Rolling Stone Jumps on Pro-Terrorist Bandwagon

Although they’re slightly late to the party, Rolling Stone seems to have gotten the memo that the latest trend in antisemitic agitation posing as journalism is glamourizing young Palestinian terrorists. A nearly 6000-word piece by Jesse Rosenfeld – who has previously written for +972, The Nation, and Al Jazeera – fails to inform readers of Palestinian rejectionism, payments of salaries to convicted terrorists, or the effect of terror on Israeli society.

Instead, Rosenfeld portrays “Gen Z” terrorists as having no alternative but to take up arms against Israeli civilians: “‘Israel has left us no choice,’” he quotes his 22 year-old interview subject, a member of a Jenin-based terror cell, saying. “‘The occupation has proven that the more we are silent, the more it will take from us.’” What Israel has attempted to give to the Palestinians – that is, independence – isn’t mentioned.

And at the same time, the article portrays Israeli actions as wantonly evil. (“Generals, Peaceniks, and Palestinian Fighters Agree: Bibi Must Be Stopped,” July 22, reprinted on Yahoo.)

The piece brings to mind the adage that “a half-truth is a whole lie.” Consider the following passage from Rosenfeld’s article:

Elias and Mohammad al-Ashqar are in a state of shock. Sitting in the living room of their modest ground-floor family apartment in the Askar refugee camp on a brisk winter evening, they are surrounded by men from the community. The al-Ashqar brothers’ father, 61-year-old Abdel Hadi, had been shot and killed during an Israeli-army raid in the adjacent northern West Bank city of Nablus hours earlier.

The Israeli army stormed the crowded city at 10 a.m., opening fire as residents scrambled, abandoning their midmorning shopping to run for their lives down the winding streets.

Several paragraphs later, Rosenfeld does add that “the bloody Feb. 22 raid-turned-firefight was directed against the Lions’ Den.” From his description of events, however, a reader could easily think the IDF opened fire on Palestinian civilians for no reason at all. In fact, the Times of Israel reported, “The Israel Defense Forces said troops had entered Nablus to arrest [Hussam Bassam] Isleem, a senior member of the Lion’s Den terror group, who was allegedly the third member of a cell that killed Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch during a shooting attack in October.” According to a military source, “soldiers surrounded a home where three suspects, all members of the Lion’s Den terror group, were holed up, demanding they turn themselves in,” a gun battle broke out between the members of the terror cell and the IDF, and civilians were tragically killed in the crossfire. But Rolling Stone would prefer its readers to think the Ashqar brothers’ grief is solely a result of gratuitous Israeli violence.

Asher Menahem Paley, age 8

Yaakov Yisrael Paley, age 6

This is typical of the nature of the entire piece, which is so one-sided as to be grossly dishonest. As another example, Rosenfeld tells us that in 2022, “29 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks.” But he did not humanize a single one of those Israelis, or the 20 civilians, including four children, that were killed so far in 2023, with the kind of story that he told about the Ashqar family. Posting the article, Rosenfeld tweeted, “I spoke to Palestinian fighters, leaders and occupied residents; former Israeli PM’s, a Shin Bet officer, a General and an army refusnik for this @RollingStone long read about Palestinian revolt in West Bank and unprecedented mass protest in Israel.” But he doesn’t appear to have spoken to any of the Israelis whose family members were lost to the terrorism he glamorizes, or those whose day-to-day lives have been damaged because of it.

Nor does he, in a 6000-word piece that took several months to report, relay any conversations with any members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own party, or with any of the approximately one million Israelis who voted for it. He does, however, speak to many Israelis who oppose Netanyahu. The Palestinian Authority has exacted retribution on its critics in the past, which is presumably at least one reason why Rosenfeld’s Palestinian interview subject “Abu Nidal,” uses a pseudonym. But the many opponents of the Netanyahu government in Israel, including his political rivals, feel free to speak openly to Rosenfeld, who obligingly quotes them at length and uncritically. They know that no harm will come to them as a result of their words.  

And in a failed attempt to appear even-handed, Rosenfeld interviews far right Knesset Member Simcha Rothman. Rosenfeld presents Rothman as mainstream, but his party holds only seven seats out of 120. That governing coalitions always must include minority parties, and that the last government included Islamist Mansour Abbas in its coalition, are contextualizing facts that Rosenfeld chooses to ignore.

Like many others who carry water for terrorists, Rosenfeld attempts to portray the Palestinian Authority as merely a subcontractor for Israel. The PA’s actions, of course, tell a different story. Readers might not believe Rosenfeld’s portrayal if he told them how many times the Palestinian Authority has turned down opportunities for independence and statehood, or if he told them that the PA pays salaries to convicted terrorists.

Other distortions ranging from subtle – IDF defensive actions are called “Israeli attacks,” Palestinian terrorists are called “combatants” to disguise the fact that they target civilians, settlements are said to be “considered illegal under international law” – to outrageous are endemic throughout the piece. He quotes one of his interview subjects as saying that a now-deceased leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine “wasn’t a terrorist,” without contradicting the speaker. He writes of evictions in Jerusalem without mentioning the legal reasons for those evictions.

Bizarrely, Rosenfeld links the terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza to the protesters against Israel’s judicial reform package, as though there is a continuum between peacefully protesting in the street and firing rockets at civilians, or stabbing or shooting at them. His description of the judicial reform controversy as “a battle over whether the country will continue to guarantee its citizens individual rights or subject them to religious nationalist values,” isn’t based in reality: Israel, like the US, is struggling over issues within a democracy such as the extent to which a minority will be protected against the majority, and the power of judicial branch of government to override the legislative branch. Whatever the outcome, Israel is and will remain a democracy.

Rosenfeld flips reality upside down, with terror being portrayed as a response to IDF actions, including the separation barrier, instead of the reverse. Jenin, we learn, has been “occupied by Israel since the 1967 war,” but the status of Jenin prior to 1967, and the reason for the war, are not mentioned. Readers are falsely told that the “[Jenin] refugee camp was razed to the ground by the Israeli army in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada,” when other news organization have made clear that isn’t accurate. Of course, the fact that the Second Intifada was started intentionally by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat after he rejected an opportunity for Palestinian independence is not mentioned. Readers will learn that “violence escalated this summer as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plunged deeper into multiple political crises,” but not that an increase in terror attacks forced greater counter-terror operations. Most egregious, however, is his treatment of young men who are members of terrorist organizations, whom he glamorizes as “the face of a new Palestinian armed rebellion.”

Rosenfeld’s descriptions of Israeli politicians and their motivations sounds detached from any historical record. He writes that, “Netanyahu has responded to these trends with a hard-right vision for the country that mixes militarism, religiosity, and expansionism to cement a permanent system of separation from the Palestinians in all territory under Israeli control: Segregation is Netanyahu’s solution.” For those of us old enough to remember President Bill Clinton’s attempt to bring about a two-state solution, referring to separation as “segregation,” is simply bizarre.

Rosenfeld writes, “Netanyahu has understood the power of successful low-cost wars to unleash Israeli nationalism. He reaped the political rewards of an electorate becoming more hardline the less they saw of Palestinians, and launched four Gaza wars. When Netanyahu stoked a five-day conflict with Palestinian fighters in Gaza on May 9, the reservists showed up for duty, the weekly protests were canceled, and after months in decline, he rose in the polls.” But it was terror groups in Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that instigated these conflagrations. Protests become dangerous when the country is under rocket attack. And yes, Israelis were able to temporarily put aside their differences this past May for what they understood was the common defense.

Interestingly – or maybe not – Rosenfeld’s extensive retelling of his conversation with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak omits the extensive concessions that Barak made at Camp David, and Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton parameters. Instead he writes,

[Barak’s] premiership is defined by the ending of Israel’s 18-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000 and the failure to end its much longer occupation of Palestinian land in final-status peace talks the same year. His government collapsed amid the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli military rule that raged from 2000 to 2005.

Even for Rolling Stone, it’s hard to understand how a discussion of Ehud Barak and the 2000 Camp David negotiations could omit the fact that it was Arafat who tanked the talks and then, as noted above, intentionally started the Second Intifada. It’s really a stunning passage.

But wait, there’s more. Rosenfeld also interviewed former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, calling him, “the last Israeli prime minister to try to negotiate a final deal with Palestinian leaders and the first to launch a Gaza war.” Again, Rosenfeld attributes war with Gaza to a choice made by Israeli Prime Ministers, and not to the Hamas Charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction, or rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. “‘Israel doesn’t want peace,’” Olmert apparently told Rosenfeld. “‘[Not] since I retired and Bibi took over.’” Did Olmert also tell Rosenfeld what he told The Tower in 2013? At that time, the former Prime Minister described the offer he made to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and said, “I am still waiting for a phone call from him,” to accept the offer. Even if Olmert himself did not bring that up to Rosenfeld, a simple Google search would have.

Rosenfeld also takes issue with the demolition of homes of Palestinian terrorists – a policy, he says, “that has never been applied to the families of Israeli Jews found guilty of killing Palestinians.” But there’s another policy that has also never been applied to the families of Israeli Jews found guilty of killing Palestinians: they do not get salaries from their own government while they are in jail. Pay to slay does not seem to warrant a mention in this exceedingly long piece, nor does it seem to have occurred to Rosenfeld that the home demolition policy has been applied to provide some level of deterrence to offset the payments those Palestinians convicted of terrorism receive.  

Finally, Rosenfeld describes the Nation State Law as follows: “condemned by international human-rights groups as enshrining inequality, holds constitutional-like weight and effectively denies Palestinians national rights by exclusively defining national rights in Israel as belonging to the Jewish People.” But equality and individual rights for minorities were already enshrined in Israel’s Basic Law when the nation-state law was passed, and nothing in the Nation State Law abrogates those earlier provisions. Yes, it says that national rights in Israel belong to the Jewish people – that is, Israel is the Jewish state. Palestinians should exercise their own national rights in their own state – if their leaders will ever agree to accept such a thing.

Rosenfeld’s piece piles calumny onto distortion. It’s not journalism, it’s PR work for terrorists.

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