Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren's front-page Monday story, "In the Battleground of Words, Hatred and Muddied Reality," strived for a tone of equal blame and moral equivalency, dubious enough when talking about a war started by the anti-Israel terrorist group Hamas.
Yet Rudoren clearly slanted against Israel in her unbalanced condemnations of rhetoric vs. reality in the region, claiming that discussion of the dead in Gaza on Israeli news programs lacks a "human, moral" context, ignoring the years of dehumanization of Jews as monkeys and pigs on official Palestinian media.
The Gaza-based interior ministry advises its supporters in a YouTube video that whenever talking about the dead, “always add ‘an innocent citizen.’ ” In Israel, the message is quite different: Those same victims are described as “human shields” sacrificed by the “heartless” Hamas “terrorists” that rule Gaza.
Are "human shields" and "terrorists" inaccurate characterizations of Hamas and how they treat their citizens?
Propaganda wars have unfolded alongside the battlefield for generations. But analysts said the latest flare-up between Israel and the Gaza Strip has brought a new level of dehumanizing, hateful language and a muddying of official talking points with incendiary threats, as social media broadcast an explosion of voices, an onslaught of unreliable information, and creative mash-ups of pop-culture icons with war imagery.
After again insisting that "mocking, hateful comments" were "flying in both directions," Rudoren found it most disturbing that euphemisms were being used by Israelis.
Etgar Keret, an Israeli novelist, said he had been troubled by some of the terms favored by journalists, politicians and even friends in Tel Aviv. There is no Hebrew word for “assassination,” Mr. Keret said, so killings of Hamas operatives are described with a phrase meaning “focused obstruction.” Instead of “civilians,” he said, slain children and women are sometimes called “uninvolved.”
There is a long history here of such euphemisms. The journalist Amos Elon called it “word laundry,” and David Grossman explored the phenomenon in “The Yellow Wind,” his 1987 study of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. “A society in crisis forges for itself a new vocabulary,” he wrote, using “words that no longer describe reality, but attempt, instead, to conceal it.”
Dalia Gavriely-Nuri, an expert in the discourse of war who is affiliated with universities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, noted that the Hebrew name for the current operation translates as “strong cliff” -- a reference to nature, like the names of 35 percent of Israeli military campaigns since the state’s establishment in 1948, according to her research.
But using metaphors to describe military operation has a long history in the United States and elsewhere. And the use of euphemisms, which by definition employ a softening of rhetoric, is quite different from the long history of vile and vulgar dehumanization of Israelis by Palestinians. Yet Rudoren ignored that history and found only Israel guilty of that tactic.
Rudoren lamented name-calling the murderers of three Israel teens, then treated a "right-wing" Israeli parliament member who posted something from 2002 on Facebook as big news.
Palestinian activists have complained about dehumanizing language used by Israeli leaders. The night the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called their killers “beasts.” Ayelet Shaked, a right-wing member of Parliament, posted to Facebook a 2002 article that called the whole Palestinian people “the enemy,” and described so-called martyrs as “snakes” and suggested their mothers should be murdered.
According to Rudoren, Israeli news programs lack humanity and morality when discussing the dead in Gaza
On Israeli news programs, discussion of the dead is often in a diplomatic context -- how many casualties before the world demands a halt to hostilities -- rather than a more human, moral one.
Amazingly, Rudoren managed to talk about dehumanizing language without mentioning the long history of Palestinian dehumanization of Jews through anti-Semitic propaganda, as official outlets and even children's shows from the Palestinian Authority have long called Jews monkeys and pigs and called for the annihilation of Israel.
The current fighting has resulted not only in vile comparisons of Israelis to Nazis but even suggestions that Hitler didn't go far enough, like the #hitlerwasright hash-tag among "pro-Palestinian" (i.e. anti-Semites) on Twitter. Rudoren didn't get to that.
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has penned columns on the fighting in Israel that also displayed ignorance of such demonization. On July 17 he claimed:
....this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.
CAMERA responded: "Cross-demonization? Really? It is, in fact, remarkable that New York Times writers seem to mention demonization by Arabs only when they want to claim that both sides are equally guilty of it. The fact – actively ignored by the Times – is that there is no comparison between the two sides when it comes to hate speech, incitement to genocide and demonization."
A clip of Times reporter Scott Shane from 2011, uncovered by CAMERA, made the lamest possible excuse for such censorship:
Indeed, Times reporter Scott Shane, questioned on the subject by Prof. Jeffrey Herf at a public event, explained the paper's failure to cover Arab demonization of Jews and Israel, and Arab anti-Semitism, with the assertion that it happens so often and is so well-known that it's not news.... So the Times doesn't cover it because it's not news and everybody knows it, with the result that most people don't know it, including apparently the Times' own Nicholas Kristof!.... So at the Times it's expected that Palestinians will torture their own and demonize Jews, so it's not news. But then the paper's own journalists, along with many readers, will infer that since it's not covered, it must not be happening, and the vicious circle continues.
Former reporter Neil Lewis penned a 6,500-word piece defending the paper's Israel coverage for the Columbia Journalism Review in January 2012. But even he admitted that the paper does not "cover fully the range of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel invective that is depressingly common in parts of the Arab media and clergy."
Lewis offered the same lame excuse -- that such invective is so widespread it becomes "background noise."
The critics are frustrated by this and have a point. Newspapers generally have a difficult time in dealing with any repeated phenomena, like hateful speech. An individual article may cover the subject once, to lay out the general phenomenon. But it is generally impractical to write an article about each subsequent instance. Editors are then inclined to say that the initial article already covered the subject. As a result, such outrageous comments recede into something akin to background noise. They may be deplorable but are not always deplored.
Bonus bias: Anne's Barnard's manipulative piece in Monday's Times, "Havens Are Few, if Not Far, for Palestinians in Gaza Strip," claimed Gaza is "one of the most densely populated places in the world" while lamenting "Even in what pass for ordinary times here, Israel permits very few Gazans to enter its territory, citing security concerns because suicide bombers and other militants from Gaza have killed Israeli civilians. The restrictions over the years have cost Palestinians jobs, scholarships and travel."
Even using Gaza City, the densest part of the Gaza Strip, as the starting point for calculation, the Washington Post found that Gaza City was the "40th most densely populated urban area in the world," less than Hong Kong and Mumbai. You'd have to make an awfully long list of the "densest cities" before you got to Gaza City.