The New York Times finished off 2002 with a bang in its coverage of Israel. On December 28th a page-four story (“Dreaming of Palestine, Teenager Writes a Novel”) and a large smiling photo of Randa Ghazi brought readers a breezy profile of the Egyptian-Italian teenage authoress of a virulent anti-Israel novel.
Times writer Frank Bruni found Ghazi “something of a riddle,” saying her book for young readers “mounts a fiery case against the Israelis’ treatment of Palestinians” and “drips blood and outrage.” But he never once made explicit that her “fiery case” and “outrage” rely on fantastic lies, and that it is these hate-filled lies that have alarmed Jewish groups.
In fact, Bruni omits quoting the most inflammatory passages, focusing primarily on quirks of Ghazi's adolescent insouciance.
The Jerusalem Post (December 9) did quote directly from the novel, making clear why popularizing of the work has aroused concern. Ghazi wrote:
... Jihad and Riham's parents and their four-month-old twins were exterminated. One day [Israeli] tanks had entered the village and the soldiers had fired on everyone around, women, old people, children. They entered all the houses, they set some alight with the families still inside, in others they raped the women, stole the money, and destroyed everything...
The nonchalance of the Times toward the hatred engendered in young readers by such lurid, false portrayals is nothing new. America's “newspaper of record” has for years accorded similar cavalier treatment to official Palestinian Authority hate-indoctrination and the connection of that dangerous propaganda to the poison fruit it has borne — a generation of suicide-killers.
If a graphic summary of a year of tendentious reporting were needed, the Times’ two-page, calendar-style “Year in Review” (December 29) served perfectly. Indicative of the reluctance to report the Palestinian onslaught against Israeli civilians for what it is — terrorism — that category was reserved for such events as the kidnap-killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl, terrorist attempts on U.S. embassies, terrorist attacks against Russians in Moscow, against Christians in Pakistan and other nations, and developments in the U.S. in the war on terror.
Indeed, many of the worst terrorist attacks against Israelis in 2002, events of wanton cruelty, were unmentioned or severely minimized. Among those omitted entirely were the bombing on July 16 of a bus near Emmanuel at which victims were sprayed with gunfire as they tried to escape, killing nine; the blowing up of the Hebrew University cafeteria on July 31, killing another nine; the bombing of an Egged bus, shooting of two men in Jerusalem and gunning down of a husband and pregnant wife, all on August 4, killing 13; the blowing up of a bus on October 21 creating an inferno that snuffed out 14 lives; the bombing of a bus on November 21 in Jerusalem that took 11 lives, including school children and a grandmother and her 8-year-old grandson.
The Times did not, of course, list all the losses experienced by the Palestinians in its 2002 calendar either. But it needs to be said that the singling out of women and children for targeted mass murder is a policy only of the Palestinians. As numerous studies of the past two years' violence have shown, over 30% of Israeli dead have been women, while under 5% of Palestinian losses are women, a solemn indicator that one side aims to kill innocent non-combatants while the other aims to spare them and to target bombers and gunmen.
As an especially deceptive paragraph in the Week in Review calendar similarly underscores, the Times’ blunders tilt one way — in the direction of obscuring Palestinian initiation of violence and casting equal onus on Israel. Thus, under the heading “A Bloody March,” the paper wrote:
March was one of the bloodiest months in the Middle East since the war in 1967. Israeli tanks pushed into Palestinian refugee camps for the first time, then bombarded Gaza from the land, sea and air. Suicide bombers attacked a conservative Jewish neighborhood, then a popular cafe. ... A suicide bombing in a hotel during Passover dinner killed more than a dozen people...
One can't help asking why, nine months after the event, the Times does not report accurately the casualty figure for the Passover massacre, one of the most lethal attacks against Israelis. Twenty-nine people were murdered, not just “more than a dozen.” What would it signify if the Times characterized the Twin Towers terrorism, with its almost 3,000 dead, as having killed “more than a thousand?”
In addition, of course, March was a bloody month because Palestinian terror made it that way. Palestinian terrorists struck from the first days, blowing up attendees at a religious celebration in Jerusalem and shooting down ten Israelis at a checkpoint. Israel struck back AFTER these bloody attacks. The Times literally reversed and disconnected these events, in the same manner that it chooses with so much of its coverage to blur cause and effect, perpetrator and victim, guilty and innocent.
The Times’ shoddy review of 2002 and romanticizing of a young hate-mongering novelist does not, to put it mildly, bode well for its journalistic integrity in 2003.
Originally appeared in Jerusalem Post on January 6, 2003