Israel: The Willing Executioner

Rasha Oweissi, 23, was a good 30 feet back from a West Bank checkpoint when she was shot and killed, clutching a knife and a bag with a suicide note. Hadeel Awwad, 16, waved a pair of scissors at a Jerusalem security guard and was brought down in a hail of bullets. Ashrakat Qattanani, 16, was killed as she lunged at a woman near a military post.

Their names appear in a New York Times story today, which informs us that some 20 percent of alleged attackers in the past two months have been women, a new and surprising turn of events in the annals of resistance to the Israeli occupation. The article goes on to examine why so many young women in the current Palestinian uprising are “wanting to be killers.”

But the story avoids the obvious question here: How is it that some Palestinians are now courting martyrdom by showing up at checkpoints armed with kitchen knives?

Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal skirt this issue throughout the article. There are quotes from Ashrakat’s father who proudly states that his daughter chose to be a martyr, and there is talk of the “romantic” aura of dying for the cause of Palestinian freedom, but nothing is said of the Israeli role here: the summary executions carried out under the thinnest pretexts.

The practice is well known to Palestinians, however, and B’Tselem, the Israeli monitoring group, recently wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding an end to a “horrific string” of unlawful killings. The letter states, “There can only be one outcome in cases that combine an individual with Arab appearance and a knife: execution on the street.”

As a result, any troubled young person looking for martyrdom knows she has only to hold a knife in hand and walk toward a checkpoint to achieve her goal. Thus, Rasha Oweissi could write her suicide note, confident that the executioners would do their job.

The real story here, so carefully avoided in the Times, is the presence of willing executioners at the checkpoints. This angle, however, does not fit into the narrative of Israeli victimhood, so we find this print headline on the article today: “Palestinian Women Assert Role in Uprising,” as if we are celebrating their emancipation as they take up arms.

But there is little to celebrate. The story reports that most of the would-be female attackers have been killed in the two months since the recent spate of knife and vehicular assaults began and that those who survived have been taken into custody. At the same time, not a single Israeli has died at their hands.

Readers do not learn, however, that several of these women died under disputed circumstances. Hadeel Hashlamoun, 18, was the first victim of the trigger-happy forces in this recent surge in violence. She was shot in late September at a checkpoint in Hebron, and although Israeli officials reported that she had a knife, eyewitnesses dispute this. B’Tselem noted the discrepancies and called her death an extrajudicial execution.

The Times story today, however, asserts that Hadeel “pulled out a knife,” ignoring the controversy surrounding her killing.

Hadid and Nazzal note that B’Tselem called the deaths of Hadeel Awwad and Ashrakat Qattanani “public, summary street executions,” but the full import of the B’Tselem charges are not to be found in the Times.

In fact, the organization asserts that the highest levels of the Israeli government are responsible for the series of unlawful killings. “Your government permits—and encourages—the transformation of police officers, and even of armed civilians, into judges and executioners,” B’Tselem writes in its open letter to Netanyahu.

The letter notes that senior members of the government have incited this violence through “inflammatory statements,” and it continues, “A new pseudo-normative reality has effectively emerged in which a ‘shoot to kill’ approach must always be adopted, no matter the circumstances, even when the suspect no longer presents any danger whatsoever.”

Thus reports show that Ashrakat Qattanani was killed after she had been run over by a car and that Nourhan Awwad was shot at close range after being beaten to the ground by a man wielding a chair. Likewise, Hadeel Hashlamoun stood behind a barrier and several feet from heavily armed officers when a hail of bullets ended her life.

A careful reader of the Times story might have noticed that security forces indulged in overkill, emptying rounds of bullets into the bodies of young women after they were already immobilized and lying wounded on the street, but the article avoids any close look at the behavior of police and soldiers, not to mention the provocative comments of government officials.

Once again the Times averts its gaze from the reality on the ground in Palestine. Here we had an opportunity to look at the tragic intersection of youthful romanticism and Israeli brutality, but the newspaper can provide only one side of this equation: Israel gets a pass, as usual, even when the evidence for its crimes is in plain sight.

Barbara Erickson

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Cooking the Books for Israel: How The NY Times Plays a Numbers Game

Jodi Rudoren today in The New York Times puts up a numbers barrier to hide the reality of Palestinian casualties in the latest spate of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The aim, as usual, is to maintain the claim of Israeli victimhood and to obscure the criminal brutality of the occupation.

In a story about four who died yesterday in alleged attacks in the region, Rudoren writes that more than 90 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 1, “about half while attacking or trying to attack Israelis and the rest during demonstrations where they clashed with Israeli soldiers.”

We are to believe from this statement that only violent activists have died at the hands of Israeli forces, but in fact, several Palestinians have been killed in circumstances that were anything but “clashes”—at checkpoints, for instance, when trigger happy troops shot and killed unarmed victims. One of the dead was a 73-year-old grandmother on her way to lunch with her sister.

To omit these cases is to ignore the findings of human rights groups that have charged Israel with committing extrajudicial executions in recent weeks, and Rudoren’s statement, in the face of their evidence, is an effort to distort the facts.

The misrepresentations do not end there, however. Rudoren goes on to say, “At the same time, 17 Israeli Jews have been killed and dozens wounded in 70 stabbings, 10 shootings and 10 vehicular attacks.”

Note what is missing here: the number of Palestinians that have been wounded and the attacks against them in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Her aim is to minimize the huge discrepancy in casualty counts by omitting the number of Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces and settlers.

Ninety compared to 70 sounds like something approaching parity, but Rudoren has deliberately omitted the logical comparison—the number of injuries. This, according to United Nations data, was 133 Israelis and 9,171 Palestinians injured as of Nov. 16.

We should ask Rudoren and Times editors why this information is missing here, in a context that cries out for full disclosure.

Beyond the full casualty count, the Times could also inform readers of other statistics that illuminate the reality of Palestinian-Israeli relations:

  • A weekly average of 150 Israeli military search and arrest operations in the West Bank last year.
  • 211 reported incidents of settler violence against Palestinians this year as of Nov. 16. (Actual incidents are daily occurrences throughout the West Bank.)
  • 50 Israeli military incursions into Gaza from Jan. 1 to Nov. 16, 2015.
  • 481 demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures as of Nov. 16 this year. (This includes homes, animal shelters, cisterns, wells and public buildings such as schools.)
  • 601 Palestinians displaced due to demolitions in 2015.
  • 6,700 Palestinian political prisoners currently held by Israel.
  • 320 Palestinian child prisoners currently in Israeli prisons.

The information for the numbers above comes from the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs and from Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization. The Times, however, ignores their reports and prefers to rely on official Israeli entities. Thus, the numbers Rudoren cites for attacks and casualties are taken from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has an obvious interest in political spin.

Israel has the first and last word in the Times. The United Nations, Palestinian monitoring groups and human rights organizations are silenced while Israeli official claims are taken as fact. The word “alleged,” for instance, never appears in Rudoren’s piece today. The UN report, however, uses the term frequently, distinguishing between the claims of security forces and verified information.

In short, Times reporting on Palestine and Israel is a disgrace. Numbers are deliberately manipulated, relevant facts are censored, and the result is dishonest journalism, in spite of the newspaper’s lofty claims of providing “the complete, unvarnished truth” and “impartial” reporting. The numbers simply prove them wrong.

Barbara Erickson

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Protecting Israel, Trashing Hebron: More Spin from The NY Times

Today in The New York Times we have a look at Hebron, a blood-drenched city in the West Bank, a community besieged by violent settlers and trigger-happy Israeli forces. In this month alone, some 20 of its Palestinian residents have died at the hands of soldiers and police, their deaths sometimes caught on video that belies official accounts.

But this grim reality is not the focus in the Times. The article by Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal strips the full context of the occupation from Hebron and presents it, not as a city struggling to survive under crushing oppression, but as a hotbed of Palestinian radicals, a stronghold of the oft-demonized Hamas.

The story takes us to the funeral of Dania Irsheid (identified as Dania al-Husseini in the Times), a schoolgirl shot at a checkpoint on Sunday. It mentions other deaths in recent days, but it completely avoids the eyewitness accounts and human rights organization findings that show many of these deaths were extrajudicial executions.

Israel has callously refused to release the bodies of most of the 20 victims, and we read that residents feel “particular outrage” over the death of Dania and another girl, Bayan Oseili, 16, killed a week before, both accused of stabbing attacks. The story deftly avoids another compelling reason for this outrage: the fact that both obviously posed no threat and could have been arrested and that video footage in the case of Bayan and eyewitness accounts in the case of Irsheid contradict police claims.

Hadid and Nazzal, however, have nothing to say about these contradictions and writes that residents are angry because the refusal to release the bodies is an “affront to the Muslim tradition of immediate burial and a defilement of their honor.”

This fits neatly into the Times’ attempt to spin the oppression in Hebron into more blaming of the victims, who are described as Hamas followers and culturally conservative. The article opens with a quote from a Hebron resident who applauds knife attacks on Israeli soldiers, and it closes with the same speaker who “was pleased to see the surge in violence turn to Hebron.”

Missing entirely are any comments from nonviolent Hebron activists and the accounts of eyewitnesses who say Israeli forces have planted knives near the bodies of victims. The story also omits some chilling reports of deliberate executions and the statements of human rights groups that raise the charge of extrajudicial killings.

One of the most disturbing accounts describes the death of a young man, Islam Ibeidu, 23, on Wednesday near the Kirya Arba settlement. The news outlet Middle East Eye noted, “According to the quoted eyewitness, Ibeidu was searched by Israeli soldiers by the checkpoint and released, before orders were given to execute him.”

One witness tweeted: “I saw everything. I saw soldiers loading the guns. He had his arms up and was shaking, he was unarmed and they just shot him.” A second tweet continues, “eyewitness overheard police woman say ‘he looks nice, shoot him’ before he was shot to death by m16 from 2 meters away.”

The accounts of other deaths are equally disturbing (see TimesWarp 10-27-15), but the Times story includes none of them. It states that the victims this month died “in demonstrations and attacks,” taking the official Israeli line as fact.

On the other hand, the article refers frequently to Hamas in an effort to tie the group to the violence in Hebron. It makes no mention of several non-violent groups active in the city, such as Youth Against Settlements, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the International Solidarity Movement and the UN mandated Temporary International Presence in Hebron.

All of these organizations are avowedly non-violent; they observe and document violence against Palestinians. Yet another group, Breaking the Silence, was founded by Israeli soldiers who had served in Hebron and now collect and document Israeli army abuses. None of these organizations has a voice in the Times story.

Much of Hebron’s agony dates back to March, 1994, when an American-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 worshippers in the Ibahimi Mosque. Hadid mentions this as part of the historical record but omits the brutal Israeli crackdown that followed.

Rather than act to protect Palestinians after this attack, Israeli security forces went on to kill some 20 more Hebron residents during protests and to lock them down under a round-the-clock curfew. The government also closed once bustling Shuhada Street to all Palestinian traffic, welded shut Palestinian shops, turned the street over to settlers and divided the mosque into Jewish and Muslim sections.

This finds no clarification in the Times story, which refers vaguely to a “volatile mix of Palestinians and Jewish settlers.” Instead, the newspaper has adopted the official playbook of the occupiers: Stick to the narrative of Israeli victimhood, ignore countervailing fact, and whenever possible blame Hamas.

Barbara Erickson

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Erickson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Erickson

International Outcry Over Demolitions of Palestinian Homes: Silence in The NY Times

The United Nations has called for a freeze on Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, dozens of aid agencies and the European Union have joined in the protest, and even the U.S. State Department has voiced its dismay. Yet, even as the outcry has become an international issue and reached the highest ranks of our own government, we find a resounding silence at The New York Times.

Times readers are unlikely to know that 31 international organizations recently called on Israel to stop the “wanton destruction of Palestinian property,” including “basic humanitarian necessities,” such as solar panels, animal pens, latrines and tents supplied by the European Union. The groups asked world leaders to take “urgent action,” to hold Israel accountable for “grave breaches” of international law, and to demand reparations for the destruction of their charitable gifts.

The statement came shortly after the United Nations and representatives of the European Union in separate actions called on Israel to freeze demolitions in the West Bank.

The State Department joined both groups with statements made during a press briefing Aug. 19. When spokesman John Kirby was asked about the issue, he had a prepared declaration ready to hand.

The department was “deeply concerned” and “very troubled,” he said, calling the demolitions and evictions “harmful and provocative and indicative of a damaging trend.” He referred to the “destruction of dozens of structures and the displacement of over 150 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this month alone.”

His words got the attention of Israeli media, which published his comments at length, but they failed to arouse the interest of the Times.

In fact, Israel’s cruel (and illegal) policy of demolishing Palestinian property has been a constant story in alternative and Palestinian media outlets over the years, and the spate of international protests appearing this past month is not the first. Last February, for instance, some 400 rabbis from around the world urged Israel to halt demolitions in the West Bank.

Israeli forces have destroyed houses, tents, animal shelters, shops and farming structures throughout the West Bank at a steady clip, leaving 486 Palestinians displaced in 2015 as of Aug. 24. The destruction has hit the poorest and most vulnerable populations hardest, as Israel attempts to clear the land for Jewish settlers.

In the midst of this, the Times has seen fit to report on only one official demolition action this summer: the destruction of illegal Jewish settler homes in the West Bank. (This event was accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of plans for 500 news settlement homes to replace them.)

When the demolitions have made their way into the pages of the Times, the reports have failed to reveal the full extent of the problem. This year, for instance, the paper took notice of the threatened destruction of the West Bank village Susiya, when international media attention made it impossible to ignore, but dozens of other actual demolitions found no mention in the newspaper.

Again, when bureau chief Jodi Rudoren wrote about East Jerusalem demolitions last year, she underreported the extent of the damage by omitting over 46,000 structures that have been destroyed over the years and mentioning only the 675 that took place for “punitive reasons” during the second intifada.

Although demolitions are a constant threat to thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Times prefers to ignore this reality. Palestinian media, however, issue reports almost daily, and monitoring groups such as the United Nations and the Israeli organization B’Tselem struggle to keep tallies.

These groups also note that demolitions fly in the face of international rules. As the UN release states, they contravene “Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under humanitarian law and human rights law.”

Behind the numbers cited by the United Nations and other groups are thousands of individual stories: herders struggling to shelter their flocks as Israeli forces tear up sheds and corrals, children robbed of playgrounds and schools, communities forced to pay for water deliveries after bulldozers crush their pipelines, families pulling prized possessions out of the rubble of their homes.

These stories find little notice in the Times, even as aid organizations and governments from the European Union to the U.S. State Department have spoken out with alarm and dismay. On many levels, Israeli demolitions are eminently newsworthy, but this is not enough for the Times, which prefers to shield Israel above all.

Barbara Erickson

As Palestinians Die, NY Times Shields Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Erickson

New York Times: Outcry Over Susiya Nothing but Clever PR

Susiya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, has now made it into the pages of The New York Times news section, and we are permitted a view of how Israel wants us to see this disturbing story: All the fuss about Susiya is little more than the result of clever marketing on the part of the villagers.

Thus we find a story today by Diaa Hadid titled (in the online version) “How a Palestinian Hamlet of 340 Drew Global Attention.” This primes readers from the start to expect a tale of simple villagers who devised a winning media strategy, and it distracts from the real issue, which is nothing less than ethnic cleansing: Susiya is to be destroyed to make way for Jewish settlers.

High in her story Hadid writes, in a telling phrase, that “the cause of [this] tiny village” has become “outsized,” in other words overblown, as if Susiya, with its population of 300 or so, is not worth the fuss.

The village first got notice when “sympathetic” foreigners visited Susiya some 20 years ago and took up its cause, Hadid states. By that time the residents had been forced out of their original homes and were living near the centuries-old site that had belonged to their ancestors.

Jewish settlers had taken over the original village in 1986, she writes, and Israeli forces made them move on again in 1990 “for unknown reasons.” They were expelled once more in 2001, according to Hadid, “as collective punishment over the shooting death of a Jewish settler.”

Her story omits a crucial detail: The authorities knew that the villagers were innocent of the killing but used the incident as an excuse to harass the Susiya residents once more. The Times account leaves the impression that a Susiya resident was responsible for the settler’s death.

Hadid quotes a staff member of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, who notes that residents “have managed to place Susiya on the international agenda in ways that other villages have not managed to do,” and her story goes on to say that “years of advocacy appeared to pay off when Susiya’s residents began warning early this month that their village was under threat.”

As a result, the story reports, Susiya received visits from a European Union delegation, Israeli activists and American consular officials. Then, a week ago, the U.S. State Department mentioned Susiya in a press briefing and urged Israel to spare the village.

The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.

Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”

We find the word “occupied” here, as usual in Times reporting, but it is devoid of meaning. Readers do not hear that the West Bank is Palestinian territory; that Israel is there as an invading military force; and that the settlements violate international law, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own population into the foreign territory.

The Times story makes no reference to international law, but it does quote an Israeli military spokesman who says Susiya “was built illegally.” Thus Hadid emphasizes the pretext of legality Israel draws over its defiance of international norms while she ignores the flagrant breaches of the Geneva Convention and other standards.

Readers can pick up some revealing details in the story: the ousted villagers’ descriptions of sleeping outside “in the wild, in the rain,” the fact that they can no longer access two- thirds of their original land because of the settlers, the expectation that if Susiya goes, other vulnerable villages will also fall to Israel’s greed for Palestinian land.

But the story glosses over these details to present the Susiya’s case as above all a successful publicity effort. The Times would have us believe that the real story here is how the village became an “outsized” international cause, through “years of advocacy.”

Susiya is just one of many villages in Israel’s Negev and in the occupied West Bank where Israel is determined to ethnically cleanse certain areas of their indigenous inhabitants and install Jewish residents in their place. Times readers are finally learning about Susiya only because international attention has forced the newspaper to acknowledge the issue.

The village should have been known to readers long before now, just as they should also know of dozens more facing annihilation: Al Araqib, Umm Al Kher and Khirbet Yarza, to name just a few. In the South Hebron Hills alone, where Susiya is located, some 30 villages are faced with demolition.

But even now the Times can’t just tell the story of a village nearly helpless under the weight of Israeli might, a community faced with extinction after centuries of living on the land. Instead we find an effort to play down the tragedy, to present it as an overblown cause, not really worth our concern.

Barbara Erickson

Save Susiya: Israeli Threat to Demolish Village Finds a Back Door to the NY Times

The New York Times has finally done the right thing and informed readers of Israel’s plan to destroy an entire village in the West Bank. This is good to see, but the move exposes a significant fault line in the newspaper: The foreign desk and Jerusalem bureau have been the gatekeepers here, avoiding their responsibilities in reporting the story.

The piece appears on the op-ed page under the byline of one of the threatened villagers—Nasser Nawaja, community organizer and a researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. It’s a good article, summarizing the sad history of Susiya and the resistance to Israel’s plan, which comes from local and international supporters.

Nawaja’s article includes a quote from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby made during a press briefing last week. Kirby was clearly prepared to address the issue and ask Israel to back off. This in itself should have prompted the news section of the paper to address the story, but the Times remained silent. (See TimesWarp 7-20-15.)

Until today the only mention of Susiya’s plight came in a Reuters story that the Times published earlier this week without posting it on the Middle East or World pages. Readers had no way to find it unless they specifically searched for it, by typing in the key word “Susiya,” for instance.

The story of Susiya and its struggle to survive has been reported in news outlets since 2013. The United Nations and other groups, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, have issued statements and press releases on Susiya; the European Union, and now the State Department, have spoken out; but none of this prompted the Times to do what good journalism demands and assign a reporter to the story.

The Times’ treatment of Susiya is reminiscent of a similar story, which emerged during the attacks on Gaza in 2012: In one day Israel targeted and killed three journalists traveling in marked cars, but the Times article describing events that day simply said that “a bomb” had killed two men, even though an officer confirmed the army’s responsibility.

Times readers learned the full story only when columnist David Carr wrote of the journalists’ deaths days later in the Business section. He titled his piece “Using War As a Cover to Target Journalists,” and he did the reporting that was missing in the news section. (See TimesWarp 2-17-15.)

Carr gave the details of the killings, and quoted the lieutenant colonel who affirmed the attacks on the journalists. He then wrote, “So it has come to this: killing members of the media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”

When Carr died earlier this year, the Times was filled with tributes to his work, but none of the articles mentioned this fine moment of his career. The story of the assassinated journalists never again emerged in the newspaper.

Susiya may have a different fate, however. Now that its name has appeared in the back pages of the newspaper, we may find that the story flickers to life in the news section as well. All things are possible, even in the Times.

Barbara Erickson