NY Times: Israeli Rescue Attempts Destabilize Relations With Palestinians

Israel’s attempts to rescue three kidnapped teens are endangering Palestinian-Israeli relations, reports The New York Times today. “The growing search for them and their captors further destabilized Israeli-Palestinian relations, and challenged the new Palestinian government’s ability to hold together disparate political factions and reunite the West Bank and Gaza after a seven-years split,” intones the Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren.

Once again, the Gray Lady conforms to its well-worn narrative in which, regardless of the reality on the ground, Israel stars as the wrecking ball of peace. According to The Times, it is not Hamas’ kidnapping of Gil-Ad Shaar and Naftali Frankel, two eleventh-graders on their way home from school, together with Eyal Yifrach, an unarmed, 19-year-old civilian, that is responsible for eroding Israeli-Palestinian relations. Rather, The Times singles out Israeli efforts to bring the boys home as the key cause of friction.

The Associated Press, in comparison, gets it right. About the kidnapping of the three teens, the wire service does what The Times won’t, and accurately reports: “The incident has escalated already heightened tensions between Israel and the new Palestinian government. . .” (Emphasis added.)

“When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, The New York Times’ modus operandi is to blame Israel while downplaying any Palestinian role,” observed Ricki Hollander and Gilead Ini in June 2013. At the time, The Times had referred, in a news story, to European “efforts to rein in Israeli actions that undermine the Middle East peace process.”

The authors noted a double standard when it came to Times coverage of Palestinian steps which undermined peace. They cited, for example, the paper’s reference to increased rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip following Israel’s 2005 withdrawal, as merely an Israeli claim, not fact.

Following the familiar mold, the International New York Times today completely ignores the recent barrages of rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip, and focuses instead solely on Israel’s response: “Israel also carried out six airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight that Palestinian health officials said wounded a 15-year-old and a 27-year-old woman.”

The international edition carries not one word about the Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip which precipitated the Israeli air strikes Saturday night in which the 15-year-old and 27-year-old Gazans were injured: Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel on Saturday, two of which hit the Hof Regional Council.

(The American New York Times story is moderately better. It notes that “Israel also carried out six airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to rocket fire,” and “On Sunday night, four rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel.” Here too, though, there is a disparity in language. The perpetrators of the Israeli air strike are clearly identified, and the language is active. Not so when it comes to the Palestinian rocket fire against southern Israel.)

Moreover, The Times fails to report that, according to the Israeli army, the airstrikes targeted “three centers of terrorist activity and two weapons caches in the Gaza Strip.”

Those aren’t the only critical details downplayed or ignored in today’s story. Though the article’s lede focuses on the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has identified Hamas as the perpetrator of the kidnapping, The International Times buries a key fact about the basic “who” element of the story: Only in the tenth paragraph (out of a total of 13), does the article note that the United States and Europe, along with Israel, regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. (The longer article in the American edition notes the U.S. position on Hamas in paragraph nine.)

There are other indications of The Times’ intensive, obsessive focus on Israeli actions, versus a lukewarm interest for events in which the Palestinians are actors. Thus, the longer American version notes the Israeli deployment, the car by car searches “before allowing entry to Hebron, home to some 200,000 Palestinians,” and the arrests “intended to gather intelligence, enhance operational capabilities and ‘influence the people’ who participated in or have knowledge about the abduction.”

But the Israeli army was not the only party attempting to “influence the people.” Activists from both Hamas and Fatah, President Mahmoud Abbas’ party, both called on Hebron shop owners to destroy their CCTV videos which might contain information about the kidnapping.

The Times deemed this key item not newsworthy, and chose to focus on the more optimistic fact that the “the Palestinian Authority’s security forces were working with Israel to investigate the kidnapping.”

Also apparently unsuitable to The Times narrative was the cartoon in the Palestinian Authority-controlled newspaper which appears to gloat about the kidnappings, as well as an additional cartoon posted on the Fatah Facebook page showing three (Jewish) rats with skullcaps on their heads, dangling from a fishing line.

Incidentally, the Palestinian Authority’s cooperation with the Israeli authorities to find the boys poses an interesting dilemma for The Times. If the Israeli rescue attempts destabilize Israeli-Palestinian relations, then are the Palestinians also harming ties by cooperating on this front?

About the Author
Tamar Sternthal is the director of the Israel Office of CAMERA
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