The New York Times’ War Against Israeli Settlers

Following the feverish and lopsided coverage of the Palestinian bid for UN membership, the New York Times  is shifting back to its general lopsided coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict— which includes a sustained attack on Israeli settlers.

Articles over the weekend were about tension and violence in the region in the wake of the Palestinian bid, but they barely touched on Palestinian violence. Rather, they focused on perceived “provocations” by settlers and speculation about “settler violence” that had not yet taken place.

Indeed, settlers did not even have to be engaged in any type of violence at all to be portrayed by the Times as a provocation to peaceful Palestinians or as violent criminals. Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner informed readers that:

For much of the world, the very presence of more than 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank amounts to a kind of violent crime. (“Amid Statehood Bid, Tensions Simmer in West Bank,” Sept. 24, 2011)

At the same time, deadly violent crimes by Palestinians were downplayed as an exaggerated claim by settlers.

Two articles on Saturday (Sept. 24, 2011) portrayed relatively peaceful Palestinians who were provoked by or who feared settlers.

In the first article, New York Times readers were informed that the Palestinians “rallied inside the city centers, mostly avoiding friction with Israelis, as Mr. Abbas had instructed.” (“Palestinians Rally in West Bank for Abbas Speech; Clashes Reported,” by Isabel Kershner and Ethan Bronner)  The only thing that “marred” the “relative calm,” the reporters suggested, was “an act of provocation” by a dozen settlers which resulted in a Palestinian death when Israeli soldiers intervened with Palestinians who had “marched toward the settlers, some with Palestinian flags.”

What was the settlers’ “act of provocation”? They had arrived from a nearby outpost “to pray on land at the edge of the village.”

The second article, on the facing page, (“Amid Statehood Bid, Tensions Simmer in West Bank”) was even more skewed in its portrayal of events. Correspondent Ethan Bronner began by describing Palestinians forced to “patrol nightly against settler intruders” who allegedly defaced a mosque and burned cars.

The reporter did not similarly refer to “Palestinian intruders” or list the  attacks that they have perpetrated against Jewish settlers: these have extended far beyond crimes against settlement property to include, for example, the grisly slayings of five family members of the Fogel family, including an infant and toddler whose throats were slit as they slept in bed. Instead, he made a vague reference to worries by Jewish settlers about a  “step-up” in attacks by “Palestinian militants buoyed by international support of their statehood.”

The rest of the article was devoted to speculation about future violent attacks by settlers. According to Bronner:

…the risk of [settlers] using live fire against Palestinians who might try to march on their communities is quite real.

The article also discussed a minority of radical settlers who were said to “attack Palestinian property — and occasionally the Israeli military — in response to army curbs on their building or other activity.” This was contrasted to Palestinian villagers who were described as eschewing violence in favor of “media and diplomacy” as tools to advance their cause. A Palestinian was quoted to level unsubstantiated and unchallenged accusations against settlers who, he claimed, “uproot trees, torch cars, steal sheep” in order to “drag [Palestinian villagers] into violence as an excuse to take more land.”

The only mention of specific Palestinian violence came toward the end of the article, in the context of an appeal Bronner quoted by settlers of Adora for help due to the “many threats, including murderous terrorist infiltrations, shootings on the nearby road from Arab houses and passing vehicles and the organized and coordinated obstruction of the road by the residents of neighboring Arab villages.” But even while Bronner acknowledged a 2002 attack on Adora which “killed four people, including a 5-year-old girl in her bed,” he countered the description of Palestinian violence by Adora residents with a Palestinian dismissal of it as “a wild exaggeration.”

Mr. Bronner avoided referring to the 2011 murderous terrorist infiltration in Itamar, and its testification by gruesome photographs released of the slain Fogel family.

Nor was there any mention either here or in a subsequent article of the increasing number of stone-throwing attacks by Palestinians targeting Israelis driving in the West Bank, including an attack  that injured a toddler and another that took the lives of a father and son. On the previous day, Friday, Sept. 23rd, two occupants of an Israeli car, 25-year-old Asher Palmer his 1-year-old son, Yehonatan, were killed after being struck with stones hurled by Palestinian attackers. Although police originally suggested that the car had overturned as a result of an accident, they later acknowledged that the Palmers were killed in a Palestinian terror attack. The windshield of the car was broken, the steering wheel torn, and a blood-stained stone found in the front seat. Asher’s skull and face were smashed and his gun was stolen. 

Mr. Palmer was described as “a quiet and special man” who “never fought with anybody.” He and his baby son were not engaged in any violent activity when they were killed by Palestinians. They were travelling in a car near Hebron.

Although reporters may not have known when they filed their stories that the Palmers’ deaths were caused by Palestinian violence, questions were already being raised, and by Sunday, Sept. 25th, Israeli newspapers were abuzz about the cover-upof the terrorist nature of this attack.  Yet the New York Times still provided no information about the Palestinian crime even on Sept. 26, when it reported about Palestinian President Abbas’ welcome as a hero upon his return from the UN. It was not until Sept. 27, after the incident and cover-up had already been a major story in Israel, that the New York Times mentioned anything about the attack and its handling by Israeli authorities. (“Israeli Panel Offers $8 Billion Plan to Address Economic Inequality,” by Isabel Kershner).

By neglecting or delaying to report on actual murders of settlers by Palestinians while placing the focus on the fear of settler attacks that have not yet taken place, the New York Times presents readers with a skewed picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wherein settlers are to blame.

By suggesting that the “very presence” of settlers in that area is seen by “much of the world” as “a kind of violent crime,” the New York Times goes  even further: rationalizing the violent Palestinian crimes that it neglects to report.

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