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Media Analyses





The New York Times Unspun


A November 18 analysis piece by New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren about the murders of four Jews at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue was striking; the reporter's habitually biased rendition of the facts didn't waver even in the face of appalling bloodshed by Palestinians against innocent Jews. The fault was still with Israel. The Palestinians were still acted upon — they're a "population teeming with outrage."
 
All the shoddy elements of  bias are there — the false framing, the omission of essential information, the unbalanced speaker citations, the constant hectoring of Israel and so on. And too there are the platitudes about a "cycle of violence" and "mutual dehumanization" and root causes.Why does analysis of a murderous attack include more comment blaming Israel than comment blaming the Palestinians? Could Rudoren not find a single analyst who would say this is the Palestinian's fault, as Ghassan Khatib does with Israel? Why does the reporter feel free to refer to "Jewish vandalism" but not to "Palestinian attacks"?
 
The reporter's exculpatory insertions deflect focus away from the perpetrators of the savage attack and so readers find references to Arab grievances, fears and anger — to alleged "poverty, unemployment, addiction and many other socieo-economic plagues." Readers are also told Muslims "now fear a Jewish takeover" of the Temple Mount.
 
Likewise, the reporter invokes settlements, but, in a piece connecting violence to sectarian conflict over the Temple Mount, omits entirely the Palestinians' archeological crime on the Temple Mount.
 
Instead of a point-by-point rebuttal of yet another distorted Rudoren story, consider below how her piece could have been written minus the anti-Israel slant. On the left is her original piece and on the right is an edited version, adhering as closely as possible to her report but altering it for clarity, accuracy, completeness and balance. In red in the original are passages that have been removed. In blue in the new version are passages that have been added. Green marks passages that have simply been moved but not changed.
 
How different might public understanding be of the Arab-Israel conflict if The New York Times began to report the full facts? The simple exercise below underscores the difference.
 
            
 

In Jerusalem's ‘War of Neighbors,' the Differences Are Not Negotiable

By Jodi Rudoren, Nov. 18, 2014

Amid the condemnations from all corners of Tuesday's deadly attack at a Jerusalem synagogue, there were also disturbing signs of celebration. A cartoon of a bloody meat cleaver like the one used in the attack that killed four Orthodox Jews circulated on social media. Residents of the Gaza Strip paraded in the streets singing victory songs, giving out candy, waving flags.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The cartoon was captioned, "For you, oh Aqsa," a reference to the contested Old City holy site at the heart of a recent violent escalation that increasingly seems to be beyond the control of Israeli or Palestinian leaders. That blood splattered the victims' prayer shawls and holy books underscored growing indications that extremists on both sides are turning the stalemated battle over territory and identity into a full-throated religious war.
 
Once again, the assailants were believed to have acted alone, a deep new challenge to Israeli intelligence services. Once again, they were Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, with Israeli identification cards that allowed them to move freely, and a host of grievances about their treatment in a restive patch of fiercely disputed turf.

And once again, Israel announced a crackdown, promising to demolish attackers' homes, blocking roads to some Palestinian neighborhoods, stepping up arrests of stone-throwing youths and bolstering police patrols.

Even Israelis who saw these security measures as necessary worried they could incite a backlash among a population that has been teeming with outrage since summer's start. Analysts on both sides worried that the cycle of violence and mutual dehumanization would be compounded by the growing focus on the holy site, where the ancient temples once stood and where Muslims have worshiped for centuries and now fear a Jewish takeover.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"When you bring the religious dimension, it absolutizes the conflict — you can divide land, you can divide security, but the sacred is indivisible," said Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy scholar at Hebrew University. "And it also globalizes the conflict, because it's every Muslim, it's not anymore an Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Zakaria Al-Qaq, a professor of national security studies at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, said he saw signs "that we were infected with the same disease of the region," referring to sectarian battles among Muslims tearing apart Syria, Iraq and other places.

"With the religion, there is black and white, either-or, it will be existential," he said. "I'm afraid when we go to the existential or either-or, it will be a kind of grinding blood all the time rather than grinding talks. It will have a different dimension and it will have a different logic, and I don't think the existing leadership will be able to influence it."

Though President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority condemned the synagogue killings, other leaders praised them as a defense of Al Aqsa, the mosque at the heart of the holy site that Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews the Temple Mount. And Mr. Abbas, who last week warned that "a holy war" would ensue if Jews "contaminated" the site, couched his condemnation on Tuesday in a continued demand "to stop incitement against Aqsa." He also mentioned a recent arson at a West Bank mosque (a firebomb was thrown at an old synagogue in an Arab-Israeli town on the same day).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of many Israeli politicians to blame Tuesday's terrorist attack on Mr. Abbas's recent calls to defend the holy site, and emphasized the religious overtones himself. "Four innocent and pure Jews," he said, were "slaughtered" while "wrapped in tallit and tefillin," the prayer shawls and leather straps that Orthodox men don daily during prayer.

 
 
 
 
Mr. Netanyahu's repeated declarations that he would not change the status quo at the holy site, where non-Muslim prayer is prohibited, have been dismissed by many Palestinians because ministers in his government and members of his political party are among those who have made provocative visits, backed legislation to divide it and even called to erect a Third Temple on the site. Beyond the mosque, Palestinians have been protesting Mr. Netanyahu's planned expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, demolition of houses in Palestinian ones and general treatment of the city's 300,000 non-Jewish residents.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, later annexed it, and considers the entire city its "undivided and eternal capital." Palestinians — and most of the world — consider East Jerusalem illegally occupied territory, and the capital of their future state.

"Somebody needs to think of removing the causes for this, and the causes are rooted within the Israeli policies and practices in East Jerusalem," said Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank. Whether the escalation continues, he added, "depends on the way Israel is going to handle this wave."

"They can handle it in the same arrogant way of using force, and if it doesn't work, you go to more force," he said. "This is the recipe that accelerated all previous waves of violence into full-fledged intifadas."

Mr. Khatib pointed out that poverty, unemployment, addiction and many other socioeconomic plagues were far worse in East Jerusalem than in the West Bank; To give one stark example, he said 40 percent of Palestinian students in Jerusalem drop out of high school, compared with 0.4 percent of their West Bank counterparts.

"The two sides need to do things, but the Israelis need to do more because the Palestinian officials do not have any say in East Jerusalem," he argued. "In West Bank, things seem to be calmer, under the Palestinian Authority, so I think Israel is to be blamed more than the Palestinian side in this particular situation."

Far more than after earlier attacks, statements of horror poured in from politicians around the world, human-rights groups that more often condemn Israeli actions, seemingly every significant Jewish group in the United States and, notably, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. It invoked the Quran's description of synagogues as places "in which God's praise is celebrated daily."

At the site of the attack, Kehilat Bnei Torah in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood Har Nof, memorial candles were arranged to spell "House of God" in Hebrew.

It is, of course, not the first time the conflict has spilled into religious sanctuaries. Tuesday's attack was reminiscent of the 2008 killing of eight Jewish students at a Jerusalem yeshiva. In a 1994 massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, an Israeli extremist killed 29 Muslim worshipers. Jewish vandalism against mosques is a regular occurrence.

"What feels different in the last couple of months in Jerusalem is the intimacy of the terror," said Yossi Klein Halevi, an author and fellow at Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute. "There's nothing impersonal about this. This isn't a suicide bomber strapping dynamite on his torso and blowing himself up on a crowded bus, or Hamas firing rockets into a population center.

"This is a war of neighbors," he said. "And the religious dimension makes it even more horrifying."

In Jerusalem's ‘War of Neighbors,' the Differences Are Not Negotiable

By Jodi Rudoren, Nov. 18, 2014

Amid condemnation from many quarters of Tuesday's deadly attack at a Jerusalem synagogue, there were also disturbing signs of celebration by Palestinians. Supporters of the anti-Jewish event circulated on social media a cartoon of a bloody meat cleaver like the one used to kill the four Orthodox Jews. There were also public celebrations by residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, where candy was distributed.

Since mid-October when intensified attacks against Jews in Jerusalem began, numerous cartoons in official Palestinian publications and on Facebook have portrayed Israelis as wolves, vermin and rapists endangering the Al Aqsa mosque. Another cartoon urged readers to "Hit the gas at 199 [km/h] for Al-Aqsa" to run down Jewish pedestrians, recalling the vehicular attacks that have killed several pedestrians and a three-month-old baby.

The blood-spattered Jewish victims in the synagogue, wrapped in prayer shawls and slain in the midst of morning worship, underscored the toll of such indoctrination.

Once again, the assailants were believed to have acted alone, a deep new challenge to Israeli intelligence services. Once again, they were Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, with Israeli identification cards that allowed them to move freely.
 
 
 
And once again, Israel announced a crackdown, promising to demolish attackers' homes, blocking roads to some Palestinian neighborhoods, stepping up arrests of stone-throwing rioters and bolstering police patrols.

Israelis, who view these security measures as essential, have been dismayed at the return of terrorism after years of relative quiet.

"What feels different in the last couple of months in Jerusalem is the intimacy of the terror," said Yossi Klein Halevi, an author and fellow at Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute. "There's nothing impersonal about this. This isn't a suicide bomber strapping dynamite on his torso and blowing himself up on a crowded bus, or Hamas firing rockets into a population center.

"This is a war of neighbors," he said. "And the religious dimension makes it even more horrifying."

The invoking of Jewish threat to Muslim holy sites has a long pedigree as a theme of anti-Jewish incitement, dating from the 1920's when Palestinian leader Haj Amin al Husseini launched a violent Arab uprising alleging Jewish efforts to harm al Aqsa.

"When you bring the religious dimension, it absolutizes the conflict — you can divide land, you can divide security, but the sacred is indivisible," said Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy scholar at Hebrew University. "And it also globalizes the conflict, because it's every Muslim, it's not anymore an Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Zakaria Al-Qaq, a professor of national security studies at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, said he saw signs "that we were infected with the same disease of the region," referring to sectarian battles among Muslims tearing apart Syria, Iraq and other places.

"With the religion, there is black and white, either-or, it will be existential," he said. "I'm afraid when we go to the existential or either-or, it will be a kind of grinding blood all the time rather than grinding talks. It will have a different dimension and it will have a different logic, and I don't think the existing leadership will be able to influence it."

Though President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority condemned the synagogue killings, other Palestinian leaders praised them as a defense of Al Aqsa, the mosque at the heart of the holy site that Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews the Temple Mount. And Mr. Abbas, who last week warned that "a holy war" would ensue if Jews "contaminated" the site, couched his condemnation on Tuesday in a continued demand "to stop incitement against Aqsa." He also mentioned a recent arson at a West Bank mosque (a firebomb was thrown at an old synagogue in an Arab-Israeli town on the same day).

American Secretary of State John Kerry blamed the attack squarely on Palestinian incitement, and urged Palestinian leaders at every level to take measures to put an end to rhetoric that could promote anti-Israeli violence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials likewise blamed Tuesday's terrorist attack on Mr. Abbas's recent calls to defend the holy site, and emphasized the religious overtones himself. "Four innocent and pure Jews," he said, were "slaughtered" while "wrapped in tallit and tefillin," the prayer shawls and leather straps that Orthodox men don daily during prayer.

Mr. Netanyahu's repeated declarations that he would not change the status quo at the holy site, where non-Muslim prayer is prohibited, have been dismissed by many Palestinians because ministers in his government and members of his political party are among those who have made visits, backed legislation to divide the space and even called for erecting a Third Temple on the site.

The Islamic Waqf which oversees the Al Aqsa compound has itself dramatically altered the status quo with an illegal construction project begun in 1996 and completed several years later. Bulldozers and trucks removed 6,000 tons of earth from the Temple Mount in the carving out of a new, subterranean mosque, the largest in Israel. Workers dumped the rubble, filled with ancient artifacts from the first and second Jewish Temples in the nearby Kidron Valley. In 2000, scores of Israeli legislators, academics and cultural leaders published a statement deploring the construction as "an intolerable archeological crime."

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war after 19 years of Jordanian occupation. During that time, Jews were barred from access to their holy sites, including the Western Wall and Temple Mount. Christians as well were subject to restrictions on religious activity. On gaining control of the city, Israel reinstated rights and access to holy sites for all religions and, despite flare-ups from time to time, a peaceful modus vivendi allowing all faiths to worship has generally prevailed.

In the wake of the killings in Har Nof, some Palestinian spokesmen sought to blame Israeli policies generally toward its Arab minority. Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank, said, "Somebody needs to think of removing the causes for this, and the causes are rooted within the Israeli policies and practices in East Jerusalem." He cited poverty, unemployment, addiction and many other socioeconomic plagues as responsible, noting a sharply higher student dropout rate in Jerusalem's Arab schools.
 
 
 
 
 
"The two sides need to do things, but the Israelis need to do more because the Palestinian officials do not have any say in East Jerusalem," he argued. "In the West Bank, things seem to be calmer, under the Palestinian Authority, so I think Israel is to be blamed more than the Palestinian side in this particular situation."

Far more than after earlier attacks, statements of horror poured in from politicians around the world, human-rights groups that more often condemn Israeli actions, seemingly every significant Jewish group in the United States and, notably, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. It invoked the Quran's description of synagogues as places "in which God's praise is celebrated daily."

At the site of the attack, Kehilat Bnei Torah in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood Har Nof, memorial candles were arranged to spell "House of God" in Hebrew.

It is, of course, not the first time the conflict has spilled into religious sanctuaries. Tuesday's attack was reminiscent of the 2008 killing of eight Jewish students at a Jerusalem yeshiva by a Palestinian gunman. Then too the Palestinian Authority media praised the killer as a martyr and Hamas held parades in Gaza in celebration. Polls in the aftermath showed 84% approved the killings.

The contrast in public reaction to such acts of carnage was apparent in a 1994 massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, when an Israeli extremist killed 29 Muslim worshipers. Israelis across the spectrum denounced and repudiated the act.


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