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Media Analyses





The Moral Equations of the New York Times


Just hours before the three abducted Israeli teenagers, Gilad Sha'ar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Frankel, were discovered dead in a field belonging to one of the kidnappers' families, the New York Times printed an article purporting to demonstrate the "asymmetry of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the value of lives on both sides." The article, by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, was just the latest in a series of New York Times articles blaming Israel's security crackdown, even more than the initial Palestinian-perpetrated abduction, for furthering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The article's headline, "One Bereft, One Hopeful, 2 Mothers Embody a Mideast Divide," as well as Rudoren's crude attempt to equate Israeli and Palestinian victims – purported to highlight the asymmetry between powerful Israelis and helpless Palestinians. By comparing an Israeli mother who retained hope for her son, with a Palestinian mother whose son had lost his life, the article set up a false "asymmetry" with the insinuation that more value is placed on the lives of Israeli youth than on those of Palestinian youth. Rudoren wrote:

More than two weeks after the abduction of Naftali and two other Israeli teenagers, Israel's security crackdown has raised questions about the asymmetry of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the value of lives on both sides. Mohammed, who witnesses said was among a crowd of youths who hurled stones at Israeli soldiers storming their neighborhood that morning, is one of five Palestinians fatally shot by soldiers in the West Bank; three more have been killed by airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

The real asymmetry, however, is not found in the numbers of Palestinians killed vs. the number of Israelis killed, as Rudoren implies. It lies in the different attitudes and values each society teaches its youngsters – the widespread glorification of "martydom" in the name of killing Israelis, on the one hand, vs. the relentless effort to preserve lives, on the other.

It is the asymmetry between non-violent Israeli schoolchildren seeking to find a ride home, and armed young Palestinian men searching for such hapless victims to abduct and kill.

It is the asymmetry between unarmed, harmless Israeli teens seized and murdered, and Palestinian youth injured or killed while engaged in hostilities, trying to thwart Israeli security attempts to find the victims.

It is the asymmetry of Palestinians stoning the ambulances evacuating the dead teens and Israel returning the corpses of Palestinian terrorists to their families for burial.

It is the asymmetry of the abducted Israeli teens' mothers who throughout their ordeal showed no malevolence toward anyone but displayed only faith, dignity, appreciation for the nation's moral support, clinging to hope that their sons would return, and the mother of  the suspected Palestinian kidnapper who displayed only malicious pride in her son's possible role in the heinous crime, publicly declaring on Israeli TV that if her son was involved, "I'll be proud of him until my final day."

Pride and support for the abductions was voiced not only by the families of the kidnappers, but throughout Palestinian society– in Gaza, where sweets were handed out to celebrate the kidnappings, in Fatah social media, where pictures of a new three-fingered salute lauding the abduction abounded and where a cartoon of the three kidnapped victims were represented as three rats on the end of a fishing hook.

Rudoren did not discuss the Palestinians who cheered the abductions. Instead she morally equated the two sides, and by doing so, she essentially endorsed the justification for the abductions. The reporter wrote:

Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as innocent civilians captured on their way home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having provoked soldiers. Palestinians, though, see the very act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation, and complain that the crackdown is collective punishment against a people under illegal occupation. [emphasis added]

But validation of the abduction and murder of the schoolboys was not limited to Palestinians under so-called "illegal occupation" in the West Bank. It was shared by Member of Parliament Hanan Zoabi, who enjoys the benefits of an Israeli democracy that allows her to participate in the governing of the country while identifying with violent values of the nearby Palestinian society. Zoabi justified the abductors in an interview on Israeli radio, stating:

They're people who don't see any way to change their reality and they are forced to use these means until Israel will wake up a little, until Israeli citizens and society will wake up and feel the suffering of the other.

Among others like Zoabi enjoying the privileges and benefits of Israeli democracy while lauding the violence against Israelis was an Arab medical student at the Technion who cheered the boys' murders with a status message on Facebook over the photo of the three murdered boys, declaring:

"Record...3 goals for the national team despite its absence from the Palestinian World Cup!"

The support and justification for the kidnappings and murders are the result of a culture that indoctrinates its people from early childhood that it is meritorious to attack and kill Jews, and where an Arab youth expressing support for the kidnapped victims (ironically, Zoabi's relative) must secure police protection from some of his more radical family members.  It is the result of growing up in a society whose "moderate" leadership, the Palestinian Authority's  response to the murders was not to condemn them, but to ask the EU to  restrain Israel, while the less moderate partner, Hamas, actively promotes the abductions and killings while facilitating rocket attacks into Israel from its territory.

But  the New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief continues deceive readers by concealing the truth about the indoctrination to hate and kill Israelis, by morally equating the two sides,  and by mechanically repeating the Palestinian justification for its violent actions.


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