Daniel Tregerman’s name does not appear in The New York Times. No headlines refer to the 4-year-old Israeli boy, killed last week by Palestinian mortar fire from Gaza. And the newspaper allotted just a few words, in passing, about the attack that took his life.
The reason for the intensive coverage of this particular incident, and not so many of the other casualties of the Operation Protective Edge, is that it symbolized the story of the conflict — or at least the story as The New York Times tends to see it. As a passage from a front-page feature explained,
The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.
The killings also crystallized the conundrum for the 1.7 million Gazans trapped between Israel’s powerful military machine and the militants of Hamas and its affiliates, who fire rockets into Israel with little regard for how the response affects Gazans. Virtually imprisoned by the border controls of Israel and, increasingly, Egypt, most Gazans have nothing to do with the perennial conflict but cannot escape it.
The larger story, in other words, is that Gaza civilians suffer as a result of conflict between Israel and Hamas. Make no mistake: the severe consequences in Gaza of Hamas’s decision to start a fight with a stronger adversary is certainly a fair story to tell. But it is only part of the story.
Israelis, too, suffer under “assault” from Gaza rockets. (Though this hasn’t stopped the New York Times foreign desk from using that word almost exclusively to describe Israeli military action. Since July 1, there have been over 50 references to Israel’s “assault” and fewer than 5 references to Hamas’s relentless rocket “assault.”) An Israeli child killed by Hamas is also inarguably blameless. And the death of Daniel Tergerman also crystallizes conundrums faced by Israeli citizens — perhaps the most terrible conundrums imaginable.
When the siren went off at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Gila and Doron managed to get their two youngest children into the bomb shelter. The third, Daniel, didn’t make it. For his parents, it’s an unimaginable catastrophe. For a world that has taken such an interest in the Middle East, and that has poured its journalists into the region, Daniel is not only a heartbreaking story but also a symbol. He is a symbol of Hamas’s avowed mission to destroy Israel; of its attacks targeting civilians; of a war Israel had strained to avoid; of cease-fires pointlessly broken by Hamas; of difficult decisions the Israeli government faces in trying to protect its citizens; and of impossible decisions Israeli parents are forced to make in trying to protect their children. It is a part of the story that is no less real than the story of Gaza’s suffering, and no less important for those hoping to understand the conflict.
But it is not the part of story that tends to stir The New York Times or all too many other journalists. As former AP reporter and editor Matti Friedman notes in an essay today, “Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians.” For them, “that is the essence of the Israel story.”
nd interrogated by Israeli soldiers, and why New York Times readers know the teenager’s name and, thanks to a large photograph, what his face looks like.