As a ceasefire takes hold in Israel, a review of the most recent New York Times coverage of the conflict shows old anti-Israel patterns die hard, with the paper's Jerusalem bureau chief bizarrely suggesting that "in Israel, open discourse and dissent appear to be among the casualties of the monthlong war in Gaza." No mention was made of the violent threats made by the Hamas dictatorship against both journalists and critical Palestinians.
On the front of Thursday's National edition of the Times, Jodi Rudoren and Fares Akram dwelled on the economic miseries inflicted on Palestinians by Israel in "Conflict Leaves Industry in Ashes and Gaza Reeling From Economic Toll." (Hmm...how much did all those rockets fired at Israel cost?)
In Thursday's edition, Dan Bilefsky in France showed concern about a Jewish group that defended the main synagogue in Sarcelles during an anti-Semitic rampage: "A Militant Jewish Group Confronts Pro-Palestinian Protesters in France." "Militant" is the same term the paper uses to describe the terrorist group Hamas.
Also on Thursday, Isabel Kershner put Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on the defensive over civilian casualties in "Israeli Premier Voices Regret for Civilian Casualties, but Blames Hamas."
Facing withering international criticism of the Palestinian death toll in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel deeply regretted every civilian casualty of its monthlong military campaign but that Hamas must be held accountable for the loss of life.
Concerned about world opinion and accusations of possible war crimes, Mr. Netanyahu took the rare step of calling in the foreign news media to his office, where he made his first public remarks the day after a 72-hour cease-fire took effect and as talks for a more lasting solution got underway in Cairo. An Israeli official said Israel would be willing to extend the cease-fire as long as it remained unconditional.
On Wednesday, a David Kirkpatrick report from Cairo twice termed the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas a "militant Palestinian group." He took care to note that "Israel has also suffered a significant blow to its international standing, with the United Nations and Western nations, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany, lamenting the human cost of the war and criticizing some of Israel’s attacks on or near United Nations schools that were harboring thousands of displaced civilians."
Also on Wednesday, Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren issued a hypocritical "Memo from Jerusalem," "Some Israelis Count Open Discourse and Dissent Among Gaza War Casualties." This from the paper that has virtually ignored actual violent threats by Hamas against both journalists and Palestinians.
The signs are everywhere.
At a recent demonstration in Tel Aviv against Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, counterdemonstrators chanted “Death to the left!” along with the more commonly heard “Death to Arabs!” Afterward, some of the right-wingers beat some of the leftists -- using large poles that had held Israeli flags.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority blocked B’Tselem, a human rights group, from running a paid radio advertisement reading the names and ages of Palestinian children killed in Gaza.
In Israel, open discourse and dissent appear to be among the casualties of the monthlong war in Gaza, according to stalwarts of what is known as the Zionist left -- Israelis who want the country to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and help create a sovereign Palestinian state.
Israeli politics have been drifting rightward for years, and many see that trend sharpening and solidifying now. Several polls find that as many as nine out of 10 Israeli Jews back the prosecution of the war by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When that support slipped a bit last week, it seemed to be because more people wanted an even more aggressive assault on Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza. Israelis who question the government or the military on Facebook, or who even share photographs of death and devastation in Gaza, find themselves defriended, often by people they thought were politically like-minded.
Defriended on Facebook? Oh, the horror.
After melodramatically stating that dissent was a casualty of war, Rudoren somehow managed to quote dissents from several outlets, including the editorial page of one of the country's largest newspapers: "...the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz ran an editorial last week that referred to 'McCarthyism spreading in Israel'...."
Rudoren let her mouthpiece complain about harsh language, though it's easy to understand why Israeli leaders might employ "invective" toward a group who has marked them for death:
Daria Carmon, 33, who attended the Tel Aviv protest, said that slogans and viewpoints that used to be seen as extremist had become mainstream. She blamed the invective that Israeli leaders use toward Hamas, and the Israeli news outlets that cover every soldier’s funeral but rarely show video from Gaza. (Paula Weiman-Kelman, the rabbi’s wife, has taken to watching Al Jazeera.)
Challenged on her Facebook page, Rudoren claimed: "I don't think Hamas has any systematic restrictions that are comparable, it's more about access to information."
Meanwhile, details of violent threats by Hamas against journalists who expose its abuse of civilians are rarely mentioned by the Times or other media outlets, and the paper certainly doesn't devote full stories to whining about it. Here's what an Israeli outlet had to say:
The Times of Israel confirmed several incidents in which journalists were questioned and threatened. These included cases involving photographers who had taken pictures of Hamas operatives in compromising circumstances -- gunmen preparing to shoot rockets from within civilian structures, and/or fighting in civilian clothing -- and who were then approached by Hamas men, bullied and had their equipment taken away. Another case involving a French reporter was initially reported by the journalist involved, but the account was subsequently removed from the Internet.
The Times relegated video proof of Hamas firing rockets from civilian areas to its online "Open Source" column: "Indian TV Crew Shows Rare Video of Rocket Launch From Gaza."Robert Mackey explained:
The video was notable because journalists have captured few images of the stealthy guerrilla fighters in recent weeks and because it appeared to show Islamist militants using a residential area to provide cover while they fire at Israel, putting civilians at risk as homemade rockets fly out and potential retaliatory strikes come back in.
As the British television journalist Rageh Omaar noted last weekend, the lack of visual evidence of a militant presence in Gaza appeared to be the result of an intentional effort by militants to keep a low profile, and might have intensified the focus of the foreign media on civilian casualties.
Well, it worked.
Rudoren also appeared on Wednesday's front page in a story on casualty counts during the conflict: "Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead."
Pro-Israel media watchdog CAMERA called it "inexcusable that [Rudoren] would note that casualty numbers are largely dependent on doctors' testimony without reminding readers that Hamas, which operates from near the emergency room at the Shifa hospital and had gunmen operating at other hospitals, has explicitly called on the Gaza public to pretend all casualties are civilians."