Michael F. Brown Media Watch 28 July 2017
A New York Times headline on 24 July is representative of why there is continued American ignorance regarding Palestinian efforts to secure their freedom.
“Mosque crisis and Jordan attack raise fears of escalating violence in Israel,” it declares.
Written by Isabel Kershner, the text places the violence “in and around East Jerusalem.” Yet the headline tells a false story, since, as the UN Security Council recently affirmed, East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank territory Israel occupied in 1967 – and therefore not part of an expanded Israel.
A New York Times news quiz takes a similar approach, referring in its headline to “Israel violence” – rather than “West Bank violence.” The quiz itself poses this question: “Deadly violence erupted in and around Jerusalem and in the West Bank on Friday when Israel placed metal detectors at entrances to what sacred site?”
The newspaper’s headline writers would be hard pressed to present matters in a more misleading manner.
The seven Palestinians and three Israelis killed since last Friday – after Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the al-Aqsa mosque compound – were all slain in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the Gaza Strip.
Just as misleading, Kershner referred Wednesday to “Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem” with no mention of the fact that this is occupied territory or that the UN Security Council and all governments in the world reject Israel’s unilateral claim to have annexed the city.
(She did, however, note the world’s rejection of the annexation in an article published today.)
Basic geography remains an ongoing issue for the editors of a newspaper that presents itself as a powerful check on fake news.
Laundering Israeli land theft
In another recent article – effectively a PR piece for the Israeli army – the newspaper also apparently awards part of Syria to Israel: “This week, the Israeli military revealed the scope of the humanitarian aid project, which it calls Operation Good Neighbor and which began in June 2016 along the Israeli-Syrian boundary on the Golan Heights.”
This suggests that this is a border between Israel and Syria. It isn’t. It is a ceasefire line entirely within the occupied Golan Heights, which is Syrian territory. Again, Israel’s 1981 annexation of the territory, which it also occupied in 1967, was declared by the UN Security Council to be “null and void.”
Yet a caption accompanying the article refers to the “Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.”
At one point Kershner does mention that “Israel captured” the Golan Heights “from Syria in the 1967 war.”
The article also states: “The humanitarian effort is likely to burnish the reputation of the Israeli military, which is usually viewed as an occupying force and formidable war machine.”
This is the only mention of occupation and it presents it not as a fact, but merely as a perspective held by people who don’t like Israel and whose view ought presumably to be viewed with suspicion.
Kershner refers elsewhere to the “Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.”
All of this suggests that instead of reporting the facts about the international status of the territory, The New York Times seeks to launder and support Israel’s claims with deceptive language that explicitly omits references to occupation.
This puts into perspective Kershner’s use of the term “Israeli-annexed” to describe occupied East Jerusalem. Similarly misleading language about the West Bank can be anticipated. In fact, it’s already occurring.
Most outlets have reduced their analysis of recent events to the past two weeks – starting with the killing on 14 July of two occupation police officers by three Palestinian citizens of Israel outside al-Aqsa mosque. All three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.
Lost or downplayed is 50 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank involving massive violence and discrimination against Palestinians. Media have largely ignored the constant threats and promises made by Israeli leaders and government-backed groups to take over the al-Aqsa mosque compound and replace the Muslim holy sites with a Jewish temple.
Kershner referred repeatedly in her articles to the “brazen” Palestinian attack outside al-Aqsa mosque.
She did not refer to the “brazen” Israeli theft of Palestinian land over decades, not only since 1967, but since the Nakba of 1948 when most Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homeland.
Violence in the eyes of too many journalists begins when Palestinians initiate it, and everything Israel does is presented as a “response.”
Whitewashing Israeli violence
Closely following the Israeli official line that Palestinian “incitement” – rather than the pervasive brutality of Israel’s occupation – is to blame for violence, Kershner stressed in the aftermath of the 14 July shootings, that the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas had “whipped up emotions.”
She all but ignores the nonviolent character of the mass Palestinian resistance in East Jerusalem – though she did recognize it grudgingly on 27 July.
“Moreover, the Palestinian civil disobedience campaign was coupled with bloodshed – three Israelis were stabbed to death and four Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces – and the decision to remove the remaining metal railings and scaffolding occurred under the threat of further violence,” according to Kershner.
She was referring to Israel’s decision to remove the metal detectors and other installations it placed at entrances to al-Aqsa that Palestinians see as another step in Israel’s plan to eventually seize total control over the compound.
Kershner managed to emphasize violence by Palestinians while whitewashing Israel’s. Occupation forces are described as providing “security.” And as journalists habitually do, she attributed the Palestinian deaths to vague “clashes,” rather than to the fact that Israel routinely chooses to attack civilians in an occupied territory with live fire and other weapons that in the last two weeks have injured more than 1,000 people.
And she has ignored very real incitement from senior Israeli leaders.
Ignoring calls for ethnic cleansing
Not mentioned by The New York Times was the threat by Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of a “third Nakba” against Palestinians – a reference to Israel’s previous bouts of mass ethnic cleansing in 1948 and 1967.
“You’ve been warned,” Hanegbi told Palestinians in a post on Facebook last week.
Similarly, readers of the newspaper of record would find no reference to the open calls for collective punishment and atrocities by Oren Hazan, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party.
“It’s time to expel the families of terrorists,” Hazan said.
Hazan said he did not want to sound “too extreme,” adding, “if it was up to me, I’d enter the terrorist’s home last night, take him and his family with him and execute them all … A quick and simple execution.”
“The land of Israel is for the people of Israel and not for Ishmael,” he concluded.
Hazan has previously promised that if he becomes prime minister he will replace the al-Aqsa mosque with a Jewish temple.
It is perhaps his prime ministerial ambitions that are driving the current incumbent Netanyahu to echo Hazan’s demands for deadly revenge. This, of course, is not the first time the prime minister has voiced such violent sentiments.
Yet those who get their news from The New York Times will be misled into thinking that it is just Palestinian leaders who have “whipped up emotions.”
CNN and AP
The New York Times is not alone in misleading the public.
CNN’s Abeer Salman and Oren Liebermann wrote about a Christian man, Nidal Aboud, who joined Muslims praying outside al-Aqsa mosque: “He is urging all Christians to unite with Muslims against what he says is blatant unfairness, and even urged Jews to stand against Israeli occupation.”
The “even” leaps out here. Why should it be a surprise to anyone that Palestinians urge Jews to stand against the Israeli occupation? It’s as if CNN is surprised that Jews would stand for equal rights and an end to the oppression endured by Palestinians.
Meanwhile, in an article about five interfaith activists prohibited by Israel from traveling from Dulles Airport to Tel Aviv this week, Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press gives more credence to biased descriptions of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement than to what the movement itself says it seeks to achieve.
“Supporters of BDS … say they are using nonviolent means to promote the Palestinian independence efforts,” Zoll states. She provides a brief reference to ending the occupation, but says nothing about equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, two of the fundamental goals of the BDS movement.
But she gives prominence to Israel’s claims that BDS “masks a more far-reaching aim to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.”
Faithfully reproducing Israeli government talking points, Zoll asserts that “Some critics accuse the BDS movement of anti-Semitism because it singles out Israel for boycott while overlooking the Palestinian part in the conflict and ignoring countries with poor human rights records.”
Claims of singling out Israel in a Palestinian-led movement are as absurd as claims of South African anti-apartheid activists – and their allies – singling out the apartheid South African government.
Nor does Zoll balance the criticism of unnamed critics by pointing out that the Palestinian leaders of the BDS movement explicitly oppose all forms of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism.
By giving more space to the anti-BDS position of those who oppose equal rights for Palestinians, the AP – like The New York Times – launders Israel’s political positions as neutral and uncontroversial descriptions.
Activists moving on Palestinian rights
I first met Rick Ufford-Chase, one of the interfaith activists denied permission to board the Dulles flight, in 1990. He is now with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and was moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We met in Arizona when he was focused on labor and human rights violations against Mexicans and Central Americans.
Israel is presumably concerned that its violations of Palestinian rights are now attracting the attention of American activists who, like Ufford-Chase, have in the course of their lives addressed human rights violations in Central America, Mexico, the US and South Africa – many of them participating in boycotts along the way.
Activists who started with the Nestlé boycott, California table grape boycott and South Africa apartheid boycott are now holding Israel to the same standard as other major rights abusers.
Israel and its surrogates are deploying false accusations of anti-Semitism and other smears in an effort to silence those raising the alarm about Israel’s racist “two-tier system” for Palestinians and Israelis.
Israel is also being helped in its effort to stave off justice by journalists who continue to present a grotesquely false picture where Israel – which has imposed a system of apartheid on millions of Palestinians – is the victim and Palestinians are to blame for the ongoing strife.