lubna Hanash, 21, shot in the head as she and a relative walked near an agricultural college in Hebron.

The Times story devotes five paragraphs to the report itself and gives two paragraphs to the army’s defense of its conduct. Elsewhere, international media present the report as worthy of an article in itself, not a tag-on to another story, and run their accounts with appropriate photos of Israeli soldiers or wounded Palestinians.

See, for example, The Jewish Daily Forward, where the headline reads, “Amnesty International Warns Israel on West Bank ‘War Crimes’: Rights Group Eyes ‘Reckless’ Soldiers in Killings of Palestinians.” The accompanying photo shows a blindfolded Palestinian surrounded by heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

Times readers can also find more honest reporting in The Guardian, BBC, Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor and Haaretz, to name a few.

Although the Times hides this Amnesty report under a misleading headline and photo, it has treated other releases by the same organization with different emphasis. In the past year or so, it has found fit to write about several Amnesty International releases, including short briefings on abuses in the Syrian conflict, a report about death penalty trends worldwide and a call for Saudi Arabia to release political prisoners.

Last October it ran a lengthy front page story based on an Amnesty report under the headline “Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes Cited in Report.” The story focused on the Pakistani population affected by the drones and gave little mention to the Obama administration’s defense of the strikes. The Times later ran an editorial praising the report.

The drone report runs to 74 pages and covers some 18 months of data. The West Bank report contains 85 pages and covers three years of incidents. Both of them are serious documents buttressed with facts, but the reports do not weigh the same in the Times’ scale of things. Israel’s image is at risk in the second report, and that makes for a different set of standards altogether. It also calls forth damage control, however obvious and awkward that may be.

Barbara Erickson