Why doesn’t Israeli press office share byline for New York Times’ Gaza coverage?

November 15, 2012 4:43 pm 0 comments Views: 170

Omar Jihad Mashrawi holds his one-year-old son who died from injuries sustained during an Israeli military attack on Gaza, al-Shifa hospital, Gaza City, 14 November.

(Anne Paq / ActiveStills)

A New York Times report on Israel’s assassination of Hamas commander Ahmed al-Jabari in Gaza today (“Israeli strike in Gaza kills the military leader of Hamas”) manages to both completely omit from the story any mention of the mounting civilian deaths in Gaza, and almost exclusively quotes Israeli military and intelligence officials — letting the perpetrators of today’s violence set the narrative.

The report by Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner exemplifies the media bias which morphs the reality of the world’s fourth-largest military relentlessly attacking a defenseless, besieged population into a cliché of tit-for-tat violence for which Palestinian resistance groups are responsible.

Israeli army only responds, never provokes

The New York Times report predictably repeats the false narrative that Israel’s airstrikes were a response to rocket fire from Gaza, ignoring the series of extrajudicial executions that Israel has committed in Gaza during the past month.

As Ali Abunimah commented last month:

Don’t believe the lies. Israel has been conducting a systematic campaign of “preemptive” extrajudicial executions in Gaza, knowing full well that this would bring on rocket fire. But Israel thinks the price is worth it.

On 14 October, Ynet published an interview with a senior military officer, under the headline, “Surgical strikes are worth risk of rocket fire”:

“Israel’s southern communities are bracing for what may prove further escalation in rocket fire, following Saturday and Sunday’s surgical IAF [Israeli Air Force] strikes, which left three terrorists dead; but Colonel Tal Hermoni, the IDF’s [Israeli army] outgoing Gaza Division commander, is convinced that the benefits of the IDF’s operations outweigh the danger.”

The Times completely omits this context from its report, relying only on the Israeli military’s insistence that the assassination of al-Jabari is a “response to days of rocket fire launched from Gaza into Israeli territory,” as though Israel’s escalated strikes on Gaza in recent weeks simply never happened.

Also missing from today’s New York Times report is any mention of Palestinian civilian deaths — not only from today’s air strikes (Reuters, citing the Gaza health ministry, reports “Seven people including two girls under the age of five were killed”) but also from the last several days of attacks on Gaza.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported on Sunday that in addition to two Palestinian fighters, five Palestinian civilians, including three children, were killed between 8-12 November. Two of the children killed, 16-year-old Muhammad Harara and 17-year-old Ahmad Harara, were playing soccer in the al-Shojaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City when they were shelled. Two other youths, 18-year-old Ahmad al-Dirdissawi and 19-year-old Matar Abu al-Ata, were killed when Israeli forces fired three shells at a home of the Harara family, where mourners had gathered.

Another child — 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa — was killed after an Israeli soldier shot him in the stomach while he was playing football with friends in front of his family’s home in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

The New York Times did report on these deaths on 10 November, though they’re not mentioned in today’s report. But in the 10 November article, Israel forces killing Palestinian civilians was once again portrayed as “returned fire” in response to Palestinian resistance targeting an Israeli military jeep patrolling the boundary of the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip.

Israeli strikes on Palestinian targets, military and civilian alike, are always portrayed as in “response” to Palestinian fire. But Palestinian fire is never contextualized, never in “return” for the cruel, years-long siege that has systematically destroyed Gaza’s economy and subjected an entire generation of Palestinian children to malnutrition-related deficiencies. Never in “return” for decades of devastating military occupation. Fire from Gaza is never in “return” for the continued dispossession of historic Palestine which made most of the population in Gaza refugees in the first place.

Palestinian armed resistance happens only in a historical vacuum in the pages of The New York Times and other mainstream outlets. And the Times’ institutional memory of Israeli forces targeting Palestinian civilians is so short that it does not even reference its own reports from less than a week ago — though this rule does not apply when it comes to Palestinian crude rocket fire that is far less damaging than F-16 strikes.

Reliance on Israeli spin

Today’s Times story relies so heavily on Israeli military and government statements that I’m not sure why the Israeli government press office doesn’t share the byline.

The Hamas government’s “furious” statement in reaction to the assassination is given a few words here, but conditioned by the Times’ description of the Palestinian party as a “militant organization regarded by Israel as a terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction.”

Of course Israel would never be described by The New York Times as sworn to Palestine’s destruction — despite the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the occupation since 1967 and the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, not to mention Israel’s historic efforts to destroy Palestinian political organization and any and all attempts to restore Palestinians’ historic rights.

And more recent history is obscured as well. “Israeli forces went back into Gaza in the winter of 2008-09 in response to what they called a terrorist campaign by Palestinian militants there to launch rockets into Israel,” according to the Times. But data compiled by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that in reality, in the months leading up to the 2008-09 attacks on Gaza, which Israel codenamed Operation Cast Lead, Hamas maintained a unilateral ceasefire with Israel in good faith. It was Israel’s extrajudicial killing spree in Gaza — much like the one today — between 4-6 November 2008, targeting six Hamas members, that provoked rocket fire from Gaza.

The so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is perhaps the most thoroughly reported one in the world. But the pattern of bias in the coverage by “authoritative” outlets like The New York Times means that the truth of who is responsible for the violence is totally obscured.

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